Our Risen Lord
Last week, Martin shared the story of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At the last supper, Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples, explaining that the bread was his body, and the wine was his blood. He later went to the Mount of Olives to pray, and it was there that he was betrayed by Judas. The honor that he received when he entered Jerusalem was soon lost in betrayal and loneliness. Jesus received a mock trial, was beaten and scourged, and was eventually nailed to a Roman cross between two criminals. Death by crucifixion was slow, and we will continue the story now in Luke 23:44.
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
We know that a Jewish day began at sunrise, around 6:00 AM. In their gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that there was darkness in the land from the sixth hour until the ninth hour – or about noon to 3:00 in the afternoon. Only Luke tells us that it was dark because the sun stopped shining. As we have just read, it was about the ninth hour, or 3:00 PM, when Jesus breathed his last on the cross.
Years ago, people would sometimes talk about where they were when they heard the news about the assassination of President Kennedy. Then later it became “Where were you when you heard about the Challenger space shuttle disaster?” or “Where were you on 9/11?” Two and a half years ago, when my mother passed away, one of the things that caused me the most pain and grief was realizing later that I was preparing an email message to a work associate when when my mother breathed her last. I think that we all want to be near a loved one when they pass away, but that was not the case for our Lord. Verse 49 of this passage tells us that all those who knew him stood at a distance and watched. We do know from John 19 that there were at least five of Jesus closest family and friends who were within speaking distance of Jesus. His mother Mary, her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and the apostle John were close enough to hear Jesus, but they could not interfere with the execution, nor could they offer little comfort to Jesus. There was distance there. So as we begin our lesson today, the first question I would like to ask each of us is simply this: “How close are you to Jesus today?”
At roughly 3:00 PM on the Friday before the Passover Sabbath, Jesus died. The experienced soldiers there could see that he was dead. John tells us that they did not break his legs to speed his death, because he was already dead. They pierced his side with a spear, and John tells us that blood and water came forth. This not only serves as additional proof of Jesus humanity, but it also proves that he was not asleep or in some suspended state from which his heart and body would spontaneousy awaken. The man Jesus was dead.
As far as the scripture record goes, it appears that Jesus’ body was handled only by believers from here on. Joseph of Arimathea asked for Pilate’s permission to take Jesus’ body and bury it. Nicodemus, the man who now understood about being born again, brought 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes, and he and Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body with strips of linen cloth and these spices. They then placed Jesus in a tomb hewn from stone – Joseph’s own tomb which had not been used for anyone. They left the tomb and rolled a large stone in front of the entrance to the tomb. After some prompting by the chief priests and Pharisees, Pilate placed a seal on the tomb and posted guards.
With the fearful disciples scattered and Jesus finally dead, Satan must have thought he had won quite a victory. Certainly from the perspective of those close to Jesus, this was the end of the story.
Paul told the Corinthians that if that was the end of the story, their faith was worthless. Not only would this be the end of my sermon, but there would really not be any point in us meeting here ever again. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul went on to tell these early Christians that if this was the end of the story, we are to be pitied more than all men. Praise be to God, Jesus death and burial are not the end of the story.
In just a moment, I will share with you the account of Jesus resurrection. But first I would like for you to consider what must have been on the minds of those who were witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Peter was brash and outspoken, once declaring a love for Jesus, but then publicly denying that he even knew Jesus. His own weakness cut him deeply, and the Bible tells us that after his final denial, he went off and wept bitterly. He denied his Lord and watched him die from a distance. Mary Magdalene’s life had been completely changed when Jesus drove seven demons from her. She sorely missed the one that taught her about the kingdom of God. Jesus’ mother Mary had lost a dearly loved son, not to some accident or a disease, but through a mock trial, disgrace, and torture. No mother should ever witness her child being nailed to a cross. John we know was a dearly loved disciple of Jesus. And, surely the other disciples were in shock, wondering was ahead. They had left everything to follow Jesus, had watched him love and teach and heal and care for others for three years. What did it all mean?
The following is a compilation of the resurrection account from all four gospels. In some places it is difficult to understand the exact order of some statements or actions, but I have done the best I can. I encourage you to read the entire accounts for yourself. Please listen now while I read.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9
10 Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11 but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
This is the story! This is the gospel, the good news about Jesus. 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the good news story! Because He rose from the grave, those who are His, all faithful Christians, will also live with him forever. Paul told the Corinthians:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
There are just a couple of additional thoughts I would like to share with you, and then the lesson is yours. To start, I would like for us to continue in John 20, starting at verse 19.
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
We may not understand the nature of Jesus’ body when he was raised. It is clear that Jesus could appear at will, even in a locked room, as he did here. In Luke 24 we read of Jesus appearing to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. When they finally realized it was Jesus, he disappeared from their view.
Brothers and sisters, we need to realize that locked doors and stone tombs were no obstacle to our resurrected Lord. Acts 10:40 tells us that God raised him from the dead and caused him to be seen. The angel who rolled the stone away did not let Jesus out. There was the power of the Almighty God in the resurrection of our Lord, and nothing could stop that resurrection. Jesus did not need an angel to present him with an exit.
If we now understand that, then we have to ask ourselves why the stone was rolled away. If Jesus was able to get out of the tomb, why did the angel roll back the stone? It was so that the women and the disciples could see that Jesus was risen from the grave. The angel testified to that fact. The stone was rolled away so that we could see that our Lord and Savior was risen. He was not bound – is not bound – by death!
Finally, I want us to notice something important about the story of Jesus’ resurrection – the gospel story. When you look at those who witnessed the resurrection, they all had a powerful response. The women ran back to tell the others, Peter and John ran to the tomb to see if it was true, Mary Magdalene was overwhelmed by Jesus appearing, and the other disciples grew in their joy and faith as they realized that it was all true – absolutely true!
Later when Peter addressed the assembled crowd at Pentecost and shared this same gospel story with them, the Bible tells us they were cut to the heart. They were so deeply moved by God’s plan, by Jesus’ love and sacrifice, by their own shameful shedding of innocent blood, and by the hope and joy in the resurrection, that it moved them to action. Have you ever been moved like that? Have you seen someone hurting and you just had to step over to them and help them? Or maybe you hurt a friend, or a spouse, or a brother or sister, and it ate at you until you reached a point where you practically ran to them to make things right?
How does the resurrection story affect you today? Is it just a pleasant Easter Sunday story? Does it touch your heart to hear of Jesus dying a lonely, cruel death? Do you feel a pang of faithful loyalty when you read of Joseph and Nicodemus dutyfully caring for Jesus’ body? Do you feel that rush of excitement when you hear those words, “He is not here, he is risen!” Can you just feel the speed in Peter’s sprint to the tomb, while he must have been thinking “Oh, I hope he forgives me! I hope this is true!” Do you see the compassion in Jesus’ face when he looks at Mary Magdalene crying at the tomb, and he simply says “Mary”. Do you feel that restored joy when Jesus appears to his disciples and says “Peace be with you. It is really me. It all happened just like I told you it would. Now go tell others.” Or, like those that responded at Pentecost when they heard the gospel story, are you cut to the heart at your own shortcomings and the wonder of Jesus love? I hope the resurrection story touches all our hearts, and that the love and thankfulness we feel moves us to a lifetime of service to God.
I do not know what your individual need is, but I can tell you that we are ready to pray for you and help you. If we can assist you in your response to the good news story of Jesus today, won’t you come as we stand and sing.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Lk 23:44). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.