Wednesday, April 20
Reader: “Why are you looking among the dead”
Response: “for someone who is alive?”
Scripture: Luke 24:1-12
But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.
The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”
Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.
My guess is that you heard this or a similar passage from the Gospels this past Sunday.
All the gospel writers add their unique perspectives which accounts for the slight variations in telling the resurrection story. We are all aware of its theological significance in bringing redemption to the world, but I’d like to put us in the place of the disciples and followers of Jesus and explore the event as it might have been from their point of view. Afterall, something like this happened only once in all of time.
First off, I remind us that chapter and verse designations are arbitrary. So to get a better grasp of the setting, I want to go back a couple of verses from the previous chapter.
“As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.”
Note the women followed Joseph and Nicodemus to see where they put the body. Then the women went home to prepare spices to take to the tomb to help mollify the odor of Jesus’ decaying body. It was still Friday evening prior to sundown. But they ran out of time and the sun set beginning the Sabbath so they had to stop their preparations. So very early Sunday morning they headed to the tomb to finish their work only to discover that the stone had been rolled away. Highly unusual. Very strange. A complete surprise to them. So they walked somewhat bewildered into the tomb. The body of Jesus was not there! (Of the gospel writers, Luke, the physician, is most interested in the physical reality of what happened by the phrase he chose―“in bodily form.”)
To add to the strangeness of the early morning, two men in brilliant white, other-worldly clothes suddenly appeared from nowhere. The women did what we would probably do, they fell to the ground in terror. Both men told the women what had happened and what Jesus had said. (Unlike the other gospels, Luke actually includes what Jesus had said would happen.) The fact that the men knew what Jesus had earlier said to the women further added to the mystery of the morning. The fact that both men gave witness is in accord with First Testament law: two witnesses are the minimum for validation. (Deut. 17:6,19:15) God does not miss details! Other such biblical examples include: Simeon and Anna with infant Jesus, the two thieves on the cross, and two servants who traveled with Abraham and Isaac to Mt. Moriah. I love the way the angels told the women the news. Translated: “Why are you looking in a cemetery for someone who is not dead? He’s living! He’s not here!” I can almost hear the women’s thoughts, “What?”
I think this last portion clarifies how hard it was for Jesus’ followers to comprehend what had happened. Though a woman’s testimony was not accepted as valid in those days, Luke has no hesitation to record it. The women are now named as they run back to the eleven and the rest of Jesus’ followers to tell what had happened. It’s still early in the morning. To say the story sounded like “nonsense” is an understatement. Their story was too fantastic to be believed and the gathered people didn’t believe the women. Mary Magdalene, however, told Peter who, along with John, decided to go look for himself. After going into the empty tomb, Peter went home, still wondering what had happened.
After reading this account again, I can begin to empathize with those early believers. It is too easy for me all these years later to have a somewhat casual or passive response to the resurrection. It changed the world! We dare not minimize the physical reality of such an event for it is essential to process what happened that Easter morning. And experiencing the reality of that same living Savior in our lives today is hard to put into words. The resurrection can seem so distant from my world. I believe, Lord, help the dullness of my heart and mind.
Music: “Thine Be the Glory” from Coventry Cathedral in England (Church of England)
In 1940, German bombing left the medieval cathedral as a hollowed out shell. In 1962 a new cathedral was built incorporating the old cathedral. Note how the congregation turns during the closing hymn as the cross passes by ending up facing the back of the cathedral. In the ruins stands an altar of burnt timbers and a cross of nails.
Show us, O God most holy, according to the measure of our mortal sight, the glory of the risen Christ, for as the rising sun breaks upon the night shadows and day leaps into joy, so has Christ overcome the powers of darkness and of death, and has disclosed to us the wonders of your power and love. Truly, you have risen, O Lord! Let the gospel trumpets speak, and the news as of holy fire, burning and flaming and inextinguishable, run to the ends of the earth. You have risen, O Lord! Let all creation greet the good tidings with jubilant shout; for its time of release has come, the long night is past, the Savior lives! and rides and reigns in triumph now and throughout all the ages. Amen. ―from Prayers for Sunday Services, p.97