Easter Sunday AM - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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Easter Sunday AM


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Reading: Lk.23:54-24:12

Lk.24:5-7 "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise."


The Women are Convinced


Setting the scene

For a number of weeks Jesus had been on the road to Jerusalem – he had set his sights on going up to that city and nothing could deter him.

Jerusalem was the capital city and the religious establishment had its power base there and the religious leaders of the people were not sympathetic to this upstart from Nazareth. Jesus' disciples knew it was a dangerous place for their Master and tried to talk him out of going there.

But Jesus was determined and wouldn't allow any change in his plans. He too knew that it was a dangerous place for him and had told his disciples in detail what would happen to him when he got there. His followers didn't like what he told them, didn't understand what it all meant and were too frightened to ask him.

On a number of different occasions Jesus had taught his followers just what happen to him when he went up to Jerusalem. In very clear terms to he them that he would be rejected, handed over to the Gentiles, made to suffer greatly and then be put to death.

Those he taught in this way were his closest followers: they included his 12 apostles as well as a number of women who travelled with him from Galilee. None of them however knew what to make of this seemingly defeatist talk – he was the Messiah after all, wasn't he? And the Messiah would enjoy wonderful success, wouldn't he?

No, all that talk about suffering and death was lost on them, they couldn't make head nor tail of it and failing to do so they had no place left in their thinking for the other thing he repeatedly told them – that on the third day he would rise again.

The Worst had Happened

Well now they had come to Jerusalem and everything seemed to Jesus' followers to have gone horribly wrong: Jesus had been rejected, he had been handed over to the Gentiles who had made him suffer greatly before they nailed him to a rough wooden cross on the first Good Friday of the Christian era.

If Jesus' followers had not liked what Jesus had taught them about what was to happen they liked it even less when it turned out just like he said it would!

As the week passed first Judas betrayed Jesus then they all abandoned him running to try to save their own skins. Peter tried to keep an eye on things from a distance but cracked and questioned by a mere servant girl resulted to cursing and swearing as he denied even knowing Jesus.

And so Jesus was condemned and executed, the cruel Roman execution of crucifixion.

Some of his followers, mostly women it seems, were in the crowd that watched the events of that execution. They were there from 9 in the morning until 3pm when they watched him die and as he died so too did their hopes of having found the Messiah of God. Some of them watched as the Jesus' lifeless body was taken down from the cross. Some of them followed to see just where his body would be placed – they took good note of just where the tomb was, they would be back. It was too late now to carry out the normal funeral rites, they would have to return later to do that.

These women then went back to where they were staying – all they could do for the moment was prepare the spices and ointments used to honour the dead and wait. They had to wait a whole day as the Law forbade any of that kind of activity of the Sabbath, the Saturday.

The Women Come Back

But the women were ready again on Sunday morning and they set out very early indeed in order to carry out their sad business of embalming the corpse. That was all they were thinking about that morning, they weren't expecting any good news that morning – how could they, as far as they were concerned the light had gone out of their world? As they made their way to the tomb they were troubled by the question of the stone that had been rolled across the door of the tomb – how on earth were they going to be able to move it so that they could enter and perform their funeral rites?

Death is a serious business. The Romans were experts at bringing it about. People in the 1 st century too were nowhere near as sheltered from the reality of death as we are in the 21 st century. They knew about death and they knew it was final. We believe that too and that is why reports of near-death experiences make our newspapers – we want death to be cheated, we long for death to loosen its grip on us, but we know that death is more than a comma in life it is a full stop.

But something was about to happen - their plans for that day would be turned upside down. Something extraordinary was about to happen - their lives would never be the same again. Something momentous was about to happen – life for the whole of humanity would be forever changed!

What was it? It was that in Jesus the full stop of death was no longer the end it had been!

But first appearances were anything but promising and the dispirited women were not expecting any miracles they minds were taken up with corpses.

It had been too late on the evening of the day Jesus died for them to anoint his body for burial now it transpires that although those women had set out early in the morning they had arrived too late to anoint his body for it was no longer there!

Arriving at the tomb the women found that the great stone had already been moved away from the entrance and so they hurried in but they found nothing, the body wasn't there!
What on earth were they to make of that?

There wasn't one glimmer of hope in their eyes – all they can think is that the authorities had moved the body somewhere else…

Look at the Facts

There are plenty of folk in the world who don't want to believe and come up with all kinds of lame excuses for their unbelief. Most never bother to undertake any serious investigation of the facts for themselves. Take time to look at the evidence for yourself and don't be fobbed off with unsubstantiated assertions – if you'd like to talk more about this or read something then speak to me or one of the elders and we'll be glad to help.

One of the silly things that people sometimes say in order to avoid thinking about the challenge of Jesus Christ is that the accounts of his resurrection don't describe what happened but what his followers so desperately wanted to see take place that they believed as some sort of wish fulfilment.

It sounds plausible, I suppose, until you look at the facts! And the relevant fact is that there was nobody amongst Jesus' followers who was expecting to see him alive again. Jesus had told them that after his sufferings and death he would rise again but they hadn't grasped what he meant at all and it's so easy to forget what you don't understand! Jesus followers were not convinced of his resurrection by a process of wish fulfilment they were convinced by the facts that forced themselves upon them.

The women were a case in point so let's continue looking at their experience that wonderful day.  

The women didn't expect to see Jesus alive again. They had prepared spices and ointments to embalm a dead body. The trouble for them was that there ass no dead body in sight – what was going on?

They weren't expecting to find a grave with no body and they certainly weren't ready for what happened next. They certainly weren't expecting to have a conversation with some angels!!

The angels appear in human form with dazzling clothing – it's hardly surprising to learn that the women are frightened by their sudden appearance and hide their faces! The angels have got something to tell them but begin with a gentle rebuke:

Lk.24:5 "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"


I wonder if you're ever in danger of doing that. Are you busy looking for Jesus in the wrong place? Perhaps you're looking for him in a religion of dos and don'ts? Perhaps you're looking for a Jesus who lived a long time ago and is really a bit outdated? The angels' question points to the fact that he is alive!

If even the question points that way then what comes next both reminds the women of teaching that they had heard before and explains to them just what that teaching meant.

On his way to Jerusalem had spoken to his disciples and the women who had travelled with them and taught them very specifically. The men had not taken this teaching on board and neither had the women. The teaching hadn't been intended for the angels but for his own followers but these angels had paid careful attention. They knew where Jesus had been when he taught his followers and they knew just what it was that he had taught them. They quote Jesus' words to the women and call upon them to remember. The angels don't really bring any fresh revelation to the women but direct them to what Jesus had already told them!

The Bible Tells us the Truth we need to Know

That's important and has important implications for us too. We have the Bible and we should listen to it! There we have all that God wants us to know – it contains all we need to know:

"The sum total of God's revelation concerning all things essential to His own glory, and to the salvation and faith and life of men, is either explicitly set down or implicitly contained in the Holy Scripture. Nothing, whether a supposed revelation of the Spirit or man's traditions, is ever to be added to Scripture." (The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689)


And the women do remember!

They go away and share the news with the others.

Sadly these others preferred to think that the women were talking nonsense – it would be some little time before they too came to understand just what had really taken place!
Now where are you in relation to all of this?

Others thought the women were talking nonsense but it was the women who were right! Are you in danger of being like those who derided what they didn't understand?

Do you know that Jesus spoke about his sufferings, death and resurrection before it all happened? Do you realise that this was all part of the divine plan to secure salvation for needy sinners? Do you realise that everything took place just as Jesus said it would happen! Perhaps it is not difficult to speak about coming problems and growing opposition but it is much harder to speak of your own resurrection and yet that is precisely what Jesus did!

Then the tomb was empty – the women hadn't immediately believed when they realised the tomb was empty but they were convinced when they remembered Jesus' words!

The other disciples remained for a time unconvinced though they certainly should have been as the women recounted it all to them. But in due course they too saw an empty tomb and encountered the risen Lord Jesus!

The Importance of Easter

The events of Easter are terrifically important. Jesus died for our sins but having a dead Saviour would be of no value to us. He was however raised from the dead!

His resurrection proves the truthfulness of his teaching – he knows and has always known what is to happen. He promised he would be raised to life after his death on the cross and was able to keep that promise – he is able to keep his promises to save all those who will make him their Lord and Saviour.

His resurrection shows us that human life is not extinguished by death for death has now been conquered!

His resurrection means that Jesus is alive for he never, ever died again. He is in heaven and there he represents all those who repent of their sin and trust him. You can have a relationship with him and benefit from his work because he is alive. Do you want that?

His resurrection is proof of the fact that God will judge the world – in raising Jesus from the dead God has vindicated his Son who was innocent of any personal guilt or sin and entrusted judgment to him who knows what life is like as a human being.

Consequently the church has expanded into the entire world proclaiming the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and calling upon men and women and boys and girls everywhere to put their trust in him.

Will you not do that yourself? And will you not do so today?

To God be the Glory.


 
 
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