It was early– did you catch that? – very early when these three women in our easter lesson took spices to the tomb of Jesus. Why so early? Have you ever wondered that? Why didn’t they go mid-morning or later after lunch? What was the rush? Well, what did these women think? They thought they were racing against the clock. Jesus’ body was decomposing and if they didn’t act quickly that stench of death would be overwhelming, and that rigor mortis would be too great to overcome. So, they got up early, very early, to try and spice up that dead body.
You know what this tells me? These women truly believed Jesus was dead, and they expected to find Jesus’ body in that tomb – that’s why they brought the spices! But, when they got to that tomb, they did not find what they were looking for, instead, they found something else, three things, actually – take a look! They found the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away. Then, when they peeked their heads inside the open tomb, they found that the body of Jesus was no longer there, and as they wondered about this, they suddenly found two messengers in lightning-infused clothes. Now, let’s not forget, none of this was what they were looking for. None of this was what they had expected to find.
And these women reacted to all this as one might expect. They were frightened. This was a curveball. This wasn’t on their radar, as much as maybe it should have been. So, there they “were bowed down with their faces to ground,” afraid, when those lightning shining men spoke to them. Here is what they said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Well, there was a good reason those women were looking for Jesus among the dead, because they weren’t expecting a living Jesus and so they were looking for the wrong Jesus.
So, what do you expect to find today? That’s a question worth dwelling on. Ours is a searching culture. We like answers, we need direction. We long to find guidance, or support, or fulfillment, and we will turn to just about anyone or anything to distract us, or give us some relief, or to help us make it through each day. So, what Jesus were you hoping to find today?
I’m sure the answer to that question is different for all of us. Some of us here maybe would appreciate finding a Jesus who would answer some of our difficult question like, “Why the cancer?” or “Why the family issues? Jesus why does my life have to be so hard all the time?” Others of us are just maybe looking for a Jesus who will give us a few of those “extras” in life, maybe a little more money, a better job, some friends, or better friends. Still others of us possibly are hoping the Jesus we find can fix some of our mistakes. “Jesus, can you patch up this marriage of mine? It’s not going well. Jesus, can you turn my kids around? They’re not listening to me.” What kind of Jesus are you hoping to find here today?
You know what I think is interesting? That Jesus you hope to find, he’s gonna change throughout your life. Next year at Easter time, you might hope for a different Jesus to show up than the Jesus you were looking for this year. And, maybe that’s good reminder for you and for me that the Jesus we really need to find isn’t the one who just fixes, or answers, or patches over our current problems, rather, the Jesus we need to find, is the very one we would’ve never found on our own, because like those women at the tomb our expectations of Jesus are often just wrong. Too often we are looking for the wrong Jesus. Today though, those two men, those angels at the tomb, reveal the right Jesus, the Savior we need. Listen to their words, “He, Jesus, is not here; he has risen!”
“He is risen!” Those are beautiful words. We spoke them together today as have thousands upon thousands of other Christians throughout this world. He is risen! And the devil is cast down. He is risen! And sin is buried. He is risen! And death has died. He is risen! and life springs forth from the grave to you and to me. He is risen…! Three beautiful words that were showered down upon these women causing their heads to rise and their faces to change from grief, to wonder, to joy as they were then called to remember Jesus’ words of promise: he would rise again. “Remember how he told you?”, the angels said. And they did, “then they remembered his words” as they saw those words now fulfilled.
Today, we must remember Jesus’ words too. We really can’t do anything else, can we? What else can we do this morning but go to the empty tomb, gaze inside, and then ponder with amazement what this means for us? And what does it mean for you? It means that everything for you has changed, but how so? Is sin and sickness gone from your life? Do you never have guilt? Does the death of someone you love have no sting? And, lest we forget, look around. Has the world been getting better or worse – you tell me? I mean, what good is this empty tomb?
Ah, isn’t that just it? The tomb was empty. Go back to Jesus before his crucifixion – before his death. Consider the uniqueness and the audacity of his claim. When the people around Jesus wondered and asked why they should believe in him, do you know what Jesus did? Okay, yeah, he performed miracles, but he did something far more impressive than that. Jesus lined himself up with the ancient prophecies of Scripture and predicted, again, and again, that he would rise from the grave. He was willing to make this all-or-nothing claim. And, here, unexpectedly, unbelievably we find Jesus’ Words came true.
Remember, those three women who went to that tomb, they expected to find a dead body. These women were not people then who would go on to invent a resurrection, no, they were people who discovered one. And you and I are here today because, like those women, we are convinced – convinced! – that Jesus died. But, by faith, we know and believe the unexpected, that this tomb was empty; Jesus didn’t stay dead. Now, why is that so important? If Jesus lives, what then?
Then everything else Jesus said must be true too. Then everything Jesus claimed to be he is, and everything he promised will come. That means my Uncle Jim, my grandma and grandpa Frohmader, my grandpa Free, my wife’s grandma and grandpa – all my loved ones in Jesus who died on this earth– are now among the living. It is here at death’s door that the empty tomb and what it means to our faith is so meaningful. It means life. Jesus is life! He is your hope. He is what defines you. Jesus has changed who you are and what you do. He has changed your priorities in this life, your dreams, and even your sorrows – and you know it! – all because that tomb was empty. But here is the thing, sometimes like those women we still wonder, and like Peter who shows up a bit later, we’re puzzled at what we find in our lives. “This isn’t what I had expected from God…” In those moments, there are a couple of things we can do.
First, remember what you need. Look, would it be great to find Jesus giving me answers to all my big life problems? Sure. Would I love some of those extras in life that would make my day to day experiences a little easier? Of course. Could I find a use for a Jesus who patches up my many, many mistakes? Absolutely. But, think about it, all that is pointless if the moment you die, you’re either in hell or just dirt. And that is why God gave us the Jesus we need. The Jesus who was not there; a Savior who rose. In the empty tomb, you find that Savior you need and the victory he won for you.
The second thing we need to remember is what Jesus said, did, and will still do. And, I get it, it’s easy to get consumed by everything in this life. There’s a lot going on. Each of you has a lot going on and often that stuff needs your attention…like now. But don’t let the busyness of your life distract you from the life of your Savior. Don’t let it keep you from hearing his Words and remembering his promises. Take time to ponder the history of God’s people, the cross, and especially the empty tomb. Make this your priority each day; those other things can (and sometimes must) wait.
Finally, and this might sound strange, practice. Check it out sometime. The Bible almost always describes death for a believer as sleep. How often do you sleep? Every night! When you close your eyes to sleep, think about what it will be like to open them in glory. That’s what you can look forward to. That’s pretty incredible, and it’s all because that tomb was empty.
There is one other way you can practice. Those women who first peered into that empty tomb, they didn’t keep this good news to themselves. They shared it. They shared this good and unexpected news, that that tomb was empty; Jesus had risen. Today, right now in 2022, this is our good news for a world that is desperate for just a little. And I’ll tell you this, when you share those words with each other and with others, by the Holy Spirit’s power, you’ll see how those words change people, just like they’ve changed you. So, let’s give this world the hope that we have: an empty tomb. “He is not here; he is risen!” Those are beautiful words! Words worth sharing. Amen