Luke 24:1-2 (The Resurrection of Our Lord—Series C)
“Real Life in the Risen Christ”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
April 21, 2019
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
The sermon text for the Resurrection of Our Lord is the Easter Gospel recorded in Luke 24:
1On the first day of the week, early in the morning, [the women] came to the tomb carrying the spices which they had prepared. 2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3And after they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4And while they were at a loss concerning this, behold, two men in dazzling clothing were standing with them. 5After they became frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, [the men] said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6He is not here but has risen. Remember how He told you while He was still in Galilee 7saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.’” 8And they remembered His words. 9And after they returned from the tomb, they announced these things to the eleven and all the rest. 10Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them. They were telling these things to the apostles. 11But these things appeared to them like nonsense and they did not believe them. 12But Peter rose and ran to the tomb, and stooping to look in, he saw only the linen cloths, and he went away by himself wondering at what had happened.
The women’s expectation was pressing that morning. They expected to apply the spices and ointments which they had prepared to the dead body of Jesus, thus completing His burial which was hastily done on Friday due to the impending Sabbath. “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56b). But bright and early on the first day of the week, their expectation was turned upside-down. They did not find the body of the Lord Jesus in the tomb where it was supposed to be!
There is a stark irony to the angels’ first words to the women who were completely at a loss over the situation, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” To put it another way, “Why are you looking for the Living One in the place meant for the deceased?” Well, when it is said it like that, you must admit that it does seem a little silly. The tombs, the cemeteries, they are places of rest for the bodies of the dead. One doesn’t go there looking for the living. The women go to the tomb expecting a dead Jesus for whom they will lovingly complete the burial customs. But the irony of the situation is that Jesus is no longer dead. Therefore, there is no reason to seek Him there. “He is not here but has risen!”
As it turns out, the women were looking for life in the wrong place. They were looking for life in the midst of death. But isn’t that where we tend to look for life also? People look for life in all kinds of places that can’t really sustain it. People believe, “It’s really living to have everything I want. It’s truly living when things go my way. I’m alive and happy when I’m in charge and everything falls into place the way I want it to.” People find life in their possessions—car, cell phone, money, clothes, jewelry. People often call it “real living” when they are able to go on the most extravagant of vacations around the globe. Or people feel so alive because they are the most popular among their friends and coworkers.
Tragically, people are looking for the living among the dying and dead. Possessions and money, popularity and prestige, even having everything you want and being “large and in charge” doesn’t last. Jobs are lost and the bills ramp up. Popularity won’t buy you food or clothes or shelter. And when things do not go your way and you don’t get what you want—what then? If that’s what your life and being “alive” are based on and it’s suddenly gone, what hope do you have?
When the things that make you feel like you are living and alive are stripped from you, you
have nothing. Take away all the pleasures you have sought in possessions and feelings and desires, there is nothing left. No life, no real living. Where is the real life offered by things that are here today and gone tomorrow? Where is the real living in amassing possessions and things, money and power? Where’s the real living in sexual promiscuity, drunkenness, drugs, and the fleeting pleasures of this world? There is none! There’s no life to be found, no real living. There is nothing of substance and meaning. So why are you seeking life among the dead and dying things of this world? Why do you seek real life in the things that cannot possibly offer it?
That’s the very nature of sin. Our sinful selves love to seek for real, true life, first, in ourselves as we hold ourselves up as more important than anyone else . . . me, me, me . . . ourselves as gods of our own making. Our sinful selves seek real, true life, second, in the created things of this world, in the things that make us seem powerful, popular, or fulfilled emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. As these take first place in our lives, they, too, become our gods. But they are dead gods, lifeless gods, gods who cannot impart life but who only encourage us further down the road to everlasting death. “The wages of sin is death.” In our sinfulness, we look for real life only in the places that lead us into death.
Even as we seek life in all the wrong places, God our Father has sent His One-of-a-Kind Son to purchase and win our freedom from sin and death so that He might gift us sinners—free of charge—real, true, and abundant life. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus tells us that He has come so that we may “have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The life that Jesus gives is a more than just mere survival or safety; it’s more than just worldly pleasures or even being physically alive. It’s life as it was meant to be lived, without sin, without death—eternal life with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It was Jesus’ death on the cross that freed us from our sins and from death. His blood poured out for us on the cross purchased and won our rescue from all sins, from death, and from the devil’s power to ensnare and enslave us. Jesus’ death redeemed us from our seeking after all other gods, including ourselves as gods and lords of our lives. In Holy Baptism, Jesus gifted to us the benefits and blessings of His death which includes the new life of faith and His own resurrection life. Romans 6, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4 ESV).
That new life is the life of faith trusting that Jesus Christ is Lord. It is new life with sins forgiven, death defeated, and Satan conquered. It is real and abundant life, eternal life, now, because Jesus is risen from the dead. His resurrection guarantees that His sacrifice on Good Friday was completed. It IS finished! God’s wrath is turn away from us. We no longer stand condemned to death because of our sins. We are forgiven. And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also eternal life and salvation. By grace through faith in Jesus, we have the guarantee that, on the Last Day, our bodies will rise again from the dead. Jesus will then “transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:21 ESV).
The life given us in Baptism is truly real life and abundant life, new life, and resurrection life. Now, this gift of life given in and through faith in Jesus is also a life that changes us and makes us new creations. This real, abundant life in Jesus enables us not to be “conformed to this world,” a world that seeks real life in the things that die and fade away, but to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12)
And so what does the new life given us in Christ look like here and now? People who do not to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think; people who let love be genuine; people who abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good, and love one another with brotherly affection. We are really alive and living when you and I outdo one another in showing honor, when we are not slothful in zeal but fervent in spirit as we serve the Lord. Real life and abundant living means that you and I rejoice in hope, are patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer. For we are the people of God who are able to contribute to the needs of the saints as we seek to show hospitality. Real living in Christ is a life in which we rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, and live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12).
The real, abundant, and eternal life that you live as believers in Jesus is God’s gift to you. That gift of life was purchased with the death of Jesus on the cross and confirmed by His glorious resurrection that we celebrate today. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, do not look for true life in the wrong places of this fallen world. Do not search for real living in the things that fade and pass away, in the things that offer no life and no hope. For in your baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, you already have new life, real life, abundant life. You have eternal life through the forgiveness of your sins. Find in Christ your life and your salvation. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!