Why Do You Look for the Living Among the Dead?

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Luke 24:1-12

INTRODUCTION: Today is Easter, and we have spent the last six weeks following Jesus and his disciples on the road to Jerusalem. Last week we witnessed Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But a lot happened in that one week between Palm Sunday and Easter, this week that we often call Holy Week.

Let me recap the events of Holy Week for you. On Monday and Tuesday the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders escalated. On Wednesday Judas met with the religious leaders and arranged for Jesus’ betrayal. On Thursday Jesus met with his disciples in the Upper Room and shared the Last Supper with them. Later that same night he was arrested while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Early Friday morning Jesus was tried before Pilate and sentenced to death. By Friday evening Jesus was crucified, dead and buried. Saturday was a Sabbath day of rest.

And so, at last we come to Sunday morning. Only seven days had passed since the triumphal entry, but so much had happened in between.

Imagine how the disciples felt at this moment. They were in shock from the events of Thursday and Friday. They were in mourning over the death of their Lord and friend. And they were hiding in fear for their own lives. Jesus had warned them that the road to Jerusalem was the road to suffering and the cross, but somehow, they did not understand. But now Sunday morning had arrived, and everything was about to change. (Read Luke 24:5-8 and pray.)

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“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) That is a great question! We do not normally look for the dead among the living. So why would you look for the living among the dead? That is the question the angels posed to the women who came to Jesus’ tomb that first Easter morning. And it is the question I would like for us to consider this morning as well.

I. Looking for Jesus among the dead (1-3)

   A. The women on Easter morning

So, let’s get started. Look at verse 1 with me: “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 24:1) On Good Friday, right after Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea received permission to bury Christ’s body in his own tomb. The women who had attended Jesus followed Joseph. They saw the tomb and how Jesus’ body was laid in it. They then rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Now it was Sunday morning and the women made their way to the tomb. Luke tells us it was very early in the morning. Some of you have gotten up early on Easter Sundays to attend an Easter Sunrise service. You can relate with these women! Sometimes it’s still dark, and it’s not easy getting out of bed. But you obviously feel there is something of greater value than sleeping in on Easter morning. So, you get up early, and you go to the sunrise service.

Well, these women also felt there was something more important than sleeping in that Easter morning. And so, they got up. They took the spices they had prepared, and they went to the tomb. Why did they bring the spices? Out of love and respect for their crucified Lord, they were going to anoint his body in the grave. In other words, they went fully expecting to find Jesus dead and buried in the tomb.

Instead, we read in verses 2-3: “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” (Luke 24:2-3) I like that. They found the stone rolled away, but they did not find Jesus. They were looking for Jesus among the dead, and they did not find him.

Many people are still looking for Jesus among the dead. I think of biblical scholars who study the words of Jesus and the gospel manuscripts but do not believe in Christ’s resurrection. I think of the archaeologists who two thousand years later are still trying to find Jesus’ body and bones in the tomb but keep coming up empty. I think of people who finger the sculpted body of Christ on their crucifixes but do not know the reality of the living Christ. These people all have one thing in common. They are all looking for Jesus among the dead. But if you are looking for Jesus among the dead, you will not find him. Because he is not there.

   B. Frank Morison (Who Moved the Stone?)

Frank Morison was a man who went looking for Jesus among the dead. Morison was a British journalist who lived in the early twentieth century. He was not a Christian. Although he admired the person of Jesus, Morison was a skeptic who felt that these stories about Jesus were nothing more than a myth or legend, especially the story of the resurrection.

So, Morison had a brilliant idea. Why not prove that the resurrection never happened? Why not use his own research skills as a journalist to dig into history and prove that Jesus never rose from the dead? He would do his research, and then he would write a book presenting the historical facts about Christ and the events surrounding his death. And so Frank Morison went looking for Jesus among the dead.

And you know what? He never found him. What he did find is exactly what Luke says in our passage this morning. He found the stone rolled away, but he did not find the body of Jesus. Instead, he found the risen Christ, and he put his faith in him as Lord and Savior.

Morison wrote up his research in a famous book called, Who Moved the Stone? I especially love the title of the first chapter. The first chapter is called: “The Book that Refused to Be Written.” Here is what Morison says in the preface:

This study is in some ways so unusual and provocative that the writer thinks it desirable to state here very briefly how the book came to take its present form. In one sense, it could have taken no other, for it is essentially a confession, the inner story of a man who originally set out to write one kind of book, and found himself compelled by the sheer force of circumstances to write quite another.

It is not that the facts themselves altered, for they are recorded imperishably in the monuments and in the pages of human history. But the interpretation to be put upon the facts underwent a change. Somehow the perspective shifted – not suddenly, as in a flash of insight or inspiration, but slowly, almost imperceptibly, by the very stubbornness of the facts themselves.

Frank Morison set out to write a book disproving the resurrection of Christ. Instead, he ended up writing what has become a Christian classic presenting the evidence for the resurrection of Christ.

Morison went looking for Jesus among the dead. But he did not find him there. And you will not find him there either. If you want to find Jesus this morning, you can’t go looking among the dead. You must go looking among the living! And that brings us to the good news of Easter.

II. The good news of Easter (4-8)

Look at verses 4-5 with me now: “While the women were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground.” (Luke 24:4-5) These were clearly not ordinary men. They appeared out of nowhere. Their clothes were shining like lightning. The other gospels confirm to us that these were indeed angels. These were messengers sent from God with their clothing still burning bright with the glory of heaven.

Now I have never met an angel – at least not knowingly; angels have been known to travel in disguise. But in the Bible whenever an angel appears in glory, one thing always happens. People fall down on their faces in fear. It is an instinctive reaction. Angels are majestic and glorious beings, and we fall down before them. The women at the tomb were no different. In their fright, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground.

The angels asked the women: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:5-8)

This is something that we have seen several times in our study on “The Road to Jerusalem.” Jesus told his followers again and again what would happen to him when they got to Jerusalem. He told them that he would suffer. He told them that he would be crucified. He told them that on the third day he would rise from the dead.

So, Jesus’ arrest should not have been a surprise to his followers. Jesus’ crucifixion and death should not have been a surprise either. And even Jesus’ resurrection should not have been a surprise. Jesus told them about all these things in advance. And yet somehow the meaning of these things escaped them. It was only after these things had happened that they remembered his words and put it all together.

And so it was that these women showed up with spices at Jesus’ grave on Easter morning looking for a dead man. The angels rightly asked them: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

Folks, that is the good news of Easter. Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and the grave. He rose from the dead on Easter morning. He is alive and well today. You will not find him among the dead, for he is among the living. And he offers new life to you. The Bible tells us that those who trust in Christ, we will share in his resurrection. The fear of death and judgment is taken away. That’s good news when we’re in the middle of a pandemic, right? In fact, that’s good news anytime! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

III. How will you respond? (9-12)

That is the good news of Easter. And so, only one question remains. How will you respond? We see several responses highlighted in our passage this morning.

   A. The women’s response: Believe and share (9-10)
      – Romans 10:9

First there was the response of the women. We see the women’s response in verses 9-10: “When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.” (Luke 24:9-10)

The women came back from the tomb, and they told all these things to the apostles and to everyone there with them. Now, they must have been frightened. They must have been confused. They certainly did not understand all that had happened. But there was one thing they could do. They could share what they knew. They could share that Jesus’ body was no longer in the grave. They could share that the angels said he had risen from the dead. The women believed, and they shared their faith with others.

Are you a believer in Jesus’ resurrection this morning? Do you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead? (Romans 10:9) If so, then you need to share your faith with others, just like the women at Jesus’ tomb did. Jesus died, but he rose again from the dead. He is alive forevermore. That is good news! And good news is for sharing.

Don’t keep the good news of Easter all to yourself. That would be selfish! Share it with other people. Perhaps share the video of this message with your friends on Facebook. Share with everyone you know the astonishing good news that God sent his Son to die for sinners, and that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. What better way to respond to the good news of Easter than to share it with others! That’s our first response this morning. Believe and share.

   B. The apostles’ initial response: Don’t believe, and do nothing (11)

Secondly, there was the response of the apostles, or at least their initial response. The women’s response was believe and share. The apostles’ response was don’t believe, and do nothing! Look at verse 11: “They did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11) The women believed the good news of Easter, and so they shared their faith with others. The apostles did not believe, and so they did nothing.

Now, I am happy to report that the apostles later changed their minds about this, but their initial response mirrors the response of so many people today. They don’t believe in all this Jesus stuff. It all seems like so much nonsense to them, and so they do nothing. They dismiss the story of Jesus outright. They continue to live their lives as though nothing happened that first Easter morning.

Is that your response today? Have you heard the Easter story before but never really done anything about it? Have you ever thought, “Well, that’s okay for those people at church, but it has nothing to do with me?” If so, then you are missing out on the most wonderful news in all the world. Jesus is alive! And if Jesus rose from the dead, that means that if you put your faith in him, then one day you will rise from the dead, too.

Does it all sound like so much nonsense to you? But think about it. What if it were true? Don’t you at least want it to be true? Of course, you do! Anyone who has ever buried a loved one in the ground would absolutely wish it were true. But the apostles’ initial response to the report of Jesus’ resurrection was to reject it completely. “They did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11)

   C. Peter’s response: Check it out for yourself (12)
      – Luke 24:33; 1 Corinthians 15:5

So, are those your only two options? Either believe that Jesus rose from the dead or don’t believe? At first it would seem so. But you know, there is one other option. And we find this third option illustrated for us by Peter’s response. Look at verse 12 with me now: “Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.” (Luke 24:12)

If you are not sure what to make of Jesus’ resurrection, there is a third option you can take rather than simply rejecting it as nonsense. You can do what Peter did. You can check it out for yourself.

Peter ran to the tomb. He examined the evidence. He saw the stone that was rolled away. He entered the empty tomb and saw the strips of linen that once contained the body of Jesus, now lying there by themselves. He went looking for Jesus, and you know what? He found him! Not lying dead in a tomb, but resurrected and alive. The Bible tells us that Jesus appeared to Peter first before he appeared to the twelve. (Luke 24:33; 1 Corinthians 15:5) This must have taken place sometime after Peter left the tomb.

Peter was not yet ready to believe that Jesus was alive, but he did not dismiss it as nonsense. He checked it out for himself, and he encountered the living Christ.

You might say, “Well, that’s all well and good for Peter. He could run to the empty tomb and check it out. I can’t do that today.” No, you can’t. But you can do what Frank Morison did. He didn’t believe, but at least he checked out the facts for himself.

You could read Morison’s book, Who Moved the Stone? or Josh McDowell’s book, More Than a Carpenter, or Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, or more recently, Timothy Keller’s excellent book, The Reason for God. There are any number of good resources out there that will present to you the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.

Or if you are not into reading, then talk with me or one of the other pastors at the church and let us share with you the evidence that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead.

If you are not yet ready to believe this morning, don’t just dismiss it all as nonsense. Don’t you owe it to yourself at least to investigate the claims of Christianity? Be like Peter and check it out for yourself.

CONCLUSION: The angels asked the women that first Easter morning, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Let me say it to you again. If you are looking for Jesus among the dead, you will never find him, because he is not there. But if you look for Jesus among the living, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will find him, and you will be saved.

Jesus Christ is alive. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

© Ray Fowler

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