In Luke 24, we see that on the first day of the week (Sunday) at sunrise, they went to the tomb where Jesus laid. It was a beautiful tomb, owned by a member of the Jewish Supreme Court, Joseph of Arimathea. This man, like so many others, was looking for the kingdom of God, waiting for the Messiah to come and to rule and reign as promised.
On that Sunday, some women came to the tomb but noticed that the stone which was rolled at the entrance of the tomb, sealed, and guarded by two Roman guards for the purpose of keeping outsiders from coming in and stealing the body, was rolled aside. The body was gone. They were perplexed, the Scriptures tell us.
The two men standing beside the tomb “in dazzling apparel” were angels. During times of God’s incredible work and intervention, these angels would appear to help give some direction. An angel came to Joseph just after Mary told him that she would have Jesus, even though she was still a virgin. The angel came and gave direction to Joseph, saying that all was according to God’s plan—and that plan was, as the angel told Joseph, “to save His people from their sins.”
They asked an all-important question to these women,
“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” (Luke 24:5-7).
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Obviously, the immediate context is that you cannot find a living, healthy being whose vitals are strong whose permanent bodily residence is in a cemetery. I’m always reminded of how my father, every time we would pass a cemetery, he would say, “You know, son, people are just dying to get in there.” And why would they seek after Jesus, when He told them repeatedly that he would rise in three days?
Human history is dotted with those who seek after life among things that are dead, even among those who are more devout. When God created everything, Adam and Eve were tempted to seek life in a place that promised death—eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They thought they would truly live if they partook of what was forbidden—and even destructive.
In Exodus, the people of Israel were delivered by God through the cloud by day, pillar of fire by night, refreshed by the rock in the waters—through the Spiritual Rock that is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-6). As they were going to the Promised Land, and even with all the provision God gave them, they longed to find their life among the dead: they wanted to return to Egypt where they would die in slavery. Even when their leader, Moses, was away, they crafted a golden calf—a non-living (that is, dead) idol that would lead them.
In Isaiah 44:9-20, we read about a man who had a large piece of wood. He took half of that wood and went to a craftsman. That craftsman shaped the eyes, the mouth, every bit of it, then set it up in a tent and would worship that idol. With the other he uses it to cook his food. Listen to what Isaiah says:
He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats mean; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
The Scriptures are littered with such examples of seeking life after dead things. But do we do this today?
Consider an automobile commercial I heard a few years ago touting the ‘soul’ of this certain brand when it hits the road. In reality, cars are just bits of metal, wire, and belts put together to function getting us from point A to point B.
Or consider a new service for married folks who wish to get what the recent movie called a “Hall Pass.” It’s a service where you can cheat (commit adultery) on your spouse, no questions asked. I remember talking to someone who was committing adultery against their spouse and said the reason they couldn’t discontinue it was because they “never felt more alive.” This demonstrates another example of seeing life among the dead-end of sin.
In fact, this is the paradox of sin: the very thing Satan tempts us to think will make us alive will actually make us dead. Even religiously devout folks find this out. The religious leaders began to count on something else besides the life-giving Word of God. In Mark 7, Jesus spoke to these leaders and quoted from the book of Isaiah:
This people honors me with their lips,
But their heart is far from me;
In vain do they worship me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men
(Mark 7:6b-7; cf. Isaiah 29:13)
See, it’s not just bad things that can become objects of worship, it can even be good things. But there are good things—and there are God things. We were wired to worship—and ultimately, we are wired to worship the God of the living—the living God!
Remember how he told you… and they remembered.
Remember how the women were perplexed? The angel said these words, “Remember how he told you . . . .” What was it? Well, a number of places Jesus told the disciples what would happen. “… the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
Then notice in 24:8: “And they remembered his words.” The word ‘must’ is of utmost importance. Rather than merely seeing Jesus turned over to the religious authorities and be an innocent man who was brutally executed, the angels reminded them that it must happen that way. Why?
Look with me at Hebrews 9:15-22:
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must b e established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Before us is a Lord’s Supper table, which signifies the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this He instituted a new covenant, instituted the night before His crucifixion. The first covenant, begun at the Passover was brought about through Moses. The only way to fulfill that was to keep every bit of God’s laws. But we couldn’t. Thus, the sacrifices of “the blood of calves and goats,” whose blood was to cleanse from sins.
But those things could not get to the heart of the matter. We were born with that DNA to pursue the living among the dead. Why? Because we are born dead in our sins (Psalm 51:4; Ephesians 2:1). But in order for that first “will” to be in force to redeem us fully from our sins, one had to die so it would be enacted. And the shedding of that blood set into motion the forgiveness of sins, cleansing us and redeeming us.
The angels called the women to remember what He told us. And they are calling us to do so as well. Allow me to ask you some questions:
- Have you heard these words of Jesus before? The disciples had—but they hadn’t heard. You may be one here this morning who may have come with family and friends, and recall this account from many years back, but it’s been a while since you’ve encountered it. God brought you here this morning to you would hear them again, and not search for life among the dead things of this age.
- Maybe you made a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in your life. You may be one who comes every so often, you may be one who is here everytime the doors are open. Do you remember His words? Do you relish in His lavish love for you in how Jesus not only had to go to the cross, but willingly went. How much does that empty cross and empty tomb play in your life now? Is Christ a living reality in your life, or are you tampering trying to find life among the dead things of this world that will simply pass away?
Michael Horton said once,
The resurrection is the watershed in history, with dominion of sin and death falling into oblivion, losing its grip on its terrified subjects, and righteousness and life coming to reign. . . . The clock is running down on this present evil age. The first fruits of the harvest, Jesus Christ, has been raised, entering the everlasting Sabbath rest in conquest. The war in heaven is over, though insurgent battles must still be waged on earth.
Michael S. Horton, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011).