WHY DO YOU SEEK THE LIVING
AMONG THE DEAD?
In the name + of Jesus.
M: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Cong: He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Easter Sunday began in a cemetery. The women who had grieved at the death of Jesus were also concerned that Jesus' burial had been so hasty. His body was wrapped quickly by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. He was placed in Joseph's tomb because it was so close. He was buried hurriedly because the Sabbath was so near.
The women who came to the tomb had followed Jesus and graciously supported Jesus with their savings. They sought to honor Jesus one last time, giving his body the proper attention it deserved for a burial. They would tend to Jesus' corpse, and they would leave him for dead. Then they would depart from the grave as they did on Friday, in tears.
But when the women got to the tomb, they met the angels who had rolled the stone away. They asked a question which also served as somewhat of a rebuke. “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.” And they remembered his words... (Luke 24:5-8)
The rebuke came because Jesus had told them explicitly and repeatedly what was going to happen to him at Jerusalem. And it all unfolded just as Jesus had foretold it. He was betrayed, he was delivered into the hands of sinful men, and he was crucified. When Jesus' disciples saw these things, Jesus' words should have resonated in their heads. Though it was appalling, it should not have been surprising.
Both the women and the disciples missed the last part of Jesus' words: “on the third day (he will) rise.” (Luke 24:7) Though Jesus had told them that he was going to die, he also let them know that death would not have the last word. Jesus is the Lamb of God who was slain to take away the sins of the world. He is true God so that his sacrifice would be enough to pay for the world. The eternal God gave himself on behalf of all people of all time. But he is true man, and this man is risen from the dead. This man lives to forgive the sins of men. This man lives to make death answer to him. He is the man who has gone into death and come out of it. He is the man who ascended to heaven and dwells there. This man has paved the way for all mankind, and declares that all who believe in him will likewise be delivered out of the grave to eternal life.
But the women and the disciples had missed that promise. We also fail to grasp the fullness of the word of God. What the angels asked the women they could just as well ask us: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) It is also a rebuke for us, because we often look for life in the things that are dying or dead. We imagine that a life full of stuff is a full life.
That's not to say the things that bring us happiness are automatically evil things. We recognize the blessings God gives us in this world. We receive them with gratitude, and we enjoy them because they make life easier or happier. We are grateful for priceless blessings like families, health, pets, hobbies, sunsets, apple trees, and music. We are also grateful for blessings that give just to make life easier—like cars, automatic dishwashers, and WiFi hot spots. We are even grateful for things are are absolutely frivolous—like stuffed animals, cartoons, and extra-large scoops of Cool Whip on the dessert. But no matter how much easier or happier they make life, they don't produce life. They can't preserve or sustain life either. They are blessings, but they are temporary. They are all either dead or things. Over time, you will lose all of them, whether they are frivolous or priceless. Cool Whip gets consumed. Cars break down. And family members die. They are all temporary. Even your own body is a temporary blessing. Over the years, you may lose your hair, your balance, your 20/20 vision, and your ability to bounce back quickly after hard work. Eventually, you lose even your breath, and you will die.
Even though these things are dead or dying, we cherish them and cling to them. We love and trust in them, and we live in fear of losing them. If you have built your life upon them, you will find that your joy and your comfort and your very soul will be swept away forever. If your life is wrapped up in dead and dying things, you yourself will die with them. The angels implore you to consider: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) Temporary blessings in a dying world cannot save you. A life full of stuff is not really a full life.
But today, Jesus Christ brings life out of death, and he grants life to the dying. Jesus had gone into death for us, to pay for sin which has corrupted everything in this world. Most specifically, Jesus went into death for you—so that you would be acquitted from your guilt, so that your body would be redeemed from death, and so that your life would not be measured by the size of your estate sale. The sufferings and death of Jesus were done to pay for sins. And the resurrection of Jesus guarantees that Jesus' payment for sins is sufficient. It shows that Jesus' power over death is certain. And it shows that life itself is no longer temporary.
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) The life you seek and the life you dream about is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus' resurrection means that you who believe in him and have been baptized in him shall also rise from the dead. These bodies have been corrupted by sin. They will get old, weak, and finally die. But on the Last Day, Jesus will summon you from your grave. Death will have to obey Jesus' orders, for Jesus owns the keys to death and Hades. And Jesus will raise you up with a body that will never again know disability, disease, decline, or death. And Jesus will bring you into a life that will never know strife, stress, sickness, sorrow, or struggles. And better than this world, the blessings which Jesus will deliver to you will not be temporary or fragile. Jesus' gifts are unending and unbreakable.
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) Jesus Christ is the living one, and he supplies his life through the word which is preached and through the sacraments that are administered. Jesus' gifts and the life he gives does not come through our own daydreaming or hard work. The women at the tomb found no comfort in what they could see and feel. Their comfort came only when they remembered Jesus' words. That is why God's word is preached here every week. That is where Jesus provides this life we crave.
The life that Jesus supplies is not something that will come to you one day. It is yours now. Your eternal life has already begun! The forgiveness Jesus won is yours now. The peace Jesus proclaims is yours now. The salvation which Jesus provides his yours now. You are children of God. Your life is founded on Jesus Christ. Therefore, there is nothing that can rob you of your life. Your body may dwell in a grave for a while, but your life is with Jesus. And your body will be raised from the grave, glorified and immortal.
Easter may have begun at a cemetery, but Jesus' empty tomb reminds you that no cemetery is to be feared. Our Lord Jesus Christ is risen and has conquered death. Jesus is the Living One and the source of life. And his grace and his mercy means all his perfect and permanent blessings are for us.
M: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Cong: He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.