April 16, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Happy Easter to all of you! Thank you so much for being here. We’re going to take a look at an event that happened halfway around the world 2000 years ago that still impacts your life today. In fact, I’ll say it this way. If this incident doesn’t impact your life today, you’re really not living. Let me explain what I mean by that. If you were to get in a head-on car crash and go in an ambulance to the emergency room, the very first thing that the doctors are going to do is check for a pulse. If a medical doctor in the emergency room starts to treat internal bleeding when you don’t have a pulse, they’re going take that doctor’s license. If a doctor sets a broken bone and your hearts not beating, your family is going to sue that doctor for malpractice. If you don’t have a heartbeat, you don’t have life.
What we will learn from the Bible today is there are lots of people that are sleeping their way through life. There are lots of guys who go to bed, get up, go to work, and repeat it over and over again until they die. That’s all that it is for you. There’s some of women in this room who go to sleep, wake-up, try to look pretty with no makeup, and that’s all that you’re trying to do in life. If that’s life for you, you’re missing it. Today’s story from the Bible found in Luke chapter 24 is describing life like you’ve never known before. It’s really redefining what it means to live. When you hear from the Bible today and when you peer into the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning, I think you’re going to find three things about life with Jesus that radically redefines what it looks like to live. If you don’t have these three things, I’m telling you right up front you’re really not living.
I. Find hope for tomorrow
The first thing you’re going to see when you peer inside that empty tomb is that you can find hope for tomorrow. The last chapter of the book of Luke reads like three stories that build on each other. These are like a TV miniseries that describe what life was like after Jesus died. When you put all three of these stories together it gives overwhelming evidence that this man really was dead and really did come back to life again. If this incident happened anywhere on the globe today, this would be on the front page of every newspaper. If this happened anywhere on the globe, this would be the reoccurring story on Headline News and trending on Twitter this morning. Here’s what’s significant about the Easter story. Jesus said this was going to this happen. This man claimed that he would die and he claimed that he would come back to life again not once but repeatedly. Here’s what the story says about this Easter Sunday morning found in Luke chapter 24.
But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 3 So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus.
Let me give you a little bit of background information about the Jewish custom of burial. In Jesus’s day it was customary that a family would spend up to seven days helping to prepare a body that had died before they would step away and assume that that person no longer existed. If you died on a cross or as a criminal, you were required to receive a funeral with no honor. Basically they would scratch a hole in the ground and throw the body in there. Your family and the culture would dishonor you. Jesus died a criminal’s death on Friday. He died late in the afternoon on Good Friday, which is the night before Passover begins. This is the highest holiday of the year in the Jewish calendar. When the sun goes down on Friday you are forbidden to work by Jewish law. So, Jesus died late in the afternoon, the sun is starting to set and quickly some of the people that are around when Jesus died take his body off the cross and wrap it up in some cloth. They put the body in the tomb and leave it there. They have to wait until the Passover is over with, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and you can’t go to the tomb during darkness. So, the very first opportunity these women have is on Sunday morning. Luke tells us it’s deep in the morning or as soon as sun’s coming up. These ladies love Jesus and they have been waiting to go and give Jesus the kind of burial he deserves.
There is more than one woman there that day. The reason why is because this tomb that they placed Jesus in was made out of solid rock. The stone that covered the entrance to the tomb was heavy. There was no way one lady would be able to open that thing by herself. Several women show up early in the morning because it would take all of them to move that stone. No one in the Bible tells us exactly what happens before the sun comes up but by the time that the women get to the tomb the door is wide open. The verb tense of the Bible is incredibly important here. It says the front door is wide open. It’s the kind of words that you would use, if you went to go buy groceries this afternoon and you left the door of your car wide open in the parking lot. When they get there that door is wide open and the women are confused. They don’t know what to think. They went there to honor their Lord and give him the kind of burial that he deserved but by the time that they show up the front door is wide open.
Bible scholar Earle Ellis says it this way, “Jesus lives because, and only because, he was raised.” The language of the Bible does not allow for any other interpretation. The Bible is saying Jesus has authority over life and death. He can make life where there is no life. Jesus can bring life out of death. The ultimate hope for tomorrow is that death really isn’t the end. In fact, the way the Bible teaches it is that death is the beginning for the person who’s a sincere follower of Jesus. Death is the start of eternal life with God in Heaven not the end.
Jesus claimed to have the kind of power and the kind of authority that nobody else on earth claimed to have. It would be outrageous if somebody said, “I control life and death today.” In fact, the closest thing I can find of the most outrageous claim that is still in existence today is an ancient British law called The Law of Fishes Royal. The law was created in 1324 under the reign of Edward II. The law says that the fish in the ocean, specifically the sturgeons, whales, dolphins and porpoises, belong to the sovereign of England. Those fish that are in the ocean belong technically today to Queen Elizabeth. This was the law from many centuries ago. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Nobody really believes that. They couldn’t possibly try to enforce that crazy law.” In 2004 there was a Welch fisherman off the coast of England who caught a 10-pound sturgeon and took it home to his family. Later on there was a knock on the door and the police said, “Do you realize that the fish that you caught actually belongs to Queen Elizabeth? She wants her fish back.” In 2007 the Scottish government gave more instructions about this law and said that the whales that are close to the ocean technically belong to the crown. According to The Law of Fishes Royal, To this day the Queen of England owns the sturgeon, whales, dolphins, and porpoises that are in the ocean around England. She has authority over the stuff that you and I would say, “No one has authority over that.” What Jesus claimed while he was on earth is, “I have authority over my life. I will lay it down and I will take it back up again. No one can stop me.”
What you learn at the empty tomb is that death really isn’t the end. In fact, the hope of the Easter message is that death is really the beginning for God’s people not the end. The ultimate hope for tomorrow is that there is a hope of Heaven and hope of eternal life. Because of Jesus’s resurrection, now there’s hope even for bad people, the people that are dead in their sins can be made alive through Christ. There is more hope for a sinner who confesses to Jesus today in this room then people who think they’re good and don’t need Jesus. That’s the kind of hope that the resurrection offers.
II. Find purpose for today
If you peer inside the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, you’re also going to find purpose for today. What we’re reading is probably the most well documented event in the entire Bible. The Old Testament points towards this event and the rest of the New Testament describes the implications of this event. Let’s see what happens while these women are at the tomb and the front door is standing wide open.
As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. 5 The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”
I think this entire Bible story today hangs on the word “remember”. The ladies are at the tomb and they’re confused and puzzled. They don’t understand what they’re seeing so they need somebody to explain to them what’s just happened. God sends two witnesses. These are angels that God sends down to earth to explain to these women what they’re seeing at this ancient empty tomb. There’s something really important going on here. In Jesus’s day women were not allowed to testify in a court of law. On Easter Sunday morning there’s only women at the tomb, so these women couldn’t go back to town and claim that Jesus is risen because they have no legal authority to make those kind of claims. What you’re seeing in the Bible today is God sends two of his angels to testify about Jesus’s resurrection. Now they can back up the story that this man Jesus who was dead on Friday is not dead on Sunday.
These two men ask these women a really fascinating question, “What are you doing here? Tombs are for dead people. Cemeteries are where dead people hang out. Why are you here looking for Jesus today because he’s not here? This is where dead people are but Jesus is alive.” I am certain no one in this room went this week to a cemetery with a picnic basket expecting to have a meal with a dead person. We don’t do that because in our day like in their day dead people stay dead. In Jesus’s case these women show up expecting the tomb to be closed and the body to be there. When they get there the front door is wide open and the body is missing. They don’t understand until the angels tell them, “Jesus isn’t here because tombs are for dead people. Jesus is alive and you’re looking for him in the wrong place. Can I remind you of what he’s been saying from the very beginning? Jesus’s ministry started at a place called Galilee.” These angels say, “All the way back to the beginning of his ministry, Jesus has been saying the same thing, ‘I’m going to die and then I’m going to come back to life again.’” No one understood it. John, one of Jesus’s closest apostles who wrote the book of John in the Bible, says, “We didn’t understand it even after he rose from the grave. We heard him say it over and over again but it didn’t make any sense to us until we saw that man standing in front of us. Then finally it clicked and we understood what he had been saying all the way back in Galilee that he would die and that he would come back to life again.” No one showed up at the tomb on Easter Sunday morning expecting the body to be gone. Everyone thought he would still be there. When they got there they found something much more than Jesus. They found hope. They found purpose. They found life where there is no life.
I would venture most of you in this room are pretty familiar with the story Frankenstein. Mary Shelley’s family took a vacation to Gernsheim, Germany. They vacationed about 10 miles away from the famous Frankenstein castle. Mary Shelley was so impacted by this as a 14-year-old teenage girl she wrote the story Frankenstein. By the time that she was 20, she released this book but because she’s a girl nobody would ever read it. So, she released it anonymously under the title Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus. The book took off like wildfire. In fact, within just a couple of years on its second printing Mary Shelley finally came out and said, “I’m really the one who wrote that book.” In the story Victor Frankenstein is a mad scientist who starts to put body parts together. He’s going to create life where there is no life. He throws all of the body parts together and puts them all in the right places. However, Mary Shelley herself has trouble describing how to create life. In fact, if you read the original story, Mary Shelley can’t even give this creature a name. She called it “fiend”, “it”, “creature,” or “monster”. She doesn’t really ever describe what Victor Frankenstein uses to bring this monster to life. She calls it the “Elixir of life”. When Frankenstein finds the Elixir of life he struggles to use it because he understands the great power that would go along with being able to create life where there is no life. Mary Shelley, even in this fiction work, struggled to bring something that’s dead to life again. More movies, TV shows, plays, and musicals have been adapted based on this story than any other story in the English language. When Mary Shelley was much older in life she gave the monster a name. She called the monster Adam. She said this monster really represents Adam in the Garden of Eden when God breathed into Adam the breath of life and Adam became a living soul.
This is what people are like. What Mary Shelley is saying is that you and I are like a monster just going through life asleep. You and I are halfway dead but not totally alive until you have been alive in Jesus Christ. In fact, you’re worse than that and so am I. I’m a monster who pursues selfish desires and self-centered gain until Jesus makes alive something that’s dead inside me. Something in your life is missing without Jesus Christ. Something so important that I don’t think you can even call it life. I don’t know what you call it but you don’t call it living. When you come to faith in Jesus there is a transaction that happens inside of you. He brings life where there is no life. You still get up, go to the same job, live in the same house, and probably have the same struggles but when Jesus moves in and takes up residence inside of you there something different inside of you. Actually, there’s someone different inside of you when Jesus takes up residence inside of you. Now you’re different. The Bible puts it this way in Romans 8:11, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will also give life to your mortal bodies by the same Spirit living with you.” That means tomorrow you get up, go to the same job, and deal with the same struggles but now you have a totally different outlook on life. Now life is different because there’s someone new living inside of you. Now the Holy Spirit of the living God is living inside of you and he is making all things new from the inside out. That’s what the Easter story teaches. It’s impossible for death to keep Jesus down. At the empty tomb Jesus defeated the power of death. He defeated Hell once and for all.
III. Find forgiveness for yesterday’s mistakes
The last thing you’re going to see when you peek your head in the tomb that day is forgiveness for yesterday’s mistakes. Forgiveness for all of those sins that you and I have committed. That forgiveness was demonstrated finally and forever at the cross and the empty tomb. Luke has already told us what happened to the women when they saw the tomb. Let’s find out about the guys when they hear that the tomb is empty.
Then they remembered that he had said this. 9 So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.
Peter, like he just got hit with a bolt of lightning, as soon as he understands with these ladies are saying runs to the tomb as fast as he can. Notice this guy could walk, if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. He runs to the tomb because Peter’s looking for something in that tomb that the rest of those eleven guys are not looking for. Peter’s looking for a second chance. If you know the story of Peter, you know that just a couple of days ago when Jesus was being crucified Peter denied his Master. In fact, Peter called down curses from Heaven and said, “I don’t know that man and I am not that man’s follower.” The Bible tells us that Peter is so broken that he runs away from Jesus weeping. For the next three days Peter is hanging on the edge of his seat broken over the mistake that he made and believing he’ll never have a chance to undo it. So, when these women come back and start telling the guys the story of what they saw at this empty tomb, Peter jumps up and runs to the grave. When he looks inside he just sees some hospital bandages, like you’d see on the floor of the operating room after the surgery is over with. Peter goes home and he’s thinking, “Maybe this is it. Maybe this is my second chance. Maybe there’s a chance to undo the mistake that I made when I denied Jesus.”
It takes forgiveness to restore a broken relationship. Peter knows that. Peter has done great damage to his relationship with God. Peter runs to the tomb hoping that he can find forgiveness, the kind of forgiveness that every single person in this room needs. The Bible is crystal clear on this. All of us have sinned. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God. None of us can stand up and say, “God, I have been perfect. I’ve lived up to perfection.” If you can’t make that claim, then you need forgiveness. The Bible says that your forgiveness was purchased for you at the cross. The payment for your sins was paid for you in full at the cross three days ago when Jesus died. The proof that you’re forgiven is an empty tomb on Sunday morning. I would ask what more proof could you possibly ask for than his death on the cross and an empty tomb? The proof that God loves you and will do everything necessary for you to be forgiven for your sins and for your mistakes to be done away with once and for all.
Do you know why people have worked so hard for thousands of years to discredit the resurrection of Jesus Christ? It’s because almost everyone understands the implications of this event. If this is really true, then Jesus is who he claimed to be. If this is really true, then what that man said is also true when he said, “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life.” Jesus didn’t just claim to be able to give resurrection; Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Though a man dies yet he can live again.” If this is true, the dominoes start to fall one after the next after the next. If this is true, then he is the Son of God and when he said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is not just the Son of God he is God the Son. If this is true, then this man has the keys to eternal life. If this is true, then Jesus can forgive any mistake that you have committed in the past. Jesus can make life where there is no life, if this story is true. Even the most hardened atheist can recognize the implications of this story. That’s why they try so hard to try explain this empty tomb away. You can’t get there from the language of the Bible. There isn’t one word in the Bible that allows you to come to any other conclusion then that this man who claimed to have authority over life and death laid in a tomb on Friday and on Sunday morning he was alive.
I’m going to say it for you one more time. This is absolutely true of everyone in this room and everyone on this planet. If you don’t know Jesus Christ personally, you’re not really living. You’re going through life asleep. The message of Easter shouts that there is life after death. Pastor Judah Smith says, “Easter is not a message of upgrade.” It’s not about making your life better. It’s not about going from bad to good or from good to great. The message about Jesus isn’t about trying to make your day brighter tomorrow. That cheapens the Easter story. The message of Easter is that God can take what was dead and make it alive. God can give forgiveness no matter what you’ve done. God can give purpose to your life tomorrow. He makes you new on the inside. God can give hope even when it looks like there’s no hope. He can bring life out of death and death really isn’t the end. That’s the message of Easter. If you’ve never surrendered all to Jesus, you’re going through life asleep. In fact, I would say you’re not living at all. Jesus offers life today to somebody who says, “I’ve been asleep at the wheel and I’ve just been going through the motions.”
• I want Jesus to restore life to my dead soul. Today, I commit my soul to Jesus for the first time.
– I have been trying to go through life by my own power. This week, I will let God give me strength to fight my battles.
+ I will live with hope and excitement about the future that God has prepared for me.
- What are you most excited about in the future? Why does this excite you most?
- What excites you about your future with God? (If anything)
- Are you struggling with stress in a certain area of your life right now? How can others pray for you about this issue? What would it take for you to be able to forget this issue and let God deal with it?
- Has someone ever told you a story that was so far-fetched that you couldn’t believe them- only to realize that it’s true? Explain.
- Have you ever messed up so bad that you thought you could never recover from it? What did it take for you to be able to move on from this mistake?
- Did your parents teach you to be careful around electricity? If so, how? Notice that the same electricity that can kill you can also keep your lights on at night when used properly.
- Pray that Jesus’ Spirit will give you power to face this week’s challenges and find forgiveness for last week’s mistakes.