He Is Not Here!
Topic: Expository Passage: Luke 24:1-12
I’ve preached 4 Easter sermons at Life Point, but I’ve never preached through one of the resurrection accounts in the Gospels, so I decided to preach through Luke’s account of the resurrection this year (read).
I’m sure that at some point we have all been in a conversation about religion, and the other person says something like this. “I believe that there are good things in every religion. Therefore, rather than committing to one faith, I appreciate all of them, and I take a little bit from all of them.”
It’s a very common and convenient sentiment in our age. It lets people feel religious, it gives them a sense of meaning, and it gives them moral direction. And moral direction is particularly important, because most people assume that the main purpose of religion is to give moral guidance. Religion is about making myself a better person.
If that’s all that religion is, then picking and choosing makes sense. But if Christ rose from the dead and offers his resurrection life to us, it changes everything. Darrell Bock says, “To be something other than a human ethical or philosophical system, the Christian faith must be inextricably tied to resurrection. Without resurrection, Christianity is just another human approach to reach God; it is emptied of transforming power and hope; it is a mere shell, not worth the energy one devotes to it…Without a resurrected Jesus, Christianity has nothing special to offer the world, for a dead Savior is no Savior at all. The world is full of exemplary people, but a resurrected Savior who cares and who fulfills God’s promises is the unique hope that the Christian faith offers to the world.”
He’s right. The resurrection, if true, changes everything. And Luke’s primary purposes in our text is to offer a true and credible account of the resurrection. Sure, this text doesn’t prove the resurrection, that’s a discussion for another day, but it does provide a reliable record of what really happened. And because Jesus rose from the dead, he can offer a grace, power, and hope that no other religion can match. The story begins in vv. 1–3 with…
I. A Surprising Discovery (vv. 1–3)
The story really begins in 23:55–56. Jesus is dead, and the disciples are all hiding, but several women who loved Jesus and had travelled with him from Galilee stayed at the sight of crucifixion while Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body down from the cross. They even followed him to the tomb, so that they knew exactly where Jesus was buried. And then they planned to return after the Sabbath to put spices on his body.
The Women: Verse 11 says that the leaders of the group were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and vv. 1, 11 both say that others were with them.
And it’s fair to assume that these were not high-society women. Luke 8:2–3 say that Jesus had cast demons out of Mary Magdalene and Joanna. And the majority of these women were probably unmarried and at the lower end of society. The fact that God chose these humble women to play a central role in the resurrection is pretty remarkable.
Just as Jesus had done over and over throughout his ministry, he defied social norms and chose the weakest people to receive his greatest grace. It’s a simple reminder of our Lord’s gracious character. He cares about the heart far more than human appearances.
It also speaks to the historical accuracy of the record. This is because in the ancient world women were not considered to credible witnesses. So, if the apostles were trying to fabricate a believable story, they wouldn’t have emphasized the testimony of women. But they weren’t trying to invent a story. They were interested in accurately reporting historical events.
The Discovery: Returning to the story, as soon as the Sabbath was over, “very early in the morning,” the women “came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.”
It’s worth emphasizes that they came to the tomb without any hope of a resurrection. They assumed that Jesus was forever physically dead, and they were grieving both his death and their crushed dreams. But they still loved Jesus. They wanted to honor him in death as soon as the Sabbath was over. These women are devout and sincere.
But they weren’t exactly great planners. Mark 16:3 says that as they were walking to the tomb, they wondered how they would move the massive stone that covered the entrance (illustration). That’s a rather important detail, if they were going to care for the body. But they went anyway, and to their great shock, v. 2 says, “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.”
That was a head scratcher, but the real shocker came when they entered the tomb, and “did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”
The Shock: Considering how many times Jesus had said he was going to rise from the dead and that he had raised others from the dead, you might think that they were holding out hope for a resurrection, even if they didn’t want to say it. But every Gospel account is clear that neither the women nor the disciples had any expectation of a resurrection.
BTW, this is another evidence that the Gospel writers were endeavoring to tell a true story. They aren’t interested in making themselves out to be brilliant heroes. Instead, the apostles describe themselves and the women as completely failing to comprehend the hope of the resurrection. They present themselves as faithless and foolish, not as heroes.
We see this first in the reaction of the women when they see that the tomb is empty. Verse 4 says, “They were greatly perplexed,” not overjoyed. They probably assumed that someone had stolen Jesus’ body. I say that because it’s not until after the angels’ announcement that v. 8 says, “They remembered His words.”
So, we’ve seen both the best and the worst of these women. They love Jesus, because he had loved them and cared for them, when probably no one else did. Jesus didn’t love them because they were high-class or rich. He loved them, because he is full of mercy and grace. And his love inspired them to go to his tomb as soon as they could to tend to his body, even while the men are hiding in a room, scared for their lives. But even these devout ladies missed the hope of the resurrection. They had no confidence that Jesus would rise. This brings us to the 2nd major portion of the story, which I’m going to call…
II. A Wonderful Revelation (vv. 4–8)
The Angels: Again, the women are standing around the empty tomb, and a couple of them may have even still been inside the tomb, and they are “perplexed” or stunned by the fact that Jesus’ body is gone.
When suddenly, v. 4 says, “Behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.” Luke uses the same word for their clothing that he used of Jesus during the Transfiguration (Luke 9:29). Clearly, these men are not mere men; rather, they are angels and that’s confirmed by the other Gospels. According to Mark’s Gospel, one of them is sitting inside the tomb, and according to Matthew’s Gospel, one is sitting on the stone.
And when the women see them in their dazzling clothing, they immediately recognize that these are spiritual beings. Verse 5 states, “They were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth.” Then in vv. 5–7, the angels make an incredible announcement.
The Message: I love the question in v. 5. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” The angel gladly and with a fun touch of sarcasm announces, “You ladies are in the wrong place. Why are you in a cemetery looking for someone who is alive.” I imagine the women are thinking, “What are you talking about. Jesus is dead. We saw the blood and water gush from his side, and we saw his lifeless body placed in this tomb.
And then the angel proclaims, “He is not here, but is risen!” God had raised Jesus from the dead! I love how Peter says it in Acts 2:24, “God raised (him) up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it (i.e., death).” The grave had about as much of a chance containing Christ as a paper bag does containing a bowling ball. It isn’t happening. There’s simply too much weight, or in the case of Christ, too much power.
And what is remarkable for us, is that the mighty victory Jesus achieved in the resurrection has been made available to sinners, like us. Romans 6:4 states, “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
I don’t have to live as a slave to my sinful emotions, to sin, or to the world; instead, I can enjoy resurrection power and walk in “newness of life,” because Jesus’ resurrection has raised me from being dead in sin to being alive in God! The resurrection radically transforms my life today.
And it also radically transforms my eternity. If I die before Jesus returns, the grave won’t be able to hold me either. Because I am in Christ, I will immediately be in the presence of Christ, and 1 Corinthians 15:52 promises that when Christ returns my body will be resurrected. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
What a wonderful promise. Because I am in Christ, I have “no guilt in life, no fear in death.” Christ transforms death from being my worst enemy into a gracious gift. It frees me from the curse of this world and brings me into the presence of the Savior. And again, it’s all because Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection changes everything.
So Christian, make sure that you view life in light of the resurrection. It means that you have an eternal hope that far exceeds any hope in this world. And if you are missing a loved one who died in Christ, take comfort in the fact that Christ’s resurrection guarantees that your loved one will rise.
And if you have always viewed religion merely as a tool to live a better life, I pray that you will see that because of the resurrection, Jesus offers more than a good life; he offers eternal life filled with his power today and with his presence for all eternity. This life can be yours, if you will simply receive him by faith. I’ll say more about that later.
Returning to the text, the angel isn’t done. He proceeds to state that the resurrection was exactly what Jesus said would happen (read vv. 6b–7). Jesus said these sorts of things several times.
On Good Friday, we remembered the first 2 predictions. Even though Jesus was perfectly innocent and even though he has all power and could have stopped the sinful men, he understood that, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified.”
Therefore, Jesus willingly accepted torture, humiliation, and death. And his death had a significance like no other that has ever occurred. He bore in his body the wrath of God against our sins. He took our punishment, so that we would never have to face the judgment we deserve and so that we could receive his perfect righteousness and know God as our Father.
And then, just as Jesus had said, on the 3rd day, he rose again. And again, in his resurrection, Jesus provided new life today and perfect life forever in the presence of the Lord for all who come to the Lord in faith and repentance.
What an announcement for these angels to give! Christ’s human life began with angels announcing to humble shepherds that a Savior is born. And now they announce to these humble women, “He is not here, but is risen!” And notice in v. 8…
The Response: Verse 8 simply reports, “They remembered His words.” The Holy Spirit opened their eyes so that the things Jesus had said suddenly made sense. They saw that Jesus’ death was not a surprise to God or a mistake, or a defeat. This wasn’t merely the work of evil men. Rather, Jesus had said it was coming, and it was necessary for our salvation.
I pray that someone out there is having a similar moment as these ladies. Maybe you have believed in God your whole life, but for the very first time, you are really understanding that Jesus died for your sin, and he rose again for your resurrection. You are seeing that Jesus is more than a wise teacher, a prophet, or a sacrificial lamb. He is the Son of God who fully paid the penalty for our sin, and his resurrection means that you can live with him forever.
And the Bible promises that if you believe on him this way and you repent of your sin, that he will save. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begottenSon, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I pray that you will believe on him today. All you have to do is cry out to the Lord. Tell him that you are sinner in need of salvation, and ask him to save you. If you do, he promises to forgive your sin and become your Savior. Please receive him.
And if you are already a Christian, give thanks that Jesus really is who he said he was. He is alive, and someday you will live with him forever. Returning to the story, notice in vv. 9–12…
III. A Shocking Confirmation (vv. 9–12)
The Good News: I imagine that once the angels were done. It took these ladies a few moments to catch their breath. As the good news sunk in, some of them began to cry, others began to scream, and there were lots of hugs. And then one of them says, “We can’t keep this to ourselves. We have to go tell the others the good news” (slide).
They all begin to race as fast as they can through the early morning sun back to the place where the 11 disciples and other followers were gathered. I imagine that the house was still waking up. Things are relatively quiet, when the door bursts open, and Mary Magdalene screams, “Jesus is alive.” They grab everyone and tell them about their incredible discovery and the incredible angelic news. I’m sure they expected a celebration, but that’s not what happened. Instead, notice in v. 11…
The Dismissal (read): The disciples don’t believe the women; instead, they dismiss it as an “idle tale.” R & R say the Greek term means, “idle talk, nonsense, babbling, delirium. (It was) used in medical language of the wild talk of the sick during delirium.” So, the disciples dismissed the women’s message as silly talk.
In part this is because they were women. Garland states, “Josephus writes that women were to be disqualified as witnesses on account of their giddiness and impetuosity, and such a story from women would automatically be viewed with suspicion.” Of course, that’s not biblical. The Gospel writers clearly took the testimony of the women seriously after the fact, but in the moment, they probably gave into cultural suspicion.
But what is particularly important is that their reaction again speaks of the historical accuracy of this story. For one, the disciples weren’t looking for a resurrection. They weren’t sitting together on the Sabbath scheming to steal Jesus’ body or even dreaming about a resurrection. Rather, their reaction is strong evidence that the apostles did not invent the story of the resurrection, nor is it some delusional dream. God came up with the resurrection, not the apostles.
Not only that, the disciples don’t present themselves as the heroes of the story, like most people would if they were making something up. Rather, they present themselves as bumbling fools. Again, they are focused on giving a historically accurate record, not on creating a tale that serves themselves. The disciples did not come up with the resurrection; God did. It really happened.
The Confirmation: Returning to the story, I imagine that most of the people in the house started to mock the women and tell them to be quiet. But Peter had been humbled early Friday morning when he denied Christ. I imagine that he had been beating himself up ever since and he desperately wanted a chance to make things right.
As a result, “Peter arose and ran to the tomb.” John’s Gospel says that he also ran with Peter. And when Peter reached the tomb, v. 12 states, “Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves.” The women were right. The body of Jesus was gone! Imagine how stunning that moment must have been for Peter.
And v. 12 adds the important detail that the linen cloths were still there. This is significant, because these cloths are the only thing of value inside a tomb. So, if someone had stolen Jesus’ body, they surely would have taken these cloths. The fact that they were still there, is another evidence that this was a resurrection, not some human ploy or misunderstanding.
So, Peter stands there inside the tomb and takes it all in, and then the story closes by saying, “He departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.” It doesn’t explicitly say that he fully understood what was happening or that he fully believed that Jesus had been resurrected. It’s a lot to take in. But Peter was definitely headed towards understanding, and when he sees Jesus a little later, his faith will be complete.
Regardless, just imagine the thoughts going through Peter’s mind. “It really looks like Jesus is alive. Afterall, the women said that the angels told them he is alive, and he’s clearly not there. Why would anyone steal his body and leave the grave cloths? And Jesus did say that we would rise on the 3rd”
And when Peter and John returned with the good news, the whole assembly, probably began to stir. Could it really be true? And then that evening v. 36 says that Jesus appeared in the midst of the group and confirmed that he had really risen again! That must have been an incredible moment.
The Bible is clear that Jesus rose from the dead. He is not among the dead. He is alive, just as he said. And as I said in my introduction, the fact that Jesus is alive changes everything. It means that Jesus is worthy of our worship and devotion. And it means that he can offer eternal life that transforms my life today and for all eternity.
So, if you are a Christian, I hope that you will stand in awe of the resurrection. Jesus “loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it (death).” And then live in light of his resurrection power every day. Run to him for grace as you endure the hardships of life, the weakness of your flesh, and the temptations of this world. And know you can walk in “newness of life,” because Jesus lives. Sin shall not have dominion over you. And then look forward to the day when Christ will resurrect and glorify you and every believer in Christ. It’s going to be a wonderful, magnificent day.
And if you have never received Christ as your Savior, I would urge you to really ponder the true significance of the resurrection. Understand that Christianity is not just another religion or a way to live a better life. It is filled with a unique power and hope, because Jesus lives. And then understand that Christ can be your Savior, if you will simply come to him in humility and faith. Ephesians 2:8–9 state, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Salvation from sin is a gift. You don’t have to earn it; you simply receive it.
To do that, simply cry out to the Lord. Ask him to forgive your sin, and declare that you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he can save, ask him to save you.
And then let us know. Or if you have questions about how you can be saved, please call us. We would love to hear from you this afternoon if you want to be saved, so please reach out with any question or with the good news that you have received Christ.
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