Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter, Series C

Sermon on Luke 24:1-12
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
March 31, 2013 (Resurrection of our Lord)

Why do you seek the living among the dead?  It sounds like kind of an unfair question, at first glance.  Jesus was, after all, dead.  He didn’t just swoon or pass out, the sword pierced his pericardium and his heart muscles, causing blood and water to flow from His side.  Even if He hadn’t been dead already at the point when the soldier stabbed Him, a sword piercing one’s heart is not a survivable wound.  He was dead.  And so for the angel to ask that question seems to be a bit unfair to the women.  They had no way of knowing that Jesus’ condition was anything other than what it had been on Friday when they watched Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus put Him in the tomb.  They were only being reasonable to assume that their sad duty of completing the half-done job (due to the Sabbath) of properly preparing His body still lay before them.

But on another level, it’s a very logical question to ask.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  You see, the angel wasn’t merely referring to the fact that Jesus was now alive.  Jesus wasn’t like Lazarus.  Lazarus had died and been raised to life again, it’s true.  But Lazarus’ death was natural, and his resurrection was not by his own power.  Lazarus didn’t raise himself from the dead, someone else came and raised him.  And that someone else was no ordinary man.  He was true man, yes, but not any ordinary man.  As He Himself said to Lazarus’ sister, Martha, just before Lazarus was raised, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  He’s not just somebody who happens to have the ability to raise dead people.  He is the Author of life itself, the one who created all living things, who fashioned the first man from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life, who fashioned the first woman from the first man’s side.  He is Life itself.

And so, let’s look at that question the angel asks the women who came to the tomb again.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  Because of how the Greek language works, oftentimes adjectives can stand by themselves as nouns, instead of needing a noun nearby for the adjective to lean on.  Therefore, we might translate the angel’s question, “Why do you seek the Living One [capital L, capital O] among the dead?”  The angel isn’t just mentioning the fact that the man who had been buried there happens to have been raised to life again, as wonderful and miraculous as that is.  The angel is asking the women why they would look for the One who is the Resurrection and the Life Himself in a grave, a place of death.  He was asking them why on earth they would think that the Word by whom we all were made would be anything other than living and active, sharper and more vibrant than any two edged sword.

You can’t kill the creator of life itself without destroying death.  You can’t make God into a sinner and pay him the wages of sin, without sin itself being undone.  You can’t bruise the heel of the promised Seed of the Woman, without crushing the head of the serpent who deceived her.  This is who He is.  Resurrection from the dead is not merely something that happened to Jesus.  Resurrection from the dead is who He is.  Good Friday happened precisely because it would lead to Easter.  They may look like opposites, but they are really the same event from God’s perspective.  The old corruption of this world, all the disasters and disorders and diseases that flow from Adam’s sin and lead to death for all his descendants, are themselves destroyed and done away with.  The new, perfect creation itself, in which death no longer exists, comes into existence in the body that was crucified but which could not stay dead.

How often do we forget that?  How often do we look at our problems, whatever they may be, as if they are something that God can’t deal with?  How often do we see the difficulties of living in a world messed up by our own and others’ sin as something God might not have an answer for?  The problems we face in this old world are serious, yes.  One could even say they are grave.  But grave problems, including the gravest problem of all, namely the grave itself, are no match for Him who is the author of life.  What is the worst that anyone or anything in this old world could do to us?  Kill us.  But so what?  Why do you look for the living among the dead?  Why do you act as if the Author of life has not already overcome the grave?

After all, you died with Him.  You were nailed to that cross, back in 33 AD.  You were put to death with Him that first Good Friday.  You were buried with Him through baptism into death.  And so, just as He is risen from the dead, so are you.  Baptism transcends time itself, to connect your eventual death, and your resurrection on the last day, with Jesus’ death and resurrection almost 2,000 years ago.  You belong to the new creation now, even though you still live in the midst of this old one.  And your body has touched and tasted and taken into itself that which is part of the new creation.  Jesus’ body and blood are of the new creation, not this old one, and so your body, which has taken and eaten and drunk His resurrected body, is now to be transformed into that which cannot die.  Why do you look for the living among the dead?  You are now those who are the living, because you belong to the new creation.  You do not belong to this creation any more, and therefore it can’t touch you.  Why do you look for the living among the dead?  Christ is the Resurrection and the Life, and you are His body.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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