But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.
And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "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, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. (Luke 24:1–9)
Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is risen! Indeed he is risen! Hallelujah, amen!
This is the very day of the blessed Gospel. We hear that these women, disciples, came to the tomb. What did they expect to find there? They had seen Jesus dead and crucified on Friday afternoon and his side pierced with a roman spear. They had witnessed his cold body been laid down to the cold tomb on that same evening. So what did these women expect to find in the tomb on this Easter morning? It was not joy and laughter they were experiencing during their walk. It was not palm branches they held in their hands. No. They were grieving and uncertain: grieving for their friend they had lost, uncertain how they could access to anoint the body of their dead teacher. It was spices for dead they were carrying. There was no joy and there was no rejoicing in their hearts – only sorrow. One might ask what then they were supposed to be like? Isn’t it right for them to mourn crucified Jesus that they loved so dearly?
My friends this is the question, I want to answer most lovingly: No! It was not right!
Firstly, they were mourning for the wrong thing, that is Christ’s death. Jesus himself had said: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. - - - For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Lk. 23:28, 31) It was his death on the cross that Christ had come. That was because of this purpose he assumed human nature: to die for you and me – to die for the sins of all humanity. But take not that Christ didn’t say we shouldn’t mourn at all. For there truly is the right grieving, but it is not because of Christ being dead, but because of our sins. Yes, that is what we should grieve, that we so often are full of hate, unforgiveness, malice and all the evil vices that so easily entangle us and so easily we are tempted and willingly think, say and commit things that cut wounds into Chirist’s head, poured sour wine on his holy tongue and pierced his heart with a spear of contempt through his side. These things we should grieve and not to be like the sinful world, that in its pride and sorrowlessness do not want to hear anything about suffering and death of Christ, but keep on mocking the Lamb of God with their words and in their life. This do grieve, but do not grieve the death of Christ as your loss, for through Christ’s death the will of God the Father was accomplished!
Secondly, mourning for dead Christ is an act of unbelief. They did not believe, what Christ had preached! They did not believe the Scriptures! That is why these women had no hope in their hearts, when they approached the tomb that morning. Oh how terrible walk that must have been! Walking in the dark, knowing that even if the soldiers somehow would let them pass and open the tomb for them, they would find nothing more, but their Savior dead and dead Savior means dead hope. No hope at all.
You might wonder how these women could be so blind. Did not they remember at all the teachings that they had heard from Jesus? My friend, consider yourself, before you judge there disciples, for so many Christians live their lives daily like these women. They have heard the gospel. Maybe they hear it every Sunday from their pastor, who diligently preaches and teaches from the Holy Scriptures. He points to Christ and assures: – "Behold, the Lamb of God!" (Jn. 1:36) But the poor Christian under the law says: – Not for me. My sins are too strong and too frequent. Christ is dead because of me that is true, but things will always be the same. I’m a sinner and I will remain so, I wish God could do something about it. But meanwhile all I can do is try to act as Christian as possible.
Are you like this, Christian? Do you believe that your sins are too heavy, too powerful for Christ to carry? Do you think you can carry them instead? "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Eph. 5:13) For it is not Christ that cannot carry your sins, but you! Behold, it is not Christ, who remains dead, for he is risen! But as long as you hinder the gospel, as long as you keep on walking in the dark, it is you and your faith that remains dead. As it was true for those women long ago in the Easter morning, so it remains true to you today: "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.
Angels preached the gospel of risen Lord to those poor women. And so the seed of faith, the kindling spark of joy was lighted in their darkness. Oh how gracious moment that must have been! – But sir, you ask, – Doesn’t Bible say that they were afraid when they left the tomb? Yes! My dear believer! But that fear didn’t remain in the darkness of unbelief anymore. This is totally different kind of awe than fear, which remains in unbelief and grieving. This awe is like a poor sailor, who after losing all hope of finding land suddenly opens his eyes to meet the golden shores of paradise ahead. He cannot understand it, but he leans towards it and doesn’t let his eyes lose that marvelous sight.
So do not be so eager to categorize reactions of faith into one box. When gospel kindles light into man’s heart, he can act so differently than you expect. Some smiles, other laughs, some bursts into tears of joy, another is shocked by surprise – but faith, as the gospel, remains the same. So we confess: one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5)
It was the gospel that the angels declared, and so also declare the angles of the congregation in every divine service: "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” But what does it mean: "risen"? It means that your sins are forgiven. God has accepted the suffering and death of Christ as the full payment. So he died for your sins, but that is how death met its end. There is no eternal death for you, but eternal life! There is no wrath in God’s heart for you, but all loving grace and forgiveness. In God’s eyes, you are his precious child as Jesus is his Only-Begotten Son. Don’t you believe this? Look at the tomb! It is empty! Hear the words of the angels from heaven: He is not here!
If there was even one sin, even one sinful thought in your mind that was left unforgiven, Jesus would still lie down in his tomb. You see? Is he there? No! Your sins are all forgiven they are gone! You are free! Oh, thanks be to God our mighty fortress! Christ was, He is, and He is forevermore our Righteousness before the Father. Believe this, my dear Christian and see the blessed rays of Easter morning that shine to you from this words at the empty tomb of Jerusalem: “He is not here, but has risen!”
Amen. Amen. Amen. Indeed he is risen.