Luke 23:56–24:12 But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words. 9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
So I promise you that Luke really does want your heart swelling with joy today. Really I promise. I promise you he really does want your eyes to light up like they’ve never lit before. I promise you he wants confidence bursting out of your chest dreaming about dancing with the angels in eternity, reuniting with your grandpa who first taught you the faith, and reveling in the sights and the sounds of Jesus. I promise he wants you trusting that the cross bought you your entrance ticket to God’s forever party he’s throwing. I promise. I promise. I promise. And I suppose that by promising you like that I’m probably already sounding a bit on the defensive side. Like maybe if you read what he wrote that you wouldn’t feel that same way. Like maybe if you thought about Luke’s words for a while you wouldn’t feel quite so hopeful. Like maybe you’d find Luke’s account kind of a downer.
And, yeah, for a guy who’s allegedly an evangelist, he sure has a funning way of showing it. I mean, truthfully, this is not the Easter story I would’ve written. I would’ve told you about how Jesus’ body jumped up and off that cold slab. I would’ve described how powerful and glorious and perfect his new body was. I would’ve told you about the smile slapped wide across his saving face. Or, at the very least, I would’ve put Jesus in it. I would’ve done that at the very least. But Luke? Luke leaves Jesus out. For now altogether. And the only characters in the story? They’re all a mess. Every last one of them. They’re scared. They’re wondering. They’re unbelieving. They’re all a mess. So much for announcing the physical resurrection of Jesus so we can get on with the family Easter Egg hunt and dig into that mouth watering ham in the oven, right? Yeah, not just yet.
It’s still too early. So says Luke. He actually says it was, “deep dawn.” (v. 1) And before you say, “Well, that’s nice. So what?” Think it all through. If you read the rest of Luke’s Gospel, you’d know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Luke’s no novelist who’s trying to stoke our imaginations. There’s just no part of him that says, “Nuts. This is a kind of boring story. How can I add some flair? I know. I’ll write, ‘In the inky grey of coming dawn…’” That just not Luke or for that matter any of the other Gospel writers either. And yet all four of them – did I say all four them? – tell us exactly at what time this all went down. And Luke couldn’t be clearer as to why. What everybody in this story has to come to grips with. What everybody in the story has to deal with. What we must come to understand is that this is much bigger than some one off resurrection event. Luke wants us to know that this is the dawn of an entire era of resurrection.
And, yes, Luke’s correct. It was still deep spiritual dawn for all the people in the story. Did you notice how thoroughly Luke drilled down on that point? It’s embarrassing. Really. It is. I mean. Let’s be honest about this. What those women were up to was rather sweet and beautiful and caring. Clearly, they loved Jesus and obviously their hearts were broken. But you know what else their hearts were? Incredibly ignorant. And horribly stubborn. I hope you don’t think I’m being unfairly critical of them. I’m not. I’m not making any claim to have done any better if I was in their sandals. I wouldn’t have. It’s just that Luke wants us to see that those are the facts of the case. “The women took spices they had prepared to the tomb.” (v. 1) Now I suppose we could say, “They got their tired and emotionally exhausted selves out of bed at the crack of dawn just to anoint Jesus’ body. How nice! How kind! How thoughtful!” Except that’s not exactly what this was. It was actually pretty hard hearted stuff.
And it was. It was really, really wrong. I mean it’s not like Jesus hadn’t clued them in. It’s not like it hadn’t been his thing for three whole years with them. “I’m here to release captives,” he had preached. And then he had. He had driven out the demons. He had made the blind see. He had made that young man in Nain come back to life. He had done it all. And I’m just telling you about the ones that we’ve preached through recently here at Peace. And he had told them – he had told them – this is how it’s going to go down, “I’m going to be handed over. I’m going to be killed. I’m going to rise.” And it’s not like he hadn’t told them more than once. He had. Three times just in Luke. Three times! And, yet, not a word of it made it down to their hearts. So those women with all that data in their heads still roused themselves out of bed thinking they needed to go anoint the dead.
Nobody else in this history is any better either. Keep on reading and you find out really quick what an awful and hot mess everybody else in the story is. It’s incredibly disappointing. The Eleven hear the news from the women and they write them off quicker than we do Peter Pan and Captain Hook. Luke says, “Their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (v. 11) And just when you want to have some hope that Easter will dawn on somebody in the story Peter totally crushes our hopes. You watch him rush off to the tomb after the women report and you hope against hope, “Maybe Peter’ll believe. Maybe Peter’ll get it.” And you’re just crushed because Peter doesn’t get it either. He goes away from the tomb, “wondering to himself” (v. 12) It’s incredibly disappointing stuff. Because Luke would have us get his point. And, yes, it’s a massive diss on humanity. Our hearts can be so ignorant and remain so stubborn even about the most obvious of facts.
That ought to tell us something. Easter really isn’t a head issue. Easter’s not about getting the data into the brain. It never was. It never will be. It’s actually one of the more interesting facts about Easter that Easter actually is historical fact. Easter really isn’t a faith issue. Nobody even debates it anymore. Anybody who knows anything about real history knows that everybody accepts the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ as an actual event. I could cite you probably 10 brilliant and well-respected historians all in a row that will tell you all the exact same thing: the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most well documented event in all of human history. You’ll probably have an easier time trying to prove that the American Revolution never happened or that the Holocaust was some kind of German hoax. Jesus Christ really did rise. Luke is pointing out that the hard part – the part that must be divine – is the part where that data migrates southward into the farthest reaches of our hearts.
That’s not just a simple theological point either. It’s a personal one. At least, that’s what I find. I know I’ve got a heart that wants to believe that dead people stay dead. I know I have a ridiculous gravitational pull in my spirit that screams, “You only live once.” I know it’s in me to think, “This is all there is.” I am to this today perfectly capable of mourning my wife even as she’s still perfectly healthy. I can stand here on Easter Day thinking about how I should dance with my daughter today ‘cause I might not be able to next week. And I know – I know – I’m not the only one with a heart that so strongly believes in death – like it’s where we’re all and only headed. I’ve been in the hospitals and I’ve heard people say, “Pastor, I’m not ready to die yet.” We hold on so tight here. So tight. We revel in this years Master’s and this moment’s retirement and this day’s health and this Easter’s joy because at the end of the day Easter hasn’t fully dawned on us. Our hearts tragically expect to anoint the dead that fall around us.
But the Lord Jesus Christ would have Easter dawn. He’d would have Easter’s data migrate southward to change the heart. And Luke would have you know how that happens. It takes angels. It takes messengers and it takes preaching. Luke would have you know that. It takes angels. It takes messengers and it takes preaching. That’s what finally what began to knock resurrection sense into the hearts of those women. Easter finally dawned on them. Easter data finally migrated south. Easter joy finally began to hit when those angels dropped sticks of dynamite down into the hearts of those women. What were those sticks of dynamite? The dynamite of remembering, “his words.” (v. 8) That’s what did it. That much is clear from Luke. It wasn’t the gleaming of the angels. That just scared them. It wasn’t the pilgrimage to the tomb. That just confused them. What flipped the light on – what brought the women the first rays of Easter dawn were Jesus’ remembered words. That’s what Luke wrote, “Then they remembered his words.” (v. 8) Then and only then did the the first rays of Easter dawn begin to break in on their hearts.
And that’s the Easter story Luke told. 2,000 years later I’m just starting to understand why. For today. For you. Luke wants you to know that Easter’s no cognitive switch that you flip. It’s a profound truth that the human heart learns to trust. To borrow Luke’s metaphor. It’s something that has to dawn in your heart. And perhaps Luke’s greatest and most practical lesson is how that happens. It’s preaching that lobs the stick of dynamite called the gospel into your soul. It’s preaching that happens Sunday by Sunday by Sunday that causes the deep dawn of Easter data to become the sure confidence of Easter noon. That’s the sheer power Jesus’ words have on the human heart. They take data and they make it faith. That’s why here in Luke 24 angels brings Jesus’ words to the women; why the women bring Jesus’ words to the apostles; why Jesus brings his own words, the Scriptures, to those guys on the road to Emmaus; and why the Apostles are then sent to preach Jesus’ words to everyone else. The Spirit wants us to understand that everyone needs an Easter messenger in their life.
You do realize something now, don’t you? The angels told the women. The women told the apostles. The apostles told the ancient world. The ancient world told the not so ancient world. And the not so ancient world told the modern world, which brings us in one long and unbroken Easter chain right up to today. Or to say it another way, those angels may be silent, but I’m not. And the women aren’t here, but you are. So it’s time to wake up and it’s time to celebrate what God’s up to in the here and the now. Today is Easter. Today is Easter. And do you know what God does on Easter? God creates life. Not just new life in Son, but new life in his people. He drops sticks of dynamite called the gospel into hearts that pushes the data south. And today I get to do that.
I want you to hear Jesus’ words again. Remember how he told you. Remember how he said it was all necessary. He would be handed into the hands of sinful men; he would be crucified. Remember that. That happened. Do you know what that means? It means he did it. He really did it. He made you right with God. He made you clean. He calls you forgiven. You’re so forgiven in him that God says he’s going to make you his bride all the way into eternity. His bride. That’s what you are to him. The one he bought with his own blood. The one whose hand he takes with his gospel. Oh, he longed for this moment when he could tell you that. For you. All the way from eternity, he had this necessary plan. I’m going to get my bride. I will have her. I will win her. And he did. That’s not just data. That’s truth.
Remember how he told you that after he bought his bride he’d rise. And he did. That’s not just an historical event. It’s the launch of a whole new era, a whole new epoch, a brand new age, a resurrection world that’s now dawned. You will not die. You will live and live and live and live. Your life will not stop. Revel in that truth. Because it is the truth. You won’t ever run out of time to spend with your believing wife. Ever. You will dance with your baptized daughter before the Lord forever. And the golf courses there? Ha! You will play on courses better than anything Augusta National could ever come up with. And the retirement there? The retirement? Don’t even get me started. Are you hearing me? No stroke can kill you. No heart attack can take you out. They can go ahead and try. That’s not just a data set. That’s truth dawning.
You know what the best part is? God’s just getting started. If your heart did a little leap at your forgiveness. If in your mind you started dancing with the angels in eternity and you reunited with your grandpa who first taught you the faith. If he lit you up like a firecracker and for the first time you started staring down your own death. If you began to revel just a little more in the sights and the sounds of your future with Jesus, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Your hope will only become more solid. Your heart will only strengthen. Your joy will only grow. Until they can’t anymore. And there will only be one reason that’s happened. Because you’ve reached the pinnacle. And Easter will no longer be a matter of what Jesus will do for you, but what he already has done for you. That Easter will dawn. For now, this one does – one where he wants Easter dawning in you more deeply, more widely, and more powerfully. Luke’s told you how God does that. He puts people into your life who message you with it Sunday by Sunday by Sunday. Today I got to be that guy. I’m praying I get to that guy next week too. Amen.