Online Worship for the Resurrection of our Lord, Sunday April 17, 2022
Sermon for Easter Sunday – April 17, 2022
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has given us new birth into a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you. Amen.
Luke 24:4–11 (ESV)
4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 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? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who was delivered up to death for our sins,
Who was raised to life for our Justification,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –
It’s a good thing you are sitting down, because I have to tell you about the most amazing things that have happened to me the last couple of days. I can’t believe my luck.
First, I received this letter in the mail with a golden seal. It assures me that I may have already won 10 million dollars. All I have to do is order a few magazines and send a check and the Publisher’s Clearing House will come to my house with a giant check for 10 million dollars. I’ve already started buying all kinds of stuff on Amazon. If that wasn’t amazing enough...
Then, I got a phone call offering me a new extended warranty for my car! The guy said that my warranty had just run out (I didn’t even know I had one). He told me he knew that my car had been acting up lately (I don’t know how He knew) but that if I just read him my credit card number, they would take care of all the bills! How lucky is that!
Finally, someone from Microsoft called and said my computer was infected with a virus! I thought my luck had run out until the nice man from India told me that if I told him my Social Security Number and gave him my credit card number that I could be rid of the virus. I didn’t even know that I had a virus!
Wow, what a run of luck, eh?
So, you probably know that none of these things are true. Just because the envelope from Publisher’s Clearing House says “I may have already won” that doesn’t mean I should expect 10 million dollars. There is a good chance you too have received scam phone calls claiming to offer an extended warranty for your car or promising to fix a problem that you really don’t have...for just $19.95 plus shipping and handling.
There are many crooks and scams out to defraud us of our money. They will claim to offer us all kinds of good things at an amazing price. In the end, the best advice in dealing with such things is to remember:
“If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”
Which brings us to the reason why we are here this morning. We have gathered to celebrate and thank God for raising up his Son from the dead. Today we celebrate the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, died and was buried...but the third day rose again. But that’s not all. Jesus’ resurrection also confirms that all our sins are forgiven and that on the Last Day Jesus will raise us up from the dead.
I can’t think of better news, can you?!
But...why aren’t there more people here this morning? Well, because many people think this is all an elaborate hoax, a scam, a lie. In fact, when the news of Jesus’ resurrection was first reported his own disciples thought it was an ‘idle tale’ just nonsense, humbug, foolishness.
So...is this for real...or is it too good to be true?
So, let’s begin with the source. This message of hope doesn’t come from Publisher’s Clearinghouse. There is no gold seal and no stickers of our favorite magazines. This message isn’t reported over the phone by someone in a distant land with a funny dialect.
This message is related to us by God himself, through His Spirit. We pray that the same Spirit of God would bless us and open our understanding and increase our faith through these words. Amen.
We can understand the reaction of the women when they first came to the tomb so many years ago. All we have to do is imagine the scene.
It was early in the morning and with heavy hearts they went to the tomb to finish embalming Jesus’ body. It was a mundane and possibly stinky job slathering spices over a cold dead corpse. It wasn’t something to get excited about...until suddenly it was...
When they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone rolled away from the door of the tomb. So that was odd, because they watched two grown men, Nicodemus and Joseph roll it against the door of the tomb.
So, they went into the tomb and found that the body of Jesus was missing. Now they had a full-grown, five alarm fire kind of problem. See, Dead men don’t walk away on their own. It was a perplexing problem. They had to be wondering, “What’s going on?” “Where is Jesus?” “What has happened?”
Then suddenly it became a terrifying problem.
4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 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? 6 He is not here, but has risen.
Well, they had the answer to their questions. It was just that the two men who explained what had happened were not typical. They were dressed in clothing that flashed like lightning. This fact alone served to terrify the women, who didn’t even want to look up to make eye contact. They couldn’t even answer when they asked:
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
If they were even remotely able to function the message was clear – Jesus isn’t dead. He is living...and so he’s not hanging out in the tomb. Who does that? Then as if to shock them out of their doldrums, the man in the flashing clothes said it as plain as possible:
“He is not here, in this place, but has been raised.”
But...how is that possible? It’s one thing to break your arm, but when someone dies...there is just no coming back from that.
If the women thought in their hearts that it was too good to be true, we can understand why, can’t we? This isn’t the kind of thing that happens every day...well, this isn’t the kind of thing that EVER happens.
They may have thought it ‘too good to be true’ until the angel spoke again to nudge their memories:
Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words,
If the message of Jesus’ Resurrection seemed ‘too good to be true’ that all changed when the women – as prompted by the Angel – remembered Jesus’ Word. It wasn’t seeing Jesus with their own eyes. It wasn’t witnessing a miracle. It wasn’t hearing a voice thunder from heaven.
All it took to remove any doubts they had about the Resurrection...was simply remembering what Jesus had said. The Angel reminded them what Jesus had said in Galilee. He said that He would be delivered into the hands of sinful men (and he had been). He said that He would be crucified (and he had been). He said that He would rise the third day (and the angel confirmed that Jesus was among the living, not the dead).
They knew the first two prophecies of Jesus were true and now they knew that the third was also true.
When people mock the Resurrection of Jesus; or we wonder whether it is too good to be true, we need only return to the Scriptures and see how the doubts of the women were relieved. They remembered His Word, which Has power.
So, they couldn’t help but tell the rest the news that seemed at first to be ‘too good to be true.”
9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles...
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James along with the rest of the women who brought the good news to Jesus remaining eleven disciples. We can imagine their excitement upon returning from the tomb.
We can be sure that excitement grew exponentially, for the Gospel of Matthew reports that before they even found Jesus disciples they saw the living Jesus with their own eyes, for it is written (Matthew 28:9-10):
9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
So, the women did as Jesus told them...but instead of joining them to rejoice, upon hearing the message the eleven found it all ‘too good to be true.’ For we are told –
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale,
and they did not believe them.
What about it seemed ‘too good to be true?’ Was it Jesus’ Word that seemed impossible? Did they not remember? Was it the fact that Angels had helped the women to remember? Was it the fact that Jesus appeared to the women...and not to them?
The message of the Resurrection seemed to them an idle tale, nonsense, poppycock, foolishness. They refused to believe the women. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus reflect the dubious opinion of the disciples. When pressed by the Living Jesus whom they did not recognize they revealed their opinion of the message of the Resurrection (Luke 24:22-24):
“Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
Is it all nonsense? Is this celebration we call Easter really just built upon the back of some fertility goddess named ‘Eoester’ as some suggest? Is this all just an idle tale hatched by a few hopeful women?
No, a thousand times, no. For the same Jesus appeared to the disciples too, again and again and again. He rebuked them for doubting the Word of the Old Testament Prophets who foretold this very thing.
Do we need a talking to as well? Have we begun listening to the skeptics and the unbelieving?
Our fallen sinful nature wants to believe that it’s all ‘too good to be true’...but that’s because our natural minds are under the control of Satan who wants us to forsake this treasure.
It’s the same part of us that laughs at sinful behavior and dirty jokes. It’s the same part of us that wants to live like the world now and perhaps get forgiveness later.
Is it too good to be true or is the once dead Jesus really alive? Yes, He lives and our entire faith rests upon it. The message may seem too good to be true until we listen again to Jesus’ Word.
Jesus’ Word is reliable, faithful, true and powerful. The same Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven” and when some doubted His authority he said to a paralyzed man, “Get up and walk” and He did. The same Jesus called out to the corpse of Lazarus four days in his tomb, “Lazarus, come forth!” The dead man came to life again and came out.
It isn’t too good to be true. He lives. Our hopes are built upon a living Jesus....not a dead one.
Hallelujah! Jesus lives! He is now the Living One; From the gloomy house of death Forth the Conqueror has gone, Bright Forerunner to the skies Of His people, yet to rise.
Jesus lives! Why weepest thou? Why that sad and frequent sigh? He who died our Brother here Lives our Borther still on high, Lives forever to bestow Blessings on His Church below.
Jesus lives! And thus, my soul, Life eternal waits for thee; Jointed to Him, thy living Head, Where He is, thou, too, shalt be; With Himself, at His right hand, Victor over death shalt stand.