The angel asks a strange question. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” The answer is clear. “Where else will Jesus be?” These women awoke early in the morning, not wanting to leave their Lord’s body without a proper burial.
With heavy footsteps, laden with grief, they talk. How will they anoint the body of Jesus? An oversized boulder seals the entrance—but nothing is as they imagine when they arrive. The Roman guards, which Pilate posted, are gone. The giant rock no longer envelops the opening. Inside, they spot the burial clothes scattered on the stone. A cloth head-wrapping lies folded to the side. Still, where is the dead body?
At once, two men are before them, ablaze and brilliant with light. These can only be angels, God’s messengers. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? For He is not here but is risen!” A scolding comes to them in their words. For these women should understand not to search for a dead Jesus, for He lives.
How so? The Messiah, Jesus, earlier prepares them for this moment. Over and again, He tells His disciples He is going to die, but also rise. Somehow, they don’t grasp what their Lord teaches them, turning His words into a parable, taking the literal to be a metaphor.
Yes, the events on the first Easter morning should not be a surprise but expected. A few weeks earlier, the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead. Not only Lazarus but others, also. These women understood as much. Now, someone might ask, “But who will raise Jesus?” Does He not hold power over life and death as He earlier proved?
The heavenly messengers remind them. “Remember what He told you, while still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinners, be crucified, and rise on the third day.’” To the tomb they should go, trusting His promise to rise from death. With sin and doubt as overlords of their minds, they walked to the burial chamber, thinking Jesus to be dead.
Now, we do understand their anguish. For our experience trains us to believe dying is a natural a part of life. Untrue, for our Maker, did not create us to perish. No, death is a result of sin’s corruption, bringing ruin to the creation.
So, when the gloom of grief grips these women going to the place of death, we understand, and their sorrow becomes ours. Like them, we also can allow the words of our Redeemer to become a distant stranger. Yes, for us, we also deserve the angels’ admonition.
So, after two angelic messengers scold them, they speak other words. “For He is not here, but is risen!” In His love, beyond every measure of a man, our Redeemer does the impossible. For as the eternal One, He dies. In doing so, He pays the debt we owe to God’s Law and rises in triumph. So, death is not the victor, Christ is. For His resurrection proves as much.
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Now, someone may ask, “What difference, whether we do or not?” Here’s why. All too often, we try to locate Jesus following the rulebook of our hearts. With a weakened faith inside us, when disgruntled, burdened with guilt, entertaining unheavenly ideas, we may turn to find our Savior where He does not promise to be. Yes, we also do this when life is going well.
Where are we supposed to find Him? In the Gospel, which is a coming together of two truths. First, someone speaks something to you. The two angelic messengers did this with the women, delivering a spoken message. Still, this is not the Gospel, for something is still missing, something helpful and valuable. Woven within the spoken Word, your ears are to take in what brings you life unending. Without both, you do not receive the Gospel, what Jesus wants to give you.
The messengers spoke the word entwined with eternal life. “For He is not here, but is risen!” So, if you want to find your Savior, be where He comes to you in the life-giving sounds entering your ears. Receive the spoken Word, which brings you the eternal results of His crucifixion and resurrection.
The triumphant Savior is in the proclaimed Word, declaring who He is, what He did and does to save, and how life is now different for all eternity. So, when the Word Jesus gave His Apostles attaches to the water of baptism, birth from above comes to you, as He says. The One who conquered death and grave comes to you in the proclaimed Word, and with the bread and wine. For this is my body, this is my blood, as He says.
With us on the throne, when WE choose, we’ll hunt for Him in the ungodliest of places. In our hearts, we search, seeking Him out in our feelings. The angels did not direct these women to gaze within. No, they told them to remember what Jesus said. The Messiah died and rose for them. The same words are to be preached to us.
So, don’t try to locate your Lord where He does not direct you to go, seeking Him with the dead. The irony in His resurrection is this—we do not find Jesus where most expect Him to be. No, but He is where He promises to be: in the Gospel.
The angels understood this. So they repeat the message Jesus told His disciples: “The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinners, be crucified, and rise on the third day.” Yes, the Redeemer of the world came to die!
The God of creation became a man to suffer our eternal death. For our flesh is fallen, and we chase after Christ in all the foolish places our sinful hearts lead us. So, God needs to give to us His Word, afresh, spoken and also joined with the Sacraments.
On Easter Sunday, Jesus rose! The resurrection is the Father’s proof of His Son completing everything He came to do. Broken now is the grave’s bondage over us. For He paid for every sin of every sinner for every time and place. So, this includes you, with no misdeed left for which you must atone.
Every account is now clear and clean. What does this mean? In Jesus’ breaking open of the tomb, the Almighty speaks You righteous. Again, don’t miss the declared reality of what takes place. In Christ’s resurrection, you too will rise. Now, death’s grasp, deprived of its supremacy, is crippled and broken.
“Remember what He told you.” Listen now to what follows, “And they remembered His words.” All now comes flooding back. The saving power weaves itself in the Word, again creating, strengthening, and clarifying faith.
So, what did they remember? The Gospel, the promise of everlasting life. For the power is in the spoken word, and when those life-giving sound waves punctured their hearts, they believed. Yes, Jesus promised to die and rise for our salvation. Once more, they begin to trust in His Divine promises.
The Savior’s return to life brings us back to life. So, don’t search for Jesus where the dead belong. For us, however, all is different. For God needed to seek us out among the dead, in a spiritual graveyard. “Though once dead in your misdeeds, God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13). “Though dead in your trespasses and sins, God made us alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:1,4-5). Yes, our Redeemer’s resurrection is stronger than sin or grave, giving us life from death, changing who we are.
On our own, we will search for Jesus in the places of our choosing. So, He comes to us. Every time His Words pierce our ears, and we welcome Him in His Holy Meal, He is with us as He promises.
Still, we are more like the women than we realize. “Remember what [Jesus] told you.” So, our Savior calls us back every week to remember, to receive Him and what He gives. For the Word, which the angels delivered to the women, who listened to Jesus for three years, still needed the Word to come to them anew, through their ears. “Remember what he TOLD you.”
Yes, our ears also need the Word of Christ, as did the women so long ago. Like them, we need to be where the Word comes to us. In their case, the angels spoke to them where a dead man rose from the rocky tomb. For us today, the crucifying Word is here, in Christ’s Church. So also, His Word of defeat over death’s dominion of us.
Today, we celebrate the empty tomb. The rock sealing the tomb, which kept Life a convicted prisoner, is stripped of its strength. The women receive the most heroic proclamation of all history, “He is not here, but is risen!” The victorious Redeemer remains faithful to His promise.
So, don’t go to the cross or an empty burial place to find your Savior. No, come to meet Him where He promises to be. Here, His Word enters your ears. Here, He comes to You in His body and blood.
Don’t make the same mistake of long ago. For the women thought Jesus talked in metaphor when He spoke of His dying and rising. What our Lord meant as literal, they made symbolic, causing them to search for Him among the dead.
Do not be, likewise, fooled. “This is my body; this is my blood.” The Destroyer of death and the Giver of life is here for you. With a resounding “Yes,” faith brings you here to delight in Him.
Now, unbelief will murmur those words cannot be so. Like the women, after the angels spoke to them, may our Lord’s words do their bidding with you. For only in what your Savior gives you is life everlasting yours. Amen.