Easter – Recovering Our Hope
April 5, 2020

Easter – Recovering Our Hope
Luke 24:1-12

Audio File {https://mega.nz/file/WBcx2AbK#lkq3b11I5onRsoada81vmyg6mGCGBmH11OX0qZ8JY0k}

With this new pandemic that is sweeping across the globe, the coronavirus, all our lives have been drastically changed, and the changes that have taken place are probably the beginning of the changes that will need to take place in the future.

And while we will eventually get back to our daily routines, we’ll probably spend years trying to figure out what happened as we try to make sense of the madness and the complexity of fighting a war on something we cannot see.

Thinking of another tragedy that struck our nation about 20 years ago, that which is now referred to as 9-11, we experienced the largest loss of life on U.S. soil since the Revolutionary War in 1776, or the American Civil War that ended in 1865. It was even a greater loss of life than the attack of Pearl Harbor that precipitated the Second World War. The death toll of the coronavirus, however, has far exceeded it.

Now consider how our lives have changed. Since 9-11 we had longer wait times in lines at airports, but now because of the coronavirus there are no lines at all to wait in. We were were getting used to announcements about terror threats and attacks around the world, now it’s about which city or nation is the hot spot for this new pandemic. And while the war on terror still goes on, we hear nothing about it. Now our news is about this new war we’re in; a war, not against flesh and blood, but against a virus too small to be seen by the naked eye.

And while many people have lost their lives due to these acts of terror, and due to this pandemic virus, what I’d like to do is look at these through the lens of Jesus’s resurrection, trying to see these tragedies in a new light?

Today I want to talk about recovering our hope. The tragedy of 9-11, and the war on terror that followed, and then the attack of the coronavirus, have some similar characteristics with those who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, like before the tragedy struck, people thought they were invulnerable, if not invincible.
• The first followers of Jesus believed that since Jesus was Israel’s coming King, therefore, no harm could happen. They believed that God would never allow his only Son to be killed in such a vicious and cruel manner as Roman crucifixion.
• And of course, we Americans think we were invincible as well, immune to the hateful attacks of others. Well, 9-11 prove that to be untrue. And with all of our medical advances, we could never be caught off guard, but that medicine would save the day. But the coronavirus has proven that to be false as well.

Now, I don’t want to minimize the horrible tragedy of 9-11, nor this coronavirus, but the death of Jesus had a uniqueness to it that no other tragedy has ever had before or since. You see, according to the New Testament, it wasn’t just the Roman soldiers who killed Jesus. And it wasn’t just the Jewish religious leaders who conspired to murder Jesus.

According to the Bible, human sin led to Jesus’s execution. And so every time a human being disobeys God, that is, every time someone sins, they participate in Jesus’s execution.

Therefore, if we believe the Bible’s claim, then all of us, or for that matter, the entirely of the human race participated in the crucifixion of Jesus. So while 9-11 was the act of a handful of people taking the lives of thousands, and the coronavirus was exasperated by human pride in itself and its abilities, the death of Jesus was the act of the entire human race taking the life of one innocent man.

So by looking at how the resurrection helped the early Christians gain hope in the aftermath of that tragedy, we can also gain perspective for recovering our hope. Today in our time together, I want to look at some common responses to tragedy and how the resurrection of Jesus Christ can answer the tragedies that happen in life.

Read Luke 24:1-12

Here we find several women arriving at Jesus’ graveside early Sunday morning. They came to finish what was started when Jesus’s body was first laid in this tomb. But because Jesus died on Passover, and because the Jewish Sabbath directly followed, they weren’t able to complete the burial preparation required by Jewish tradition. So they had to wait for more than a day before they could return.

Most people were still in bed when the women arrived at the tomb, and there would have been nothing to indicate that these women expected anything more than to finish their preparations of Jesus’s body. And that’s probably because the resurrection was the last things on their minds.

And so, they arrive at the tomb and are surprised to see the stone that covered the tomb had been rolled away. These stones were large and very heavy, and it would take several husky guys to muscle the stone away, yet there it was rolled to the side.

The women tentatively ventured inside the tomb, only to find it empty. While they’re trying to figure out what happened, suddenly two bright shining angels appeared. The women were so overwhelmed that they fall with their faces to the ground.

These two angels then delivered the very first Easter Sunday sermon. They started by asking the women a very puzzling question, one specifically designed to make them start thinking.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5b NKJV)

This question must’ve puzzled them, because the Roman government were experts in killing people. According to historians, the Romans crucified over 30,000 Jews by this time, and guess what, not one of them survived. So what was all this talk about the living?

The angels then give these women the main theme of the message and therefore the main theme of every sermon preached thereafter.

“He (Jesus) is not here, but is risen!” (Luke 24:6a NKJV)

The Jewish people believe that a resurrection will occur at the end of the age, but no one considered the possibility that a person might be raised from the grave into immortal life before then.

Now, while these women were still trying to comprehend and process this new information, the angels moved to the application part of the message

“Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’” (Luke 24:6b-7 NKJV)

They told the women to remember what Jesus said before he died. And even as the words were coming out of the angel’s mouths, the minds of the women started working again. And the meaning of these words came flooding their memories. They remembered how Jesus said he would be delivered over to the Gentiles, executed, and how he would rise on the third day (Luke 18:31-34). It didn’t make sense then, but it certainly did now.

It says they returned to find the disciples, and what I see them doing is hiking up their dresses and booking it in order to tell the disciples the good news. At this time the disciples were cowering behind closed doors with their bags already packed waiting for things to cool down so they could sneak out of the city. They’re afraid that the next arrest and execution might be theirs. So they are filled with despair as they try to make sense of the tragedy of Jesus’s death.

As the women rushed in, they started talking about angels and rising from the dead, and it made no sense to these grief numbed minds of the disciples. Luke tells us that it just seemed like a whole lot of nonsense to those who heard it (Luke 24:11).

Now what you need to know is that in the ancient world women were considered to be unreliable witnesses and couldn’t testify in court. So I think its quite interesting that these women were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Certainly this is not the kind of story the early Church would invent to bolster the credibility of the resurrection. In fact, this is one of those aspects that reveal its truthfulness, because no one trying to make up a story would use witnesses that the world considered to be unreliable.

Even though they didn’t believe the women right away, Luke records that Peter decided to investigate. And we’re told in the John’s gospels that John went with him. So they ran to the tomb and saw for themselves that the burial cloths were still intact, and they wonder what happened as they walked away.

What this story reveals is that the resurrection of Jesus is exactly the last thing the early followers of Jesus were expecting. Like all of us on September 12, 2001, or now in the midst of this pandemic, the followers of Jesus were numb with grief and shock. Like all of us who struggle to understand, they were paralyzed with uncertainty and confusion. Their minds were numb, the kind of numb feeling we get when something awful happens that we’re unable to comprehend or process.

I think this story of the aftermath of Jesus’s crucifixion reveals some of the things we do in the face of tragedy. After all, these men and women are just like us, so why would their response to the tragedy be any different than our own response to tragedy?

Let me share with you three insights I see from this story about how we deal with tragedy.

1. We Forget the Teachings of God

Tragedy hits a delete button in our minds, causing us to forget the things God has taught us in His word.

Jesus invested a lot of time trying to prepare his disciples for what lay ahead. According to John’s gospel, Jesus spent hours instructing, preparing, and warning them. However, when Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten and then crucified, the delete button in their minds was pushed. It was only the angels prodding that restarted the women’s memory, and as they stared at the empty tomb they started to remember.

2. We Become Blind to God’s Plan

During times of tragedy we become blind to what God is doing in us and around us. The first followers of Jesus simply couldn’t comprehend how God could be working in their tragedy. Much the same way that we’re blind to what God is doing during this current pandemic.

Twenty-four hours earlier the disciples were enjoying a meal with Jesus. They couldn’t comprehend the fact that he was now dead and buried. The hands that had healed the sick were pierced and lifeless; the mouth that had spoken words of authority was now silent; and the feet that had carried the good news were bruised and bloodied, as Jesus lay dead in the tomb.

Where was God’s plan in this? Surely God had forsaken them! Some terrible miscarriage of justice had occurred! Surely God had lost control of his creation and now it was careening out of control into utter chaos!

Where was God’s plan in all of this? It is found in verse seven of our text. The
angel said, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again.”

The angel was quoting Jesus. And that word, ‘must,’ is key. It had to happen because it was part of God’s plan to accomplish the forgiveness of our sins.

Now I’m not going to say categorically that the terrorist attack of 9-11, or this coronavirus was and are part of God’s plan. But I can say that these events did not take God by surprise. In God’s wisdom he allowed evil men to do an evil thing, because God never takes away our free will and our ability to make even such wrong headed and horrendous choices as these. And although I can’t comprehend why God allowed such a thing as a virulent virus to attack the world, I do know that God can bring good out or such evil.

The Apostle Paul, who probably suffered more than most any man, said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

This is something that Joseph, from the Old Testament, knew all too well as he was tossed down a pit and sold as a slave by his own brothers. And even though he was a faithful slave he was falsely accused by his master’s wife and sent to prison. But after he was on the other side of this tragic life he came to realize that it was all in God’s hands and plans, and he even said so. Look at what he tells his brothers.

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20 NKJV)

God is giving an extra measure of grace, but people are blind to this. God is bringing deliverance and healing, because divine healing isn’t always about being made well physically, but spiritually, and becoming not what we were, but who God has designed for us to be.

And people have become blind to what God is doing, forgetting that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, or what we can see with our eyes, but it is against the spiritual forces of wickedness, that which we cannot see with our eyes (Ephesians 6:12).

Let’s not be blind to what God is doing, because God is bringing about the salvation of many. It is where we can have peace with God, forgiveness of sins, and where we can be delivered from the burden of guilt and shame.

And the last thing we see about how we respond to tragedy is that …

3. We Distrust Other’s Faith Stories

To the ears of Jesus’s disciples, the words of these women seemed nonsensical. It’s not because they were unspiritual, but because they were still numb from the tragedy.

In the face of tragedy we tend to struggle with what others may tell us of about how faith in Jesus helps us through such times.

This is a common response to tragedy. How many times have I heard people talk about a loss of someone they loved, and how God was no longer real to them? They prayed, but God didn’t answer. And so they become distrustful when we share with them how faith in Jesus can help.

Our faith to those who are going through such horrendous times seems like nonsense. But faith in Jesus is the only thing that gives hope to the human soul.

Listen to the words of Lisa Beamer, the widow of Todd Beamer who was on United Flight 93 that went down in Pennsylvania on 9-11. Todd Beamer, along with other passengers rushed the terrorists, sacrificing their own lives in order to save the lives of others. And it was her faith in Jesus Christ and His words of hope that was able to get her and her family through the tragedy. She said, “My family and I still wrestle with what has happened, but are comforted with the knowledge that a sovereign God is in control.”

And so, when tragedy hits, we tend to forget the words of Jesus, we struggle to see God’s plan in the midst of it, and we tend to distrust others when they tell us about how faith in Jesus Christ will help and bring hope.

Conclusion

Now, if this was the end of the story, the Christian faith would have died off quickly, but it isn’t. Jesus showed Himself alive to others.

The rest of Luke chapter 24 recounts Jesus Christ appearing to his followers. In fact, the rest of the New Testament claims that Jesus appeared to over 500 different people over a period of forty days after His resurrection. And when each of these people encountered Christ personally, all doubts were dispelled. It’s one thing to look at the historical data, and infer that the most likely explanation is that Jesus rose from the grave. But it’s quite another thing to see Jesus standing in front of you, inviting you to touch his hands and side and asking to share a meal with you.

In other words, until we personally encounter the risen Jesus, we will never be able to make sense out of our tragedies.

The mission of the church is not only to tell the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which there exists plenty of evidence to its reality, but if that’s where we end, we’ve only taken them half way on their journey to finding peace, truth, and joy.

The mission of the church is also to personally introduce people to the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. If Christ has truly risen from the grave, then He can be known today. Jesus isn’t just a subject to be studied, but He is someone that everyone can know personally. You see, there is a big difference between knowing Christ rose from the grave and having a relationship with the risen Christ.

The Church did not create the resurrection of Jesus, but the resurrection of Jesus created the Church. The Bible calls the church the body of Christ, and tells us that Jesus is the head of the church. So the church is the place where Jesus makes Himself known and reveals His resurrection life.

This is why we are here today. We’ve come to hear a word of hope in the midst of the tragedy that is facing us all. And we don’t merely want information about Jesus; what we need and want is to know Him!

The Christian faith is about knowing Jesus personally, and that is why we are gathered as a community of believers, or that which is known as the church, whether it is here in this building, in homes, or via the Internet. And if we want to encounter Christ in the midst of our tragedy, then we are right where we need to be.

Today, we need to personally meet with Jesus and then we can turn our tragedy into triumph.









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