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THIS IS NO JOKE

It’s the same story every sunrise service at Easter. In fact, it’s the same story every Easter morning. The women go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body but find something else. In Luke’s account it says, “The (women) found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes, that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 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? He is not here’ He has risen!”

No matter which gospel account you read you are going to find one common theme. THE TOMB WAS EMPTY! But more than that, because you also will read, “Jesus isn’t here he has risen.”

We already know that. That’s been told to us for many years. We look back and know the story. But that morning, that first Easter morning, the women really had no idea how they were going to roll that stone away from the tomb when they got there. They really expected to find Jesus’ body and were going there to anoint it properly for burial. Their conversation that morning could have been about remembering all that took place this past week, especially Friday when Jesus died on the cross. It was the Sabbath, and well, they could not do a proper burial, so they hugged his mom and said goodbye and decided after the sabbath they would go and prepare Jesus’ body. So, they went home.

Now it is 3 days later, Sunday to be exact, and early in the morning they met, took their ointments and began to go to the tomb where Jesus lay. Talking all the way they talked about how Jesus had touched so many. They talked about seeing him reach out his hands and people were healed. They talked about how they would miss him. No conversations of wondering if Jesus had risen, for that was foreign to them. They talked about his sermons, his teachings, his gift of love and encouragement and hope. But now it was all gone. Pilate and the Jewish leaders saw to that, when they held a mock trial and found him guilty of nothing. But the crowds who once cheered for Jesus now called out for him to be crucified. And so, it happened that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. One thief asked for his forgiveness while the other asked that he would save himself and them. Jesus remark to one was, “today you will be with me in paradise.” There is no record of any conversation with the other…so we believe he found his own eternity. Don’t think he was pleased with his destination.

The women, with tears of sorrow in their eyes make their way through the dew and maybe a little bit of fog to the place where Jesus lay. But when they got close they saw one thing. The stone was rolled away, so they ran to look in and found something they had not thought they would find. IT WAS EMPTY! This must be a joke! They saw Jesus die. They saw him taken from the cross. They saw him placed in the tomb and the stone put in place and sealed. Then there were the guards standing watch, so no one could steal his body and claim he had risen. Those women were totally surprised when all this happened. Luke gives names of who those women were. It wasn’t just one. There were several he named, and then he says, “and the others with them.” Many eye witnesses that, the stone was rolled away…. That when they looked in it was empty… that two men with gleaming clothing came and stood beside them… and the final thing… those men said that they were not about to find the body of Jesus for he had risen like he said to would.

Every Easter morning the church gets excited when that story is read. At least I hope that we do. I do. With all the false news we have in the world these days it’s nice to hear some truth that can change someone’s life. Why? Because that empty tomb reminds us that Jesus lives today. We have an empty cross that proves that Jesus lives! It’s the symbol of our faith. Those outstretched arms that were nailed to the cross remind us that Jesus connected this earth to heaven as he took those sins upon himself. The day of redemption had come.
But that was Friday, and this is Sunday and Up from the grave he arose with mighty triumph over his foes. We sing hymns of joy this morning because he lives. “Christ the Lord is risen today” we will sing later when we open the doors to this church so that all can hear that Jesus is alive.

We’ve spent the season of Lent with bad news of suffering and pain, and being reminded of our sinfulness, and that our sins helped nail Jesus to the cross. Now we celebrate the good news that Christ has risen and lives today. And as one hymn reminds us, “Because he lives we can face tomorrow.”

This is no joke! Though some want to say someone stole the body, no they didn’t. He had risen from the grave. Even these days many don’t believe he has risen. But he has. He did what he said would happen. He arose from the grave and lives today.
The unbelievable thing that comes out of the gospel of Luke goes like this. When the women ran to tell the disciples what they found at the tomb really surprises the reader when read for the first time. For it is recorded. “But the disciples did not believe the women, because the words seemed to them to be like nonsense.”

This was no joke! Peter, like you read in John’s gospel, hightails it out to the tomb with John and Luke says, “Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.” You get that? He went away “wondering.” Wondering what, we might ask? Did he wonder what happened to Jesus’ body? Did he wonder if he truly had risen? Did he wonder where Jesus was now? We will never know, unless when we get to heaven we ask him directly.

That was a pretty tough day for those disciples. Seems like lots of unbelief to me. It would not be until later when Jesus appeared to them in the Upper Room that they would believe he had risen.

When Jesus appeared to them that day, and spoke to them, and held out his hands for them to see the nail holes, and he breathed on them the Holy Spirit, their unbelief turned to believing, for each one must have touched him, and gave him a hug. Those tears of unbelief turn into tears of joy. They can come out of hiding now. They were told not to be afraid anymore, for the risen Christ would always be with them through thick and thin.

What does Easter say to the church this morning? Even though there is chaos in the world, and lots of hate, lots of doubts, lots of unbelief, the facts are the facts. No one has been able to prove that someone stole Christs body. Many have tried to put doubts in people’s mind and destroy that one fact that is different than any other religion. Many can go see their hero’s tomb where they were buried. But for the Christian world, that tomb was empty, is empty, and always will be empty. For Christ is alive! He had risen and is in the world today. Our redeemer lives. And because he lives we have hope. Because he lives we have joy. Because he lives we have eternal life.

Because he lives we count on his strength, his courage, his wisdom, his comfort, his presence to be with us in all things. This is no joke!

Because Jesus lives today and is in the world we are not alone and never will be.

We have the power folks, we really do, if we truly believe and walk in our believes, to overcome that mean old devil that sat on the stone of the tomb smoking his victory cigar on Friday. But when Sunday came, it was a different story. When his merry men ran to tell him that the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty they didn’t shout “April fools.” They said, “Boss, you got to come and see for yourself. Somehow the stone was rolled away and the tomb is empty. We know. We stayed around all the time like you told us. But suddenly the stone was moved, and we looked in and boss, it shocked us. THE TOMB WAS EMPTY! Jesus body wasn’t there.” And that guy that tries to lead us astray and puts lots of temptations in the way of our following Jesus, huffed and puffed as he ran to the tomb to see for himself it was empty. He must have stomped on his cigar as he yelled out some words we Christians have stopped using. He might even had pulled the hairs from his head as he walked into the sunrise of a new day…the day of resurrection. His plans to destroy God’s salvation plan had failed. For Up from the grave…well you know the rest of the story.

It was no joke! And we thank God this morning that it wasn’t. For today we rejoice. Today we are reminded of the thrill of that first Easter morning when the women found the tomb empty. We aren’t surprised any more by what the angels said because we’ve heard it before. We’ve heard it thousands of times. Those words the angel said ring loud and clear “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here! HE HAS RISEN!”

Yes, he is risen.

He’s alive! You ask me how I know he lives today?

Well, let me just tell you how it is…. HE LIVES WITHIN MY HEART! And that’s no joke! It’s the truth!

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