But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5And 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? 6He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, Luke 24:1-6
We thank the Lord that he has allowed us to meet at His feet, to hear His Word. Today is different to any other day in my life. When a child steps into his parents shoes, the shoes are too big. While the child walks, he makes a noise and he may even stumble. Support me in your prayers today, please.
On the cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.” Jesus thirsted physically but He had a much greater thirst – he thirsted after you and me. The suffering and passion of the Lord Jesus requires a deep understanding. Jesus was sent by God to this earth to seek and save you and me. God created man to take after Him because he was made in the image of God, but then man forsook God and wallowed in sin.
It was God’s desire and plan that man would serve Him only. But then man selected another lover – Satan, and he commits all the evil that Satan inspires him to do.
God used the prophet Hosea’s experience as an object lesson. Hosea was married to Gomer, and then she left him and had a relationship with another man. She had a child with that man. God told Hosea to take Gomer back as his wife and to love her. She had forsaken him and had been unfaithful. This is what God did for you and me. God created man after his own image. He wanted man to follow him, to live for him but then man forsook God, turned his back on Him, and had a relationship with Satan. Things born from this relationship are gossip, hatred, and the like but God sent Jesus to take man back from Satan and to love him. Jesus came into this world to bear our sin and guilt in His own body. He was arrested. He was beaten. He was tortured for our sake and finally crucified on a cross. We thank God that Jesus did not only die, he was not only laid in the tomb, but he rose again on the third day as He had told His disciples when He was with them in Galilee.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is extremely important. If He had not risen from the dead, He would have been called a liar, but He is not a liar because He rose again. This shows us that our Lord is true, He is true to His word, and He is the truth. If that which Jesus had said had never been fulfilled, there would be no Christians today. His resurrection shows us that He has the truth, He is the truth, He is the Son of God. He lay in the tomb for 3 days and rose victorious over death. This indicates that Jesus is victor and He has conquered. We need not fear death for Jesus has overcome death. Jesus is stronger than death. Reverend Stegen has often told us from this pulpit that we need not fear death as believers, as Christians, even if someone threatens us with a gun – that gun will not fire unless God allows it. If you die, it is only a way to get home, to heaven. Jesus has conquered death. He rose from the dead. He is alive.
In Isaiah we read that He too knows illness and suffering and that is why we can comfort someone who is suffering because Jesus was familiar with pain and illness. We serve a Lord who knows what it is to suffer, to be sick and to die. We have this hope that even though we die, we will rise again with our Lord. His death and resurrection give us the hope of resurrection while we are in this world.
In this text the Lord rose from the dead on that morning of the first day of the week and some women were going to the tomb. They had some spices with which they were going to anoint the body. They went in fear and in trembling, but they wanted to get to the Lord, their Master, and anoint his body. While they were wondering how they would do it, all of a sudden there were two men in clothes gleaming like lightning. In their fright they bowed down with their faces to the ground. These men spoke, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” They reminded the women that the Lord Jesus had told them that He would be delivered into the hands of sinful men, that He would die and rise again. This gives us the hope that we do not serve a Lord who is dead, we serve a living God. This fact should not cause our knees to tremble but we should be firm and resolute in serving Him. We can be bold, for we know our Lord is alive. We do not serve a Lord who is dead and His bones lie in the grave. We do not worship the dead, our ancestors. Some people speak to their ancestors and ask them to help and protect them from sickness and disease. But if that person in whom they put so much trust should appear to help them, they would run like scared rabbits. Our Lord, whom we serve, is alive for evermore. He is not dead. Jesus went into the grave with those wounds, He was marred beyond recognition, His body was scarred and wounded all in order to carry our sin. But He rose in power from the dead. It is through this power that you and I can overcome sin. He rose from the dead that we may arise from our grave of sin. The Bible says that a person who walks in sin is dead while he is still alive. He seems alive but he is dead in sin. Jesus died and rose again that you and I might rise from our grave of sin. All this happens through faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Without faith we cannot have victory over sin, even though we cannot physically see the Lord.
We do not see the Lord physically but we see Him in His creation. We see His power and character, in His handiwork. Some say we serve a God that we do not know and have not seen. In Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing. Is there anybody who can see what He has done and then fail to believe in Him? Let him lift up his eyes and see. If you lift up your eyes, what would you see? You would see the expanse, the heavens, the sun – you would see it all. Who could all create this? Lift your eyes and look to the heavens, who created all these? Your ancestors? I once told the story of my niece who grew up in Soweto where there are electrical lights and street lamps which prevent one from noticing the starry night sky. When she was about 14 years old she visited us in the rural area. It was then that she saw the stars and moon and commented on the wonderful things we have that provide us with light. We see God’s beauty in His creation. We see Him by looking at His handiwork.
As schoolboys we would debate the existence of God and whether He should be served or whether the ancestors should be served. Afterwards, when I was on my own, I pondered on this discussion. We have to serve Him who created heaven and earth. We need and ought to serve the One who created the heavens and the earth, mankind and everything else we find on earth. The majesty of God is reflected in Table Mountain and Lion’s Head in the Cape. Who can drape the clouds over the mountain like a tablecloth, other than God?
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is here for us today, to raise us from the depths of our sin. Nobody should live in lies, in hatred, holding grudges against others. Jesus cried out on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” We ought to have that same attitude. When God forgives, He casts a person’s sin into the depths of the sea where nobody can get to it and then he says I will remember it no more. We should forgive and forget. There should not be someone who forgives but he just waits for a chance to repay that person. May God be merciful that we will come out of the grave of unforgiveness, forgetting when others have sinned against us.
By raising Jesus Christ from the dead, God did not want anybody to remain in the grave of stubbornness or the grave of stealing. Nobody should still be a slave to lust like Gomer was. Nobody should still be in the grave of anger and irritability. Jesus carried all this sin in His very own body and He was laid in the grave with the dead that we might be delivered from it all. He did it that we should no longer live that kind of a life and continue with our evil deeds. But we should repent from our sin and be saved to the uttermost. The angels said that He is not here, he has risen. He is no longer in the grave, He is alive. Go and tell the others as well. If a person has been saved from his sin, he is no longer dead, in the grave – others can see that he is different. Even though the person still lives in the same sinful body, one can see that he is totally different, he is no longer the same. Jesus rose with the same body, He still had the scars of His passion and the imprint of the nails so that people could see that it was Him. When we rise from the grave of sin we are still in the same body but Jesus has transformed and saved us from our sin. People will notice that we are still the same person but we are different.
Allow me to testify. People in my area knew the kind of life I led. Then I met the Gospel. Jesus helped me and my life changed. Not long after that I met someone from our area. He said, “Is it you I saw going down there?” I said that it was me. He said, “You know, I did not recognise you. I did not recognise the way that you walked.” They had known me before. I walked like a tsotsi (a criminal) – slouching and dressed in a certain way. But when I met Jesus and His blood cleansed me, it changed even the way I walked. I was still in the same body but the way I walked had changed.
A person’s life changes after he has met with the Lord Jesus and he has come out of the grave of sin. I cannot continue with my lying. I cannot be controlled by my emotions and my feelings. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, even our feelings, our natural inclinations are overcome. You are self-controlled. If a person says he has risen with Christ but he still lives in those sins, that person is a liar. If we have risen with Christ, we live together with Him, a life that is free from sin, where people can see that we have been set free and they see Christ in us. People notice a difference even in a person’s speech – he no longer uses slang. May the Lord have mercy on us so that people can say that we are different. We have changed.
Above the tomb of Jesus it is written “He is not here, He has risen.” May the Lord be merciful that the power of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is visible in our lives, that it may be seen that we have changed. Even the one who has left the Lord, ‘married’ Satan and had children with Satan, can return to Christ so that He will deliver him from Satan.