"Empty Tomb Hope!"#84-33
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on April 16, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Why is the Resurrection So Important to Christians?)
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: Matthew 28:1-10
Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you."
Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed! Alleluia!
What do these words mean today? Have they become a simple Easter greeting with which Christians greet each other once a year or do these words stir your hearts with excitement, life, and hope?
That's the point of the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. He is risen. Who's the He? It is He Who was crucified on a cross, three days dead in a tomb, and now risen from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity. He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
So, the question for today; is your hope strong, sure, vital, accompanied by faith and love? Are you living in hope today? You can, because He is risen from the dead for you!
Hope, living in hope. When we use the word hope, it carries two meanings. If we say, "I hope it won't rain on Easter," it is something we wish for, but have no assurance as to whether it will come true. On the other hand, when we say we have hope that tomorrow will be Monday; we have the assurance that, if there is a tomorrow, it will be Monday, because it has been that way for centuries. When we have hope that is based on assurance, it gives our lives meaning and purpose and a reason to move forward regardless of the pitfalls or difficulties of the moment. The greeting; He is risen! He is risen, indeed! gives us hope, with assurance, because God has acted in history, fulfilled His promises for you in the death and resurrection of Jesus and that becomes an anchor for our very souls, our very lives.
A number of years ago, Parade Magazine ran the story of a self-made millionaire named Eugene Lang, who greatly changed the lives of a sixth-grade class in East Harlem. Mr. Lang had been asked to speak to a class of 59 sixth graders. What could he say to inspire these students, most of whom would probably drop out of school? He wondered how he could get these predominantly black and Puerto Rican children to even to look at him. Scrapping his notes, he decided to speak to them from his heart. He said this: "Stay in school and I'll help pay the college tuition for every one of you." At that moment, the lives of these students changed. For the first time, they had hope. One student said, "I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling."
Nearly 90 percent of that class went on to graduate from high school.
For these students, college was no longer just hope which was just wishful thinking; it was hope that was assured for them. It wasn't just probable, it was possible. This is the kind of hope that the two Marys, in our text this morning, this is what they experienced and it is this same assured hope that our risen Savior brings to each of you today.
In Matthew's Gospel, he tells us about Mary Magdalene and the other Mary; they were on their way to see the tomb of Jesus. Both of these women had seen the horrible sight of His crucifixion. They had seen Jesus breathe His last breath and also seen Him placed into the tomb. Now, Matthew records that, on Sunday morning, they were on their way to see the tomb while Luke records that they were on their way to anoint Jesus' body. I am certain, as they made their way, they were filled with hope. They were hoping the tomb would be open or that someone would be there to help them remove the stone which covered the tomb entrance. This was wishful hope though, hope that had no real assurance. Little did they realize, however, that they would leave the tomb with real hope; hope that was based on the assurance that Jesus was alive; hope that filled their hearts with a joy that they had never experienced in their lives. They would not have the opportunity to anoint Jesus as they had planned, instead they would have the opportunity to grab onto His feet- assuring them that He was indeed alive- and worship Him with joy and real hope in their hearts.
So, let's be clear today. I'm not here to say, "We hope Jesus rose from the dead," as if it were wishful thinking. That would be no hope at all. And that is exactly the opposite of what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ; Who He is, what He did, and what He is still doing in the world to bring people eternal life in Him.
I'm glad to tell you what the Bible says about Him. In the power of the Spirit of God, I'm announcing what the angel said that day, "He is risen, just like He said." This makes these words, "He is risen! He is risen, indeed!" it rings with assurance and real hope. We can confess with assurance, "On the third day, He rose from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity."
There were all kinds of things that happened around the death and resurrection of Jesus. Today we know for a fact that He lived. We know for a fact that He died. And we know for a fact that the tomb of Jesus was empty! All kinds of facts, all kinds of tangible experiences, all to let you know that this Jesus did all things well for you.
Now, about that empty tomb. Matthew is the only Gospel that records that there was an earthquake when the angel descended from the sky, rolled away the stone, and sat on it. Easter is indeed an earthquake that shook the whole world and got everyone's attention. Two thousand years later, we are still celebrating this earthquake and its shaking announcement that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Yet, it affects people in different ways. Matthew tells us that just as the earth quaked, so the guards, standing watch over the tomb, they quaked in fear. They shook from fear in the same way that God shook the earth. Jesus, who is supposed to be dead, is alive, while these guards, who are supposed to be alive and guarding Jesus' body, become like dead men.
In 1950, there was a devastating earthquake in China that dislodged a large boulder from a mountain exposing a great cache of wonderful artifacts from a thousand years ago. At that time, a whole new world became visible because of this earthquake. Can you imagine what the people felt who saw all those treasures which had before been hidden away?
Well, that's just a glimpse of what these women felt, what the disciples felt, when the earth shook and the stone rolled away from Jesus' tomb. Even today we get our first glimpse of a new world because of the empty tomb of Jesus. It's a world filled with hope. A hope that is based on assurance that He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
So again, the questions of the day; what do those words mean to you? Does Easter affect you in this way? Does it fill you with joy and hope? Does it give you a purpose and meaning to your life? Does it open your life to a whole new world? Or is it simply a day when you sit down to a special meal with your family, watch the kids hunt Easter eggs, or perhaps take in an NBA game or a favorite TV show? Then, when Monday morning comes, do you go back to your regular schedule as if nothing really happened?
If that is the case, perhaps it is time to let God shake up your world. Perhaps it is time to allow God to roll the stone away from your heart so that you can see and feel the love and power of Jesus Christ Who wants to share His life with you today; His life with you in eternity. He wants you to have the hope which is anchored with His resurrection. He wants you to have the assurance that He suffered and died for the forgiveness of your sins and He's made it possible for you to also rise from the dead and live with Him in eternity.
I love the accounts of the Gospels. Do you know why? They tell it like it is. If you think that the disciples made this stuff up, you're wrong. The accounts show their foolishness, their ignorance, their sinfulness, their fears. They wouldn't have led a movement based on their leadership, they were no better than you or me.
Just take a look at the women. They too were afraid (but at least they had the courage to go even to the tomb; the disciples stayed away in fear.) But these women, when they got a glimpse of all this, they were afraid, because, again, this was beyond amazing. Their fear, however, was a natural fear of the events that were taking place. It was a fear of the unknown which would later turn to joy when it was known to them that Jesus was indeed alive. The fact that Jesus was alive filled them with surprise and wonder. They were amazed and in awe of the facts unfolding before their eyes.
That's the feeling that I hope that you have today. I hope you are saying, "Wow, what is this all about?" I hope that you are saying, "If this stuff about Jesus is true, oh my goodness, I've got to at least get to hear more about it."
Wonderful feelings of awe. If you thought those words were words that described Christmas, well, Easter is about all that and more. Why, because He was born so that He might live and die and rise again on Easter morn. That is what Easter is about and there is nothing in our world, even today, that can compare.
I know, I know, you are saying, "But what about our technologies, our science, our inventions?" Listen, I like them, but we're talking about the resurrection today of the crucified One. In our world today, we are so saturated with analysis and scientific explanation to things that we have lost that sense of wonder to what it is we are really seeing. It is this wonder that we need on this Easter day- an assurance that God is doing something beyond our analysis and beyond our explanation. He is doing something that we cannot explain. The resurrection leaves the realm of human experience and enters into the realm of wonder.
Put your android or you iPhone down. Virtual reality has nothing on this. There is no app that will ever give you a glimpse of this hope, this joy, and this peace. It is this wonder connected with the reality of the resurrection of the crucified One; that's what gives us hope. It is the foundation for real hope. Today God touches our hearts and our lives with a wonder that we cannot experience or explain without Him. It is God allowing us to feel His power and to confirm our hearts with an assurance and a hope that the world just cannot give.
Don't miss the point. Don't settle for the Monday morning siren call to day to day living when eternal life is being offered to you today in Jesus Christ. In fact, that's hope for Monday through Friday. That's hope to return to our busy lives, where the wonder doesn't fade into our work-a-day world. That's a hope that the Marys had that day and they not only didn't lose it they literally shared it over and over and over again. Hope received, hope shared, hope resounding in the lives of people more and more from then till now!
In verses 8-10 of Matthew 28, we hear that the two Marys, seeing the risen Christ Himself, their wonder turns to reality. The very sight of Jesus fills them with a real hope. In verse 9, Jesus greets them with the Greek word, "Chairete!" which means joy, rejoice. That was the moment for them. But that's the moment for us.
When the two Marys saw Jesus, the wonder and hope of Easter filled their lives. Their first response was to fall down, to grab hold of His feet, and worship Him. Easter is the same for us today. It is the presence of the living Christ in our lives right now. He is here to roll away the stone of sin and death that encumbers our lives and replace it then with His absolute hope that He is alive and that we will live with Him eternally.
During this season of the church year, we have followed Jesus with the two Marys in our text. On Good Friday, we watched Him die on the cross carrying our sins on His blood-streaked back. We heard Him say, "Father, forgive them." We then watched Him as they placed Him in the tomb. Now, on Easter morning, we come back to the tomb and we are filled with surprise and wonder when the angel announces to us and to all, "He has risen! He is alive!" This news has changed our lives. And let me tell you this; without the resurrection, His death on the cross would have atoned for nothing.
The assurance of the resurrection gives us a hope which lasts eternally- a hope which makes life worth living. Regardless of the trials and disappointments we have here on earth, we have the empty-tomb hope that our sins are forgiven and we will live with God and with each other eternally. That's real hope! He is risen! He is risen, indeed! May that hope-filled Word center your life in Christ forever! Happy Easter! Amen.
Action in Ministry for April 16, 2017
Guest: Yvette Seltz
ANNOUNCER: This is The Lutheran Hour and it is time once again for Action In Ministry; a call to action in response to all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
SELTZ: And, Mark, what great things He has done for us. Christ is risen.
ANNOUNCER and YVETTE: He is risen, indeed.
ANNOUNCER: And Pastor Seltz' wife, Yvette, joins us now as we continue with our celebration of the resurrection of our Lord; and they're going to help us see how the hope of Easter applies to our past, our present, and our future.
SELTZ: We're excited to be here.
YVETTE: It is exciting to be here.
ANNOUNCER: Now we hear the phrase, "Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed," and you asked in your message, "What do those words mean? How do they affect you?" Well, could you answer that from your own perspective?
SELTZ: What would life be like if there was no Christmas and Easter? I mean, thank God they're here; always in the middle of our lives telling us that great hope. But then you think about your family, you think about what we do when we get ready for Easter, and how we hide the eggs and all these different...and it's a special weekend. But then as we get to Easter, and the breakfast, and the celebration of Christ's resurrection and everyone greeting each other, "Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed," literally it's a mindset; it transforms the way you look at all things. In fact, not to get too serious on this, but when you think about it, whatever's going on in your life; Easter is saying God is going to have the last say. And because of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, that's a really good thing. Wow! What a way to live life in that truth.
ANNOUNCER: Now it's often been said "what's in the past is past," but, Yvette, as a professional counselor, I'm sure you deal with people on a regular basis who are still carrying that past around with them and struggling to reconcile something that continues to haunt them. What bearing does Christ's resurrection have on those sorts of regrets?
YVETTE: Well, you're right, Mark. First of all, there are a lot of people that deal... each of us at different times in our lives, we deal with regret or try to deal with regret or remorse and all of those emotions that are attached to it; whether it's something we did, didn't do, or something that was done to us. When we think about the emotions that we attach to that like anger or shame or guilt, sadness, any of those things; when we look at what Christ did on the cross and His resurrection, then we see that there's redemption and healing that can take place because of that. We don't have to have all of that burden on ourselves and that we actually do have healing and hope when we look to Christ on the cross.
SELTZ: And because He is alive today, that also transforms the way I can look at my life. I talk about it this way; resurrection tenacity, resurrection confidence. I can actually face what I'm dealing with because, in some sense, Christ has the...my future in His hands too and I may not know the path that I'm going through; I may not know the ups and downs of what my life is going to be like but I know He's going to be the One that gets me to wherever we're going and so... yeah, you're in prayer with the living Christ. You're reading the living Christ's living Word and all of that is part of your ability to just live life boldly right now.
ANNOUNCER: But it points ahead to the future...
ANNOUNCER: ...so what does it say to that?
YVETTE: Whenever we think about moving forward and keeping in mind that we have a living Christ Who is able to heal everything, help us to let go. Sometimes we put all this pressure on ourselves to do all of the work and to change our feelings, and if we save forgive or let go, that we're actually saying what happened in the past or whatever it was that we're holding on to, is okay. It wasn't okay, obviously, so it's still speaking to us. But when we hold on to it like that and we're going into the future; it's not only affecting us, it's affecting everybody that we're in a relationship with. So, when we give it over to Christ, we put it on His shoulders. He has the ability in unforeseeable ways to deal with those most negative circumstances and transform them and us into something that is unimaginable. So, whenever we look at our future, when we look to it...we can look to it with hope and confidence. That it can be brighter and we can see that there is going to be blessings that come from even the pains of all the things that we're holding on to.
SELTZ: I like to say it this way, too, like you're talking about, honey, He takes the pressure off because...remember Pastor Robinson used to always say, "Jesus said, 'Because I live you will live also.'" The reality is now suddenly that means, like you said, "His efforts, His abilities." All those are the things that are going to be in our future as well. So, it takes the pressure off. You don't have to worry about the future. We use the gifts He's given us. We strive for the things He's got in front of us. But we already know that "Because I live you will live also" promise. So, even the future is secure in His hands.
YVETTE: But, living in a way that's more intentionally and purposefully good for us and for other people. Not so burdened.
SELTZ: There you go. I like that.
ANNOUNCER: And it's something that we celebrate each Sunday. I know you begin each sermon, as did Pastor Klaus, with those words, "Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed." It's more than a tradition or a catch phrase, it really expresses that tremendous hope of Easter for our past, our present, and our future. Pastor Greg and Yvette Seltz, thank you for being with us today.
YVETTE: Thank you, Mark.
SELTZ: Our pleasure.
ANNOUNCER: And that's our Action In Ministry segment for today; to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others. And for more of our conversation with Yvette and Pastor Seltz, go to lutheranhour.org; click on Action In Ministry.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for April 16, 2017
Topic: Why is the Resurrection So Important to Christians?
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer and today we continue to talk about the resurrection.
SELTZ: Yeah, it's Easter Sunday, I can't wait. So, what's the question?
ANNOUNCER: A listener writes, "In church, I hear about the resurrection every Sunday, not just on Easter Sunday. Why is that so vital to the Christian faith?"
SELTZ: Mark, first of all, it's important every day; not even just every Sunday. But the resurrection of Jesus makes all the difference in the world, not just for Christians, but for all people.
ANNOUNCER: Why would you say that?
SELTZ: Well, the Bible says that Jesus is the world's Savior, that He rose from the dead for all people, so that all people's sins could be forgiven.
ANNOUNCER: This resurrection teaching really goes to the heart of the Bible's message.
SELTZ: It does. Christians are just people who realize that Jesus is their Savior. The Bible's teaching about Jesus' life, death, and resurrection; that's talking about God at work for the world, for each one of us. And, by the way, the world teaches wrongly today that death is natural, that when we die, that's all there is!
ANNOUNCER: And this teaching of the resurrection challenges that way of thinking.
SELTZ: The teaching about Jesus' literal resurrection is a foundational teaching about what it means to be human. We were meant to live with God, indeed, to live forever with God and with those we love.
ANNOUNCER: And the reality of Jesus' resurrection is not just a truth of the faith, it's really also an offer.
SELTZ: Yeah, l like how you put that, Mark. Jesus' resurrection is a reality that God wants for all people. The Bible says that Jesus, is the Firstfruits of all who believe; you know, the first One of many who put their faith in the resurrected One Who died for them. It is also an offer from God about your life with Him.
ANNOUNCER: Like Jesus said, "Because I live, you will live also"
SELTZ: And He meant it.
ANNOUNCER: The whole Christian faith really does hinge on whether Jesus really rose from the dead.
SELTZ: Absolutely. Jesus told His disciples several times that He would have to suffer, He would have to die, and that He would rise again.
ANNOUNCER: That shows the resurrection was clearly part of God's plan.
SELTZ: It was. So, the Bible is very clear that Jesus was crucified for our sins, and He was raised from the dead for our justification; our forgiveness before God the Father.
ANNOUNCER: In other words, no resurrection, no good news of the Gospel.
SELTZ: Or, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 15, "If Christ had not been raised our faith is futile and we are still in our sins."
ANNOUNCER: The Bible teaches that it really happened, Jesus rose. But, our listener's question is, "Why is that teaching so vital to my faith in Him? What does it mean for us?"
SELTZ: Well, think about those early believers, it meant everything that Jesus talked about, everything was true. So much of what He did seemed exactly the opposite of what they thought God should do for them. And here was God in the flesh saying He had to live, and die, and rise again so that they could be forgiven and live forever with God by grace!
ANNOUNCER: That sounds pretty vital!
SELTZ: And think about this. Jesus is Who He says He is for you. He's alive forever, right here, right now; that changes how a person sees everything! Those first disciples who saw Him face to face were forever changed.
ANNOUNCER: In what way?
SELTZ: Think about the emotional rollercoaster they were on. Jesus' death had to crush them. I'm not sure we can even imagine their disappointment, their discouragement. Peter says to Jesus, "Lord, we've left everything for you." On Good Friday, they lost Him. But all that changed because they had seen the Lord raised from the dead just as He said.
ANNOUNCER: Then, what about us?
SELTZ: I think it's much for us the same too, though. If the resurrected Lord was for them, He is for us too and that means everything. Because He is alive, we can trust in His word. Because He is alive, our greatest enemies; sin, and death, and Satan himself, they have been overcome. Because He is alive, we can be confident that our future is secure in Him too.
ANNOUNCER: To sum this up, Jesus' resurrection means that we can be confident not only today but every day through faith in Him.
SELTZ: Every day. I couldn't have said it better myself, Mark. And He is the risen One Who is with us always and He's coming again to judge the living and the dead.
AANOUNCER: So, as we conclude our broadcast today on this day celebrating the resurrection of our Lord, we say, "Christ is risen."
SELTZ: "He is risen, indeed."
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Awake, My Heart, with Gladness" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Jesus Lives! The Victory's Won" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)