Luke 24:1-12 – Why do you seek the living among the dead?


Peter marveled at what had happened.  Do you want to know what I marvel at?  I marvel at the fact that the disciples weren’t expecting this.  I mean why did the women even come to the grave to anoint Jesus’ dead body with the spices they had prepared?  For that matter why did they prepare the burial spices to begin with?  Jesus had told His disciples what to expect.  They should have known what was coming.  Just days before His transfiguration when Moses and Elijah appeared and His divine glory was made manifest, Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  And just in case His disciples might not have taken Him seriously, God the Father Himself proclaimed in Christ’s transfiguration, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”  So, one would think that His followers would have paid heed; His disciples would have been looking for these events to be fulfilled.  And just days before His entry into Jerusalem – when He was hailed as Lord and King – Jesus made sure they understood what was about to happen.  He said, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.  And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”  Jesus in effect sat the twelve down and gave them a talking to.  Men, we’re getting ready to head into Jerusalem and I want you all to know what’s coming.  First I’m going to be handed over to the Romans, they’re going to mock me; they’re going to spit on me; they’re going to flog me; then they’re going to kill me.  But don’t worry, because three days later I will rise from the dead.  Any questions?  No?  OK let’s go.  He could not have made it any clearer to them all.  Now I suppose the twelve may have neglected to inform the women – a lot was happening, they had a lot on their minds; maybe they forgot to let the women know what Jesus had told them. Or maybe in the chaos of those days, they just forgot what Jesus told them.  But why – when the women told them what they had just experienced – did they not understand and believe?  But no, the disciples thought these women were just telling idle tales; they did not believe.  And Peter—who heard Jesus’ words; who heard God the Father Himself admonish them to listen to Jesus—he is just dumbfounded.  So how could they possibly not have expected this?  For us as Christians, their doubt seems ludicrous.  But that is because we are overlooking one important point.  We are looking for the living among the dead.

When the women go to the tomb, the two messengers of God in dazzling apparel ask, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  The obvious answer is that they weren’t seeking the living among the dead.  They were seeking the dead among the dead.  And why were they seeking the dead among the dead?  Because THEY were dead.  But the messengers of God shared the Good News and they remembered our Lord’s words, but it doesn’t say they believed.  The text says only that they remembered and they returned from the tomb and they shared this Good News with the apostles (those called by Jesus to be the messengers of the living Christ), and how do they respond?  They respond with doubt; with scorn; with bewilderment, but not with faith.  Why? Because THEY were dead.

You cannot find the living among the dead.  And the dead cannot recognize the living.  Why?  Because THEY are dead.  You can only find the living among the living. You must be alive to recognize life.  Think about it.  You may be able to recognize the cessation of life signs, but can you (while alive) ever understand what it truly means to be dead.  Because you are living, you have no frame of reference for understanding death, and without a frame of reference you cannot understand anything.  That’s just the way our minds work.  In the same way, without a frame of reference, the dead cannot recognize life or ever hope to understand what it means to be alive.  The dead can only seek the dead.  To seek the living, you must first be living.

They heard Jesus’ words.  He told them what would happen.  He told them He would be betrayed, and He was; He told them He would be killed, and He was; He told them He would rise, and He rose.  But they could not grasp that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Why?  Because they, themselves had not yet risen with Him from their death in sin.  You must rise from the dead in order to grasp that Jesus rose from the dead.

We are saved by faith, but that faith is not an intellectual assent.  It is not a matter of making a strong argument and convincing others to believe.  Why?  Because THEY are dead in their trespasses and sins.  You cannot convince the dead of anything.  They’re just dead.  You are called and privileged to share the Good News of how Jesus conquered the power of sin and death through His resurrection from the dead.  But it is not your sharing of the Good News that makes faith; it is not the hearer’s reason that makes faith.  Our faith in Him is the result of God’s free gift, that same gift that works our resurrection with Him.  As we read in the 2nd chapter of Ephesians:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

You cannot seek the living among the dead.  So God Himself, who conquered the power of sin and death, makes you alive with Him, so that you (now living) may believe in Him who has risen from the dead.  Through faith in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, we are saved from the power of sin and death and raised with Him to eternal life.

HE IS RISEN! …  Amen.

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