Luke 24, The shadows and darkness of Good Friday gave way through the brightness of Easter morning. The grave could not hold him. Death has been swallowed up in victory. He is risen indeed. If you join me in prayer for the reading of God’s Word. Father of all mercies, in your Word endless glory shine forth. And we ask that you would reveal to us this day by the marvelous working of your Spirit, your words of life, that you would transform us through them, that we may reflect the brilliant glory of Christ Jesus, our Savior. For it is in his name that we now pray, Amen. Beginning in verse 1, But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared, and they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. But when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And 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?
He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the son of man must be delivered to the hands of sinful men, be crucified on the third day rise. And they remembered his words. And returning from the tomb, they told all the things to the eleven and to all the rest. That was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the Apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb stooping and looking in. He saw the linen cloths by themselves. He went home marveling at what had happened. The Word of the Lord. Please be seated. One of the greatest moments in baseball history came from one of its greatest players. Babe Ruth coming to bat in the 1932 World Series, Yankees versus the Cubs. He was down two strikes and being heckled mercilessly by the Chicago fans. Babe Ruth stopped and he pointed towards the flag pole and started to center field. He called the shot. The next pitch, it’s a home run over center field wall near the pole.
Well known event if you’re into baseball. But long before Babe Ruth, Jesus called the shot. He pointed exactly to where he was going. He told his followers beforehand, After I am raised up. He knew precisely what was going to happen. Jesus called the shot, and this was no act of bravado. The son came into the world for this very purpose. His mission, it’s centered on it. All that he did, all that he said, he laid it all on the table, knowing that the father would vindicate him, knowing that he would have complete victory in a seeming defeat. The father did not leave his son hanging on the cross nor lying in the tomb. And we need this good news. If there were no Easter morning, we would have no hope. The resurrection of Jesus explains everything the father was doing to redeem his people. What might seem like a random collage of biblical stories is suddenly woven together from Genesis to revelation in a single story. The story of our salvation by a God who would not give up on his people. Because Jesus was raised by the power of the Father, we have been enabled to walk in Christ’s victory.
Repeatedly, Jesus told his disciples that after he was raised from the dead, they would be able to connect the scriptural dots. In his death, they would have life. How could that be? Because he would have the victory over death. He would be a sin offering. And through this, they would be made righteous. They would be vindicated. And speaking of this vindication, the Apostle Paul, in a very short summary of the gospel, the good news of Jesus, he tells us in 1 Timothy 3 16, Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of Godliness. Jesus was manifest in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. He was vindicated, or you could say justified, by the Spirit in being raised from the dead. What demonstrated the truth of all that He spoke was being raised on the third day by the power of the Father. Paul tells us in Roman 5, that God shows His love for us, that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. S ince therefore, we have now been justified, vindicated by his blood. If while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.
Much more now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. God’s verdict over Jesus himself demonstrates everything in the resurrection. By raising Jesus from the dead, God is declaring Jesus to be in the right. That Jesus is accepted and the Father vindicates Christ’s fulfillment, not only of the Incarnation, but of Jesus, wiping out the curse, paying the penalty for sin. This not guilty verdict, this public declaration of Jesus is good and right standing before the Father. That is what we call righteousness, right standing, vindication. And it is given to all those who believe. Paul goes on in Romans 4, he says, Righteousness will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead, Jesus our Lord, who is delivered up for our sins, raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified, vindicated by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. All of this was unimaginable before the resurrection. Nothing was pointing this way. The Gospel of Luke tells us that the women who saw Jesus, where he had been laid, and they went and prepared spices for his burial, and they came Sunday morning and they went to the tomb.
One writer, he says, The body is wrapped in winding sheets, left in the tomb behind a sealed stone. The cloud of hopelessness that now settles on the women is not a weakness of faith on their part. It is a burden deliberately placed on their shoulders. Because nobody saw this coming. That’s why the disciples didn’t believe him. When they came back saying Jesus was risen. They didn’t believe him because dead people don’t live again. And the women, they went to the tomb. The stone is rolled away, the tomb is empty, and these two angelic beings are standing there and they’re saying, Why do you seek the living among the dead? He’s not here. He’s risen. Remember everything that he told you while he was in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered in the hands of sinful men, be crucified. And on the third day rise. The angels tell them Jesus already called the shots. It’s just like He told you. The vindication of Jesus is now open for all those who believe. That’s good news. And this is the victory of Christ reverberating now through human history. This victory we see everywhere present.
And then speaking of this in Matthew, he’s quoting from Isaiah 42, he’s speaking of Jesus and he says Jesus is a bruised reed. He will not break a smoldering wick, he will not quench until he brings justice to victory. Jesus is bringing justice to victory. And Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15, death is followed up in victory. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle John in 1 John 5, for everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith. Jesus has conquered sin and death. Our sins are forgiven for believers. The Holy Spirit now dwells in us. He applies Christ’s victory to our lives and you and I are enabled to do what we could not do before. And so much of this is counter intuitive to the ordinary way of the world, is it not? Think about it. When you first try to teach a child to catch a ball in a sport, whether it be a baseball or football, one of the first things you have to do is to teach them not to get out of the way.
You throw something at them and they’re trying to catch a ball over here. Your instinct, when you see a fast moving ball come at you is duck. Jesus had to train the disciples what was counter intuitive to their sinful nature. When they were arguing over who would be the greatest, Jesus told them, you know that those who are regarded rulers of the gentiles, they Lorded over others as do their officials. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. Whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all. Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. That’s counter intuitive for us. Trying to get selfish people to live in humility for the benefits of someone else, it’s not easy. That’s why we call it a supernatural act of God’s Grace to change our hearts. That’s why we need Jesus to go ahead of us, paving the way, not only by his example, but by his Spirit in dwelling in us, empowering this change. Never had to teach any of my children the word mind.
But you know how hard it is as a parent to teach them when there’s just one plate left on the cookie to go, here you have the last one. That’s not what’s intuitive to our sinful nature. How different is the way of Christ’s humility? Philippians 2 said, Jesus, though he was in the very form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing. Taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Now through the resurrection, we see the rest. Paul goes on, Therefore, God has highly exalteded him, bestowed on him the name that is above every name. That is the name of Jesus. Every knee should bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. The way of humility was also the way of shame and death. But the Lord, he turned all of that around. Some of you go, Well, so what? What does this have to do with me? I’ve mentioned to you before Simon Westenthal. Simon Westenthal was a famous Nazi hunter after World War II, and he direly pursued any who had escaped through various ways and brought them to stand trial as war criminals.
Now, he himself had been a prisoner in 12 different concentration camps, and against all odds, he survived. One of those amazing times, he was actually standing in a line with 44 people who were being all systematically machine gunned down into a trench. And he was in to number 3, 3 from the end, and they call his name on the loudspeaker and they stopped because he was needed to go do something in the camp. Forty one others dead and they let him go. And then he said a life changing event occurred to him in 1943 while being forced to work in the Lindbergh concentration camp. He was assigned to do some cleanup in the makeshift hospital and a nurse just randomly selected him to go into a patient’s room. He had been Summoned to the bedside of a dying Nazi SS soldier, Karl Seidl. This 21 year old Nazi was near death, half his face was blown off. The soldier told Vesensal that he was seeking a Jews forgiveness for a crime that had haunted him. While in a small town in Ukraine, his unit rounded up 150 Jews, stuffed them all into a house. They set the house on fire and Karl and the rest were ordered to shoot any who tried to escape.
He gunned them down, women and children. Now on his deathbed, trying desperately to hold on to Simon’s hand, he was repenting of his sin to a Jew seeking forgiveness. He said, I cannot die without coming clean. This must be my confession. Simon later wrote, he said, In his confession, there is true repentance. But he acknowledged, he writes, two men who had never known each other had been brought together for a few hours by fate. One asked the other for help, but the other himself was helpless and able to do nothing for him. Simon stood up, looked at the man, and then just quietly left the room. Later, he says, My thoughts were still with the dying SS man. And the encounter with him left a heavy burden on me. His confession had profoundly disturbed me. Now, this is coming from a man who lived through the absolute worst of the Holocaust. He wrote a book, detailing this in a book called The Sunflower. And at the end, he asked the readers, he says, if you were in my place, what would you have done? And the rest of the book is given to 52 different responses from rabbits, priests, politicians, lawyers, and other Holocaust survivors.
Why am I telling you this? It’s certainly not to judge the actions of Simon and Westenthal, but to point out the power of being vindicated by God in Christ. As sharp as the contrast between Nazi murder and Jewish victim, it pales in comparison between a holy God and sinful humanity. We can give someone when we think about that, how can you have the power to forgive that? The answer to the how is the only true innocent victim who called out, Father, forgive them. What could enable a victim of such an egregious and helpful crime the ability to be set free in the act of forgiving? It’s the power of the resurrected Lord who stands vindicated before the world in his ultimate act of forgiving those who murdered him. Well, what about the perpetrator? This SS soldier who said, I cannot die without being clean. What can make him clean? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can vindicate him before the war crime tribunal of the living God? Only the righteousness of Christ credited to him. But that’s scandalous. Oh, it is a scandal, a beautiful and glorious scandal. If it’s not a scandal to you, then it’s because you do not understand God’s grace or the depths of your own sin.
All humanity will one day stand before the Lord’s Tribunal to give an account. Your own righteousness is enough to damn you, let alone to stand before the living God with every wicked thought, every lustful look, every failed attempt to even live up to your own minimum ethical code, let alone God’s. That’s the good news of Jesus. And not only that, you and I are also freed from the endless pursuit of trying to justify ourselves, of making sure everyone knows our side of the story. How prone we are as humans when something happens to be able to say, No, you don’t understand. There’s more to the story. You got to see it in a different light that makes me look better. We’re constantly trying to justify ourselves so that we look better and the other person looks worse. Our hope is in having Jesus’ verdict written over ours, not guilty, made right with God because of Him, because of Jesus. Brothers and sisters, it is scandalous. That’s why Jesus called the shot. Before any of it ever happened, He said exactly what was going to take place. So that when it did, all of this would become so clear.
That is the glory of our risen Savior. That is the hope that He puts before us. He is risen. He is risen indeed. Pray with me. Lord God, who by your one and only son, you have overcome death and you have opened to us the gate of everlasting life. Grant, we pray, that those who have been redeemed by his passion may rejoice in his resurrection. We pray this through this same Christ, our Lord, whom you have risen from the dead on the third day, whom you have made as a atoning sacrifice for our sins, who you, Father, have given for our justification. We bless you for the righteousness of Christ counted to us. The Father, we pray that you would continue to set us free to live a life filled with the glory of Christ. We pray and ask these things all through his mighty name. Amen.
Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription