Sunrise Service 2018 – Good News From the Graveyard
Luke 24: 1 - 3
It was a garden cemetery … a collection of tombs dug out of solid rock. There the Jews buried their dead. There they laid their loved ones waiting for a better day. There very late on a Friday afternoon … Just before sundown … They buried the body of Jesus.
Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb. It belonged to a rich man named Joseph from Arimathea.
Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus…Pilate was surprised. He didn’t think Jesus was dead yet. Crucifixion was a hideous way to die…Strong men sometimes hung there for days before they died…But Jesus died after only 6 hours on the cross…So they didn’t break his legs…No need to…He was already dead.
When they took down the body of Jesus from the cross, his body was in bad shape. It bore all the marks of the abuse he had suffered…He was covered with blood…There was a hole in his side…His face was horribly disfigured…The skin hung from his back in tatters.
Joseph and Nicodemus wrapped the body in strips of linen cloth. Then they sprinkled spices throughout the linen strips. The spices made the linen strips stick together and form a tight wrap around the body. That was how the Jews embalmed their dead.
It was near sundown. That created a problem because the OT forbade the Jews to handle a dead body on the Sabbath. No time to find a new grave...So Joseph volunteered his own… it was fresh, newly dug out of the rock…No one had been laid there yet… Joseph meant for his own family to be buried there someday…But for the moment, everything is put aside. Joseph and Nicodemus pick up the lifeless corpse of Jesus - half-carry, half-drag it to the garden tomb. Thank goodness it wasn’t far away. Between the weight of the body … And the linen …And the spices … It must have been over 100kgs.
As the sun slowly sinks on the horizon…Shadows fall across the olive trees…The 2 men – secret disciples – carry the dead body of Jesus to the tomb…Close behind are Mary Magdalene and the other Mary … Weeping.
The entrance to the tomb was small…Nicodemus and Joseph had to bend over to get inside…Inside the tomb … it was dark. They laid the body of Jesus on a ledge and turned to go. When they got outside, they rolled a great stone over the entrance. The women sat by the side watching.
Then Joseph and Nicodemus left … Then the two Marys left … Darkness fell on the garden cemetery. Everyone had left…Inside the tomb … silence.
We know about Good Friday. We know about Easter Sunday. But of that Saturday in between we know almost nothing. Sometime between Friday and Saturday the Romans put a seal on the stone to keep people away.
Luke says of the disciples … “And on the Sabbath they rested.”
The Bible is very clear. “Very early on the first day of the week.” The women came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. They weren’t expecting a resurrection. It was the farthest thing from their minds. But to their shock … and surprise … and utter confusion … The seal was broken…The stone was rolled away…The tomb was open…They looked inside. It was empty…Jesus was gone….The tomb was empty.
An angel stood beside them and said 2 of the most powerful sentences in all the Bible …
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, for he is risen, just as he said.”
Mary ran and found Peter and John. She didn’t even believe it at first. It was too much. Peter and John ran to the tomb. John got there first. But Peter went inside.
Peter found the linen cloth lying there and the head cloth wrapped up by itself…the linens were like an empty shell … as if whoever had been inside had simply passed right through them, like a cocoon after the butterfly has flown away.
Then Mary met Jesus … alive from the dead. Then 2 disciples on the road met Jesus … alive from the dead.
Then the apostles met Jesus … alive from the dead.
Then doubting Thomas met Jesus … alive from the dead.
Then 500 people at one time met Jesus … alive from the dead.
The message went out: He’s Alive!
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
50 days after that first Easter … Peter stood to preach in Jerusalem. He preached to the very people who had crucified Jesus. His blood was on their hands.
He said … Jesus of Nazareth … You nailed to a cross … and put to death. But God raised him from the dead. Death could not hold him.
Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Saviour. He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord. Up from the grave he arose With a mighty triumph o’er his foes. He arose a victor o’er the dark domain. And he lives forever with his saints to reign. He arose, He arose. Hallelujah! Christ arose.
There’s good news from the graveyard this morning. Good news that the tomb is empty. Good news that Jesus rose from the dead. Good news that the Devil couldn’t hold him. Good news that death has lost its sting. Good news that the grave has lost its victory. Good news that we need not fear death any more.
As far as I know my heart this morning, I am not afraid to die. Not because I am especially brave. For I am not. But I know what’s on the other side. I say that without any sense of pride or boasting. For my resurrection does not depend on me. It does not depend on my good deeds. It does not depend on any merit in me at all. It depends solely and wholly on my Lord Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead on Easter Sunday morning. He promised that if I would trust in him, someday I would rise with him. I’ve staked my entire life on that promise. If it’s not true, I have no other hope.
If you’re looking for Jesus this morning, don’t look in the graveyard. He isn’t there. He left the graveyard 2000 years ago and never went back.
The really good news is this … If you are looking for Jesus today, you can meet him right here. May I introduce you to him this morning? His name is Jesus of Nazareth. He is called the Son of God. God so loved you that he sent Jesus to die on the cross for you. He was buried in Joseph’s tomb. He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday morning. He paid for your sins so that if you believe in him you will never perish but have everlasting life.
That’s good news, my friend. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you met Jesus on Easter Sunday?
You can. He’s waiting for you. The living Lord Jesus Christ would like to meet you this morning. Simply say in your heart, “Lord Jesus, I want to meet you right now. Thank you for dying on the cross and rising from the dead. I put my trust in you as my Saviour. Amen.”
Heavenly Father, We thank you for the wonderful message of Easter. That Jesus who died now lives again, nevermore to die. The birds this morning join the chorus. The sunlight shouts the message. All creation proclaims, “Jesus is alive.”
Living Lord, be born anew in our hearts today. Lead us to the empty tomb. Let faith rise to banish our fears. Grant that we might leave this place singing, with Easter joy in our hearts.
Through him, and to him who is the Resurrection and the Life, even Jesus our Lord, Amen.