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Ask the Right Questions

John 20:1-18

Pastor David Ernst

Resurrection of Our Lord-Easter Day
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

right-click to download MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Apr 12, 2009
Resurrection of Our Lord-Easter Day

This is the most dramatic and exciting story in the Bible. It is the foundation of our faith and our hope. After the events of the Last Supper, after Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the disciples of Jesus received the final revelation: the risen Christ, Champion over the world, the devil and death, our Lord who paid the price for our sins and achieved for us eternal life.

Mary Magdalene, Peter, John and the other disciples had the evidence of the Resurrection in front of their eyes. However, interpretation of evidence depends on asking the right questions. We do not have the capacity to askt these questions without the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Today the evidence of Christ's resurrection is very strong. Many scholars, university professors, think something extraordinary happened in Palestine 2,000 years ago. Why? Obviously the tomb of Jesus was open and empty on the third day and Christ's enemies did not have a credible explanation.

Where did Jesus' body go? Certainly, He was dead, because the Roman soldiers had made sure of that. And the tomb was sealed and guarded by more soldiers. How could the disciples have robbed the tomb as the leaders of the Jews and Romans claimed?

Furthermore, Jesus Christ had appeared alive before many witness. Later, many of these witnesses suffered and died, but did not retract their testimony.

The story of Jesus Christ and His resurrection is no fable. It did not occur in any imaginary world like that of Harry Potter. It is not a myth or a legend from some age before the beginning of written history There are dates, names, real places on the map.

Today you can travel by airplane across the Atlantic Ocean and visit the land of Palestine. The city of Jerusalem is there, as well as the towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth. The Sea of Galilee is there, too, and the Jordan River.

There are inscriptions in Latin that mention Pontius Pilate. He was not mentioned only in the Bible. St. Luke wrote that Jesus was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus as Emperor of Rome and when Quirinius was governor of Syria. These were real men according to historical evidence.

Yet many of these scholars who believe the tomb was empty are not believers in Jesus Christ. For them, the empty tome is a mystery and nothing more. For them, the question still is, where did the body of Jesus go?

Where is Jesus' body is a question for unbelievers. They do not want to believe the answer: Christ has risen and lives forever!

But at first, on the that first Easter Sunday, the disciples had that same question. John says Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb first and was frightened because it was empty. She returned and said to the other disciples: "They have taken the Lord's body and we do not kow where they have placed it" (the other evangelists mention that Mary had companions during this episode). Later Simon Peter and John were at the tomb and saw the burial clothes of Jesus in the abandoned tomb. But, John wrtoe, they still did not understand the Scriptures, that it was necessary for Him to be raised from the dead.

Look, Jesus Christ declared this three times on different occasions to His disciples. First, after the confession of Peter (Matthew 16:21, Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22), after the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:22, Mark 9:31, Luke 9:44-45) and one more time, according to Mark 20:18-19, Mark 10:33 and Luke 18:31-33.

Still, when the hour came, they forgot completely. They were not focused on the Word of God, that illuminates our minds and hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit. They asked the wrong question: Where is Jesus' body?

And when the others had gone to the city and Mary Magdalene was alone in the cemetery, she encountered Jesus Himself and still did not understand. She thought the Lord was a gardener and asked again, Where is Jesus' body?

Here is another mistaken question. Those who are focused on the Word of God recognize the Lord and do not have to ask, Who are you? There are people today who affirm the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but do not understand its significance, because they are not focused on the Word of God and do not know the true Savior.

For example, early in this Holy Week, there were people on the streets of this community, knocking on the doors of every house. They were Jehovah's Witnesses, who deny Jesus Christ as our Savior, who reject Jesus and talk only of the Father as Jehovah.

In fact, the Bible says Jesus Christ is equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit in His divinity. Yet He is true man, as the Nicene Creed says. This creed was written to refute the Arians, a group much like the Jehovah's Witnesses in their teaching about the person of Christ. It was necessar for Jesus to be true God in order to fulfill the will of God for us and to be true man to be tempted like us in every way.

This, it is our custom to confess our faith in the words of the Nicene Cree before receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord in the sacrament of Holy Communion. When we meet the Lord in this sacrament, we do not need to ask, Where is Jesus' body?, because there it is. Or, Who is Jesus?, because we have received the Holy Spirit in baptism and the Holy Spirit of God shows us and leads us to the Son (Acts 4:12). There is no other name by which we may be saved.

It is best to ask, Lord, how may I serve You? Or, Lord, how may I give witness to Your presence in my life? Lord, how may I love my neighbor more? These are the right questions.

This season of Easter, we pray that we may respond to our Lord in this manner. Amen.

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