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"Looking in All the Wrong Places"

SonRise Service Mar.27/16 7:30 a.m.Luke 24:1-12

Just 3 words this morning to summarize the thrust of Luke's account that very first Easter morning: MYSTERY - MUST-ERY - MESSENGERS. Say that with me, will you? MYSTERY - MUST-ERY - MESSENGERS.


First, MYSTERY. The 5 or more women that took spices to the tomb very early that Sunday morning did not find what they were looking for because they were looking in the wrong place. As they arrived, they noticed some very odd things. When they got there, v2 says, "They found the stone rolled away from the tomb." That was extremely odd, considering Pilate the Roman governor had ordered it officially sealed to guard against tampering. These were huge stones used to seal grave entrances so robbers and mischief-makers would be deterred. Who had moved the stone?

Next, Luke says, v3 "When they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus." Also very odd! Had people no respect for the burial-place of the beloved Teacher? Hadn't He been through ENOUGH all the past few days, false accusations, a kangaroo-court trial, brutal Roman flogging, and finally unbearably painful crucifixion? Couldn't others just let Him rest in peace?

So, Luke notes, "they were wondering about this..." A bit later, after the women had left and Peter ran to the tomb, he saw something else very odd. V12 "Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves..." That's strange too - grave robbers would have taken the valuable linen and expensive anointing spices, they wouldn't have bothered to unwrap the body and leave the linens. This did not add up. And there was something strange about the way the linens were lying there, undisturbed, as if the body they'd contained had somehow just vapourized right through them... Very mysterious! Luke notes that Peter "went away, wondering to himself what had happened."

Three odd, inexplicable factors. Things that don't add up, leave us wondering. As you come to this brisk Easter morning, what are the MYSTERIES you're facing in your life? What are you having trouble making sense of? Some nagging ailment or painful physical condition? A broken relationship or sudden death in your extended circles? The challenge of never quite being able to get on top of your finances? Take a moment and acknowledge the MYSTERIES you're trying to cope with that you can't quite see your way through in the half-dark morning mist.


Our next keyword is MUST-ERY. Listen closely for it as we hear the "two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning" try to help the puzzled women. V5 "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" As if to say, "You're looking in the wrong place!" I wonder if the supernatural strangers were kind of chuckling inside, enjoying how ironic this was - these mortals had come here of all places. A cryptic cosmic comedy.

More helpfully they continue, vv6-7, "Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" Did you hear it in there? "The Son of Man MUST be delivered - crucified - raised." Luke notes v8 "Then they remembered His words" - yes Jesus HAD talked like that; why the "MUST"? They racked their brains to try to fit the cataclysmic events of the past 3 days into God's larger plan.

Here is the key to the whole thing. "MUST" points to the events of Easter being the fulfilment, the necessary consequence, of so many Old Testament Scripture promises of how the Messiah would deliver His people. There are the specific prophecies about how Jesus would be killed, garments divided, gambled for, His body pierced, and so forth. But in the broader scheme, there's the whole sacrificial system: the altar at the Tabernacle then the Temple was pointing to something very different than mere sacrifices of bulls and goats, for the blood of animals cannot atone for human sin (Hebrews 10:4). The cross becomes the fulfilment, the most complete expression, of the Jewish system of worship, announcing the mechanism of God's forgiveness for human sinning.

And there were Jesus' own specific predictions, on at least 3 different occasions, of how He would be delivered over to Gentiles at Jerusalem, be killed, and rise again. The Master had said it, so of course it MUST have come true - just as the rooster had crowed right after Peter denied Him, just as Jesus predicted.


MYSTERY - MUST-ERY - our last word is MESSENGERS. God's wonderful yet mysterious doings beg for interpreters, communicators who can explain the big picture of what's really going on to the uninitiated. Hence in v4 the "two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning" who abruptly stood beside the women. Hence in v9 the women, "When they came back from the tomb...told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others." Luke lists the women's names - Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, "and the others with them who told this to the apostles" - so it sounds like there were at least 5 women.

You, too, have been entrusted with a MESSAGE. Is a light going on for you the way it did for the women? Can you start to see your own predicaments, your own unsolved mysteries, as possibly starting to fit into God's great plan for your life, even if it wasn't quite what you'd expected? That angels are suddenly right there beside you as you stand there wondering? That God's priorities for your life aren't the same as the things the world idolizes - money and career and toys and fame - but Kingdom priorities fall more in line with factors the prophets were keen on, like justice and compassion and righteousness and how we treat our neighbour? That if there's pain in your life, Jesus understands completely what that's about because He endured suffering beyond what we can imagine? That He still has power today to roll away huge stones that seem to be blocking your journey of faith?

Yes, you may not need those carefully-prepared spice jars after all! He's commissioning you to be His MESSENGERS now - to take the Good News to others you know who are equally bamboozled by life's unexpected turns. Your job is to share the MESSAGE: not necessarily convince them - that's Holy Spirit work, after all - but to simply share how Jesus' grace has impacted your life. What Bible promises are becoming more precious to you as the years go by? What is the Lord whispering to your soul as you spend time with Him in prayer, reflecting on His overall purposes and principles in Scripture? What's He teaching you personally about repentance, and where you need to change and trust Him more, how He's supplying peace to you even in the midst of the unsettlement of circumstances?

It's OK if you share the MESSAGE and others don't seem to understand, or "get it" at first. Luke in honest if uncomplimentary fashion records in v11, "But they [the apostles] did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense." No problem - not your problem! Your job is to be a MESSENGER. God is quite capable of convincing people of the truth of His word. 1Cor 1:25 "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength."


When Jeff was twelve, he and his best friend broke a window while playing baseball. They looked around to see if anyone had seen them. No one was in sight, except for Jeff's little brother. They went over and offered him a piece of candy not to tell. He refused it. "I'll give you my baseball," Jeff said. "No." "Then what about my baseball and my new glove?" the friend added. "No!" "Well, what do you want?" they pleaded. "I wanna tell!"

You are a MESSENGER - you know the "inside story", you have insight into the MYSTERY, you have Bible truth explaining the MUST-ery of why Easter happened - so Jesus could save sinners. Because of the empty tomb, when we're standing there shaking our heads and wondering why something unforeseen has happened, we have the assurance of Romans 8:28: "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." As MESSENGERS, we can have the same enthusiasm to tell the world the Good News that this boy had to tell his parents the bad news. Let's pray.