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“The Risen King” (Lk 24:1-12)

Easter eggs, simnel cake, fluffy bunnies, spring flowers, hot cross buns and bonnets. A fair few things are associated with Easter! Now, I’m particularly partial to a chocolate egg and a hot cross bun, but sometimes its helpful to go back to basics. To remind ourselves of the bare facts, the essential ingredients, of Easter Day. To remind ourselves of the real reason for the season.

Facts retold for us in our reading just now. In those twelve verses Luke tells us that:

  • Early one Sunday morning, a group of women from Galilee walked sadly to Jesus’ tomb on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Their master had died on a cross and they were intending to anoint his corpse.
  • But when they got there they found the stone in front of tomb was rolled away, and all that remained inside were some strips of linen.
  • While wondering what had happened, two men appeared, wearing clothes that shone like lighting. These men (angels, we assume) told them that Jesus had risen from the dead.
  • Understandably, the women rushed back to tell the other disciples what they had seen and heard.

But Luke tells us that – at first – these other disciples were sceptical. Initially, they could not believe Jesus had come alive again, and perhaps who can blame them?

But with the benefit of hindsight we can be confident that the resurrection is historical fact.

The Resurrection is a historical fact!

If you’re a regular at St John’s, you may remember that it was way back in November that we began our current sermon series in Luke’s Gospel. Over the past five months we’ve followed Luke’s account of the life of Christ. A life that came to its climax over the first Easter weekend.

Some of you may even remember Luke’s words at the very start of his Gospel. Luke told us in verse 1 chapter 1 there that his biography of Jesus is carefully researched. It is based on eyewitness evidence. It is an orderly, reliable account of what happened and when.

So when we read about the resurrection in Luke chapter 24 this morning, we can be confident we’re reading historical fact, not fiction.

The New Testament gives us important details, vital information about the first Easter Sunday. Facts that should reassure us that Jesus’s resurrection wasn’t a hallucination, a hoax or an honest mistake:

  • For example, the women hadn’t gone to the wrong tomb by mistake – they hadn’t taken a wrong turn in the early hours of the morning! Luke tells us in verse 55 of chapter 23 that two days earlier they had seen where Jesus was buried – the women were personally present when his body was laid in the tomb. They knew what they were looking for!
  • The women and the other disciples would have not concocted a hoax, either. They had no motive to spend the rest of their lives pretending that Jesus was alive. Indeed, most were persecuted and even killed because of their proclamation of the resurrection. No one would die for what they knew to be a lie.
  • Nor were the first disciples hallucinating. As we heard in our first reading today, the risen Jesus appeared to a whole range of people, even 500 on one occasion. A mass hallucination on this scale would be unprecedented, and is simply impossible to believe. Indeed, even dedicated opponents of the early Church – men like Saul of Tarsus – became committed Christians having come face to face with the risen Lord.

So the resurrection is a historical fact. But it was also a supernatural sign that said ‘mission accomplished’!

The Resurrection is a mission accomplished!

One of my favourite TV programmes in my childhood was the A-Team. It had everything a young boy loves – action, adventure, and fast cars! You may remember that at the end of each episode a memorable catchphrase was spoken by Hannibal, the team leader (usually with a cigar in the corner of his mouth). In his casual American accent, Hannibal always said: “I love it when a plan comes together!”

Well, Easter day was when the ultimate plan came together. Before Jesus died on the Cross, he had said it was all part of a divine plan – a plan conceived in eternity and executed in one Holy Week on earth. Good Friday was something Christ had seen coming well in advance.

It’s a plan the angels reminded the women of on the first Easter morning. Listen again to their words in verses 5 to 7: “Remember how Jesus told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”

Notice the word “must” in that sentence. Jesus not only foresaw his death and resurrection, he knew it was foreordained. It was something that had to happen for God’s plans for human salvation to come to fruition. An event Jesus knew he had to embrace – an event essential to his mission on earth.

He described it as the hour for which he had come. The hour when he would pay the price for human rebellion against God, the hour when the world’s guilt would weigh on his shoulders, the hour when he would make God’s forgiveness and everlasting friendship available to all who put their faith in him.

And the resurrection proves that this great plan worked. It proved that Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t a wasted life, a tragic end, an empty gesture or a noble failure.

On the contrary, the resurrection is God’s huge stamp of approval on the finished work of Christ at the Cross. It is the ultimate vindication of Jesus’ vocation. The resurrection was a great statement to show that humanity’s debt before God had been paid in full. It showed that death has been defeated. It was a momentous miracle that said ‘Mission accomplished!’

But Christ’s resurrection was also a coronation.

The Resurrection is a coronation!

It was on the 6th February 1952 that Queen Elizabeth 2 acceded to the throne, following the death of her father, George VI. Her accession was immediate, the moment her father died. She obtained the status of Sovereign straight away. But it was over a year later, in June 1953, that Queen Elizabeth was crowned. Her coronation was the spectacular public event that declared her sovereignty to the watching world.

In a similar way, the resurrection of Jesus was his coronation as the King of God’s Kingdom. It was the spectacular public event that declared the Lord Jesus’ rightful authority over the whole of creation, including you and me.

Christ’ status as the Son of God was something he had held for all eternity. Yet it wasn’t until Easter Sunday that his divine status was most clearly revealed to the human race. First to Mary, Joanna, Peter and the other disciples. And subsequently to the whole world through their eye-witness testimony.

For example, six weeks after the resurrection, the apostle Peter would stand up before a Jewish crowd in Jerusalem and declare that “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified , both Lord and King.” Peter could make this bold claim because he had seen the Risen Jesus, he had been a witness to Christ’s coronation.

By bringing Jesus back to life, God had shown the world that Jesus really was his Son. Christ’s claims to greatness weren’t blasphemy or boasting, but the honest truth.

So the resurrection was a coronation, a public declaration that Jesus Christ is the rightful Lord and King of us all.

Jesus is Alive – How will you respond?

Easter Sunday really was the greatest day in history. Jesus is alive. It’s a fact of history, a fact of life that none of us can ignore. It demands a response from us all.

So If you have not yet done so, Easter is an excellent opportunity to put your faith in Jesus. An opportunity to receive that grace of God that only he can give. The forgiveness that only he has won. The resurrection leaves us in no doubt where our ultimate allegiance should lie. It gives us no excuse to Christ on the back burner, to let our faith gather dust, to worship anything but him alone.

And we are already Christian believers, Easter is a time to celebrate sins forgiven and death defeated! A time to rejoice in God’s grace and be reassured that we have hope beyond the grave.

It is also a time to go and tell others about Jesus. It’s a time to proclaim that Christ is King. May we be as eager to share our faith as those three women were on the first Easter morn.