The Resurrection of our Lord April 8-9, 2023
“How Does The Story End?” Luke 23:50 – 24:1
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Some stories become nightmares. Some stories don’t seem to get better. As many of you know my dad died six months ago. He was 96 and lived a remarkable life. When he died my younger sister was sitting on his bed and my mom was holding his hand. They had prayed that God would take him to heaven soon. On that Tuesday afternoon, September 20, my dad, Russ Larson, died.
But the story got harder and more painful after his death. My mom has Alzheimer’s. Her type of Alzheimer’s is that kind that allows her to live a content life now and she can remember things from many years ago, but she can’t remember what happened just a few minutes before that.
Though she was holding his hand when he died, and she shed tears when that moment arrived, just a few minutes later she asked my sister Beth, “Why don’t you wake your dad?” When Beth said, “Mom, he has died”, my mom was is shock. She couldn’t believe it. She wondered why no one had told her. After going through this scenario multiple times in those initial days, the family realized that putting her through that conversation repeatedly was too hard for the bringer of the news (one of us kids) and much too hard on the receiver of the news (our mom).
When I think to the opening hours of that first Easter, I think that everyone involved in the life of Jesus Christ did not look forward to how the story ended on Good Friday and what that Sunday morning was going to bring them. Jesus Christ had been crucified. There were quite a few people who loved Jesus and were present in His final hours. They heard the last words and watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had taken the body down, wrapped it in a linen and placed it in a tomb. They were sad by how this story ended. Our reading from Luke’s biography of Jesus says, “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” (Luke 23:55-24:1)
This is where the story was going to end. Some kind, gracious women were going to anoint the corpse of a dead man with spices and ointments. They were going to return love to the one who had loved them so perfectly.
But you know that that was not how the story was going to end. And if you have never heard about how this story ends for Jesus on that day, I want to be the first to tell you – Jesus Christ came back to life. The body that had been dead since about 3:00 on Friday afternoon physically rose from the dead. Luke tells us that two angels met the women as they came to the tomb and then we hear the account, “In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen.’” (Luke 24:5-6) In Matthew’s words we read, “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.’” (Matthew 28:5-6)
That is it, right? How can you get any better than that? He dies, He rises. That is how the story ends, right? No. That is not how the story ends. The account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not end on that first Easter. You have a story too, right? For some it is just starting, for some of you it is coming to a conclusion. How does your story read? I hope it has some amazing things in it. I hope it is filled with great joy. Maybe you have stories of success, blessings – a life of no regrets.
But maybe your story has some bruises and wounds and regrets and worries. Maybe you have some sins that worry you. Maybe life hasn’t turned out like you thought it would turn out. Maybe you took to heart the confession of sins that we made today and acknowledged honestly that you need God to allow you a fresh start.
That is the great thing about Easter – His story becomes part of your story. In fact, for believers in Jesus His story changes our story. It was Mary Magdalene who was the first person who saw the resurrected Lord Jesus. In Mark’s gospel we read, “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.” (Mark 16:9) What? Controlled by the devil? Filled with evil? But her story didn’t end that way. She is controlled by the resurrected Lord. She is restored to become a daughter of Christ Jesus.
His story becomes our story. Right now. Today. Peter begins his letter with this word, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Peter 1:3)
His story changes our story. A well-known Methodist preacher, Fred Craddock, mentions that initially he thought that wherever Christ would be there could be no misery. But as he grew in this faith, he saw it differently. He said, he came to realize that wherever misery is, Christ will be there. There is not an absence of trouble or difficulty because Christ is in our life. But whenever the story is hard, Christ, the living one, will always be there. The resurrected Jesus Christ brings hope into every moment, every hard time, every life that has gone the wrong way.
His story wasn’t over at the resurrection. It continues today. The Holy Spirit coming from Jesus Christ, the living one, comes to dwell in you. He leads you into all truth. He guides you to the truth that you have a new life through Jesus. He leads you into ways that glorify God every day of your life. As the Scripture says about our story, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come.” (II Corinthians 5:17)
One more thing. How does the story end? It doesn’t. It didn’t end for Jesus. Dead. Then made alive. He ascended into heaven and rules over all things. Paul would say of this, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (I Corinthians 15:3-4) This story, amazingly, for all of us who trust in Jesus for our salvation, doesn’t end either. What a glorious continuation awaits us!! We have a forever story. And so does my dad and so will my mom. Maybe you have a mom or a dad, a spouse or a friend, a child or a grandchild, someone who Jesus claimed and who claimed Jesus, who has died – the story got better for them when they entered God’s paradise. And when they get a new body to join their eternal soul – the fullness of life will be theirs…and ours.
This is how the story, our story continues in the words of Isaiah, “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6-9)
We have a forever story – written by God himself. It is a good story. It is a story of God’s love and kindness shown to us now and forever.
How does the story end? Better than anything we could have ever imagined. Amen!!