They Came To The Tomb
THEY CAME TO THE TOMB
Sermon By Terry Siverd / April 16, 2023 / Cortland Church of Christ - - www.cortlandcoc.org
True of false? President Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin?
Technically speaking, if you answer “yes” to this question you are wrong.
This illustrates what is called an “anachronism” - - a case of reading something “out of time”.
It is true that Abe Lincoln was born in a log cabin, but he was not president Lincoln when he was born.
In a similar vein it is anachronistic to speak of the first-generation Christians as ones who celebrated Easter.
Again, from a technical point of view, the word Easter does not appear until much later in the post-apostolic age.
In fact as far as the sacred writings are concerned, the word Easter is nowhere to be found.
The KJV rendering in Acts 12:4 is a very poor and faulty translation of the Greek word pascha (passover).
This morning I want us to travel back in time as we re-visit THAT FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE LORD'S CRUCIFIXION.
Indisputably, the resurrection of Jesus is a central part of the gospel message. The apostle Paul writes (1Cor.15:3-4) - -
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to
the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
When we speak of celebrating Easter many things come to mind.
It's a holiday that has become weighed down with many things non-biblical.
It's a huge cash cow for Hallmark cards and for multitudes of chocolatiers.
As a child growing up in the deep south, Easter was always accompanied by Easter Egg hunts.
For our family Easter always included a family photo taken in front of the lush azaleas that adorned the roundabout “park” at the intersection of Palafox and Cervantes (two main arteries among the many streets in downtown Pensacola).
It was a dress up occasion - - my sisters in their pretty dresses and me in a new shirt with matching shorts.
Back to the Scriptures - - that first Sunday following our Lord's crucifixion and burial was characterized
by a wide-range of emotions, but to call it a celebration would have been far-fetched to say the least.
When we actually take time to read the four gospels we can surmise that the word celebration is not in the text.
Mt.28:1 states, Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (mother of James) came to look at the grave.
Mk.16:1ff, notes that Salome was also with the two Marys and Lk.24:10 also includes Joanna.
They had brought spices to anoint (and embalm) the body of Jesus. It was very early at sunrise.
Lk.24:1 states that is was early dawn and Jn.20:1 says that it happened while it was still dark.
Their main concern seemed to be, who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the to tomb? cf. Mk.16:3
That first Sunday long ago was a SAD and SOMBER morning.
Although a loving thing to do, anointing a deceased body with spices was not exactly a celebratory undertaking.
Jn.20:22 notes that Mary was standing outside the tomb WEEPING.
Mt.28:2 reminds us that a severe earthquake had occurred.
The atmosphere was one filled with CONSTERNATION.
In a sermon I preached many years ago we rehearsed “the sounds of the passion”.
Witnessing their Lord's crucifixion would have been absolutely exhausting for His disciples.
In this stunned state of mind they now attempt to navigate big stones in the aftermath of an earthquake?
Nevertheless the women approached Jesus' tomb, they saw that the stone had been rolled away (MK.16:4).
Upon entering the tomb the women were greeted by a young man wearing a white robe (vs.5).
Mt.28:2/an angel; Lk.24:4/two men standing in dazzling apparel; and Jn.20:12/two angels in white.
The text declares, they were AMAZED. The women are directed to go and tell His disciples and Peter,
He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He said to you (vs.7).
The women went out and FLED from the tomb, for TREMBLING and ASTONISHMENT had gripped them;
and they said nothing to anyone (at least initially so), for they were AFRAID (vs.8).
Jn.20:11f records that a WEEPING Mary Magdalene also spoke to Jesus (thinking Him to be the gardener).
After hearing His voice she realized that it was Him (i.e., Jesus) and called Him, Rabboni (Teacher).
Mt.28:8 clarifies, they departed quickly from the tomb with FEAR and GREAT JOY and ran to report it to His disciples.
Vs.9 adds: Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and WORSHIPED Him.
Lk.24:11 records that when these women conveyed the news about the empty tomb to the apostles,
these words appeared to them as NONSENSE, and they would NOT BELIEVE them.
Peter ran to the tomb (vs.12) with John (Jn.20:2). John outran Peter but hesitated to enter the tomb.
When Peter arrived he entered the tomb and saw the empty linen wrappings and face cloth (Jn.20:6-7).
Lk.24:12 specifies that Peter went home MARVELING.
Jn.20:8 notes that John SAW AND BELIEVED. But then vs.9 adds,
for as yet THEY DID NOT UNDERSTAND the Scriptures, that He must rise again from the dead.
Mt.28:16 states: the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.
And when they saw Him, they WORSHIPED Him, but some were DOUBTFUL.
Mk.16:12-13 records: He appeared to two (others) of them while they were walking along on their way
to the country. And they went and reported it to others, but THEY DID NOT BELIEVE them either.
Mk.16:14 says, Afterward (Jesus) appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at
the the table; and He reproached them for their UNBELIEF and HARDNESS OF HEART,
because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.
Added to these initial post-resurrection encounters is Luke's more detailed account of Jesus appearing to
two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk.24:13f) and John's account of the story of doubting Thomas (Jn.20:24f).
That first Sunday was anything but an Easter Celebration.
It was somber and sad and filled with consternation. It evoked amazement but also led to fleeing and trembling.
Utter astonishment gave way to fear and weeping. Their were a few bright spots where joy and worship
made a brief appearance, but for the most part that first Sunday was described by claims that seemed nonsensical
which provoked disbelief and doubt, a hardness of heart and a failure to comprehend what had actually transpired.
The passage of time and in particular, additional revelation in Scripture, has enhanced our view of that first Sunday.
That which first produced fear & trembling and worry & weeping is now to us a source of inspiration and celebration.
“He is risen!” quickly became a common greeting among the early saints.
As to the centrality of the resurrection, let us read from the first sermon preached after the Lord's crucifixion.
Acts 2:22-24 & 29-36.