He Is Not Here!

Text:  Matthew 28:1-10

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The religious leaders of Jerusalem had been challenged by Jesus over and over and over during the time of His ministry in Israel.  Their position of authority had been threatened and their power had been undermined by Jesus’ bold proclamation of the Kingdom of God.  As a result they began to plot how to destroy Jesus.  Their scheming and plotting started very early on in the ministry of Jesus.

As we know from the scriptures there were various times where Jesus was almost destroyed, but it simply did not happen because the time was not right.  It was not the hour for Jesus to suffer and die.  However, as we heard in last week’s sermon, this Holy Week was the time when Jesus would willingly go to the cross to suffer and die.  Yes, we believe, teach, and confess that it was Jesus’ mission to go to the cross; it was a decision that He made on His own accord.  Thus, Jesus gave Himself up to those who had conspired to destroy Him.  As a result Jesus was arrested, put on trial, at night, not for what He had done, but for who He was. 

Did you realize that countless Jewish Laws were broken to condemn Jesus.  False testimonies were fabricated, the Jewish trial to convict Him was held at night without a proper announcement.  They accused Jesus of stirring up commotion in the crowds, prohibiting poll taxes, and blasphemy.  Thus, they condemned Him and brought Him to Pontius Pilate at 6:00 AM where Jesus underwent a flogging that would have killed most people.  He was bloodied to an unrecognizable status and mocked as if He wasn’t even human.  The Roman Governor, Pilate, then broke the Roman law by allowing Jesus to be crucified.  Keep in mind that it was illegal to have a man flogged, that is severely whipped, and crucified on the same day for the Romans believed that that was too unethical.  Yes, the Jewish leadership bent and twisted its jurisdiction with fabricated lies.  Yes, the Roman Empire broke its own laws by having Christ crucified.  The full weight of the Jewish System and the Roman System stood against Christ.

Not only was the Jewish System and the Roman System against Christ, the disciples had abandoned Jesus as well leaving only the Apostle John and a couple of women at His side. 

As you already know, on the cross Jesus bled.  As His energy drained from His body it became more and more difficult for Him to breathe as His body sunk low causing His arms to pull upwards.

Christ also drug the sins of mankind upon Himself while on the cross.  He was forsaken, that is abandoned, by the Father as the Father judged this sin upon Christ. 

When everything was complete, He said, “It is finished” and He gave up His spirit.

After His death, things were not yet complete.  The Roman Soldier to ensure death pierced Jesus’ side with a spear.  Jesus was then placed in a tomb, and it was sealed with a large stone.  Roman soldiers also were placed on the outside of the tomb to ensure that the large stone would remain, that the tomb would continue to be sealed, so that the work and person of Jesus would fade into history. 

The Jewish System, the Roman Empire, the flogging, the mocking, the crucifixion, the stone, and the guards were all meant to dispose of Jesus Christ.  They were meant to wipe Him from history, they were meant to destroy Him, and they were meant to eradicate His followers.  All the force that the world could muster was devoted to exterminating this one called Jesus the Christ.

This all makes sense now, when we consider the reaction of the women going to the tomb that early Easter morning some two-thousand years ago. They were perplexed and confused because the stone was rolled away.  What happened?  Why didn’t the soldiers keep it shut?  Where was Jesus?  Did someone raid the tomb and take His body?  What is going on?  Yes, Jesus had promised that He would rise again, but after seeing the full force of the Jewish System, the brutalities of the Roman Empire, and the fierce death of Jesus, would this be something He would truly overcome?  Thus they were perplexed and confused seeing the stone rolled away and noticing that the body of Jesus was not there. 

After seeing that the stone had been removed, the women encountered an Angel of the Lord. This Angel explained and told them what had happened.  The Angel said, “He is not here; for He was raised just as He said.”

My friends, Jesus is not here.  He is not in the tomb. 

When I was a child I would ponder Resurrection Sunday and think to myself, “I am sure glad the stone was rolled away by the Angel to let Jesus out.”  I imagined that Jesus came to life in the tomb and simply had to wait in the tomb to be let out!  It is a funny thought to consider. However, the great truth about Easter Sunday is that Christ arose from the grave before the stone of the tomb was removed.  Yes, in our Gospel reading from today we read that there was a great earthquake and an Angel came down and rolled back the stone causing the soldiers to be struck with fear as if they were dead.  The Angel then sat on the stone, with the light of the morning sun shining into the dark tomb where Jesus once laid.  But where was Christ if He was not in the tomb waiting to get out?  “Christ, after He was made alive in His grave, descended into hell, not to suffer punishment, but to proclaim His victory over His enemies in Hell.”[1] Did you hear that?  Christ went to Hell to proclaim victory.  He went into the enemy territory to reveal that He was the victor.  Then He went to be among the living.  My friends, the stone wasn’t rolled away to let Jesus out, rather the stone was rolled away for you and for me so that we might know that He is not there. That He is not among the dead.  It was rolled away to show the followers of Jesus and reveal to all people the victory which Christ had obtained over sin, death and the devil.  It was as if the curtain was pulled back so God could reveal what His suffering servant accomplished on the cross!  The empty tomb is icing on the cake.  It validates and points back to what Jesus did on the cross.  It validates that death was not victorious and that what Jesus did on the cross was truly, truly sufficient.

“He is not here!”  These are the words of the Angel to the women explaining and showing that Jesus silently and wondrously passed through the rock.  The words, “He is not here,” tells us that the Jewish System, the Roman System, death, sin, and the devil cannot and did not exterminate the one called Jesus the Christ.  They could not wipe Him from history nor could they destroy His kingdom that has no end.  

Indeed, because Jesus is not in the tomb we can confess that Jesus is Divine, for no mere man could overcome death, especially the death that Jesus endured.

Indeed, because Jesus is not in the tomb we can confess that everything Jesus taught was true.

Indeed, because Jesus is not in the tomb we can confess that our sins have been truly paid for, that God’s wrath was appeased, that death is powerless, and that the devil is a defeated foe.  We can confess that what happened at the cross actually worked.

Indeed, the empty tomb confirms, sanctions, validates that we have a living Savior and victorious Savior; a living advocate. Because Jesus is not in the tomb, it testifies that we too will rise again someday in Christ. 

My friends, we have a Lord that is not here.  Not where?  Not in the grave.  That is the testimony of the Angel to the women that Easter Sunday long ago, and it is the testimony of God’s Word to you today.  Your Savior Jesus Christ is not among the dead but among the living.  Christ is risen from the dead trampling over death by death. No scheme of man and no power of evil could hold Him down.

Because He lives, you will also live.

He is not there.

Now, the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1991), 138.

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