“The Power of the Easter Promise” (Luke 24:1-12)

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day
Sunday, April 17, 2022

“The Power of the Easter Promise” (Luke 24:1-12)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

This morning I want to tell you about the power of a promise. Our reading from Luke 24 puts on display the power of a promise. It’s a promise that was good, because of the one who made it. It’s a promise that was good, even though people forgot that the promise had been made; and even though when some people did think about it, they just knew that the promise wasn’t any good after all.

It’s about what happened at the tomb that morning. The angels said to the women, “Remember. Remember how he spoke to you. Remember what he said would happen. Remember the promise.” The promise came true in power back then, and the same promise is true today. Today we marvel at, and take hold of, “The Power of the Easter Promise.”

A promise is only as good, only as powerful, as the person who makes it. So we ask, “Who is the powerful person in this reading? Who are the powerful people?” Well, it’s not the two angels. Angels are powerful, but in this case they’re just acting as messengers. They do nothing but speak to the women. The promise’s power doesn’t come from the angels.

The powerful people in this reading are not the women. And it’s not the apostles or the others with them on that first Easter. What this reading shows us, in fact, is the weakness, the complete inability, and the helplessness of the women and the men who were there.

The women had rested on the Sabbath, and then they thought it was their turn to get to work. In their minds, nothing had changed since Friday afternoon, when evil had done away with their teacher and master. Nothing had changed, so they came to do their duty for his dead body. It’s beautiful in a way, and brave and loving. But it’s completely, utterly wrong. They enter the tomb, but they don’t find the body of the Lord Jesus.

The angels’ words to them show how unaware and helpless and confused they were. “Why are you seeking the living among the dead?” Indeed, what sort of people do you find in tombs? Dead people, and they think Jesus is dead. Do these loving, confused, wrong-headed women have anything to do with the power of the Easter promise? Nothing at all. In fact, they’re living as if the promise had no power, as if it had never even been made.

And the apostles? They come off worse even worse. The women tell them about the empty tomb, and what the angels told them, and about the promise. But it doesn’t do any good. These words seem to the apostles to be “an idle tale,” and they don’t believe the women. Peter even runs to the tomb and sees that there’s no body in there. But all he can do is marvel as he goes home. He doesn’t get it, not yet.

So here’s the point again: The power of a promise does not reside in the people to whom the promise is made. The power comes from the one who makes the promise. This Easter story shows us that no one is saved because of their own efforts, or their own sincerity, or their own anything. The powerful promise was there, but the women and the apostles had nothing to do with providing it with power.

The power comes from the one who made the promise. And that’s why the angels tell the women: “Remember!” Remember what you have forgotten, what you didn’t believe. Remember that he told you, while still in Galilee, that these things must happen. These things had to happen. Jesus told you that he would be delivered into the hands of sinful men, that he would die on a cross, and on the third day–that’s today, by the way–that he would rise from the dead. Dead no more. Never to die again.

It must happen, the angels said. It was the Father’s plan, and Jesus promised it. And it happened because–as we’ve been saying through this whole series–Satan, the chief priests, Pilate, and everyone else meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. Jesus, who preached good news and healed crippled hands, was betrayed into the power of sinful hands. Sinful hands are strong, and they do evil things.

And they crucified him. The evil of injustice, mockery, and blasphemy came against the innocent Son of God. And it had to happen. It was necessary, even though no one knew why at the time. Jesus was numbered among the transgressors, with a criminal on his right and on his left–and in front and behind, and before and after, and all the way down to today, to you and to me. Jesus is one of a kind, in his own category–pure, holy, perfect, innocent, righteous. But God’s plan was for him to be with us, in our place, to die when he didn’t deserve it and we did, and to take the evil of the world upon himself, so it would not come against you. So that your sins would not cling to you or be fastened to you. God’s plan was that the evil would be fastened to Jesus, when he was fastened to the cross.

And he had to rise. He had to, because Jesus came to bring light into darkness and to drive back the power of evil. And the promise meant that God would take the evil and use it for good. And so, death was undone. The tomb was opened. No body was there, because this is the Lord Jesus we’re talking about, and Jesus is the Lord. This is the Easter promise, and it came true and has power, because of the one who made it. Jesus made the promise, in the power of the Father’s plan. Easter is not about the women or the apostles or about you or me. It’s about the one who made and kept the promise.

And the power comes from him, not from them or from us. And yet, the power was for them. The power is for us. And our reading today shows the beginnings of this, especially in the lives of Mary Magdalene and the other women. The power of the Easter promise is a power to turn things around, to turn them upside-down–right-side-up, really–then, now, and forever. The power of the Easter promise transforms lives.

The first life transformed by the promise is the life of the Lord Jesus himself. When he came among us so long ago, he came in a certain way. Lowly. Vulnerable. And although he had power–just ask the people he healed–he moved toward the time when he would set his power aside and be numbered among the transgressors. In a profound mystery, the Lord Jesus emptied himself and became weak and vulnerable. He was mortal, and they killed him. Evil seemed to have the last word.

But the power of the promise that Jesus himself made transformed him, and the Father raised him from the dead. He is still Jesus, still the God-Man that he always was. But now the lowliness is gone. The weakness is gone. He is still our human brother, but no longer is he subject to death. He lives forever. This was the plan, this was the promise, and it has come true. The power of the promise emptied the tomb.

And right at the tomb, you can see the power of the Easter promise beginning to turn the women around, turn their lives right-side up. They come thinking they have work to do, work for their dead master. But the angels tell them: “You’re too late! The work is done! Remember! Remember the promise he made.” “And they remembered Jesus’ words.” They remembered; they realized; they believed. And the change begins. Their plans for putting spices on a dead body–those plans have vanished, like fog burned off in the warmth and sunlight of the day. The women literally turn around! “And returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.”

Ah, the eleven. The promise will transform them, as well. As you read the Book of Acts, you see that the Easter people of Jesus, while they were not perfect, the power was there–the power of Jesus to forgive and restore, to empower and encourage people like Peter and the apostles and the rest of the early Christians.

Dear friends, that power is available today, this morning, because the promise remains the same. All the evil in the world–Jesus took it and overcame it. Jesus died, carrying out God’s plan to take evil and use it for good. Rising from the dead, Jesus broke the power of death. Jesus lives, and he has the power to forgive and restore, to empower and encourage people just like you and me.

This promise is for everyone here. I invite you to believe it and trust it. The promise turned the women around, literally and spiritually. By the power of the promise, you and I can turn from our wrong-headed plans, thinking that our lives are our own that our need for Jesus isn’t all that great. Whatever form it takes, turn from all that pride or unbelief or despair, and be forgiven. Be restored. Be changed. Be transformed.

Because of the power of the promise, what will happen in your life? God will forgive you for Jesus’ sake. As far as the east is from the west, that’s how far he removes your sins from you. God will welcome you, no matter what your past, no matter what you’ve done. Peter fell as far away as you can fall. But Jesus turned him around and restored him and transformed him. God does the same for us today through the power of the Easter promise.

What else will happen in your life, because of Easter? Well, I don’t know what specific blessings and opportunities await you. But I do know this: Jesus lives, and he will be at work. He doesn’t stop working. Our Lord will be at work all the way until the day of the final transformation, the day of his return in glory. By his almighty power, he will raise you from the dead, and he will give to all who trust in him a pure and beautiful eternal life. A life that will never end. Life with God and with one another, in a renewed world, the new heaven and earth. This, my friends–this is the power of the Easter promise.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Published in: on April 16, 2022 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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