It is tempting to think the sermon on Easter Sunday is more important than other Sundays. The reasons are obvious:
- Jesus’ resurrection is the singular foundation of our faith.
- The pews are packed with people who are not usually in church.
- Our market-minded culture has distorted the festival of Jesus’ resurrection into yet another excuse to encourage us to spend money.
These reasons might lead the preacher to think this sermon warrants more attention than normal. If that is the case, perhaps the preacher is normally devoting too little attention to preaching.
However, these reasons for putting more effort toward the Easter sermon can be helpful if they remind us of the gravity of the preaching task week-in and week-out. Preachers are sent to proclaim nothing less than the living and active Word of God. This requires careful attention to both the hearers and the Scriptures. For help with the latter, I encourage you to listen to Jeff Gibbs and his careful and thorough examination of this text. I offer the following thoughts with the assumption that you have already taken twenty minutes to listen to it.
In Luke 24:1-12, we do not get a carefully constructed theology of the resurrection. The evangelist does not work out all the implications of Easter for our life and faith. He does not offer a logical argument for why we should believe Jesus rose physically from the dead. Instead, he simply describes what happened.
As I paid careful attention to Luke’s orderly account this week, I found myself identifying with the first witnesses of the resurrection. Luke tells us about the women who came to finish the burial process. In verses 2-3 he describes what they found (εὗρον) and did not find (οὐχ εὗρον). They did not find what they were looking for. They were looking for the body of Jesus. That is why they brought the spices. That is why they got there early. They assumed they would find a dead man that morning, but they found something else. They found the stone had been rolled away. They found the body of Jesus was no longer there. They found messengers in dazzling white to remind them of what Jesus had promised.
We could summarize it like this: They did not find what they were looking for, but what they found changed everything. Perhaps your Easter sermon could do something similar for your hearers.
“What did you expect to find at church this morning?” Consider asking your hearers this question directly, then give them some time to think about it. Some of them did not expect to find much more than breakfast before the service, or trumpets and timpani in the transepts. Others, however, came hoping to find something significant; something deeper. Answers to questions. Answers to prayers. Something to stop the pain. Something to hold onto.
Ours is a searching culture. We are constantly looking to find something, someone. We long to find guidance, or support, or fulfillment. We are seeking to find a distraction, or some relief, or a little help to make it through the day. The google machines in our pockets give us the ability to search for almost anything, but U2 nailed it: We still haven’t found what we’re looking for.
The women that morning did not find what they were looking for. As it turns out, they were looking for the wrong thing. Therein lies the good news! They found that death was no longer the last word. They found out Jesus’ promises could be trusted. They found God had been at work when everything seemed to suggest otherwise. Simply put, what they found early on Easter morning changed everything.
As you proclaim the Word of God this weekend, help your hearers find what the women found that morning at the tomb. Proclaim the end of death’s reign. Proclaim the promise of forgiveness and life and salvation in Christ. Proclaim the promises of God which will be fulfilled when He returns. Proclaim the good news of a God who is still at work, even in their lives, even when everything suggests otherwise.
Thank you for your proclamation of the Gospel this week, fellow preachers. As one who will not have the privilege of preaching this Easter Sunday, I am grateful for your faithful ministry. And I pray the Lord would grant you courage and confidence (and endurance) to proclaim His mighty Word throughout this most holy week.
Concordia Theology: Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Luke 24:1-12.
Text Week: A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Luke 24:1-12.