Easter can be an emotional day. The pastor feels exhausted from the past forty days of extra services and preparation. The church musician feels the pressure to make sure every note is perfect because of all the guests. The guest feels guarded because the zealous greeter has already asked her to join the Wednesday morning Bible Study. The man in the back feels relieved no one has asked him where he has been for the past year.
One person feels excited because they picked the best Easter hymns, while another feels disappointed because they left the best ones out. The boy with the pollen allergies feels overwhelmed by the lilies and wonders if he will be able to make it the whole service. The widower in the third row feels the emptiness of the space to his right, where his beloved bride sat with him for so many Sundays for so many years. Easter can be an emotional day.
Pride that the whole family made it. Guilt over missing so many Sundays. Hope for the resurrection on the Last Day. Fear that the preacher will bring the shame. Joy that the alleluias are back. Awkwardness at not knowing the insider language. Easter can be an emotional day.
The first Easter was just as loaded. Luke 24:1-12 is packed with emotions, much like your church building will be this Easter. Some of the emotions and mental states are explicitly named: Perplexed (24:4), frightened (24:5), reminiscent (24:8), unbelieving (24:11), and marveling (24:12).
Other emotions and thought processes are more implied and nuanced. In 24:1-4, the women are acting in love, but not in faith. They are going to provide compassionate care for the corpse of Jesus. Bringing the spices might be like us bringing a costly spread of flowers to lay at the gravestone. This is beautifully loving, but it misses the message and mission of Jesus.
In 24:9-10, the women act as faithful messengers of the Gospel, even being so bold as to announce the resurrection of our Lord to the apostles themselves! But they meet the apostles’ skepticism in 24:11. The apostles do not believe the women. In fact, they take the women’s first-hand testimony to be “an idle tale.” The phrase captures the dismissive attitude felt by the men who heard Jesus speak of this very moment with their very own ears.
+The women act as faithful messengers of the Gospel, even being so bold as to announce the resurrection of our Lord to the apostles themselves!
A preacher might consider naming some of these emotions experienced in Luke 24 and connecting them to the immediate experiences of the people in the room. My guess is many would be refreshed to hear how even “the people in the Bible” did not believe and did not understand.
Jesus did not die and rise for perfect people who had it all figured out. Jesus died and rose for the people who would betray Him, ignore His word, forget His promises, and doubt His messengers. Jesus died for the people who put Him to death. Jesus rose for the people whose minds rejected the idea of a resurrection.
The Church is not a club for the good people, the smart people, or the most faithful people. It is a gathering of the forgetful and the doubtful. It is a community, unified not in our polished comprehension or piety, but in our Savior’s life, death, and resurrection. What we share in common with each other is the same thing we share in common with the people in Luke 24: Jesus is risen! His resurrection binds us together in Him because it is bigger than anything in or between us.
A different approach to this text would be to focus just on 24:12. I was struck by how much St. Luke has packed into the verse. “But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” Look at all the verbs! Rose. Ran. Stooping. Looking. Saw. Went. Marveling. Happened.
+His resurrection binds us together in Him because it is bigger than anything in or between us.
Peter is the subject of each of the verbs, except for one. Peter is the one personally doing all the activity, except for the one impersonal verb. In a similar way, we experience all of life from a 360-degree perspective with ourselves perfectly in the center. Turn your head side to side. Stand up and spin in a circle. From my perspective, the world quite literally revolves around me. And I engage the world with a host of frenetic actions as I try to keep up and get ahead and stay on top of things.
But then there is the final verb of the verse: “Happened” or “had happened.” It is the accusative singular neuter perfect active participle of ginomai (γεγονός). This is the heart of Easter. Something happened. It is not about what Peter did or did not do. It is about an event God accomplished. It happened, in real time and history. God was up to something.
What “had happened” was the resurrection of Jesus. But it was bigger than the fact that one man rose from the dead (which is a pretty big deal). The women going to the tomb, disbelieving, remember, and reporting... all of that had happened. But it is bigger than that too. What “had happened” was God was at work, in Christ Jesus, reconciling the world to Himself just as He promised He would so that in the fullness of time God would accomplish the salvation of His people through His Son.
All of that “had happened.” It actually occurred. Apart from our feelings or our failings, God did what He said He would do. God was at work, and it worked. The participle is the final word of our reading, and it is perfect. Its tense is perfect. As James Voelz puts it, these verbs, “Focus upon result, the state following the completion of an activity” (Fundamental Greek Grammar, Fourth Revised Edition, 148). So, not only did something objectively happen, but that happening accomplished a result which abides. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead has begun God’s new creation.
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.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Arthur A. Just of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Luke 24:1-12.