The Lord Lives
1. "Why are you searching among the dead for a person who is living? He is not here. He has risen." This was the message given to the women who went to the Lord's tomb that first Easter morning. After nearly two thousand years have passed, on this Easter, we would like to catch hold of the same message they had given to them by God that morning. "Why are you looking among the dead for one who is living? He is not here (that is, in the tomb). He has risen."
The Women Were Searching Among The Dead For A Dead Man
2. The women went to meet a dead person. What they had in their hands were spices and perfumes. The women went to the grave to anoint them on the remains of Jesus.
3. On the day the Lord Jesus was executed, it was a Friday. The next day was a Saturday, that is, it was the Jewish Sabbath. Besides that, that Sabbath day was a special "Passover Sabbath." One way or another, they had to get the burial done before entering the Sabbath. A Jewish day begins with the sunset. The Sabbath begins from the time the first star twinkles. So, the burial of the Lord Jesus required haste. A man named Joseph of Arimathea applied for taking the responsibility for the corpse and buried the remains of the Lord in a tomb carved out of rock, but he wasn't able to apply oil or spices. He wrapped him in linen, and pretty much got the burial part over with with that. The women confirmed the location of the grave and verified that the remains were placed in position. Here in 23:56 the women were visiting so that they would do their best for the remains of the Lord Jesus. Actually, as quickly as they could, they were wanting to apply spices to the corpse of the Lord. So, very early in the morning on the day after the Sabbath day was ended at dawn, that is in the early morning on Sunday, they went to the grave. That is recorded in verse one.
4. The one named Jesus of Nazareth was a very special person to them. They must have had etched deeply in their memory the kind of love filled life that he led. Furthermore, every single word spoken by the Lord Jesus during his life time was engraved onto their hearts. After they might have applied the spices to the remains of the Lord and generally speaking did what was necessary, what would they go on living for now? From this point on the future must have been hardly visible to them. After losing the Lord how were they to go on living? One way or another they had to go on living. Even if all they had to go on were memories of the Lord Jesus, they would. With the image of the way the Lord lived deep in their hearts, at the least they might have thought that they would live in the way the Lord had lived. They would simply go on living by keeping in their hearts the words the Lord left behind and by following his teachings. For them, that must have been at least how they were living with [their] Lord. I think the significance of this is that their applying perfume to the Lord and going to the grave to apply spices were probably a new departure for them in which they live [now] in [light of] their memory of the Lord.
5. But, no matter how beautiful or vivid was their recollection they were still looking for "a dead man." They were looking among the dead for a dead person. As far [as] what they should have looked for, they [surely] didn't know there was "one who lives." And they didn't know they shouldn't be looking among the dead for that [one who is alive].
6. There are many great historical personalities whose teaching from their past lives still exert a large influence on persons living today. We could say that though they are dead they still speak. I think it's possible to use the man called Jesus of Nazareth as an example of one such a person. His was an illustrious and elevated life. His teachings were matchless. They inspired the hearts of generations and gripped the souls of many. Some call him the greatest teacher ever given to humankind. Some call him the liberator of the oppressed. He was counted as one of the great saints. Furthermore, many people would try to imitate the way Jesus lived and would live by keeping his teachings. They think they are imitating Jesus' way of living, that is, they think they are following Jesus. Or, they think that living in obedience to the teachings Jesus left behind is following Jesus. We could say that in that sense even now this One is alive as a leader of others. Under such guises many people are trying to follow Him who is living. I suppose there is nothing completely wrong with that. Also, there are even people who explain the resurrection faith of Christianity as that type of thing. [They say] in Christianity, believing that Jesus rose again and that he is with you is how Jesus is alive in the Christian's heart. [They say] in the first place the illusion of the resurrection is produced from a deep sense of yearning by many people for Jesus. If it's explained like that, it would certainly be logical and easy to understand...
7. But, [wait a minute.] How can this be? Even though we say that "the teachings of Jesus still exert their influence even up to today," or that "Jesus is alive in our hearts," since he is nevertheless still only "the man Jesus of Nazareth who lived in the past," I would think this would qualify as looking among the dead for a dead person. I would think that is no different from the women who went to that grave.
8. The words heard by the women must mean more than that. "Why are you searching among the dead for one who lives? He is not here. He has risen." This message was handed down by mouth, recorded in the gospels and handed down even to this day. It has continued to be handed down for two thousand years. One thing is clear from this. That is, when the church was handing down the message "Jesus is living," they did not mean that his teachings were just continuing to live or that Jesus kept living in the hearts of Christians. So then, what in the world does "the one who is living" mean?
The One Who Is Living Is Not Among The Dead
9. The angels said, "He is not here. He is risen." What the angels were calling "here" was the rocky cave in which the Lord Jesus was buried. However, if the angels had simply been speaking of "a place" I don't think that particular word would have been used. For example, they could have used words like, "He is not here. He is in Galilee." But, they didn't talk about his whereabouts, only that "he is risen." That is to say, that in saying "he is not here," we understand that the point of emphasis is not merely on the place but instead on the fact that "he is not locked up in [this place of] death." In other words, "Jesus was not under the control [or rule, or government] of death."
10. We understand that point well through the picture at the grave. What went on at the grave? The text records in verse two, "when they looked, the stone had rolled to the side of the tomb." This picture of the stone having rolled away which had been blocking the entrance to the tomb, or possibly it was removed, is recorded in all four of the gospels. Doesn't it seem that the matter of the stone at the entrance would in a certain sense be of little concern? Yet, the gospels go on to report on it because that is a symbolic occurrence. Mark hands it down on purpose [with the words], "That rock there was very huge." That [huge rock blocking the grave entrance] expresses the rule of death in which nothing whatsoever can be done by human strength. Yet, it was rolled away. By whom...who could have rolled it away? Since it says "it rolled" it wasn't done by those who went to the grave. It was [rolled] by God. The door to death was opened by God and Christ was no longer gripped by death. He was not under the control of death. Since this is so, we understand this is surely what "the one who is living" means in the place where the angel is talking.
11. If you ask why I mention this, the answer is the words "he is living" which the angel utters must have a different meaning from the words "he is living," as we normally use them. There is no doubt that we are [individually] "one who is living." But, strictly speaking, we are not as "one who is living (The living)," but we are in fact "ones who are in continual death (The dying)." In other words, we are not heading towards life, but going right on towards death. Our lives are clearly under the rule of death. Our limits are right there.* That's nothing to trifle with. Just because you forget it, that will not end the truth of it.
12. As I try to remember back to my grade school days, I never used to think my life was limited by anything. I used to think my future would go on forever. Before long, when I turned around fifteen or so years old, I started to realize that my life was one flowing stream which could never backtrack upstream and it was heading towards one direction which would have an ending. From that point on I could experience nothing but different levels of resignation or acceptance. I began to realize that there are things that I cannot make up for in any way. I began to understand that as a person I cannot help but keep on piling up things that I cannot make up for and just go heading for the end. Soon after, my close friend died in an accident. Then, a classmate of mine drank a large amount of medicine and committed suicide. A person, who I respected deeply, died from a brain tumor. One day as I was outside dialing home by phone, not even expecting it but my grandfather had already taken his [last] breath. Death became familiar. Unfortunately, it wasn't somebody else's problem. So then it became clear to me. Even though I could surely say I am alive until I die, now it does not seem at all to be true that until I die "death" has nothing to do with me. Because of death's rule, my hope was being lost little by little. Then it became clear to me that I had no hope to keep holding on to to the very end. Finally, [it seemed] wasn't a person only alternating from one immediate pleasure, joy and momentary feeling of satisfaction to another? But, they are just things that will soon be lost.
13. The Bible says "The wages which sin pays is death," (Romans 6:23). Reality for us sinners is certainly a life under the rule of death as "persons in continual death" heading for destruction. A person is like cut flowers. They may seem so beautiful in bloom but they are cut off from life because of sin. They are not "one who is living," but "one who is in continual death."
14. However, the Bible is telling us about "the one who is living" in a true sense. Generations of the church have confessed their belief that "the Lord is living" based on the Bible. Unless we depend on the One who is not controlled by death, we are sinners under the rule of death and so will not be saved. "Why are you searching among the dead for a person who is living? He is not here. He has risen." This was the message given by that first Easter. Today it is the message we are being given. Here is our hope. He himself is the one who can make "a sinner who is always in death" on the way to destruction into "a person who is living" on the way to eternal life. He can do this because he is "the one who is living" forever.
15. They said, "Why are you seeking among the dead for one who is living?" Peter went to the grave. Other disciples might have gone also. But, both the women at the lead and Peter with some of the other disciples would not visit the Lord's grave a second time and try to find the Lord there because they knew that the One who is living was not among the dead. Well then, where should you look for the One who is living? Where can you meet with the Lord?
16. Although there are people who don't believe in the resurrection of the Lord, there is one thing that must be admitted. That is the fact the Lord's disciples took to worshipping together on the first day of the week, that is, on the day of the resurrection, not on the Sabbath of Judaism. What might that mean? That means that it was not at a grave but at whatever place in which they gathered together on the day of the Lord and it was in worship wherein the gospel was given and bread was broken that generations of the church had come to meet with "the One who is living." It is the same today as well. Right here we are meeting with the One who is living, we are participating in his life. We are connected to the living body, the church which is the body of Christ and which has for its head the Living One, the One who lives.
*The Japanese clearly relates it to the "he is not here" idea. Jesus was not limited and confined by death, but we are unless we accept him as risen lord and savior.