Words of Faith 2-21-19
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' "  Then they remembered his words.
 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
The one thing about resurrection is that always comes as a surprise. No matter if you have been told about it. No matter if you hoped for it. Genuine resurrection comes as a surprise because we do not expect to see life in a place of death.
Now this story is not a surprise to us. In fact, nothing could be more predictable because we have heard this story so much that we almost miss it. We tend not to enter in emotionally because we have heard these accounts year after year, Easter after Easter. It is even hard for us to actually relate to this scene because it is culturally so different. So let us attempt to bring the impact of the text into our modern time.
Imagine for a minute, if you had followed a modern religious leader for three years. You took up and followed this man around, attended his meetings and read his books and literature. You gave time and money sacrificially because he seemed to bring the truth.
His ministry had grown very large but then came under scrutiny by the government. Within a few days the number of followers began to dwindle. The crowds were gone but that did not dissuade you. Suddenly, within a week's time, everything turned upside down and he was arrested.
At first you did not worry because it all seemed so unthinkable. But, in fact, there were powerful political forces at work against this leader you had grown to love. Things didn't get better. They got worse. Charges were trumped up. There was a mock trial. Suddenly the unthinkable-- the unimaginable-- happened and your leader was sentenced to death.
You went out to the prison where executions take place and you waited outside amid the reporters and protesters. When it was all over, two men who did not publicly support your leader arranged for a proper funeral and preparation at a decent funeral parlor in town. You watched as his body was taken away in a hearse to be prepared for burial. Now, because of your religious observance, you stayed away for a couple of days but then you go to the funeral home for the viewing and to pay your respects.
This scene would be familiar. You have been to the funeral home before. The funeral director greets you at the door speaking in hushed tones and then ushers you to a room. Outside the room there is a sign with removable letters bearing the name of your leader. As you step into the room you see the familiar silhouette of a casket that is standing open. But when you approach the casket you realize that there has been some mistake. It is the wrong room or something. The casket is empty.
You summon the funeral director who meets you in the hallway and looks at you as if to say that he is used to dealing with hysterical people in the midst of grief. He assures you that the body is there and goes into the room. In a moment he returns and is visibly shaken. The Director is completely befuddled as he tries to explain in less hushed tones that there has been some problem, a little mix up but that he will indeed take care of it. It is obvious that he is panicked.
You suspect that something terrible has happened. The body of your religious leader is gone. It appears that on top of the trumped up charges, mock trial, religious persecution and execution now you are facing the indignity of a stolen body! When will the insanity end?!
Your head is spinning as you go out to the parking lot where there are a couple of guys. This is not unusual. Actually, there are always a couple of guys out in the funeral home parking lot to greet people and direct them. But these are not the funeral home guys. These guys have shiny clothes. Men in shiny clothes sort of stick out and can be very unnerving. You don't readily trust men in shiny clothes.
The guys in shiny clothes speak, "Why are you looking for a live person at a funeral home? He is not here. He is risen." Then they remind you that, in fact, your religious leader had said something about this. Remember, he told you. Oh yeah. Still, we didn't really think that he would, well, come back from the dead. Surprise! Can you imagine anything more shocking? Anything more surprising?
So you return to the other followers and tell them. They, of course, think you are crazy. You have totally lost you mind. A few go to the Funeral Home to see what you are talking about. The Funeral Director is nowhere to be found and the casket is closed. One follower goes and actually opens the casket to look for himself but he is as confused as anyone. Indeed that the body of your religious leader is gone. No one knows quite what to do.
But that is the way resurrection is. Even if you know, you don't know. Even if you hope, you are unsure. When LIFE shows up in a place of DEATH we are shocked. It usually the last thing we were looking for even though it is the first thing we hope for the most.
There are a lot of dead places in our world. The truth is that there are homes all over that have become tombs. Marriages that exist in sepulchers. Relationships that are between parents, children and siblings. Situations that have seemed hopeless for a long time. Dead. What our Scripture tells us today is that this is where Life can show up when we least expect it.
It is not enough to just shelter ourselves from the wickedness of the world. We need to come to the places of death expecting God to do miracles. Life really can show up where only there was death. Life can show up where we would least expect it so let's expect it!
What did the women do in our text? It was really quite simple. They received, believed, and gave witness. They received the message of Life from the men in shiny clothes. They believed the message of life. They gave witness to Life. They did not allow the fact that everyone thought they were crazy dissuade them from the truth.
Where are you today?
Are you facing a place of death? There are many places of death. The death of a dream. Death of vision. Death of a relationship. Death of a marriage. Death of a career or job? If we are open-- if we are watchful-- if we will receive-- God has an amazing way of having Life show up in the place that seem dead. Do you have a dead end job? A dead end relationship? Look around. There may be some guys in shiny suits trying to tell you some Good News. Or perhaps you realize that spiritually you have been dead for a long time. Too often we run away-- we do not receive the good news because it seems crazy insane. There is life that shows up in the place of death. Receive. Believe. Give witness.
Thank You God for the message of Life. Thank You for invaded the places of death with resurrection power. Give me faith to receive, believe and give witness. In Jesus' name.