In just a little over two months, on Sunday, April 1, many of us will be greeted with the exclamation, “He is risen!” Then, in reply, we’ll boldly declare, “He is risen indeed!” Most Bible scholars agree that this greeting is ultimately based on a verse found in Luke 24, our New Testament reading for today. The ESV version of the Bible translates Luke 24:34, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
Using this address should be more than an empty tradition. The words “He is risen!” remind us of the joyous news we celebrate at Easter, that Jesus’ death was not in vain, and that He has the power to overcome death. Saying, “He is risen!” allows us to share this incredible truth with each other. The resurrection of Christ gives us hope for salvation and for our own resurrection and eternal life.
Luke opens chapter 24 by reporting that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ took place on the first day of the week, when the Sabbath was over. Not only was it the dawn of a new day, it was the dawn of a new week. Not only was it the dawn of a new week, but the dawn of a new era.
When Mary Magdalene and her companions arrived at Jesus’ tomb, they were astonished that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb and the body of Jesus was missing. Then, to their amazement, two angelic beings suddenly appeared and said; “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen!” These words of the angels remain a challenge to faith, and a rebuttal to unbelief. What glorious words of Easter celebration!
Next, the angelic beings direct the attention of the women to the words that Jesus had previously spoken to them: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” All our fears and doubts would be dissolved, if we would but remember these assuring words of Christ.
Luke closes his account of Jesus’ resurrection by reporting that the disciples of Jesus were startled and frightened when Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst, as they were assembled together. After Jesus assured them that He was not a ghost, Luke reports that He went on to open their minds, so they could understand the Scriptures.
The disciples’ attention was particularly focused upon the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection, when He said to them: “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” No other event like the resurrection of Jesus has been recorded in history. The significance of the first Easter is breathtaking. The Cross of Christ makes no sense without His triumphant restoration to life. It was the resurrection which explained His death as a sacrifice for sins. It was the resurrection which vindicated His teaching: He was no liar. It is the resurrection that gives us hope of a new, eternal life: as Christ rose, so will we. It is the one fact that the apostles and early church constantly held forth as the validation of their message. It is the oldest traceable doctrine of the early Christian liturgy.
All arguments against the resurrection must take into account the eyewitness testimony of the early disciples, the great church that sprang from them, the witness of changed lives around the world, and the empty tomb. The Church has long insisted that the Christian life would be impossible without the resurrection, for through it, Christ removed the sting of death from all those who believe in Him.
“He is risen! He is risen indeed!”
Pastor Jim Nelson