Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” – Luke 24:5-7
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
Within the wonder, glory and excitement that surrounds the resurrection of Christ, this question is the heart of the Gospel. It is what drives our faith and gives us hope in a dark world.
Resurrection Sunday celebrates the most important moment in all of history – the moment death was defeated and hope became alive. The day that those seeking death found life eternal.
For me, it also holds a personal significance.
I was baptized on an Easter morning at the age of seven. Although many memories from that time are fuzzy, that memory remains vibrant and real.
I remember being enveloped by the water, and experiencing the rush of air as I emerged, raised to new life. I remember knowing full well what it all meant – that just as Jesus rose from the dead, I was now being raised to a new and fulfilling life.
At the age of seven, I understood all that.
What I didn’t yet understand was the true fullness of that ancient question, “why do you seek the living among the dead?”. I didn’t grasp all that it meant to the women who heard it, what it meant to seven-year-old me, and what it means to all of us.
The question occurs in Luke 24, which begins on a down note. At the end of chapter 23, Jesus was dead. Which meant that hope was dead.
A group of women had come to his tomb to anoint the body for a proper burial. Their friend had died an undeserved, agonizing death, and had not even been buried properly.
They were now seeking to give a dead man that one last honor.
They were not seeking a miracle. They were not seeking a fulfillment of prophecy. They were not seeking to hear from angels, or to be the first on earth to proclaim the Gospel of a risen Savior.
They were merely in a cemetery seeking a dead man.
As things turned out, they never anointed the body as there was no body to anoint. Just as angels appeared to proclaim his birth, an angel now appeared to proclaim his resurrection.
Yet this proclamation came in the form of a question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”. Jesus was alive, and all of Heaven already knew what the earth did not.
While we wept, Heaven rejoiced.
Yet we still make the same, horrible mistake. Instead of seeking the living, instead of trusting and following the risen Savior and the abundant life He alone can deliver, we seek truth and life and hope among what is dead and decaying.
The angelic words proclaimed: “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 over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’”
Then they remembered his words” (Luke 24:6-8).
Like them, we often forget his words and have to be reminded.
We trust in those who say “peace peace” when there is no peace. We trust in luck, we trust in governments and ideas and our own flawed logic when the truth of God is staring us in the face telling us we are in the wrong spot, seeking the wrong thing.
We wander around tombs of failed human wisdom when the Son of God is alive and working in our midst.
To this day, no one can say with complete certainty where the angel met these women with this question. No one can point to a spot with unwavering certainty and say, ‘this is where it happened’. There are two spots that claim to be the place, but no one really, truly knows.
There is a reason for this – Jesus wasn’t there for very long. After the women came away from the tomb rejoicing, celebrating, bringing the greatest news that has ever been brought to anyone anywhere, it simply didn’t matter.
Death had been defeated, and Jesus is forever alive.