A sermon preached on Luke 24:1-12 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD, on April 21, 2019.

What did you expect today? We all have expectations. If I go to Little Caesars, I expect to be able to pick up a Hot N Ready Pepperoni pizza without having to wait much. If I go to HyVee, I expect them to have milk and eggs. We all have expectations right?

There are times when things are pleasantly not as we would expect. If I drive down Louise Ave. at 5 o’clock and there’s no traffic, that’s pleasantly unexpected. If you take your car into the mechanic to have them check out a suspicious noise and they fix and tell you, “Don’t worry, no charge.” Unexpected. When it’s been a rough day and you come home to an unexpected gift from your spouse – that just might change your entire day around.

What about for this morning? Did you have expectations today? Did you expect to see lots people today? Did you expect some pretty lilies decorating the church? Did you expect to sing “I Know My Redeemer Lives?” We have lots of expectations.

The women who went to Jesus’ tomb that first Easter morning had plenty of expectations. But things did not go the way they expected. But their unexpected surprise did more than change their day around, it changed our entire lives.

That first Easter morning, the women’s eyes were swollen from days of crying. They hadn’t been able to sleep well since Jesus had been arrested on Thursday. They had watched in horror as Jesus was nailed to a cross and hung from it in agony. They had seen Jesus give up his last breath. And they knew that the men who had buried Jesus had done a rushed job of it because it was almost the Sabbath and they weren’t allowed to finish their work if it became the Sabbath day.

So the women got up extra early that Easter morning expecting to wash Jesus’ body, sprinkle it with spices, wrap him in clean linens, and give him a proper burial. But things were not what they expected.

The giant stone that was supposed to be blocking the entrance had been rolled away. The tomb was empty. Instead of Jesus, they found two angels. More literally, they asked the women, “Why are you looking for the Living One among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” He even told you this would happen, remember?

And that unexpected empty grave changed everything. How? You can see what it changed in what those women brought to and away from the tomb. They came to the tomb with their hands full of spices and linens for the dead. They left the tomb with their hands free as they hurried to go tell the others what had happened.

But they brought more than just spices and linens to the tomb. They came to that tomb burdened with grief and weighed down with sorrow. That’s why the women bowed down in fear when the angels appeared to them. Then the Word of God from the angels worked in their hearts and they remembered Jesus’ promises. The women then left that tomb with their burdens lifted – no longer filled with grief but with hope and joy!

The unexpected empty grave changes everything. When he heard, Peter ran to the tomb. He wasn’t carrying spices, but he was weighed down just as much. He trudged himself there racked with the burden of guilt. He had denied even knowing Jesus and abandoned his teacher and friend. Peter left the tomb that morning dazed and confused. Later that evening Jesus would show Peter and the other disciples what the empty tomb meant by appearing to them – very much alive.

What about you? What did you come carrying today? Maybe you came carrying the guilt of falling into that pet sin yet again, even though you said last time was the last. Maybe you are carrying the desperation of addiction, wondering how you can ever free yourself from its clutches. Maybe you’re racking your head wondering how things with your spouse could ever be like they used to be. We all came here carrying something… and the same empty tomb has the power to change everything for us too.

How? My problems in life, my frustrations in life. They all exist because of sin in this world and in my life. The past month during Lent, we saw how Jesus came – not to take our problems away – but to take our sins away. We needed him to because when the Bible says the wages of sin is death, it means more than dying here – it means eternal death and pain in hell. So Jesus came to pay that price for you and me. We saw him suffer hell and its punishment for us on Friday. The Bible says of his death: “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). All your sins.

But here’s the thing. If Jesus’ story ended on Good Friday, we’d all be sitting here today looking at each other and asking – “Do you think it worked?” I wouldn’t know if God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as payment for my sins. But the empty tomb changed everything.

When we lived in Wisconsin, there was a grocery store called Pick N Save and they ran an ad campaign where their fictitious CEO, Chairman Bob, would walk around the store looking at everything saying “approved!” The chairman Bob seal of approval meant quality. And Jesus rising from the dead on Easter is God’s seal of approval on his payment for our sins. Easter guarantees you are forgiven in Jesus.

The unexpected empty tomb changes your entire life. I may come to it bearing a burden and guilt. I leave from the tomb with the light joy of knowing my guilt is removed, my sins forgiven. I might come consumed with worry over how I might make ends meet, my relationships, my bad habits. I leave the empty tomb – not with all my problems magically solved – but equipped to handle them with God’s help, with the promise that they will be a distant memory in heaven.

Most importantly, the empty tomb gives you and me confidence of our forgiveness. The Apostle Paul once wrote: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 20a). Christ has been raised. The tomb is empty. You are forgiven. That changes everything.

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!