Why Do You Look for the Living Among the Dead?

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JUDGES 8:18-9:21 | LUKE 23:44-24:12 | PSALM 99:1-9 | PROVERBS 14:9-10

Gideon is victorious over the Midianites and does away with the kings.  The Israelites are free people again, and ask Gideon to be king.  But Gideon declines.  He is content to live his life with his large family of many wives and seventy sons.  The text says that there was forty years of peace following Gideon’s victory. 

But after Gideon is dead and gone, it is the same thing all over again.  The children of Israel forget their God, Yahweh—the God of their fathers who brought them out of Egypt and established them in the promised land, and delivered them from their enemies time and over again.  They forget all this, including the recent past of Gideon’s leadership, and “prostitute themselves” to idol-worship.

And if this wasn’t enough, they are persuaded by Abimelek, one of Gideon’s sons by his concubine to make him king.  Gideon had declined the offer of kingship many years ago, of course, but he did have seventy able sons, the text tells us, and yet, Abimelek, the concubines’ son is the one who takes it upon himself to campaign for king, and eventually has himself appointed as king of Israel. 

One of Gideon’s sons, Jotham speaks out against this, but to no avail.  Like the thorn bush in the story that he tells, it is Abimelek who is chosen by the people.  It is to be seen how all this turns out in the days to come.

But for now, turning to our reading in the book of Luke, after the crucifixion is completed on Friday evening, we learn that a man by the name of Joseph of Arimethea asks Pilate for the body of Jesus so as to render a proper burial.  We don’t know much about this man other than that he was “a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action.”  It is this Joseph who makes burial arrangements. 

Where were the disciples, I wonder?  Surely, they must all be in mourning at what had happened to their leader, this man with whom over the last three years, they had followed willingly—having left everything—their own families and occupations, even.  But now that it was all over, was not there not a single one of them who was curious as to stay up and keep watch over the body that still hung on that hideous cross?  Was there not a single one of them who might have paused to wonder if perhaps they ought to get the body down and bury it? 

We don’t know where any of them were, including Luke, the writer of this book, and yet, Luke does dutifully record the work of Joseph of Arimethea and also of the women from Galilee, perhaps Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ own mother, Mary, and perhaps others with them who stood afar and saw Joseph take the body away.

And as was the custom of the day, these women then went home and prepared the things for embalming the body.  But the next day would be the Sabbath, meaning they would have to wait for the first day of the week, i.e., Sunday morning, before they could go back to the tomb of Jesus’ burial. 

And that is just what they do.  But when they arrive at the place of the tomb, they are puzzled:  they find the stone that covered the tomb to have already been moved, implying that someone had already been there, and when they venture inside the tomb, they find no body! 

Instead, they find two men in “clothes that gleamed like lightning” sitting there as though they were expecting to see them there.  And they say to the women Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”  

What?  What did they mean?  “Raised again”– as in:  he is alive?  Could it be true?!

And so, as Luke tells the story, the women then come immediately to find the eleven disciples, Luke included, and they tell them just what they have seen and heard.  But the disciples do not believe a word of it.  None of them do, except Peter. 

Peter, the one who had so much faith at one time that he actually walked on the water with Jesus—even if it was just for a while—the same Peter who said he’d do anything for Jesus but openly denied all knowledge and association with Jesus when the going got tough—it was this same Peter who heard the women’s absurd story and yet, he didn’t completely disbelieve them. 

True to form, he wished to see for himself if there might be any truth to this.  And so, he runs to the tomb; runs right inside the tomb, and finds only the linens in which the body had been draped—but no body was in sight!  

Where was the body?  Had it come to life?  Could it be true?!

In our Psalm for the day, we see David offering up praises to the Lord Almighty.  As we study the history of the Jewish people and learn of the many times and the many ways in which they chose to turn away from their God, there is great meaning in David’s words.  He says:

8 LORD our God,
you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
though you punished their misdeeds.

And finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs that may serve as food for thought:

9 Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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