Why Do You Look for the Living Among the Dead?

Audio Sermon

Deuteronomy 30:11-20 Choose Life!

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life.

Luke 24:1-8 The resurrection of Jesus

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, but 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 sinners, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again.'" Then they remembered his words.

True Christian Religion #48 Living people and dead people

We humans have been created so that we can receive love and wisdom from God, yet it appears just as if they came from ourselves. This is to allow us to receive love and wisdom, and be connected with God in this way. This is why we are born without any love or any knowledge, and in fact, without even the ability to love and be wise by ourselves. If, then, we attribute all the good of love and all the truth of wisdom to God, we become living people. But if we attribute them to ourselves we become dead people.

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!" (Luke 24:5-6)

Life or death? That, in the simplest words, is the question posed to us by Good Friday and by Easter.

Good Friday (why is it called "good"?) is what we humans do when we are left to ourselves: we kill the Lord. We did this literally two thousand years ago, when the religious leaders banded together with the political leaders to crucify Jesus. We do it spiritually today whenever we banish the Lord from our lives, and follow our own ways instead.

Easter is what the Lord does despite the worst we humans can do. Easter is when the Lord conquers death with life. He did this literally two thousand years ago when he rose from death on the third day. He does it spiritually today whenever he lifts us up out of our own deadness, and gives us a new and higher life.

The angels understood this very well when they asked the women who had come to the Lord's tomb, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

We humans are always looking for the living among the dead. We all have a desire to feel alive, to feel love, to feel energy flooding through us, to feel the exuberance of life! And where do we look for that life? If we follow our own tendencies, we look in all the wrong places. We look for life in things that have no life in them.

One of the dead things we look for life in is money. We think that if we could just make a lot of money, we would be happy and feel alive.

But as the old saying goes, "Money can't buy you love." Warren Buffet, a man who has made a lot of money, understands that. At a recent stop at the College of Management of Georgia Tech, he joked:

You can't buy love. It's very irritating! It's so much easier to just write out a check. "I'd like a million dollars worth of love." You can get a million dollars worth of sex but . . . .

And with joking aside, he goes on to say,

You're only going to be loved if you're lovable. If you are, you get it back in spades. The truth is, you always get back more than you give away. Some people never learn that. They're busy cheating people, cutting corners, lying to them, all kinds of things, and they think they're a success because they have tens of millions of dollars later in life. I don't think they are a success, and I don't think deep down they feel like they are a success.

I suppose we could say, "That's easy for Warren Buffet to say!" But wealthy people, if they reflect on their situation at all, will realize that their money does not make them happy. And even if they don't realize it, everyone else can read in the tabloids all about their human misery amid material plenty. Even the wealthiest people never have enough, if money is their goal. In fact, a survey once showed that most Americans think they would be doing fine if they could just make 10% more than they were making right now. It didn't matter whether they were making $30,000 a year or $500,000 a year; they thought that if they could just make 10% more, they'd be doing well.

Money is just one of the places we look for the living among the dead. Men look for life in fancy cars, in sports, in Rolex watches. Women look for love in clothes, in beauty, in big houses and expensive diamonds. And we all have an alarming tendency to look for love in alcohol, in drugs, in food, in physical pleasures of various kinds. We never find it in these things. Yet we continue feverishly trying, thinking that if it didn't work out last time, it's just that we didn't get it quite right; we didn't get enough; we just have to do it one better--and this time it will work!

What a mess we humans are! Thousands of years of looking for the living among the dead. Thousands of years of turning to money and war and sex and power and pleasure, and has it brought us happiness? Has it brought us life? There is still just as much pain and heartbreak and death in the world as there ever was, after all those thousands of years of our useless human efforts to create life and buy love for ourselves.

Easter is what breaks that feverish human cycle of searching for life in things that are dead. The women came to the tomb expecting to find a body. They had the spices all prepared to anoint the body of the one they had called "Lord." They were ready to pay their last respects; to give a decent burial to the one they had loved--the one who was Life itself.

But their spices had to be set aside for another day, for another death. Because at the tomb there was no death. There was only life! "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" the angels asked, their gleaming clothes practically blinding the women with radiance. "He is not here, but has risen!"

The angels knew all about death and life. They had lived out their lives here on earth, facing the darkness and struggles and pain of this world. They had faced everything those women had faced. And they had chosen life. Now they were living in their eternal homes--in a place of light and love, a place filled to overflowing with life . . . with eternal life . . . with the deep and powerful life that can come only from within and above; that can come only from our Lord, our God, our Creator. Those angels spoke from their own experience, from what they had known and what they knew now. They spoke from a place of having the living Lord in their hearts and minds every day. The radiance that shone from them was not their own, but the Lord's glory shining through them.

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?"

We can look for the living among the dead if we want to. The Lord will let us try out every possibility for life. He wants us to find out from our own experience that our ideas of life will not bring us the real life that we are looking for. He lets us try out money, cars, beauty, houses, and all kinds of physical pleasures to see if they will work.

As with those angels, he wants us to know from experience that life comes only in the Lord. "For the Lord is your life," he says to us through Moses. We may turn away to other gods of money and pleasure, but we will not find life there. But if we turn to the Lord and his ways, recognizing that everything good, true, and alive come from the Lord, then we will find real life.

Then we will discover the same thing that the angels at the tomb had discovered. "He is not dead, but has risen!" The Lord is not to be found in the dead things of this world. Rather, he is to be found in the living things of spirit. The Lord rises to life in us each time we realize that life is not found in getting things for ourselves, but in giving love to others. The Lord Jesus spent his entire life, not getting for himself, but giving: teaching, preaching, healing the people both physically and spiritually. We also find life and love when we follow the commandments of the Lord. And the core of all his commandments is that we love one another, as he has loved us (John 13:34).

"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!"


Audio Sermon

Music: Heart to Heart Bruce DeBoer - used with permission