Replacing Blown Light Bulbs
By Christopher Mark Batten
You’ve just sat down with your favorite book, the Bible of course, and are very excited to see what’s going to happen next after you left Noah receiving the instructions to build an ark. You go to turn on the lamp, one click, two clicks, and the bulb blows. So, instead of getting comfortable in the chair, you have to get back up, walk to the closet, and try to find a replacement bulb. You go digging through the closet, through all the tools and miscellaneous bits and pieces, but you can’t find a bulb. You try another closet, none there. Then it hits you. You had on your list at the grocery store last Sunday to pick up a few light bulbs but in the rush to get back for the start of the afternoon game, you only picked up the highlights and got what you thought you really needed. So, feeling kind of down that you won’t be able to finish the rest of the story, you grab your keys to head to the store.
Have you ever wondered if any of Jesus’ disciples ever had a similar experience? Sure, they didn’t have light bulbs back in the early first century; however they did have a mighty teacher who often left them feeling lost and confused, just like you would be while stumbling around in the dark, hoping to find a place to finish your book. Even so the disciples seemed to find themselves in the dark more often than in the light when it came to understanding Jesus.
This morning, our passage comes from the Gospel of Luke. Now, before we look at the selected text, it’s important to realize that one of the major themes seen in Luke is that God always has a redemptive purpose for doing certain things in our lives. God is the director of all human history and no matter how hard it may be to believe, some things just have to happen. The disciples didn’t believe Jesus’ many references to his suffering, death, and resurrection. They found it hard to accept that such things could be predicted and actually come to fruition. They couldn’t quite grasp what he was getting at. They were left in the dark and needed light to clarify what was surrounding Jesus’ claims. Today, we must ignore the darkness and “Replace Blown Light Bulbs” so that we may remember Jesus’ teachings.
Our text from Luke tells of when the women go to tomb of Jesus, expecting to find his broken, lifeless body in order to anoint it. To their surprise, the tomb was empty when they arrived. Please turn with me to Luke chapter 24, verses 1 through 9. I’ll be reading from the New Revised Standard Version. May God bless the hearing of the holy word:
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed 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 in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.
After remembering what Christ said about his death and resurrection at the empty tomb, the women went to proclaim it. The women at the tomb had found themselves standing in the midst of a blown light bulb. They’d come to a tomb they should’ve known would have been empty, but instead they were expecting to find the body of Jesus. Can you picture the expressions on their faces? Can you hear their shared gasps? Can you feel their disbelief in what they were staring at? Their experience and their reactions are the same that we have today. That’s why this story hits home for many of us this morning. Our empty searches will bring to light the importance of Christ’s resurrection as redemptive work in our lives.
I’m sure that many of us this morning have come to this service with baggage. Our work week ended on bad terms Friday afternoon and we’re anxious about tomorrow morning. We may have let someone down. We may have gotten notice from a college we applied to and so desperately wanted to get into that we weren’t admitted. Our friend may have just received word that they have a serious illness and are in much pain. We’re surrounded by so many blown light bulbs that we begin to wonder, where is the light? My friends, the same light that was available to the women at the tomb is available to us today and every day. I want us to be assured that even through our empty searches the voice of our savior is calling out to us, reminding us of the resurrection and the life it gives us through him.
I. We must “replace” our empty searches with a reliance on the teachings of Jesus in order to experience revelation (verses 1-5).
If you recall, the women went to the tomb at early dawn, just as the sun was beginning to shed light on Jerusalem. Why did the women choose to go at such an early time in the morning? There’s a fascinating connection with an Old Testament tradition here. Early morning came to be associated with the time in which the action of God during the hours of darkness came into light. Jesus had been through torturous suffering, crucified on the cross, and now the final piece of the puzzle had been put into place: Jesus had been resurrected. However, the women had forgotten! They’d forgotten about the resurrection. Verse 4 says the women became perplexed. Our question this morning is why did the women forget? How could they forget the teachings of Jesus after spending so much time with him? But more importantly, why had their hearts become empty? They came to the tomb with great expectation, but they came in an empty search.
I’m a big fan of music. I believe that music can reach us like no other source can. If you recall American Idol Season 5, they discovered a talented, Christ-loving singer from California by the name of Mandisa. Even though she was voted off as number 9, she began composing songs and writing about her experiences with people. Many of these experiences are ours. In one of her songs, “Voice of a Savior,” the main chorus exclaims:
You and I are not that different
These few lines are words of hope. Throughout the song, Mandisa tells the story of many people who are in search of something but can really never find what they are looking for. They turn to alcohol, overindulgent spending, and other sources that only lead to more emptiness.
The experiences of these very people are just examples of our empty searches. We go through life, heavy with burdens, and long for peace, long for hope, long for love. We want to desperately find that one source that makes us feel better. Yet, in our despair, we forget that we have been given this promise by one man, a man who affected the lives of generations of people two thousand years ago and is still affecting lives today. The women who come to the tomb had forgotten this promise as well. They were living their lives in the dark and couldn’t finish the story. In their misery, they strayed from replacing the blown light bulb. However, the women were about to be surprised. As they stood there, full of grief and with heavy hearts, two angels appeared to them and began to question them. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Their empty search is about to bring to light the importance of Christ’s resurrection as redemptive work in their lives.
II. Remembering the teachings of Jesus in times of desolation will “illumine” our searches to remember our own experiences with Jesus (verses 6-8).
Now that the angels have appeared to the women, they give the women a command to remember what they’d been told by Jesus. The angels mildly reprimanded them for even thinking about seeking the living Christ among the dead. They should’ve remembered! Remember. Something about this word sparked illumination. The blown light bulb was being replaced. In the angels’ report of what Jesus had the told them, the women were able to remember their experiences with Jesus – the women finally get it. They finally remember Jesus’ words. After coming to the tomb and anticipating finding the body of Christ, after standing confused as to why the tomb was empty, after being startled by the two angels, the women reflect back on their experiences. Their empty searches have become illuminated and they began to understand all that happened in light of their preceding experiences.
If you’re like me, remembering things is often hard to do. Just the other day, I walked out of my office and went to the car to get something. I got up out of my chair, opened the office door, walked out into the hallway, left the church building, and began walking to my car in the parking lot. About the time I got ten feet from my car, I couldn’t remember what I had gone to get. Haven’t we all had days like that? As I made the short trek from my office to the parking lot, so many thoughts had begun to crowd my head that it pushed out my original intent for leaving. So, as I’ve done before, I walked backed inside, sat in my chair, and when I look down at my desk, it hit me. I had gone to get the mission trip information packet I had received the week before. When I went back and experienced my thought processes and actions, I understood what I needed.
In the women’s case, the word of Jesus came to life when they remembered the experiences they had with him. Every experience we have leads to a remembrance of something. We’re sitting at dinner with friends and in their story about what their son did Monday afternoon we begin to recall a similar story about our daughter when she was that age and we share it with our friends. We’re given a choice to make concerning our marriage, to begin the process of separation or to try and reconcile. If leading more towards a separation, we think back to the affect our parent’s divorce had on ourselves when we were just the young age of seven, and we now we have children even younger. Each of these circumstances causes an experience in our own lives to come alive, to be revealed. The women at the empty tomb were called to remember the words of Christ, to remember that he would be resurrected after three days, and what that meant for them and what it means for us. At this point in the story, we are no longer readers, but we’ve been transformed into participants. Our empty searches will bring to light the importance of Christ’s resurrection as redemptive work in our lives.
A story is told of a little boy, Tom, who lost his boat. Tom had carried his new boat to the edge of the river. He carefully placed it in the water and slowly let out the string. How smoothly the boat sailed! Tom sat in the warm sunshine, admiring the little boat that he had built. Suddenly a strong current caught the boat and Tom tried to pull it back to shore, but the string broke. The little boat raced downstream. Tom ran along the sandy shore as fast as he could. But his little boat soon slipped out of sight. All afternoon he searched for the boat. Finally, when it was too dark to look any longer, Tom sadly went home. A few days later, on the way home from school, Tom spotted a boat just like his in a store window. When he got closer, he could see -- sure enough -- it was his! Tom hurried to the store manager: "Sir, that's my boat in your window! I made it!" The manager replied, "Sorry, son, but someone else brought it in this morning. If you want it, you'll have to buy it for one dollar." Tom ran home and counted all his money. Exactly one dollar! When he reached the store, he rushed to the counter. "Here's the money for my boat." As he left the store, Tom hugged his boat and said, "Now you're twice mine. First, I made you and now I bought you."
The only thing that Christ requires of us is that we actively search for him and allow him to illumine our hearts. When life gets too heavy and we stumble in the dark, we are reminded of that dark Friday, when Christ made his way through Jerusalem, carrying the weight of the cross, carrying the weight of our burdens. We become disheartened. The stresses of our lives begin to collect and weigh us down. Just as Christ replaced the blown light bulb, so must we! The angels told the women, “He is not here, but has risen.” Christ broke forth from the grave so that we might have life! Many of us, at this very moment, are feeling burdened. Don’t grow weary. Replace that blown bulb with the light of the resurrection. Don’t stumble around in the dark and try to place your hope in something else. The Lord knows we feel empty, but our empty searches will bring to light the importance of Christ’s resurrection as redemptive work in our lives.
Remember Mandisa’s song, “Voice of a Savior?” She closes the last two verses with opposing viewpoints. It represents the transformation from having blown light bulbs to illumination: “Some people get defeated and lose the strength to carry on… Some people try to find it in the arms of Jesus, that's where I found it, how about you?” It’s my prayer this morning that each time you feel weighed down, lonely, depressed, or worried that you remember the resurrection. Remember the illumination of the women at the tomb. Remember Jesus’ teachings. Remember the loving embrace of Jesus Christ. Don’t get defeated by having your light bulbs blown, but be assured that your search through the tough times will end in illumination with Jesus. “Replace Blown Light Bulbs” with the resurrection.
Pray with me. Empower us to become bold participants rather than timid saints in waiting; to exercise authority in honesty rather than to defer to power or deceit; to influence someone rather than impress for gain; and by grace, to find treasures of joy, of friendship, and of peace hidden in the fields you give me daily to plow. Let us go forth in peace, to love and serve the Lord. Amen.