Sunday, April 1, 2018
SONrise John 20:1-9; Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”
10:00 Mark 16:1-8; Do Not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen;
A woman named Carol was the organist at her church. She was an outstanding musician, but she did something no organist should ever do. She overslept on Easter morning and missed the SONrise service. Obviously, she was embarrassed. Of course, the pastor and the church forgave her. Although they teased her about it a little, but it was done lovingly and in good fun.
However, the next Easter her phone rang at 5:00 in the morning. Jolted awake by the loud ringing, she scrambled to answer it. It was the pastor, and he said, “Carol, it’s Easter morning! The Lord is risen! And I suggest you do the same!”
I’m glad that none of you overslept this Easter morning. I’m glad that you’re here to celebrate the most important day in the Christian year, the day the women went to His tomb early in the morning and found it empty, for He had risen from the dead. Even though He had told them that He would be crucified, dead and buried and then, on the third day, would be resurrected, it took a while for this unimaginable event to become real to them. This was something way out of their experience. The dead simply don’t rise from the grave.
A family in Japan, for a few hours, had their lives turned upside down. It began with a traffic accident in which a man died. The police arrived on the scene and examined the body. The victim was badly disfigured but several of the witnesses thought they knew the car and identified the victim as a 60-year-old local man.
Police contacted this man’s family and a brother-in-law came to officially identify the body. Yes, he said, that’s him. That’s my brother-in-law. Then he went home to break the sad news to the rest of his family. They in turn quickly spread the news to other family members who promptly gathered at the home of the widow. Family members embraced one another, shared remembrances, made funeral plans, etc. Suddenly, the front door opened and in walked the 60-year-old man. This poor unsuspecting man had come home from a hard day’s work and was wondering why all the relatives had gathered at his house. He thought maybe he had forgotten some special occasion.
Can you imagine the celebration those family members had when he walked into the house? Now this wasn’t a resurrection; it was simply a case of a mistaken identity. But think of the joy in their hearts as they phoned the police to tell them to start their identification process all over again, because the one they thought was dead had just walked into their living room.
On that first Easter Sunday the small handful of grieving Christians would’ve been thrilled if it had been a case of mistaken identity when their Master had been pronounced dead. Then they would’ve rejoiced immediately to see their Lord return to them. Then it would’ve been just one of those things that sometimes happens. But a resurrection? And notice the confusion that resulted. Mary Magdalene who loved Him didn’t recognize Him. Some of the disciples, when first told of the empty tomb by the women who had been there tomb, rejected it as an idle tale. It’s clear that, at first, even Peter, Christ’s most prominent and out-spoken disciple, didn’t know what to believe. But in a very short time they found out it was true, Christ had risen as He said He would. And their emotions were like ours would be. They couldn’t believe it. It was simply too good to be true. But it’s true, and that’s why we’re here today. Jesus Christ has risen from the grave. He is risen. /////
Of course, there are many people today who have difficulty believing in the resurrection. There are many people who think it’s a nice story, but they can’t allow themselves to believe it’s true. And we understand why they might feel that way. After all, none of us has ever encountered anyone who has risen from the dead. I mean, the “Zombie Apocalypse” is popular right now. But that’s only a fictional thing. And besides, does it really matter that Christ is risen from the grave?
Good question. Does it all really matter? Would you be surprised if I answer with a hearty, “Yes, it really does matter?” It matters if you’ve ever truly loved somebody and lost them to death. Isn’t that right?
Separation is difficult for people who have truly loved someone close to them, particularly the separation of death. It leaves a void that nothing can fill. Easter is important to us for what it says to us about our continuing relationship with those we love. Does it matter if Christ has risen from the grave? It certainly matters if you’ve lost someone you love to death.
It also matters if you value the gift of life. Life is so precious. No person who is healthy physically and emotionally is eager to die! Life is simply too wonderful to welcome death as a friend.
A man went to his doctor for a complete checkup. He hadn’t been feeling well, so he wanted to find out what the problem was. After the checkup the doctor came in with the results of the examination. I’m afraid I have some bad news, the doctor told him. You’re dying, and you don’t have much time. That’s quite a shock, Doc, the man replied, but I appreciate your honesty. How much time do I have? 10, the doctor answered. 10 what? the man demanded in a desperate voice. Years, months, weeks? The doctor answered, “9, 8, 7. . .”
Well, we can laugh about it. And deep in our heart we know that our Redeemer lives, but still, God has placed in each of us the desire to live here on this earth for as long as we possibly can. We don’t have to apologize for wanting to hold on to life in this world even as we await heaven in the next one. That’s the way we were created.
Some nine-year-old children were asked what they thought of death and dying. One of them named Jim said, when you die, they bury you in the ground and your soul goes to heaven, but your body can’t go to heaven because it’s too crowded up there already.
A girl named Judy said, Only the good people go to heaven. The other people go where it’s hot all the time, like in Florida. [I thought that was a pretty good answer.]
Marsha commented, when you die, you don’t have to do homework in heaven, unless your teacher is there too. Is she saying that some teachers might not make the cut? Surely not.
But a little Johnny spoke for many of us, when he said, maybe I’ll die someday, but I hope I don’t die on my birthday because it’s no fun to celebrate your birthday if you’re dead. And that’s true, at least on this side of the grave. Maybe they have birthday parties in heaven.
We all want to go on forever, don’t we? We fear the unknown. Everybody goes to that wall, yet nobody knows what’s on the other side. That’s why we fear death. But, I have to disagree with that bit of information on that one point. because Christians know what’s on the other side of that wall. We don’t so much fear death as much as we resist letting go of life. That’s the way God created us to be.
Life is so beautiful, so rich, so wonderful. We know that beyond this world, is another world and we trust God that it’ll be an even better world than this one, but we were created out of the dust of this world. It’s been our home, and we love it as God created us to love it. Only a deeply troubled person wants to die. We all want to live. Still death is one reality in life that confronts us all.
Does it matter that Christ has risen from the dead? It is, if you’ve ever loved or been loved. It is, if you value life and want to cling to it forever. It also matters whether Christ is risen from the grave if you want to make any sense out of living. Easter is important not only because of what it says about life beyond the grave, but because of what it says about life on this side of the grave.
If Christ lives, then life has meaning. There’s hope even in the most difficult circumstances. If Christ defeated death, if my life goes on forever, if the gospel is true, I can live courageously, victoriously. I can overcome my fears by His grace and I can be all He intends for me to be. I need the absolute knowledge that Christ has been raised from the grave. It’s that knowledge that gives us power over our circumstances and has for more than two thousand years.
I can’t explain what happened to me during the time in my life when I thought everything was in shambles. I sat at the funeral home planning to bury my granddaughter and I was overwhelmed with grief. I saw that little coffin and felt, that life is so cruel. I left that building feeling empty and alone. But suddenly in my aloneness of my prayer life, I felt released from it all. The panic that had built up inside me was gently being filled by a reassuring presence and a soft voice kept saying, ‘Don’t forget the empty tomb, don’t forget the empty tomb.’ I confessed my faith in Christ and knew that I could indeed face the future with optimism and trust for I was reminded that it’s all worth it “Just Because He Lives.”
Reaffirming our faith in the resurrection is part of why many of us are here today. We need to be reminded of the power of life over death, of hope over despair, of love over hate, and there’s only one place on earth that can be found. That’s by looking into the empty tomb of the man from Galilee.
Does it matter that Christ was victorious over the grave? It does if you’ve ever lost someone you loved. It does if you love life and want it to go on forever. It does if you want to make any sense out of life at all. Are we simply part of the animal kingdom, a creature who fills a space on this earth and then dies and is forgotten? What is the meaning of it all, if death hadn’t been conquered? But it has been conquered. He is risen, //// from the grave. What amazing good news this Easter Day! Hallelujah. He lives. Amen.