Good morning again, and Happy Easter to all.
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Some of us may have some different ideas about Easter. For example, what really happened, and why is it important for Christians.
Today as we engage those thoughts, we are going to learn more about God’s power and how it can change our lives. But first, let’s pray…
PRAYER: Today we come before you, Oh God, with songs of praise as we celebrate your victory over sin and death, accomplished for us though the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to realize the significance of our Lord’s resurrection to our faith and to our daily lives, and to know His immeasurable gift of forgiving and redeeming love. This we ask in the name of our risen Lord. Amen.
Welcome to the most wonderful celebration of the year. Today we celebrate the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That is the CENTERPIECE of the Christian faith … the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead gives hope to all His followers … since with death being defeated, then there is nothing that cannot be overcome.
Remember when Jesus was on the cross, He didn’t say, “I am finished.” He said, “It is finished.” Jesus was just GETTING started.
As believers, we identify with Jesus in His death by dying to our old selves and being raised to new life every single day.
If you are a new believer, you should know that Easter is far and away the most important Christian day of remembrance. It is a day when we celebrate the empty tomb and Christ’s resurrection from the dead!
We have the benefit of knowing how the story ended 2000 years ago, but for those first disciples much of what they experienced was earth shaking, deeply painful, and disappointing, to say the least.
You see, there were so many who believed that the Messiah would come as a conqueror to re-establish the Jewish nation by overthrowing all her enemies, including the Romans.
Historically speaking, many thought the Messiah would be a king like David or Joshua … so, you can imagine the disillusionment when Jesus did not even PUT UP a fight on the night He was arrested.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, Jesus died alone … crucified, and humiliated on a Roman Cross.
It would be impossible to imagine how devastated and disappointed those early disciples were. In fact, I can’t even think of an illustration or example to share with you to say, “It was like this …”
The truth is … it was horrible.
Actually, it was worse than horrible, because it was hopeless. Thankfully, hopeless is not where the story ends.
Let’s pick things up today in Luke 24 for the Tomb Was and Is Empty
On the first day of the week – Sunday, which is the day God said, “Let there be light” in Genesis 1 – on Sunday, the women went to the tomb to place spices on Jesus’ body, but they found the tomb OPEN.
I once heard that the tomb was opened not to let Jesus OUT, but to let the disciples IN.
When the women entered the tomb, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
“…while they (the women) were wondering about this, suddenly two men … stood beside them … the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” Luke 24:4-6
When those women heard “He is not here; he has risen!” What do you suppose they were thinking at that moment?
Bewilderment is probably an understatement, but it is a good start.
Thankfully, the angels were at the tomb to remind the women what Jesus had said, “…He must be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”
After that the women were so excited, they ran back to tell everyone else. It seems they finally remembered what Jesus had told them earlier.
Like I said before, we know how this story ends and how things play out … but the empty tomb is worth noting.
It is worth getting EXCITED about, and it is definitely worth telling others. The empty tomb is and will always be a definitive reminder that the body of Christ is GONE.
The empty tomb reminds us that He has indeed RISEN and that He is indeed ALIVE!
This truth is so important that the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church…
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
1 Corinthians 15:13-14
If the tomb is not empty, then everything we are doing here today is pointless. But if it IS empty, and Jesus IS alive, then we have got something very special to get excited about.
Later in Luke 24, he records the story of 2 disciples walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a town about 7 miles from Jerusalem.
Luke says they were talking with each other about everything that had happened that day …
“And as they talked … Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” Luke 24:13-17
As the story goes on, Jesus asked and answered more questions and eventually the disciples convince Jesus to stay with them for the night in Emmaus…
“While He was reclining at the table with them, He took bread, spoke a blessing and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus – and He disappeared from their sight.” Luke 24:29-31
He just up and vanishes … let’s just say it’s been a very interesting day for all the disciples, but especially these two. Listen to what Luke records them saying to one another after Jesus disappears…
“They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us as He spoke with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem.” Luke 24:32-33
An encounter like this is destined to set hearts ablaze. The absolute joy and excitement these disciples must have felt to know their Savior was alive is hard to imagine.
But here’s an important thing to note, it got them MOVING.
In fact, they got up that very hour, as late as it was, and headed back to Jerusalem to share their experience with the rest of the disciples.
Just like the women who encountered Jesus at the empty tomb, these guys immediately went to share the good news.
And what news is so good that it sends grown adults running at all hours of the day and night?
Christ lives! Christ kept His promise, and He came back.
As the disciples arrive from Emmaus, they learn that Jesus also appeared to Simon. Then, as they are all talking together, Jesus appears in their midst and asks for something to eat … He says to all of them…
“These are the words I spoke to you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Luke 24:44-45
So how amazing would it be to do a Bible study with Jesus? And how much more powerful would it be, if He opened our minds to understand the scriptures?
Look at what Luke records happening here … Jesus says, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.”
A couple dozen years later the Apostle Paul reflects on this by giving us one of the most amazing summaries of the resurrection when he wrote this to the church in Corinth…
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
All of God’s promises, every one of them, find their “YES” in Christ. And through Him, we shout AMEN (which means so be it) to the glory of God.
Some of MY favorite promises are these…
• Redemption from sin
• Reconciliation with the Father
• Peace and rest
• An eternal home
• No more tears, pain, or sickness
• Constant presence
• Life from death
I could have listed more, but THERE IS NO MORE room on the slide.
Have you ever thought what a Paradox … it is to receive life from death?
It’s a paradox since new life … our new life … comes from Jesus’ death. And not just any life, but an abundant and thriving life.
To illustrate this point I want to jump into the story of Job, found in the Old Testament. If you are not familiar with the general premise, Job is a righteous man with a thriving family.
Through a series of events, he loses everything and even his friends begin accusing him of having some hidden sin that he needs to confess.
Their conclusion is that this must be the cause for Job’s misfortune. But Job continues to assert his innocence and demands a “hearing with God”, where he can plead his case.
Well, he eventually gets what he asks for. God comes to speak directly to Job and it is terrifying. About half-way through the discourse Job says…
“Behold, I am insignificant. How can I reply to You? I place my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, but I have no answer – twice, but I have nothing to add.”
And then, finally, Job says something absolutely breathtaking…
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:2-6
Job thought he had heard and learned all he needed to know of God. Through his pain, suffering, and loss he had made assumptions and even accusations against the Creator of the universe.
But what he THOUGHT he knew of God changed when he came face to face with Him, and had his eyes opened to the majesty and providence of the Lord in every facet of life.
And he says, “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” What Job is communicating here is this…
I was WRONG and now I SEE, now I understand.
I take comfort now in the dust and ashes, the rubble of my life.
Job was only able to say that because he had an encounter with the living God, which changed his perspective and even the trajectory of his life.
God eventually gave Job abundant life and raised him from the ashes of destruction.
As we close out another Easter, I want to ask you to reflect on the past several weeks as we have grown in our faith and knowledge of Jesus together.
We have just barely cracked the door and gazed upon the Savior. We have heard about His temptation, humility, life, sacrifice, and resurrection. You could spend a lifetime getting to know Jesus, and never grow weary of it.
He is the source, the promise, the way, the truth, and the life. Fully commit your life to Him today.
Rise up, dust off the ashes, and take a step of faith towards the Savior of all mankind. He’s ready and waiting for you with His arms forever open to you.
And All God’s People Say … Amen!
(please rise as you are able for prayer)
PRAYER: “Lord, Some days are so dark it can feel like the end of the rope. Remind us God, that you have the power to change everything. We need the resurrection of Jesus to be a reality in our lives. Bring life where there is death. Bring order where there is chaos. Bring hope where there is despair, loneliness, and fear. We pray in Jesus precious name. Amen”