- in my life, I've been to all sorts of funerals
- I've been to funerals where everyone is crying
- a middle-age mother and wife was taken by cancer
- the entire church was filled with mourner after mourner
- speaker after speaker took the platform and recounted stories
- tears flowed
- to top it off, they played one of her favorite opera pieces, and as the sound of operatic voices filled the church, not one eye remained dry
- I've been to happy funerals
- did you know there was such a thing?
- my grandfather died three years ago at age 87
- before he died, he had time to say goodbye and complete his life well
- at the funeral, my uncle recounted the time as a young man in church
- the pastor got up and asked if anyone had anything to share with the congregation
- in front of my grandfather was a normally shy man
- my grandfather had brought a sharp pin to church and carefully placed it to stick up from the front of his shoe
- and when the pastor asked if anyone had something to say, boom! he kicked the man in front of him, who jumped up and had to testify
- that was a happy funeral
- one of the saddest deaths ever to take place was the death of Jesus
- we who read the Gospels from the other side of Easter know how things ended, and we don't really grip the tragedy of his death
- imagine Mary, the mother of Jesus
- angels and wise men attended his birth
- her firstborn son had as a baby suckled at her breast
- as he had grown, I have no doubt that Mary's love for her son Jesus grew, and she believed that he was the promised Messiah
- imagine Mary standing at the foot of the cross, looking at her son as he is brutally tortured and killed
- imagine being a disciple of Jesus for three years
- you give up family and career and everything, and stake your entire lives on him
- imagine believing that he would bring deliverance to Israel, and as you look up at Jesus dying the most ignominious death possible, you begin to think that you were wrong, that you've just been following a dead man
- imagine being Satan
- it's been almost too easy
- in the ancient war of Satan against God, it finally appeared that God had made a fatal mistake
- and Satan said, "Checkmate - Jesus is dead"
- imagine Satan's glee
- he had finally defeated God
- it was his finest hour
- we forget the seeming finality of Jesus' death
- he died before his time
- his mission was not accomplished
- like many so-called messiahs who proceeded him, he too had been killed for taking a stand
- and there was nothing left behind but a dead body and a scattered and discouraged group of followers and a grieving mother
- a man was once challenged by the question: what would it mean for our world if Christ had truly risen?
- this man had three close friends who died that year
- one, a retired man in excellent health, fell over dead in a parking lot after dining out with his wife
- another, a young woman of forty, died in flames on the way to a church missions conference when a tanker truck rear-ended her car in the fog
- a third friend, a man named Bob, died scuba diving at the bottom of Lake Michigan
- nothing could ever bring back his friends
- when he spoke at Bob's funeral, he asked this question:
- what would it mean for us if Bob rose again?
- they were sitting in a chapel, numbed by three days of sorrow, death bearing down on them like a crushing weight
- how would it be to walk outside to the parking lot and there, to their utter astonishment, find Bob
- Bob, with his bounding walk, his crooked grin, his clear gray eyes
- it could be no one else but Bob, alive again!
- you see, that's what Jesus' disciples felt on the first Easter
- they had grieved for three days
- on Sunday everything changed
- there was Jesus!
- he's alive again!
- he's risen!
- there was a new note of hope and faith
- Satan had not won after all!
- Mary did not have to grieve over her lost son
- the disciples did not have to mourn
- Jesus was and Jesus is alive!
- you see, the cross was not the end of the story
- for it is followed by a resurrection that signifies a new beginning
- the passage that we read earlier this morning, Luke 24, underlines the discovery, surprise, and wonder of the resurrection
- listen to what the women did when they arrived at the tomb:
- (Luke 24:2) They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
- (Luke 24:3) but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
- (Luke 24:4) While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
- listen to what happened to Peter when he ran to the tomb
- (Luke 24:12) Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
- look what happened later in Luke 24 as he appeared to the disciples
- (Luke 24:36) While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
- (Luke 24:37) They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
- (Luke 24:38) He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?
- (Luke 24:39) Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
- (Luke 24:40) When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
- (Luke 24:41) And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?"
- it was a time of wonder, of marveling
- the words indicate being perplexed and somewhat in disbelief
- what had happened to the body?
- after repeated appearances, the disciples became convinced that Jesus was raised
- this Easter, we come to the cross with wonder
- I repeat my earlier question: what does it mean for our world that Christ has risen?
- it means a number of things
- FIRST, WE SHOULD NEVER LOSE THE WONDERMENT OF THE RESURRECTION
- we should never take it for granted, or become so accustomed to the Easter story that it loses its wonder
- every year when Easter rolls around, we should be so startled by the reality that Jesus Christ conquered death, that it should literally transform our lives
- Jesus has risen!
- Canadian author John Irving wrote a renowned novel a few years back, called A Prayer for Owen Meany
- in it a character says:
I find that Holy Week is draining; no matter how many times I have lived through his crucifixion, my anxiety about his resurrection is undiminished. I am terrified that, this year, it won't happen; that, that year it didn't. Anyone can be sentimental about the Nativity; any fool can feel like a Christian at Christmas. But Easter is the main event; if you don't believe in the resurrection, you're not a believer.
- I remember one Easter at this church
- I don't know what happened, but this one Easter it was rainy out
- everyone looked tired
- I've been to more exciting funerals than this particular Easter
- but you know, there's no place for that
- Easter should be the happiest morning of the year
- Christ has risen!
- He's alive!
- it's like the hymn that I hope you'll sing with me: I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Je sus the Nazarene
And wonder how he could love me
A sinner condemned, unclean
How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be;
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior's love for me!
- Amen? how marvelous! how wonderful!
- how can we get so excited when the Blue Jays win the World Series, or when we get a new promotion or a raise, or something goes right, and not be moved by the fact that Jesus rose again?
- how can we not be moved?
- how can we not leap out of bed on Easter morning and cry, "Hallelujah! Christ has risen!"
- so listen: point number one is that we should never lose our sense of wonder over the resurrection
- POINT NUMBER TWO: MAKE IT YOUR CENTRAL DOCTRINE
- the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central doctrine of the church
- if you don't believe in the resurrection, you're not a believer
- when the early disciples preached in the book of Acts, they majored on the resurrection
- (Acts 2:32) God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
- (Acts 4:10) then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
- (Acts 10:39) "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree,
- (Acts 10:40) but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.
- (Acts 10:41) He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen--by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
- and on and on
- in fact, Paul goes so far as to say:
- (1 Corinthians 15:14) And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
- (1 Corinthians 15:17) And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
- (1 Corinthians 15:18) Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
- (1 Corinthians 15:19) If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
- the cornerstone of the faith is the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it makes all the difference in the world
- because he rose again, we have salvation
- because he rose again, we know his word is true
- because he rose again, we know that we too will be raised on that great getting up morning
- do you believe it?
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; The third day he arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; The Holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints; The forgiveness of sins; The resurrection of the body; And the life everlasting. Amen.
- Amen! do you believe it?
- we won't talk about the evidence for the resurrection this morning, of which there is plenty
- John Singleton Copley, one of the great legal minds in British history and three times High Chancellor of England, wrote, "I know pretty well what evidence is, and I tell you, such evidence as that for the resurrection has never broken down yet"
- friends, we need to major on the resurrection
- it's the central doctrine
- it's one of a short list of doctrines that are absolutes in the faith
- make it your central doctrine
- POINT NUMBER THREE THIS MORNING: WE SHOULD LOOK FORWARD TO OUR OWN GREAT GETTING UP MORNING
- the Bible connects Jesus' resurrection with our final bodily resurrection
- (1 Corinthians 6:14) By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
- (2 Corinthians 4:14) because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.
- (1 Corinthians 15:20) But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
- because Christ has been raised, we too will be given resurrection bodies on that great getting up morning
- all those who believe in Christ will be raised
- I talked earlier about happy funerals and sad funerals
- for the Christian, there's really no such thing as a sad funeral
- yes, there are tragic deaths and grieving families and friends, but at that time we can also echo the words of the apostle Paul:
- (1 Corinthians 15:55) "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
- (1 Corinthians 15:56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
- (1 Corinthians 15:57) But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
- death has lost its victory and its sting
- we don't have to fear death one day
- if you really mean it, sing it with me:
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
"Even so," it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul.
- Lord, help us never to lose the wonder and amazement of what happened that first Easter morning
- Jesus is alive! He is risen!
- we should be filled with amazement and wonder and joy over this incredible fact
- we ought to major in this doctrine, make it the cornerstone of our faith
- we ought to look forward to that great getting up morning, knowing that because he rose from the dead, we too will be raised from the dead
- give us this confidence, give us this joy
- and Lord, if there is anyone here who has not made this the cornerstone of their faith; if they have not yet believed, could this be the day?
- would they walk out of this building with a new sense of joy and wonderment?
- would they receive confidence that they too will be resurrected on that great getting up morning?
- if anyone here has not repented and trusted in you, what better time than Easter morning, the morning that made all the difference
- make today the day