Jesus Lives (Easter)

  • Jesus Lives (Easter)
  • Luke 24:1-6
  • Bill Couch
  • April 5, 2015
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4-5-15 sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

4-5

Jesus Final Seven Days: Jesus Lives

 

During the six weeks of Lent leading up to Easter we have focused on the Seven Final Days of Jesus’ life.  Knowing he had a limited time Jesus focused on the things that mattered most to him. Jesus went through some difficult trials during these last days—betrayed by one of his closest and trusted friends, mocked, ridiculed, beaten by Roman Soldiers, deserted by this followers, and dying one of the cruelest forms of execution known: a crucifixion—death hanging on a cross with spikes through his hands and feet. It looks as if his life has ended in defeat. His body is removed from the cross and placed in a borrowed grave. The time is around sunset on Friday evening—the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath—a day of rest on which no work was allowed. His friends did not have time to do any of the ritual preparations for his body. Early on Sunday morning after the Sabbath is over, several women come to the tomb to finish the burial preparations for Jesus’ body.

 

1 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. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 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? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Luke 24:1-6a

It’s Easter. What are you feeling right now? Are you relieved Lent is over—whatever you gave up for Lent, you can now indulge yourself! Perhaps you are anticipating Easter brunch with good food, family and friends. Maybe you are excited to be in church to celebrate the greatest event in all of history—the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pastors get pumped up for Easter; it is one of the most exciting Sundays of the year for us. But I’ll have to admit I’m also feeling a little sadness today—the end of Lent means no more of Joy Vroonland’s daily devotionals. I’m going to miss them!

One of things I like to do when reading the Bible is pay attention to the feelings—the emotions expressed by the persons in the story. There is something about identifying with their feelings that helps to put me into the story and bring it alive. I want us to that this morning as we look at the historical account that Luke gives us of the Resurrection of Jesus. What are the disciples feeling and the women who came to the tomb to finish the ritual burial preparations for Jesus’ body? We will notice a wide range of feelings.

The women expected to find the body of Jesus in the tomb where he was placed on Friday evening. When they arrived, they discovered that the stone placed across the entrance was already rolled away. They went inside the tomb and discovered the body of Jesus was missing. Listen to the first emotion expressed in this story: “they wondered about this.” They were perplexed, confused. What happened to Jesus’ body?

While they were “wondering”, suddenly two men dressed in clothing that gleamed like lightening appeared. Their “wondering” went straight to “fright”—they were afraid at the sight of these magnificent creatures. It is one of the few times angels don’t say, “Fear not!” They just blurt out the facts: “Why do you look for the living among the dead. He is not here he has risen!”

The women ran to tell the eleven Apostles what just happened. “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11) Another emotion is expressed beyond being “perplexed”. The closest followers of Jesus doubt the whole story about the Resurrection—they call it “nonsense”.

Later on Sunday evening, Jesus suddenly appears to the eleven Apostles who are gathered and says, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 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.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

Luke 24:37-43

 

Listen to all those feelings: startled, frightened, troubled, doubting, joy and amazement! Are you getting into this story? Then Jesus reminds them of what he told them over and over again. He would die and rise from the dead to defeat death once and for all.

Now that we have put ourselves into the story, let’s put the story into us! What difference does all this make? Some of you identify strongly with the wonder and doubts expressed in this story. You may believe that all this talk about a bodily Resurrection is nonsense. Easter Sunday, the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, is the cornerstone of Christianity. The Apostle Paul said if there is no Resurrection our faith is in vain—in other words, there would be no Christian faith.

What you believe about the Resurrection matters. Did Jesus rise bodily from the dead with a transformed body that would never die again? Or did his memory just live on in the Apostles and they described that as a resurrection of his presence in their hearts? The disciples were skeptical—they doubted; they had to be convinced with actual proof that Jesus was alive. And those who examine the evidence with an open mind are convinced today.

Attorney David Limbaugh was a skeptic about the Christian faith and decided to examine the evidence for himself. He describes his journey to faith in a book entitled Jesus on Trial, A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel. Listen to his words from an interview about the book:

“So when Jesus died, his apostles and disciples were dejected and dispirited. They were cowards; they had denied him. They didn’t really believe. His own brother James didn’t believe in him. But then Jesus appeared to them over a period of 40 days. And there’s no reputable scholar that denies the tomb was empty or that he died a medical, actual death. He appeared to different ones of them at different times, seven, nine, 11, at one time 500 witnesses. They saw him. They touched him. They ate with him. And then they were transformed — this is critical — from cowardly deniers to bold proclaimers of Christianity.”

 

This morning I don’t have time to go into all the historical evidence for the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. If you are struggling with doubts—that is a good thing—you are not alone. The original disciples doubted until they were convinced. It is OK to doubt, but not to just stop with your doubts. Consider the evidence with an open mind. In the sermon notes section of your bulletin, I’ve suggested three books that will help you explore the evidence. Being perplexed and doubting are part of the story of the disciples journey to faith in the Risen Christ. Perhaps that is where you are in the story today.

Now let’s consider the other emotions with which you might identify in this story: being “startled” and “frightened” are mentioned several times about the women and the disciples. They struggled with fear.

One Saturday, we took three of our five kids to Kastman Park which is adjacent to the new Miller Elementary school. Kristin was around 10, Stephen 9 and Sarah 6. As we walked around the park we came to the big water drainage tunnels that go underneath the loop all the way beyond the access road on the other side. They are dark, damp and long–a little scary looking. Stephen asked if they could run through the tunnel. Being the responsible parent I am, I said, “Sure.” Stephen took off running through the tunnel. Kristin was not going to let her little brother out do her, so she mustered up courage and ran through the tunnel. Our youngest, Sarah, was not so brave. She hesitated at the entrance. Margaret and I told her that she would be fine. But what did we know? We had not gone through the tunnel. Kristin looked back from the other side and saw Sarah standing there in fear. She yelled back, “Come on Sarah, We made it through to the other side and everything is OK. Come on!” Having heard the evidence from someone who had made it to the other side, Sarah overcame her fear and ran through the tunnel to the other side.

Jesus knows that our lives are full of fear. Our greatest fear is death. What’s on the other side? People had long speculated about what is on the other side of death. But no one knew for sure until Jesus came. He suffered through the tunnel of death, was placed in a tomb and then rose from the dead never to die again. For forty days he proved to his disciples that on the other side of death is eternal life. Since he is the only one who made it to the other side and came back never to die again—we can believe him. He made it through to the other side and everything is OK.

The Resurrection means that Jesus conquered the greatest enemy of life which is death. Because he made it through to the other side, we can face all or fears in this life. The Apostle Paul prayed “I want to know Christ and the power of his Resurrection.” (Philippians 3:10) Where in your life are you facing fear this morning? Where do you need to experience the power of the Resurrection?

Perhaps you recently received a diagnosis of cancer or some other devastating disease and you are asking what’s on the other side?

Perhaps you were recently served with divorce papers and you are asking what’s on the other side.

Perhaps you recently lost a loved one and you are asking what’s on the other side?

Perhaps you recently lost your job and you are asking what’s on the other side?

Sometimes we feel fear when faced with new opportunities or challenges.

Perhaps you recently got a promotion and you are asking what is on the other side? Am I adequate? Will the Peter Principle reveal that I’m in over my head?

Perhaps you will be moving to a new city, a new school or off to college this fall and you are asking what’s on the other side? Will this be a good move or a bad for you and your family?

Perhaps you have a wedding approaching soon and you are asking what’s on the other side of marriage?

Perhaps you are expecting your first child and you are asking what’s on the other side of birth? Will this baby be healthy and OK? Will I be a good parent?

Fear grips us because we do not know what is on the other side of anything! But what we do know is WHO is on the other side. Because of the Resurrection we know that life is stronger than death, that love is greater than hate, that mercy triumphs over judgment, and that all the painful trials of this life do not have the final word. Jesus has the final word: “I am the Resurrection and the life. I have been to the other side and everything is OK. Trust me.”

When the disciples saw the risen Christ they were filled with great joy and praised God. When we face our fears and trust that Jesus is on the other side, he gives us courage to go through the tunnel with hope. Fear and joy, despair and hope, doubt and faith—these are a part of our lives in this world. But the Resurrection promises that joy, hope and faith will prevail. The Resurrection does not take away our fear but it anchors us in the reality that Jesus has made it through to the other side and he is with us. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

What doubts and fears are you facing today? Will you give them to the Risen Christ who has made it through to the other side?