This being Easter our leadership met and decided, "You know, we want to get a really special speaker. Why don’t we call the best preacher in the world and ask him to speak."
And they did and he said "No".
So they said, "Well if we can’t have the best speaker, as least we can get the smartest one."
So they called him and he said "No".
And then they said, "Well, if we can’t get the best or the smartest, at least we can get the best looking."
And they called him and he said "No".
And finally one of them said, "Well, we can always ask our preacher." And so they did. And what could I say, I’d already told them "no" three times.
Sorry about. Well you’re stuck with me this morning. But I’ve got to tell you, we’ve got a great topic, a great passage of scripture, and a great hope in our resurrected Lord.
The Poem says,
Come, see the hillside in the dawn, the cross bereft of him who died;
see the open cleft that greets the day, the empty wherein he lay.
Go quickly, Leave the place of death and swiftly run to those who have not heard the victory’s won,
Who watch and wait, make haste to teeming throngs who need to know, for whom the news unless you quickly go, will come too late
And tell, o spread the news as long as you have breath, that Jesus holds the keys to Hell and death;
His name be praised! For he is risen as he said,
And in that Glorious rising from the dead, we too are raised.
Well, we gather here this morning to celebrate Easter. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. To give praise to a God who moved the stone that day and a God who still moves the stones, the trials of our lives today.
What does Easter stand for? And in the multitude of possible answers let me share six of them with you.
E - Empty Tomb that provides hope in a hopeless world.
A father and his teenage son were living in Mexico City. They had had an argument, and the son, Paco, shouted curses at his father and then stormed out of the house and didn’t return. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months.
The father searched the city over and finally in desperation he went down to the newspaper and took out an add. It said, "Paco, if you read this, I want you to know that all is forgiven. I love you and I will be waiting for you at this Sunday at the entrance to the city park. I hope you show up, love dad."
He said that Sunday morning 200 Paco’s showed up at the park, all looking for forgiveness.
There are so many people searching in this world. Searching for forgiveness, for hope, for meaning. And the good news of Easter is that the empty tomb provides that hope in a hopeless world.
Matthew 12:20-21 – says, A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In His name the nations will put their hope.
A bruised reed, a smoldering wick. That describes many people in this room today. Perhaps you’ve been bruised by the trials of life. Perhaps you were bruised by harsh words or by a friend’s anger or by a spouse’s betrayal or by your own failure or the failures of those around you.
Perhaps, you feel like a smoldering wick. At one time your passion for God and for ministry and for life was flaming high, but the winds of life have blown and now you feel one step away from the flame going out all together.
There are many bruised reeds and smoldering wicks in the Bible. A woman standing before an angry crowd wanting to punish her for her sins. A leper, outcast, shunned from society. A Blind man on the side of the road. A paralytic lying on a stretcher, a woman with a long term illness.
Bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. And the world is so good at breaking those reeds in two and snuffing out those smoldering wicks. But what did Jesus say, He said, A bruised reed I will not break, and a smoldering wick I will not snuff out. In My name you will put your hope.
And the great message of Easter is that if Jesus Christ was powerful enough to move the stone and overcome the grave, then he is powerful enough to move the stones that are blocking my life.
The resurrection gives us hope in the face of the unfairness of the world. It gives us strength and courage in every situation that we face. And we need that. You need it, I need it.
I read a story some time back about the Civil War, It seems as if a Union soldier was shot in the arm during the battle of Shiloh. His captain saw he was wounded and barked out an order, "Gimme your gun, Private, and get to the rear!"
The private handed over his rifle and ran toward the rear, seeking safety. But after only going about two or three hundred yards, he came upon another battle. So he ran to the left, and found himself in another part of the battle. Then he ran to the right, but encountered more fighting there.
Finally, he ran back to the front lines shouting, "Gimme back my rifle, Cap’n .There ain’t no rear to this battle no where!"
Well, When it comes to the troubles of the world and daily life "there ain’t no rear to this battle nowhere!" And that’s why the Easter story is such good news. The Resurrection which validates every promise Jesus every made is the good news that gives hope and light and encouragement, when everything else looks bleak.
A - Angel who invited them to look -
The Gospel writer, Matthew, records that when the women came to the tomb, the first thing the angel did was to invite them inside. He said, “Come and see the place where he lay.”
Take a look at the evidence. And God still invites us to do that. And you can look for yourself. the evidence is there if you investigate.
An empty tomb, undisturbed grave cloths, a 2000 pound stone that’s rolled away. Over 515 eye witnesses.
Do you realize, that if we had each person that witnessed the resurrected Lord, if we had each one of those witnesses come up here this morning and talk for 15 minutes a piece and give testimony to what they saw. Just for 15 minutes and then the next.
For us to listen to the testimony of all the people Jesus appeared to we would be here all day, and all night, and Monday and Monday night and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and sometime early Friday morning they would just be wrapping up the testimony. Over 128 strait hours it would take just to hear, for 15 minutes apiece, the testimony of those that saw the Lord after he rose.
And the evidence shows that he rose again. And the tomb was empty, the soldiers had no story.. And millions down through the years will attest to this reality.
In 2 Timothy 1:12 the apostle Paul wrote, "I know WHOM I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him for that day."
And I’m here this morning and I can tell you the same thing. I know whom I have believed, and I’ve searched, and I’m persuaded that he is risen from the dead, alive in the world and making a difference in my life.
And millions of people down through the centuries have themselves met Jesus, first hand, and followed Him and let Him transform their lives.
Atheists....who set about to prove that Jesus’ resurrection did not happen. And ended up being overwhelmed by the evidence and person of Jesus Christ.
People like the English journalist Frank Morisson...Lew Wallace, the author of Ben Hur...attorneys like Albert Roper and Josh McDowell....scholars like England’s Lord Littleton, and Gilbert West. Athletes like Dion Sanders and Emmitt Smith. Personalities like Jane Fonda and Mel Gibson. People who at first discounted the resurrection, and each of them ended up meeting Jesus Christ Himself and deciding to follow Him as Savior and Lord.
Come and See, investigate the Angel said, and you will believe.
S - Surprise at an empty grave
I have a good friend named Scott. But when Scott was a little boy, about four years old, his dad sent him down to his Sunday School Class with his offering money. After class when his dad picked him up he still had his two quarters clenched tightly in his hand. His dad said, Scott, why didn’t you give your offering to Jesus down in your class. And Scott looked at his dad with all the seriousness of a four year old and said, "Dad, Jesus hardly ever shows up down there."
Well, not many people expected him to show up on that Sunday morning either and what a surprise, what a shock that his new birth caused.
Everyone involved was surprised at how it turned out. The Soldiers didn’t have an answer, the Pharisee’s were caught trying to come up with a back up plan. The Religious Leaders who thought they buried the one who challenged their way of life, were shocked when Sunday morning rolled around and the stone rolled away and Jesus Christ rose victorious over sin and death. And that is the greatest surprise this world has ever known.
T - Tell - The command they were given
After the angel invited the surprised women into the tomb, they were told to go and tell this good news to others.
The command was given, and yet this is the one that so many choose to ignore. Those of us that have searched and satisfied it in our own lives, received him as Savior and Lord, and now our command is to go and tell others. And yet we sit quietly as opportunity after opportunity passes us by.
Do you know how most people come to know Jesus Christ? Do you know what the most effective mode of evangelism is? It’s the same as it has been for a long time. The most effective mode of evangelism is one person inviting another person to come to church with them.
Now you probably thought I was going to say that most effective mode of evangelism is one person telling another person about Jesus Christ. And let me say that that is the ideal way. And that should be and could be the best way.
But reality is that 90 to 95% of all commitments to Christ come after a person has accepted an invitation to attend church. A person invites another person to come to church where they will hear
Like the woman at the well that went back to her town and said, “Come and see a man who knows all that I’ve done and yet still loves me.”
Now the responsibility for sharing Christ will still fall to each one of us, but people are much more open to receive it once they have come to church and opened up their lives to the influence of Godly people. The heart is prepared and then someone shares the gospel with them and they come to know the Lord. But it starts with someone inviting a friend to church.
We are in the mission together. We all play that part. What did the Apostle Paul say? I plant, Apollos waters, but God gives the increase. We do it together. And people come to know Jesus because grandparents sow, Christians pray, friends invite, people talk, greeters greet, preachers preach. And we all do it together. And while were doing that, God is working in the midst of it.
The Holy Spirit is convicting them, circumstances are softening their hearts. And in time they respond and receive salvation and the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven. Go and Tell.
E - Excitement that the women felt that morning.
In an old Good Friday "FAMILY CIRCUS" cartoon, Little Billy and his brother are walking along through a store looking at all the Easter eggs and candy on the shelves. And Billy says, "This may be Good Friday, but Sunday’s gonna be even gooder!"
Well, that may not be correct English but it’s sure profound. Early that first Easter morning, the disciples and the women who were the first to find the tomb empty didn’t realize just how much "gooder" Sunday was going to be. But it sure was, wasn’t’ it?
We don’t always see right away how things are going to turn out. That’s how it was for the disciples on Friday and Saturday. But what a difference a day makes.
Just recently we witnessed the account of PFC Jessica Lynch. On March 23rd she was part of a group of soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company that were ambushed by Iraqi forces. On Tuesday, April 1st, she was still missing. And can you imagine the hurt and the anguish and the confusion of the family as their child is missing and presumed dead. But on Wednesday, April 2nd, word comes back that in a daring rescue mission, PFC Lynch was recovered and returned and safely back home.
And can you imagine the excitement in the Lynch home. Can you imagine the difference in emotion from Tuesday to Wednesday as the one they thought was dead was found to be alive? What a difference a day makes.
There are many of you that living in day one…It’s the day of the trial. And you are getting hit on all sides. It’s here, it’s now. Life is pouring in on you. And if you are there. If you are in the midst of day one, my encouragement to you is to maintain hope.
Because what a difference a day makes.
There are probably even more of you living in day two…Like the disciples on Saturday. The heat of the trial may be over but now is the time of confusion and frustration and discouragement. And perhaps your faith is week. The future seems cloudy, the outcome uncertain. And if that’s where you are, my encouragement to you is to maintain faith.
Because what a difference a day makes.
And all of us are facing day three. A day of victory. A day of good news. A day of renewed hope. And if you aren’t there now, be assured that it’s coming, because Jesus Christ has won the victory.
And day three means hope.
Day three means a change of fortune.
Day three means victory, now or in heaven.
But what a difference a day makes. Maintain your hope. Maintain your faith and be encouraged and excited about day three.
There’s an old Spiritual Song that says,
Sit down brother. I can’t sit down.
Sit down brother. I can’t sit down.
Sit down brother. I can’t sit down. I just got to heaven and I can’t sit down.
Man, that’s exciting. And that’s what day three has in store for us. And maybe we see the victory in this life. And that’s well in good. But all of us as believers in Jesus Christ have a day three coming. A day when we go to be with him. A day of victory. And we ought to be excited about that.
Well, the E is for excitement. And then last this morning.
R - Resurrected Lord who is living today
Wed. night studies - Mohammed is still in grave, Buddha is still in grave, Confucius, Joseph Smith - all still in the grave - only in Christianity do we find a Resurrected Lord.
Only faith in Christ is valid because only Jesus rose from the dead. No other religious leader defeated death so none other can make these claims.
A Sunday School teacher had just finished telling her third graders about how Jesus was crucified and placed in a tomb with a great stone sealing the opening. Then, wanting to share the excitement of the resurrection, she asked: "And what do you think were Jesus’ first words when He came bursting out of that tomb alive?" A hand shot up into the air from the rear of the classroom. Attached to it was the arm of a little girl. Leaping out of her chair she shouted out excitedly "I know, I know!" "Good" said the teacher, "Tell us, what were Jesus first words." And Extending her arms high into the air she said: "TA-DA!"
The resurrected Lord is the central event of our faith. It’s the "TA-DA!" of Christianity. And Because of Easter, we know that God in Christ Jesus is more powerful then anything in life, even death.
The resurrection is not just another thing we believe as Christians, it is the very center of our faith. Everything hinges on the resurrection. And you realize that when life smacks you in the face.
I read the account recently of a man whose young daughter died. It was devastating for the family. But in her death, Easter took on new importance. The father said this: "Until you stare death eye-to-eye, Easter is just a word, a nice day with bunny rabbits and eggs...but when someone so precious to you dies, Easter becomes everything...an anchor in a fierce storm...a rock on which to stand...a hope that raises you above despair and keeps you going..."
Everything hinges on the resurrection. In our deepest, darkest moments. When we don’t think it can ever get better. The resurrection gives us hope that it can. When we are in the midst of day one or day two, the resurrection gives us hope that there is a day three and victory is coming.
Let me close this morning with the story of Kay Arthur. Kay Arthur is a writer, a lecturer, and many thousands of people around the world, including right here at OCC, have been impacted by the bible studies put out by Kay Arthur. She is a committed Christian Woman. But it has not always been this way for Kay Arthur.
And when he threatened suicide she was so crass, so uncaring that she told him go ahead and kill yourself, I could use the life insurance money. And he did. he hung himself.
And Kay Arthur said that as she drove away from the cemetery that day she felt like such a failure as a wife, as a mother, as a person. And she felt such anger and frustration and pain. And she said as she drove away she shook her fist at the sky and she screamed, "To Hell with you God."
But she said, "what I didn’t know until later, was that that was exactly what he did for me. He gave his life, he went to the very gates of hell. And he did it for me."
You know what He did it for me also, and for you, and you and each one of us here this morning. The title of the book that relates her story is called "Lord, I need Grace."
Maybe your here this morning and your feeling the same way. And you need grace and forgiveness and hope. I guarantee you’ll find it in a resurrected Lord named Jesus Christ.
Are you here this morning needing to make a decision. Perhaps a decision to take Jesus as your Savior. To be assured that when you die, you too will rise again and be with God forever. You say, “I want that. How do I do that?”
The Bible says you believe in your heart that you are sinner in need of Savior and that Jesus is that Savior. And then the Bible says you confess that with your mouth before men, that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and then you get baptized, immersed in water as a pledge of your life to him.
Just as he was buried in a tomb and rose again to new life. So you are buried in the water and rise again to new life. Are you ready to make that decision. Have you done that already, and you come this morning as an immersed believer looking for a church home? Whatever your decision, why don’t you come as we stand and sing.