Thursday, March 20, 2008

John 20:1-18 - Easter Sermon - Has Risen Indeed

John 20:1-18
Has Risen Indeed

Christ has risen! Christ Has Risen!! CHRIST HAS RISEN!!! Today is the holiest days of the year. Today we celebrate the eternal victory over sin and death. Today we know that Christ won the war against sin and we can now rest assured that we will win our own personal battles too. Today the tomb was empty. Today Mary heard her name being called her Lord. Today we are certain that death could not hold back our Lord and Saviour, our King, our Master, our God. Death, although it tried, could not hold back his love for us. Today CHRIST HAS RISEN!!!

For family devotions, Martin Luther once read the account of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22. His wife, Katie, said, “I do not believe it. God would not have treated his son like that!” “But, Katie,” Luther replied, “He did.” That is what we are here to celebrate that God did gave up His only Son for us. He came dwelt among us, sinless and perfect, and died our death on the cross, and after three days, rose from the dead. Today, Easter Sunday, the people of God, us, the Easter people, come to glorify God’s name because CHRIST HAS RISEN!

If you were only to come to church on this day you probably would think that we are a fanatically crazed cult. Here we are celebrating an even that happened almost 2000 years ago. We are celebrating that a man died and now he has risen? Out of all the things in the Bible, all the stories, all the miracles, all the ways God does strange and marvellous stuff here on earth…this has to take the cake. This has to be the hardest pill to swallow out of the lot. You are telling me that a guy dead for three days, suddenly gets up and walks away. Nah couldn’t happen. I mean I watched the special that was on BBC2 the other week, where people were pronounced dead but then later got up and walked away. I have heard stories of people waking up to find themselves in a coffin. But to believe that a man could go through crucifixion, being beaten within an inch of his life and then to be nailed to wooden beams and left there for hours, would suddenly get up after three days? Nah couldn’t happen.

The sceptics for the world try and try to come up with ways to discount the resurrection. They come up with theory after theory, like the disciples just made it up, or that it was a mass hallucination. Someone came and stole the body, like the Romans, the Jewish leaders or the Disciples. Or maybe Jesus just wasn’t dead and in the coolness of the tomb he was revived and then left the tomb. Maybe…well maybe…nah it just couldn’t have happened. When we make excuses or try and make this story out to be a tale of fiction or a folk story, we tend to all be running from the same thing.

When I was in High School I started to get really active in church. I started to go to the youth meetings that happened every Sunday Night. I started to go to Sunday school class and started to learn about this person called Jesus. One day the youth were doing a mediation in the outdoor chapel behind the church. We were discussing our walk with God and the places where we were close to God and then slipped far away. I looked at my life and knew that growing up I went to church because I was dragged there by my mother. I hated sitting in the pews listening to stuff I didn’t understand and hated the fact that I did not know anyone when I went to Sunday school. But then I looked at the last couple months in my life, how I started to get a picture of who Jesus was and what Jesus did. I realized for the first time that when Jesus was nailed to that cross, he was nailed there for me. I realized that it was not just a story but it really happened.

The mediation was now over when this realization happened. I got up and started walking towards the front of the church. I started walking faster and then faster. Finally I got near the sanctuary and I turned in. My eyes started to fill up with tears and my legs started to get weak. I threw myself on the prayer rail just as my heart couldn’t take it anymore. I cried there, knelt before the alter of God. I cried not because I was converted, no I had always believed, ever since I was a little boy. This was not a Paul moment on the road to Damascus. This was not God coming into my life and hitting me with a 2X4. Something happened that was different than all that. Something happened that I think happens in all our Christian lives over and over and over again.

Instead of making excuses and running away from the cross and the tomb something happened. What happened was that instead of just believing, it became real. This really happened. The God that I have come to learn about and actually love, loved me so much that he sent his Son to die to take away my sins and not only that but then he defeated death and came back to life, so that I can be in the presence of God once again. That became real to me.

Now I stand before you as a professional Easter Talker. Telling you the story once again. READ SCRIPTURE.

Here the disciples knew what happened but they were still in such a state of shock that they just went back to their homes. Mary though hung around and she was still trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Mary wanted to know what happened. Then she saw who she thought was the gardener. She cried for her lose and begged for him to tell her where Jesus’ body went to. But then Jesus called her name and Mary realized who she was talking to. For Mary, at that moment the resurrection became real.
Later on more people came to realize that it was real. The disciples when Christ appeared in the upper room. Thomas as he stuck his fingers in Christ’s wounds. The two that had a meal with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Paul on the road to Damascus. Martin Luther has he puzzled over the words of Paul. John Wesley as his heart was strangely warmed. There are thousands of stories about when people realized that this story, this tale is not any of that. But that this undoubtedly happened and truly means what the Bible tells us it means.

Today Christ has risen! Christ Has Risen!! CHRIST HAS RISEN!!! May that fact become real to you.

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