March 27, 2016 Easter
Let's start by looking back to Friday; the disciples are running like sheep without a shepherd, Mary's crying, Peter is denying, but they don't know that Sunday's coming.
It's Friday, the Romans beat our Jesus, they robed him in scarlet, they crowned him with thorns, but they don't know, Sunday is coming.
It's Friday, see Jesus walking to Calvary, his blood dripping, his body stumbling and his spirit's burdened, but its only Friday, Sunday's coming.
It's Friday, the World's winning, people are sinning and evil is grinning, it's Friday, but Sunday's coming.
It's Friday, the disciples are questioning, the Pharisees are celebrating...but they don't know, it's only Friday, Sunday's coming!
It's Friday, the earth trembles, the sky grows dark, the King yields his Spirit...it's Friday, hope is lost, death has won, sin has conquered and Satan is laughing...it's Friday. But Sunday is coming!
And here we are, gathered together to celebrate the fact, Sunday is here! Death in actuality was defeated. Hate has done its worse and love has forever triumphed!
I borrowed this introduction from preacher Tony Campolo who borrowed it from his pastor. But on this Easter morning, it is good to take a glance back to Friday and remember how dark things looked to the followers of Jesus. But Sunday is here. We read the familiar Easter story from the gospel of John. Mary Magdalene is making her way to the tomb. She had been at the cross on Friday, and now Sunday is here for her. According to Mark's gospel, she and the other women were bringing spices to anoint his body. She found the stone rolled away, and the tomb empty. Unsure what to do, she returned to tell Peter and John what she had found, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." We notice as we read this story with a lifetime of hearing it—none of them seems to have suspected that Jesus might have actually risen from the dead. Rising from the dead was not a concept that was familiar to them. As they discover the truth of the resurrection, they are shocked. For them, for us, this is the foundation of our sure hope in the life eternal. Until someone actually rose from the dead, it was just a faint hope. Now we have evidence that death has been defeated...the cross was not the end...Friday is behind us and Sunday is here!
But as we look back to Good Friday, we are reminded that Friday's are a part of our lives here on earth. Mary Magdalene's Friday found her at the foot of the cross. She heard the nails pounding, she heard the jeers, she heard his call of forsakenness. She saw him hanging on the cross, saw the blood shed, saw the spear pierce his side. He had saved her from seven demons, but he didn't save himself. It looked completely hopeless. And that's how our “Fridays” can look. The Dr. gives an unwelcome diagnosis. A teenager dies needlessly in a rollover accident. A serious fall changes our whole life. We wait and wait for a life-saving transplant...but word never comes. A blood clot, a clogged artery, a lost job, a shattered dream...those can be our Fridays. But today we remember and we announce to the world, Sunday is coming! Even in our Fridays of the soul, God has promised to walk with us: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me... We know God causes all things to work together for good to those that love God, those who are called according to his purpose...He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
See, scripture tells us over and over that Friday is not God's final word. Scripture does not deny that Friday's sorrows and doubts are part of our lives. But today, Sunday is here and we are reminded that death and darkness have been defeated. (He is Risen, He is risen indeed) We are reminded as we gather together, even though you might be living through a Friday of the soul right now...Sunday is coming even for you. Even when darkness seems so strong, even when hope seems far away, God will never leave you nor forsake you.
On that first Sunday morning, Mary, Peter and John didn't understand. Where was the body? Why was this happening? The two men raced to the tomb. John gets there first, but waits. Peter rushed right in. John finally enters and he suddenly sees an answer to their questions. When he viewed the scene in the tomb; yes, the body was missing, but the grave cloths, not scattered or torn off, but, “He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. (And) he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” It convinced John that it wasn't a grave robber who took Jesus from the tomb, but understanding came that he must rise from the dead just as he said. John was at the cross on Friday, but now he was there to witness Sunday's empty tomb and he believed. (He is Risen, He is risen indeed)
This picture of ordered grave cloths can remind us that when we are suffering, lost and confused by Fridays of the soul, God has ordered things for our good. That can be hard to see, but when we get the understanding that this victory over sin and death is a victory we each share in then hope is awakened in each one of us. It is a reminder for us that our “Friday pain” is not the final outcome; the battle isn't over until God says it is over. Fridays are difficult, but Sunday is here and with it the promise of God's ultimate victory.
And we are reminded especially on Good Friday that what we see may not be the whole story; in our Wednesday Bible Study, we talk about God's upper story, the part we don't always recognize here on earth. We live in the lower story where things look much different than from God's point of view. Friday, Jesus dead and buried...evil won and God lost. Sunday, Jesus wins and death has lost its victory, has lost its sting.
An illustration, and I apologize if you remember this, I have used it before...but here goes: A woman looked out the window of her home and was horrified to see her German Shepherd shaking the life out of the neighbor’s pet rabbit. Her family had been quarreling with these neighbors; this was certainly going to make matters worse. She grabbed a broom and ran outside and finally got the dog to drop the rabbit, now covered with dirt and dog-spit—and extremely dead.
What was she going to do? Well, the woman lifted the rabbit with the end of the broom and brought it into the house. She dumped its lifeless body into the bathtub and turned on the shower. When the the rabbit was clean, she found her hair-dryer and blew the rabbit dry. Using an old comb, she groomed the rabbit until he looked pretty good. Then, when the neighbor wasn’t looking, she hopped over the fence, sneaked across the back yard, and propped him up in his cage. No way was she taking the blame for this thing!
About an hour later, she heard screams coming from the neighbor’s yard. She ran outside, pretending she didn’t know what was going on. Her neighbor came running to the fence. All the blood had drained from her face. “Our rabbit, our rabbit!” she blubbered. “He died two days ago, we buried him, and now he’s back!”
When someone is dead and buried, we don’t expect to see them back; whether a rabbit or a man. The rabbit looked alive from a distance, but it wasn't alive. Jesus is alive. We celebrate the resurrection, but must remember, our faith, our resurrection Sundays are is not about getting cleaned up on the outside. It is not about looking good and respectable. It is not about the appearance of life. That dead rabbit looked good, all clean and fluffy; but it was dead. Easter is about new life; inside and out. It is about Jesus Christ risen and alive in history, but more importantly about Jesus risen and alive in your heart and in your soul. Without Jesus, every one of us is just a propped up, fluffed up, dead bunny. We can get ourselves all looking good and 'christianized' on the outside and still be dead on the inside. Without Jesus we are doomed to an eternity of “Fridays”. The risen Jesus is calling each one of us to respond to his call, John records this in Revelation 3: 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Our call this morning is to answer that knock, to open the door to our hearts and invite Jesus in.
The question I'm asking this morning, is there a time in your life when you took the conscious step of committing yourself to Jesus; to opening the door to your heart and inviting him in? Is your profession of faith sincere and heartfelt? Sunday is here, it is a great day to pause and collect your thoughts and make that commitment and that profession. Here is the call for us from scripture, Romans 10: 10. “ For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Jesus died to make each one of us alive, as we celebrate Easter, let's be sure we are celebrating a life fully new and alive.
Let us pray: Lord, so many of us have been less than fully committed in our Christian walk. This morning, as we gather in community to celebrate the miraculous resurrection of Jesus, we do repent of putting on a show of being your children without being fully engaged. With the apostle whom you loved, we believe in the truth of your victory over sin and death. Though we have not seen, we believe. We profess you as our Savior and Lord. Thank you for your great faithfulness to us. Amen.
Up From the Grave He Arose 165 HLC
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