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Worship Theme: The Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord
Sermon Theme: Just As He Told You!
Christ is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!
A little girl stood on a high tree branch and cried out for her father. In her excitement she had gotten a bit higher up the tree than she was comfortable with. All it took was one glance down to see how far she could fall for her to be stricken with fear. She clung to the nearest branch for dear life and looked like she’d never let go. Even when her daddy was there to calmly and loving tell her how to get out of the tree. “Back down slowly. Get a good grip with one foot and then find a branch for the other foot. Just like a ladder. And I’m here to catch you if you slip. I promise!” After minutes of high-pitched squealing and cry shouting, she finally calmed down and decided to give it a try. Inch by inch and step by step she did it, until she was close enough that she could reach out for and leap into her father’s arms. And just like that, she was safe. The loving father wiped the tears from her face, kissed her forehead, looked her in the eye and said – “I told you I would catch you!”
The young woman had been married for only 3 months. She was still in school, working the late shift to earn money for tuition. She was a planner. She liked to know exactly how things were going to work out. She liked to have a vision of what her next week, next month and next year would look like. But she held in her hand the evidence of something that wasn’t in her plans. The plus sign on the end of the pregnancy test was not in her plans for the year and it was all just a little overwhelming. She was sitting on the floor in the bathroom crying when her husband came home from work. He sprinted up the stairs to find out what was the matter and saw the stick in her hand! He picked her up and hugged her as tight as could be. “This is great news, sweetie. You’re a great wife and are going to be a great mom. We are going to do this together!” Months later, when she held that little one in her arms for the first time, her heart melted. She was in love. “You’re already a great mom.” her husband whispered into her ear: “I told you.”
It was a rough weekend for them and for everyone they knew. He was the one they loved the most and he was taken from them in a flash. Arrested under the cover of darkness, sentenced to die a criminal’s death and then buried all in 24 hours that was worse than the worst that they could have imagined. They were living a nightmare, yet found solace in one last opportunity to say good-bye. They planned to add spices to his burial cloths to give him a proper burial. And so, the women set out towards the tomb of Jesus
Can you imagine, with me, the smile on the angel’s face as he told the women – “You’re in the wrong place for somber goodbyes!”? It’s Luke’s Gospel that records more of the angel’s message “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5).
The angel knew why they were there and with joy exclaimed: “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
It was four days earlier, on Thursday evening, that Jesus made that appointment for a meeting in Galilee that his disciples had forgotten. “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” (Mark 14:28).
Do you know why they didn’t remember? Do you know why they weren’t waiting in Galilee or camped out in the Garden Tomb waiting for the spectacular show that Sunday morning would bring? They had this nasty habit of hearing only the first part of what Jesus had to say. Like a third grader who stumbles over an assignment with two-part directions. They hurriedly jump to problem number one thinking they know what the teacher wants, or they stop reading the directions before they know all of what’s being asked of them. Then they are disappointed to find that they get the assignment back with a failing grade. Jesus said to his disciples: “You’ll fall away, I’ll be struck but I’ll rise again” but what did they hear? What was their response? “Not me Lord, I won’t fall away.” Peter said “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Mark 14:31). Jesus on more than a few occasions announced the three-part outline of his future:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must 1) go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must 2) be killed and 3) on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21) (see also in Matthew 17:22-23, Matthew 20:17, John 14:29). And their response? It was the same every time. “Never Lord, we’ll protect you. You don’t want to suffer. You cannot die.” How could they have missed the best part of his words so many times!?!
“Good thing that our hearing is so much better than the disciples, right?” That’s what we want to think. That’s what we tell ourselves, but is it? Easter changes our lives! The empty tomb means that Jesus reigns and that we will live forever with him, but is that truth always on our hearts and guiding our attitudes and behavior? Too often we respond to the bumps in our road with fear and trepidation. We find ourselves living of the world, not just in the world. We put our trust in our employment status, in the number of dollars in our bank account, in the amount of power we wield in our lives. We think hope is found in elections won and in a government that leads the way that we think is best. And when it doesn’t go our way, when life gets hard, when tragedy strikes, how do we respond? Isn’t it with doubt, in despair, even in anger with God? And why? Why do we respond that way? Why do lose hope so easily? Is it because Jesus hasn’t been clear with us? Or is it because we sometimes stop listening to him? Just like his disciples, we too are frail followers, selfish sinners, prideful people. We daily prove that we are the ones that deserve God’s wrath, we are the ones that deserve to be cast down into the grave. We deserve to be separated from God forever!
But my friends, listen to the end. Yes, there will be hardship, toil and trial in our lives. Yes, our lives in this world will be muddied and marred. Sin will in fact leave its ugly stains. But that’s not the end. Keep listening! Christ Jesus walked that path of suffering that should have been ours. He allowed your sin and mine to leave its stain and its curse on himself. He laid down his life as the payment price so that God could declare you “not guilty.” And what God says goes!! You are forgiven – Just as He Told You!
Hear your Savior tell you that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). Listen when he tells you that Easter is not just life for him, but it’s your promised resurrection as well: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die (John 11:25). Believe him when he promises you his presence through thick and thin, in easy times and when life is hard. Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
And hear also the words that Jesus speaks to you through the other inspired Bible writers. Their message lines up with his. Their words too are Just as He Told You. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Rejoice that it’s true: There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 8:1). Join the psalmist to believe and to rejoice: I will not die but live and will proclaim what the Lord has done! (Psalm 118:17)
Every single word of Jesus is true and has come true: Just as He Told You. Every single loving promise has been fulfilled in him and by him. Easter is all the proof you need. Jesus is alive Just as He Told You. M Jesus has won the victory - Just as He Told You. And more than just winning the victory: Thanks be to God he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Christ Jesus chose an angel to preach the first Easter sermon. From an empty tomb pulpit, he preached the most powerful sermon that this world has ever heard! “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter. “Jesus is alive: Come and See! Go and Tell!”
And that sermon has been preached over and over again for 2000 years. And it never gets old. Come and see the empty tomb, the stone rolled away, the grave clothes neatly folded! Come and See that sins have truly been paid for, come and see our enemies defeated! See that death is dead!! And then go and tell! Tell those you love that there is life after death. Tell those you know that our Savior Jesus turns wailing into dancing. Share the news that Jesus’ promise and prediction for himself came true – Just as He Told You. Share the news that a tomb that is empty means a heart that is full – full of joy and hope and confidence and peace – in fullest measure and that no one can take away. Share the news that heaven is your forever home and that never-ending perfection and wholeness and rejoicing is promised to all those who call on his name.
This is the free gift of grace that Jesus’ resurrection gives – Just as He Told You! Alleluia! Amen.
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