Easter Sunday – 2021
Here we are on Easter Sunday-have you had a good weekend so far? The weather’s been alright-but maybe you’ve had some great family time or enjoyed a few days off over spring break and got away somewhere. As I said earlier-I’m just excited we’re here in person, on Easter morning, worshipping together! That fact alone makes it a great weekend! But I want you to think back to the best weekend you’ve ever had. Maybe it was a weekend vacation or a surprise getaway or a weekend when your team won the championship-or just a weekend filled with some really exciting plans. Maybe it was one of those weekends where you accomplished all the tasks on your to-do list in record time-or it was a weekend with no tasks where you got to sleep in and totally relax. But when was the last time you put your feet up Sunday night and said, “Best weekend ever!” If I had to pin down the best and most life-changing weekend I’ve ever had it would have to be our wedding weekend-and I’m sure many of you who are married would agree. Friday night Monica and I were in IA City-our college town and the place where we met-along with all our family and friends having rehearsal dinner (and watching the Bulls and Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals!), Saturday was the wedding and by Sunday night we had flown to Boston and were on our honeymoon sitting at this Irish restaurant in Cape Cod as husband and wife trying to soak it all in-Wow-we’re married. Weren’t we just a couple of college students? That was a great weekend-our entire lives are totally different now because of that weekend. And that’s the same thing that we need to understand about this weekend. Our entire lives, in fact the entire world, is forever changed because of what happened on that first Easter weekend, nothing will ever be the same again. NT scholar, DA Carson says, The entire Bible pivots on one weekend in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. Have you ever thought about it like that? Everything pivots, everything is changed, the course of our lives is totally altered by the events of one weekend?
So what took place? The events of Friday are captured in one heavy sentence-Mark 15:37. And that’s the moment when the eternally existent Son of God died. As He hung on the cross, it wasn’t the nails or the crown of thorns or the loss of blood or even the Roman soldiers that killed Him-instead Jesus willingly and freely gave up His life and breathed His last. And that didn’t go unnoticed-15:39. Here’s someone who’s overlooked the executions of many people over the years-but to him this one was different. The centurion sees that this wasn’t a criminal shouting and screaming to the end, this wasn’t someone defiant or angry and full of resentment; this was someone making a sacrifice. I think the centurion saw the willingness and humility from Jesus which lead him-a Roman-not a Jew-but a pagan Roman-to make this staggering conclusion-This man was the Son of God. He’s thinking, the greatest being who ever lived just gave up His life on a cross-extraordinary! And because Jesus died that way-and didn’t linger for hours or even days on the cross as most crucified people did-the centurion’s testimony is called in as a witness-v. 42-45. The Roman centurion serves as a clear witness to the fact that Jesus really died. It wasn’t like Jesus was faking it or went into some kind of hibernation or coma. They didn’t take Him off the cross with Jesus giving a wink saying-Shh-I’m not really dead-or that Jesus pretended to die and then jumped off the cross and ran away when no one was looking. Instead, His dead body, a corpse-as Mark says-with no pulse, no heartbeat, no life-was given to Joseph for burial-v. 46. It was sealed up, covered over, body in the tomb, rock out front-that was it-game over. He was dead-Friday night ends with Jesus buried. This wasn’t a trick-it was a done deal. Horrible start to the weekend-worst weekend ever for Jesus’ followers. But we all know-the weekend wasn’t over.
Look at how Mark continues-16:1-2. Now remember, these women aren’t going to the tomb to see if Jesus has risen from the dead. That’s not the reason they went to the tomb Sunday morning. But it’s all too easy for us to think that ancient people back in Bible times were more gullible and we in our technological age are far more intelligent and know better than to think that such a thing like a resurrection could actually happen. But Mary shows us that a resurrection is the furthest thing from her mind because the reason that she and the other women are going there is to anoint Jesus’ body. And anointing was an act of honor for the deceased person, but its main purpose was to offset the stench of decay by spreading fragrant spices on the dead body-spritz it down with a little Febreeze! Mary and the other women are going to the tomb totally expecting a corpse that has started to stink. That’s their agenda-and they’re worried how they can accomplish it. Mark gives the details of their discussion-v. 3. The women realize they don’t have the strength to accomplish it, hopefully someone’s there who can-maybe they can talk the guards into helping them-otherwise their trip was for nothing. But notice how they’re not discussing resurrection. So do you think there’s a chance Jesus might be alive? Do you think He’s come back from the dead? Do you think the tomb is empty-like just maybe a little empty? Hmmm…? None of that-they’re discussing the obstacles-Do you think we can get someone to roll away that huge boulder so we can anoint His body? Death, not resurrection, is the main subject of their thinking.
So imagine their surprise when they come upon the tomb and see the stone already moved-v. 4. This was no easy task so what’s going on? Who got here before us? v. 5. No kidding! This guy wasn’t who they’re expecting at all-a guard, maybe a gardener-but not this guy in white. So what’s happening? Thoughts of confusion and panic are racing through their minds-v. 6-7. And if you think back to Thursday night at the Last Supper what did Jesus say about the weekend-14:27-29. And of course famous last words for Peter who falls away dramatically by denying Jesus 3 times-and yet here’s the angel in chapter 16 specifically telling the women to inform the disciples-and Peter-that Jesus has risen, He’s no longer dead; He’s gone in to Galilee just as He said. A resurrection has happened-v. 6-7. The misery from Friday night is completely reversed by the magnificence of Sunday morning. These women have been given the greatest that anybody’s ever been given-Jesus is alive! He has risen! And this is a clear mark of authenticity for the Bible. Think about it for a moment-if this was a fabricated story made up by the church way back when-then women would have never been listed as the first people to observe and report on the empty tomb because this was a male-dominated culture. A woman’s testimony was considered far inferior to a man’s testimony in that culture-so if Mark had made this story up then Peter, James and John would have been the first to arrive at the tomb-not Mary and the other women. But Mark and the other gospel writers didn’t make this up; they weren’t trying to write a story that appealed to culture; they were recording the truth of what really happened on that weekend 2000 years ago. A group of women showed up at the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body and got the surprise of all surprises-the tomb was empty. The lifeless corpse that lay there Friday and Saturday was filled with new life-Jesus was resurrected from the grave!
What better news could they rush out and share! But in Mark’s desire to accurately report the truth-look at the women’s response-v. 8-everything to everyone, declaring it from the rooftops? Nothing to anyone, for they were afraid-confused, uncertain, shocked, amazed, overwhelmed, heads spinning, frozen in fear, afraid so they stayed silent. It’s a weird response. The reality of Jesus’ resurrection is silenced by their fear. As I read it, I’m wondering why would Mark write it that way? Why the dismal ending? It casts a dim shadow on the excitement of the day. These women receive the most amazing news ever and don’t tell anyone. Now from reading the other gospels we know that the women did get over their fears and go on to tell Peter and John and the other disciples about the resurrection, in fact Mary ended up being the first person to see the resurrected Jesus in person-so the word spread. But Mark is recording their initial instincts, their first response, the gut reaction of the women which was to say nothing and let their fears silence the good news of the resurrection. Again, I have to say it seems like a weird response to me. Why would they act this way? Why stay silent about the greatest, most unbelievable event that’s ever happened on planet earth? Why should they let their feelings of fear speak louder than the truth of the resurrection? And then it hits me-I let the same thing happen in my life all the time. Sad to say, the women’s response isn’t all the different from mine-maybe yours too-because we let lots of things shout louder to us than the reality of the resurrection. You see Mark is writing this way so that as readers we’ll put ourselves in the women’s shoes and ask-what’s my response to Jesus’ resurrection? And even more pointedly-what things in my life do I let silence the reality of His resurrection? And if we have to be honest with ourselves: Pt1:Our initial response: Jesus’ resurrection is silenced by our fears, failures, frustrations and fading health. Way too often those are the things that dictate our lives; they drive our attitudes, affect our decisions, impact our outlook and totally drown out the glorious reality of Jesus’ resurrection.
Maybe you’ve found yourself this Easter weekend, hearing again how Jesus was raised from the dead-but you’ve been so distracted and busy you’re just not feeling it-Oh yeah-you’ve said with apathy as the reality of the resurrection has taken a back seat to other things that have consumed your thinking. And there’s plenty of things this past year that have done that-from pandemics to politics to everything in-between. Maybe you can’t remember a more challenging year of life where things have been so difficult. Or maybe you’re feeling like everything you do lately has been a failure. Maybe you’ve messed up at work and failed to meet your deadlines, your business is plummeting, your numbers are dropping, or you’re failing at home with your spouse and kids. It’s been a struggle everywhere you turn so you’ve gotten frustrated and discouraged. Maybe you’re full of anger and bitterness, and everyone around you knows it. Or maybe with all the stay-at-home and social distancing you’re just stuck in a rut you can’t get out of, struggling with relationships-and so the reality of the resurrection has become a distant thought in your life.
Or maybe you look at your life and see it fading away. Your health and your energy aren’t what they used to be. All you can focus on are your aches and pains, how you’re not getting any younger, complaining about how you’re tired all the time. Isn’t it interesting whenever you ask someone how they’re doing, they usually say-I’m so tired-I just need to slow down and get some rest. When was the last time you heard someone say-I’m so full of energy, I feel great, top of my game-I need more to do! No one says that-everyone’s tired all the time. Our health, our strength our energy is fading away-Ps 90:9-10. Not the most uplifting verse-but it’s so true! We become weary and worn-out in life and let that silence the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Our feelings, failures, frustrations and fading health can shout so loudly in our lives they drown out everything else. But here’s the good news about Easter-they don’t have to. In fact, they shouldn’t because Easter says it’s all reversed. Easter says everything’s changed, your life is on a new trajectory. You need to remember that isn’t just a nice ending to an old Sunday school story-Yeah! Jesus didn’t die-He came back to life and lived happily ever after. As if that’s all it is-some irrelevant, old story you think about once a year on Easter morning as you’re eating a chocolate bunny but otherwise forget because it doesn’t have much to do with you. Jesus’ resurrection has everything to do with you because it’s a real, relevant and permanent hope that defines your destiny.
Look at 1 Cor 15:20. Now hopefully you haven’t fallen asleep this morning-but that phrase means death, fallen asleep refers to those who have died. What that’s saying is that Jesus’ resurrection is just the beginning. It’s the firstfruits. Maybe you’ve been noticing the daffodils in bloom. They look beautiful here at the church. And every year I love to see the wild patches of daffodils at Caumsett on the trail down to the beach-because they’re the first glimpse, the first reminder that spring is here and summer’s coming with lots of flowers and warm weather! That glimpse of daffodils as they peek through the cold and grey of winter with their bright yellow blossoms are saying don’t forget what’s coming! And that’s exactly the point here. Jesus’ resurrection is that first bright glimpse, the firstfruits guaranteeing what’s coming. It wasn’t a single, isolated event. Jesus’ resurrection was the first of many resurrections to follow. That’s the part you can’t miss-v. 21-22a. And pause there a moment-because all means all. No one is excluded. This past week I was reading about the oldest person who ever lived-and it was a guy in Indonesia who claimed he lived 146 yrs. He said he was born in 1870-but Indonesia only started recording births in 1900 so they had to take the guy at his word. But based on his interviews the BBC was fairly convinced he was 146 when he died. Anybody aiming for 146? That’s remarkable! But there’s not some 200 yr old hanging around saying-I don’t know what happened-death missed me! I’m feeling great! All die as the verse says. It’s a sad-but real fact. Yet notice-as by a man came death. And that means death wasn’t part of the original creation. God didn’t put death into the blueprints of this world instead death was the by-product, the result of Adam’s disobedience to God. As the Bible says, the wages of sin is death. Death has come because of what we have done-it’s the consequences for our sinful actions. So every time you get frustrated at death, every time you’re sad and mourn the death of a loved one, every time you get fearful or nervous for your own death, you’re reacting to something that was never meant to be a part of who we are. Death is the abnormality-not the norm. Do you realize that? God had created mankind to live forever and not die, but this world is broken because of our sin and we’re now getting what we deserve. So our bodies fail, our health fades, we wear out and die-most of us before 146-and then end up buried in the grave. That’s the destiny for all of us-except Jesus has come to reverse that by leaving the grave and bringing resurrection-v. 21-22.
That’s true for you and me and all who’s trusted in Christ. Death is no longer the destiny, being alive is now the destiny! Pt2:Our Defining Hope: Jesus’ resurrection guarantees our resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection didn’t make our resurrection a possibility or an option on the table or an idea to consider-His resurrection guaranteed it! If Christ was raised on Easter-which He was-then you will be raised one day too-v. 23. Do you believe that? If you belong to Christ-if you’ve surrendered yourself to Him, repenting of your sins and trusting in His forgiveness, than everything is this world-all your fears, failures, frustrations, fading health, even death-have just lost their grip on your life because what awaits you, what’s a complete guarantee, is to be resurrected like Him. All the frustrating stuff of now doesn’t have to control you because in the end it won’t define you. Look at this constrat-v. 47-49. And what I love about those verses is how they remind me that all this earthly stuff of now-the stuff that seems so important to me, that weighs heavy on my heart and consumes me and causes me to stress out and worry and get frustrated-all that stuff is…dust. Do you see the comparison being made here-our earthly lives are like dust-ashes to ashes, dust to dust-but in Christ we’re destined for resurrection.
Now I’ve got some dust this morning. I don’t normally carry this much lint in my pockets-I brought this from home. And our house is very clean-got this from under the bed! But what’s the problem with dust-besides the fact that it makes us sneeze? It has no substance to it, no depth, no weight, no permanence. Just blow on it and it’s gone, scattered in the air. So what if you remembered what these verses are saying-that because of the resurrection all the fears and frustrations and failures in this earthly life that would otherwise consume you and control you carry no more weight or permanence than dust? What if you remembered that none of those things will have any lasting impact on you because in Christ your destiny isn’t the stuff of dust-as the verse says-instead your destiny is the permanence and reality of heaven? What if you remembered that the resurrection blows all your fears and failures into the air because one day you’ll be resurrected just as Jesus has already been resurrected? That Easter changes everything!
Go back to the first point on the outline. Our response shouldn’t be that the reality of Jesus’ resurrection is silenced by all those things-but instead the total opposite-Pt1:Our initial response: Jesus’ resurrection silences our fears, failures, frustrations and fading health. On the outline-put a big X through is silenced by and write silences because that’s exactly what Jesus’ resurrection does. It gives you the defining hope that all those things are only as momentary and fleeting as dust. Yes they’re there and you have to continually turn them over to Christ-often on a daily basis, but those things don’t need to rule your life or direct your decisions or dictate your future. Because if you’ve trusted in Christ, then your future is dictated by Him who has risen. Listen to Spurgeon, 514. Does it sweep away your doubts? It should! This was written about the time the 146 yr old man was born-but the truth hasn’t changed! Jesus’ resurrection on that Sunday morning 2,000 yrs ago defines your destiny. That was a big weekend with some serious ramifications that impact all of eternity-because we’re not just resurrected for more of this life.
Don’t think that-living to be 146 may sound too long for you, much less eternity. But look what we’re resurrected for-and as we’re finishing our series in Revelation the plane lands here-this is the destination, this is the journey’s end, this is where it all funnels-Rev 21:2-5. That’s what you’re resurrected for-and that’s what we’ve titled this message-All Things New. You’re not raised to new life in the place where things grow old, fall apart and break down. You’re not raised to new life where there’s mourning, crying or pain. You are raised to new life in the place where all things are new-Swindoll, 301. I love how eternity is described-the land of no mores. No more tears, no more death, no more mourning or crying or pain. No more dust! Rev 22:3-5. Just try to describe something better! You can’t! So Pt3:Our Permanent Place: Jesus’ resurrection brings us to a perfect world with a perfect body filled with perfect people. Everything we’ve all been waiting for and longing for and dreaming about! And if you’ve trusted in Jesus this is not the stuff of fiction, but fact. It’s not wishful thinking-but a permanent reality, a place that will be your new address one day-all because of an Easter weekend 2,000 years ago-best weekend ever! But if you’ve trusted in Jesus there’s another weekend coming where you won’t have to say on Sunday night-Best weekend ever-now I better get ready for Monday morning. This is the weekend that never ends. It’s the weekend where no Monday’s ever follow! It’s the end of this dusty, difficult, tear-filled, death-impacted life because it’s the dawning of a new day in the land of no-more’s-no-more death or crying or pain. It’s the heavenly city where all of God’s people forever perfected will dwell with Him in glory because the risen Jesus has made all things new!