Easter Morning 2019
– Marveling at the Miracle
Who’s already eaten some Easter candy this morning? Maybe other than Christmas, it seems like Easter is only other day of the year that you can eat chocolate and candy for breakfast. Hopefully, you have your favorites-but here are the Top 5 Easter candies: Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Chocolate Bunnies, Jelly Beans, Hershey Eggs-and for the record these bumped Cadbury Eggs out of the Top 5 which is my favorite! So I’m a bit disgruntled with the Hershey Eggs and boycotting them. But rounding out the Top 5 is Peeps. Did you get any of these? I want to see a show of hands-who likes Peeps? I think they’re the worst Easter candy out there. No Peeps for me-Peeps can stay with the Peeps! But I know people love them. Believe it or not there’s actually the National World Championship Peeps eating contest in the town of National Harbor, MD. And do you know what the world record is for the number of Peeps eaten in 5 minutes? Wait for it-255 Peeps! The guy is Matt Stonie. Here he is holding up his Peeps trophy. Now the 3rd place person only ate 170 and 2nd place only ate 238. Could you imagine eating 238 peeps and losing, having nothing to show for it but a horrible stomach ache and thousands of calories? But this guy set the record in 2017 and it hasn’t been beaten yet. Apparently Matt Stonie is quite an accomplished eater. You can watch him on Youtube-but some of his more impressive stats include eating 182 slices of bacon in 5 minutes, eating 25 Big Macs in 22 minutes, 113 pancakes in 8 minutes and drinking a gallon of Gatorade in 37 seconds. Back in 2015 he won the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest in Coney Island and beat the long-time reigning champ Joey Chestnut. So I don’t know whether I’m amazed and marveling at this guy’s eating ability-or just thoroughly disgusted! But as we gather here on Easter morning our purpose is to marvel-but not at a guy’s ability to eat a bunch of Peeps-rather to marvel at the miracle that took place that day. In fact, that’s what we’ve titled the message this morning-Marveling at the Miracle.
And let’s be honest, later on this week you might do some marveling as you go to the theaters to see Marvel’s Avengers Endgame-the last of the eagerly anticipated films where we find out if Thanos gets defeated by Iron Man and Captain America. And according to the definition of the word-marvel means something that causes wonder or astonishment, something of intense surprise and interest. And all of that would apply to Avengers moviegoers-hoping for some very intense surprises and astonishment as the film unfolds and reaches it’s climactic ending. But that word marveling goes far beyond films and is found in our passage this morning-and nothing could have created more intense surprise and astonishment than what a group of people discovered on that first Easter. Open your Bibles to Luke 23-and as you’re turning there what we have to remember is that while we come to Easter morning full of excitement and high expectations, that wasn’t the case on that first Easter-not at all. There were no expectations or buzz of excitement in the air. This was not the beginning of a day they were eagerly anticipating-rather it was the beginning of a sad and painful day they’d been dreading since Friday afternoon.
Take a look at the end of Luke 23-and we’ll pick up the story-Luke 23:52-54. And of course the Sabbath is Saturday for them so this is on Friday as they’re taking Jesus off the cross and putting Him into the tomb. But they are preparing His body for burial-v. 55-56. That was the most they could accomplish by sunset Friday night-and they had to rest on the Sabbath and couldn’t finish the job otherwise they’d be breaking Jewish law. So can you imagine how long and sad that Saturday would have been? Here the Jesus they followed, the Jesus they believed in, the Jesus they loved who had promised such amazing things was dead. All His miracles and prophecies and parables now seemingly pointless because He was just a cold, dead body lying in the tomb. Was it all for nothing, they would have wondered; thinking the Romans had the last word because they crucified Him, making a public spectacle of their Savior. No doubt that Saturday was an utterly hopeless day of despair, their hearts as heavy and broken as could be.
And so Luke goes on to say-Luke 24:1. And I want you to think about this-why did they go to the tomb? I think we all too often assume that the ladies went there just maybe hoping to see if Jesus was alive-to check it out one last time. That with a twinkle in their eyes they got up early and dashed over to the tomb with this hushed anticipation wondering if maybe He’d come back to life, if maybe He was resurrected. But that wasn’t the case at all. There’s no mention or remembrance of Jesus’ words that He would rise again. Instead they’re headed to the tomb with their prepared spices to embalm a 2 day old corpse. There’s no spring in their steps or hope on the horizon-nothing but sadness and fresh tears because they’re planning to finish the job from Friday night-the sad, grim, unpleasant work of preparing a dead body for burial. As I said they started the day with low expectations. But it sure didn’t end that way! Look at v. 2-4a. Notice that the idea of resurrection didn’t enter their minds yet-even with the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus missing. Their response isn’t-yes, this is what we thought-as if they’re putting the pieces together. Instead it’s a response of puzzlement. But it doesn’t last long because-v. 4-5. And there’s the question-I love the angel’s presupposition that there’s nothing dead about Jesus-not at all-He’s part of the living. And he goes on to remind them of Jesus’ words-v. 6-10. And you can imagine they’re all talking on top of each other at the same time. The disciples are saying-slow down ladies, one at a time-what happened? But v. 11. If you have the NIV it says their words sounded like nonsense. Again, even the disciples weren’t anticipating a resurrection. Even though the ladies just said so, even though they also heard Jesus’ words that He would rise-it still wasn’t in their sphere of possibility. It’s the same for us. We all know someone on the edge can be revived, someone who’s ill can be healed, sickness can be cured, but dead is dead-and resurrections just don’t happen. Except for one who thought maybe-v. 12a. Something finally triggered and off he went in a dead sprint to find out. And I love the detail on this from John’s gospel-John 20:3-4. And that other disciple is John who wrote this gospel-and he’s saying-By the way just for the record I smoked Peter-that guy is so slow. I got there way before he did! So the apostle John wins the first ever Easter Morning 5K Fun Run. He gets the medal for reaching the tomb with the fastest time! But John goes on to say that he only looked in-while Peter actually went in first-and v. 12. And there’s our word-marveling. Peter is filled with wonder and astonishment; nothing could have created more intense surprise than this! What we have on Easter morning-and quite early-the ladies went at out early dawn-so by the time they come back and Peter and John run out there the latest it could be is midmorning. So by this time-9am/10am on Easter morning the women are filled with excited chatter and Peter is strolling home with his mind utterly astonished, marveling at what had happened. From the lowest of expectations at the start of the morning to something incredible and amazing-all before lunch.
But here’s what I want us to understand-Pt1:Easter morning is far more than just a happy ending. Certainly this makes a great story-here’s Mary and the other women telling the most incredible ending that any story could have-Jesus is risen from the dead! The tomb is empty! We all love happy endings-especially when something so horrible happened earlier in the story-like the crucifixion. It’s wonderful that Jesus, who was completely innocent and not deserving of death, who never should have been sentenced to death in the first place, has come back to life. The good guy wins, the plans of evil fail and it ends happily ever after. But that’s not all this is saying. If you think Easter is just a nice story about someone who came back to life then you’ve missed it. This isn’t like other fairly tales where the main character comes back to life. Maybe you think of the movie Tangled when Princess Rupunzel comes back to life-or Pinocchio comes back to life as a real boy-or the little alien ET came back to life to fly home-and as a lifelong Trekkie Spock came back to life in Star Trek 3. Those are great endings where everybody lives happily ever after in the world of fiction and film. But when it comes to the gospel and hearing the Easter story you can’t say-That’s good Jesus rose from the dead-what a nice ending to the story-I’m glad it turned out well and everybody was happy. Now what’s for Easter dinner? It can’t stay at the story level; it’s not something you think about at Easter and then set aside until next year-as if it’s just another part of the Easter lore along with bunnies and chocolate. It’s not just a story with a good ending; nor is it a story with an inspiring theme. Certainly the resurrection provides us with the theme of hope rising out of despair-and that’s great. We love stories where hope and goodness win out over tragedy and sorrow. Those make the best books or films like we said. But the resurrection is far more than that.
And that’s because the resurrection has repercussions that affect you and me today. This story didn’t end on that first Easter morning-it’s not a self-contained tale that’s now over-instead what happened on that first Easter radiates outward, affecting the very outcome and destiny of our lives. It’s a historical fact of staggering importance that we have to interact with and understand. That’s what Paul did-look at what he said-1 Cor 15:3-6. Notice how Paul said this was of first importance-meaning don’t forget it. That if you want to know what the gospel is all about it’s this: that Jesus died, was buried, and raised to life on the third day. And I like how when he was writing this he’s intentionally saying that most of the people who saw the risen Jesus are still alive. You have questions? You want to know if it really happened? If He was really raised? Go talk to these people-they’ll tell you. Paul is saying there is nothing more important to understand than this. He goes on to explain why-v. 20-22. Obviously because of Adam’s sin in the garden the entire human race now experiences death. That’s what sin brought us-and of course we can’t blame Adam and say it’s his fault that we’re going to die-because we’ve all sinned too and done things we shouldn’t have done. We’ve all disobeyed God and tried to go our own way and do our own things-and so together we’re all guilty and deserving of the punishment-which is death. But this is what Jesus has come to fix. His death on the cross takes our place. He serves as our substitute and dies for us-so that by His resurrection death can be reversed as we’re made alive in Him. Just as Jesus was our representative on the cross, so He’s also our representative in resurrection. That’s what this passage is saying-v. 22. And look at how it continues-v.23. And firstfruits means what it sounds like-it’s the first part of the crop, the first fruit that shows up on the tree-that first apple that ripens; it’s the first glance of the huge harvest to come. That’s what Jesus’ resurrection is-the first of many more resurrections to come. This passage is saying there’s going to be a huge harvest of people being raised to life-and it all begins with Jesus. His is first. He’s the firstfruits; His resurrection guarantees yours-if, as the verse says, you belong to Him. That’s Pt2:Easter morning is the guarantee of an eternal reality.
And that happens through faith. If you have trusted in Jesus by faith to die for your sins, paying the penalty you deserve, then He is going to raise you up to new life-first spiritually as He forgives you and cleanses you and gives you a new heart, but then one day physically, with a new resurrected body just like His that will last all eternity. Look at v. 48-49. Thank goodness our eternal state isn’t dust. Just think about the magnitude of that comparison. From something as light and insignificant as dust-which blows away with the slightest bit of wind or swept up by a broom-to something as permanent and weighty and glorious as heaven. But that’s what’s in store for us in Jesus-v. 49. Back to Pt2-if you belong to Him. If you have trusted in Jesus by faith to save you then you will one day be resurrected like Him. It’s not wishful thinking or a hopeful feeling; it is a guaranteed fact-a promise that will happen! Look at how it continues-v. 51-55. That’s the real happy ending that this is all about! It’s not just that Jesus was resurrected on that first Easter morning-but that all who trust in Jesus will also be resurrected-and death will be forever defeated and swallowed up. Just like that guy swallowed 255 Peeps, so Jesus has swallowed up death. Yes, your physical body will one day die-but death will not have the final word and triumph over you-because Jesus will raise you up, in the twinkling of an eye. He will change you so that you will put on immortality and live with Him forever! That’s not a hopeful feeling but a heavenly promise to fill you with wonder and awe; to make you marvel. I like how Paul Tripp communicates this in his book New Morning Mercies, Apr 13.
Have you thought about it like that before? Your story-because of the Easter story-now has an end that never ends!
Easter celebrates the first day of resurrected, eternal life that began with Jesus. He’s the one who started this whole thing-and now we’re brought into it by faith in Him. The direction and destiny of our lives is forever altered because of His resurrection that guarantees ours. So Pt3:Easter morning is the beginning of a brand new day. Jesus’ resurrection says your life will never be the same again. Think about that-what was once a life destined for death is now a life destined for eternity. As Paul Tripp said-eternal life to come and real life now. And Jesus’ resurrection is Day 1 of that new life. I want you to flip ahead to John 21-and we’ll look at one more encounter Peter had with the risen Jesus-and it’s a passage that highlights the beginning of this brand new day.
Look at-John 21:3. Peter and the disciples are still trying to sort all this out. Jesus died, now He’s alive and risen-what does it mean about who He is, what does it mean for them as His followers? So many questions to figure out-plus Peter still bears the guilt for denying Jesus which is weighing heavy on his heart-so in the face of all that he does what he knows best-and that’s go fishing. At least fishing is something Peter’s good at, the one thing he can control. To de-stress and catch some fish-except he didn’t catch anything! All night long he and the disciples worked at it and got nothing-no fish. Talk about frustrating! Here they are trying to fish in order to unwind and relax after all that’s happened-and they come away with nothing, not a single catch. And yet-v. 4-and He yells out and tells them to throw the net on the right side of the boat-and they do and v. 6. Here at the start of a brand new day-after laboring all night-Jesus provides them with an unbelievable catch-v. 7a-talk about being filled with awe. Here’s another miracle to be marveling! And I love what Peter does-v. 7b-8. The disciples are so excited, so overjoyed at seeing Jesus-they dash right over to Him. And look what He does-this is the best part-v. 9. Here’s Jesus fully alive and resurrected grilling on the beach! Does it get any better than that?
Who doesn’t love grilling-the smell of the charcoal and the fire warming up, the food sizzling? Here it is-the end of April and we’re just at the start of the grilling season-which is great because when you’re grilling you’re not stressed out, you’re relaxing with steaks or burgers on the grill, hanging out with friends and family, enjoying the fresh air of eating outside. Here’s Jesus grilling up some fish and flatbread-maybe he’s brushed on some olive oil or sprinkled on some fresh herbs or veg. But if you’re ever tempted to think of the resurrected Jesus as shadowy or ghostly or spirit-like; that He was transparent and glowing-not really there-you can’t-because here He is grilling on the beach! The resurrected Jesus is not somehow less human-and more ghostly-for there is nothing more human and awesome than grilling on the beach. And what does He say-v. 10-12. There they stood, that morning, at the start of a brand new day, in speechless awe, marveling at the resurrected Jesus grilling breakfast on the beach. They had been toiling all night on the sea, working and struggling for hours, getting nowhere-and come morning Jesus is standing there with the food all prepared, saying-Come and have breakfast.
And maybe you can think of a time you were up toiling and laboring all night-trying to write a paper for school or studying for exams, or getting caught up on a ton of work. Maybe you were trying to meet a project deadline or getting the monthly reports done, or maybe you were dealing with some sort of problem or worry that kept you up all night; and the more you lied awake the more the anxiety grew. Maybe you had a big fight with someone before bed and were unable to sleep and so you tossed and turned all night-and maybe you eventually fell asleep for a few hours-but when you woke up and came downstairs there was your mom or your dad or your spouse or one of your siblings or even a friend in the kitchen standing at the stove, cooking up some eggs and bacon, maybe some pancakes, fresh coffee was brewing-he smell hits you about halfway down the stairs. It’s all prepared-and after that long, sleepless, terrible night there are no better words than Come and have breakfast. Because that means it’s the start of a new day and things are going to be better-the sun is shining and breakfast is ready.
That’s exactly what Jesus is saying to you and me just like He said to the disciples-Come and have breakfast. Because it was the end of a long, terrible night-one in which Jesus faced the fury for all our sins on the cross, a night where our innocent Savior was betrayed and arrested and the evil one unleashed all he had as Jesus was mocked and beaten, a night where the power of sin and death tried to destroy Him as He was nailed to the cross-and darkness settled over the whole land for 3 hours-but it didn’t last. Death didn’t win; Jesus wasn’t defeated. That dark night ended and Jesus was resurrected on Easter morning. He was brought back to life and now He offers immortality and eternal life to you and me. For all those past centuries on planet earth ever since the garden of Eden where the curse of sin originated and the punishment for our sins needed to be paid-now the night is finally over and the work of redemption is complete. Payment has been made. That’s what the resurrection is-it’s the living proof that God the Father has fully accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Look at Rom 6:9-10a. Nothing else needs to be paid. No outstanding sins that you’ve done still need to be covered-He’s done it once for all. Jesus said from the cross It is finished-so there’s nothing left to do but come to Him. He’s alive and grilling on the beach-so back to Pt3.
That’s what this scene communicates-that’s what the grilled fish and the bread represent-His grace and salvation for us. He stands there at the grill saying-I’ve taken care of everything. There’s no need to worry or fear anymore, no need to feel condemned or try to earn God’s favor. I’ve provided all that you’ll ever need for this life and I’ve provided all that you’ll ever need for eternity. So trust me, follow me. Come and have breakfast. And the big question is will you. Will you come to Jesus-marveling at the miracle of His resurrection like the disciples did there on the beach? Will you put your trust in Jesus, knowing that He has defeated sin and death and offers you forgiveness and eternal life? Will you leave behind all your sin and baggage of the night and surrender to Him as your Lord and Savior? Will you come and have breakfast? Will you enter the start of this brand new day-a day that never ends once you’ve come to Jesus, where the hope of this life leads right into the glory of eternity? Or will you stand a ways down shore-maybe one foot still in the water-and say, No thanks Jesus, I think I’ll go get my own fish, find my own grill-take care of myself. You can do that-a lot of people do. They think they’ll be just fine on their own. That coming to Jesus is either irrelevant or stifles their fun or just isn’t necessary-but that doesn’t lead to new life, it only leads to death. New life, eternal life, a forgiven life is found in Jesus and He’s saying, Come and have breakfast.