2nd Sunday of Easter – Sermon 84

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the glory and honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

AMEN

Introduction

“Christ is alive! – the opening words of our first Hymn this evening –
Do we believe it! – or do we think He is still locked away somewhere in a 2000 year old tomb –

Most people think that Jesus was a good man who lived and died in Palestine – they even accept that He was put to death on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem – (after all there’s a lot of historical evidence to support it) –

but to believe that Jesus rose from the dead ? – for many – that’s too much to swallow!

As Christians we know that the resurrection is fundamental to our faith – that through it – Jesus confirms everything that Jesus said and did on this earth –

With the help of our readings – we are going to look again at the evidence – the events and promises surrounding those three days – to see if helps our understanding of what Jesus really did for us on that first Easter

Point 1 Women at the Tomb – the empty cross

“It was early morning when the women arrived –
the taste in their mouths was bitter –

Everything was unbearably heavy – with the sickness that comes with death

Where lay the trust
Where was the promise
Why and how had everything gone wrong?
If only He’d stayed in Galilee
If only they’d not gone to the garden
If only the men had had their wits about them-
Why hadn’t they fought for Him
Why hadn’t they begged them to take someone else
Instead – they all stood and watched
While His broken body slowly died
Silently watching the end – and in the ending – we died too.
It was such a dreary light – as they turned the corner
It took a moment to register – the stone had been rolled away
They stopped – uncertain – terrified of the yawning hole before them – where were the soldiers? –

Terrified of being alone and vulnerable – they plucked up the courage to go inside – there was no mummified body – no stink of death – just the cold air of a new day – and a pile of folded grave clothes –

Then they heard a voice – and there stood two heavenly figures

“Why search among the dead for one who is alive? – Remember what He told You –

The Son of Man must be given into the power of sinful men and be crucified – and must rise again on the Third Day”

“Go and tell the others what you have seen and heard!”

The women who went to the tomb – knew Jesus was dead – and they were sure it was the right tomb

They could even point out the blood stained cross He died on – the cross was now empty – empty of Jesus’ body –

But for us today that empty cross is full – full of hope – full of the promise of forgiveness – because of the resurrection –

Jesus made some staggering claims about Himself – He said He was the Son of God – able to forgive sins and offer people a new life –

He told His disciples – that His coming death on the cross was important – for God – and for them

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains that and nothing more; but if it dies it bears much harvest”

When Jesus went to the cross – God transferred our sins over to Him – and wrote them against His name – and against ours – He wrote in Jesus’ blood – forgiven –

On the cross Jesus paid the penalty for our sins – so that our relationship with God can be made right again –

The only way we know that His death was effective – and that forgiveness is possible – is that Jesus rose from the dead

Through His resurrection – He showed us His power – and gave us proof that His promise of forgiveness has been kept –

Point 2 The disciples response

The eleven disciples were behind closed doors –Fearful that the next arrest and execution might be theirs

Like the women – they were numb with grief and shock – struggling to carry on – even with the routines of daily life – trying to make sense of it all 24hrs earlier – they had been eating and joking with Him – now He was dead – cold in a tomb –

The hands that had healed the sick were pierced and lifeless – the mouth that had spoken words of authority was silent –

What the women came to tell them – was the last thing they expected
As Luke puts it –

“The story appeared to them to be nonsense and they would not believe it”

That first proclamation by the women – that Jesus is alive – sounded too good to be true – even from one of their own –

Too often people get taken in – and then let down – and don’t know what we believe – We know that the world is full of empty promise – but not God –

Jesus promised His disciples that – death is not the end – that through faith in Him – they will receive everlasting life –

He demonstrated His power over death to them – when He raised Lazarus from His grave –

Now through His resurrection – He gave them the final proof of that promise – by coming back – and appearing to them – even allowing them to touch His wounded scars –

The only way we know that the promise of life after death is true – is through the resurrection of Jesus

For Peter – he had an extra sadness – because he believed he betrayed Jesus more than the others – not just once – but three times –

Luke tells us that after hearing the women – Peter went to see for himself – and saw the wrappings and nothing more – and then went home amazed at what had happened

God knew Peter would be hard on himself – but when Jesus was raised – forgiveness would follow – and he would have a second chance – to start again and follow Him –

Because of the resurrection – we all have a second chance to follow – and renew our relationship with Jesus

After His death Jesus appeared alive on twelve separate occasions to at least 550 people – which in a court of law would be impressive in terms of numbers of witnesses –

And over those coming few weeks – something extra-ordinary happened to the disciples – they changed from being a group in hiding, frightened of the authorities – to one publicly declaring that Jesus was alive – and that they had seen Him – some of them accepted death rather than deny the presence of the risen Christ

Point 3

So What does all this means for us?

The resurrection of Jesus tells us we are following the right person – that He is who He claims to be – The Son of God – it would have been much harder to see Jesus as God’s Son if He had remained dead in that Tomb –

The resurrection is central to the Christian Faith – the tomb was empty because Jesus is alive – alive for us today – because of the resurrection – we have hope beyond the grave – and a way to salvation –

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus –
God made us three promises – forgiveness of our sins – promise of eternal life – and of a personal relationship with Jesus –

Are we prepared to take Him at His word and accept His promises?

A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate – he talked with his father about buying a car as a graduation gift –

Bill and his father had spent months looking at cars – and the week before his graduation found the perfect car –

On the eve of his graduation his father handed him a gift wrapped Bible – and Bill was so angry that he threw the Bible down – and stormed out of the house – He and his father never saw each other again –

It was news of his father’s death – that brought him home again – and as he sat down one night going through his father’s possessions – he came across the bible – that his father had given him –

He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cheque inside – dated on the day of his graduation – for the exact amount of the car they had chosen – together

Today there are millions of people that do the same thing to God – they literally toss aside a wonderful promise because they don’t understand it – or that think it is impossible – or too good to be true –

The disciples didn’t believe the women at first – but later because they met the Risen Christ for themselves – they believed.

The world desperately needs to understand the message that Jesus brings – and to accept God’s offer of salvation – but they will have no real grounds for believing it unless they can see Jesus for themselves through us – see the way Jesus has transformed our lives

The message of the early church is that we can meet Him for ourselves – we can experience His presence with us today – see Him at work – in others – giving them a new start and transforming them into a new creation

Ending

No one can tell us what to believe – we have to look at the evidence and decide for ourselves – and if we believe – Go and tell the others what we have seen and heard!”

Someone once wrote about the resurrection;
“There’s no evidence – only witnesses”-

For our evidence – to the resurrection – the best we can offer therefore is ourselves – in love and service to others –

Prayer

In the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit

AMEN