TURN TO JESUS FOR RESURRECTION AND LIFE
Dear Fellow celebrants of the greatest and most reassuring events of all times – Christ’s resurrection from the dead,
You expect Atlanta highways to be jammed during rush hour…even when it is not rush hour. You expect spring to follow winter. You came to church this morning expecting to smell the fragrance of flowers. And you do. You expect to hear some special music today. And you have. You expected to hear a preacher preach this morning. I am here. No surprises!
Those of you who worshipped on Wednesday nights probably expect to hear another sermon with the theme Repent: Turn To Jesus … No surprise here either. For those of you who were not here, the following were the themes we followed:
1) Turn to Jesus and Not to Yourself.
2) Turn to Jesus; Don’t Turn Away.
3) Turn to Jesus; He Holds the Key to Heaven
4) Turn to Jesus; He Longs to Forgive You
5) Turn to Jesus; He Changes Your Life
6) Turn to Jesus When You Face Temptations
Whether you were here or not, on Easter Jesus invites us to turn to him for the most obvious reason: “Turn to Jesus …for Resurrection and Life!”
St. Luke’s account of Easter morning begins with exactly what we would expect: “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” It all seems so very normal and unexceptional. All we read about here are dear friends, a dreadful grave, and basic human dignity.
These women had been dear friends and supporters of Jesus and his ministry. It is probable that they were even mothers of some of Jesus’ disciples. They supplied food and clothes for Jesus. They stood by Jesus at the foot of the cross when so many others had deserted him. Their loyalty and their love for Jesus were displayed in their lives. They wanted to demonstrate their loyalty and love to him in his death. They went to the grave on that first day of the week. On the Jewish calendar that was Sunday, the day after the Sabbath.
Where did they go? To a dreadful grave. No one likes cemeteries. We’ll do anything we can to “nice-ify” them. We bring flowers or we comment on the flowers. Maybe we talk about how nicely cared for it is, or comment on the beauty of the memorial stones. But deep down we know that we can’t spruce up death with pretty flowers and a well-manicured lawn. Jesus’ tomb was a brand-new one—loaned to him by a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea. But even Joseph’s Cadillac tomb could not compensate for the fact that Jesus’ battered, lifeless body lay inside on a cold stone slab. What a dreadful end to Jesus’ life. What a dreadful scene they expected to see – his lifeless stiff corpse.
These faithful women made the best of it. They went to that dreadful tomb and supplied Jesus with some basic human dignity. Or at least that’s what they thought. Jesus had received a quick burial on Good Friday. On Saturday evening, after the Sabbath day rest was over, the women went shopping for burial spices—myrrh and aloes. They intended to clean Jesus’ bloody body, gently sprinkle his body with the spices, snuggly wrap his body with clean linen, tenderly place a burial cloth on his face, and let Jesus rest in peace. Then they would return to a life that was going to be terribly different without Jesus!
All of this is what we would expect. Nothing out of the ordinary here. A dead man, a grave, and a group of mourners wanting to say a final, fitting farewell.
If St. Luke had ended his account here, we would not be here today. I would be in some other kind of business. The preparations made for today, from Easter breakfast to the beautiful music would have been a colossal waste of time. If the account ended here, Paul wrote, “Our faith is futile and we would are lost in our sin.”
But then something happened that the women didn’t expect: “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” They returned to the tomb at the crack of dawn. They found the stone rolled away. Who could possibly have beaten them out there that early? Who could have opened the grave? What about the Roman guards? They had been keeping watch to make sure that none of Jesus’ disciples came in the middle of the night to cart off the body, and then claim Jesus was alive. Where were they? They were disciplined soldiers. They were killed for neglect of duty. What in the world was going on here!?
The women stepped into the tomb and experienced the first Easter: “When they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’”
Instead of linen grave clothes, they saw what seemed to be men dressed in dazzling light! Instead of a cold cadaver, they saw angelic messengers. The rocky slab where Jesus’ lifeless body lay became the first Easter pulpit. Instead of the silence of a tomb and the stillness of death, they listened to a sermon—short, sweet, and to the point. It changed the history of the world: “He is not here; he has risen!”The beaten and battered body of Jesus…well, he lives again.
“Just a second, Pastor. Did you say that a dead man literally rose from the dead?” Actually, I didn’t say it. Angels said it. More than that! Jesus himself said it! “Remember how he told you!” the angels said. He said he would rise, and he did. Turn away from doubts and disbelief! Instead, turn in joy to Jesus who is the resurrection and the life!
But let’s play the devil’s advocate for just a moment. Let’s say Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. Let’s say the women were all delusional, and the angels were purely a myth. Let’s even say Luke was just making stuff up. What are we left with?
1) You are left with your SIN. I said it before, St. Paul wrote: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” If Jesus has not been raised, there is no assurance of sins forgiven. A dead savior is a dead deception, a buried dream. If Jesus was dead and is still dead, then we’ve got a huge problem that’s three letters long: S-I-N! They are still there.
2) If Jesus is still dead, then we have no real hope when we take our own personal trip to the funeral home one day! Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 15: “If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” The nagging conscience would say in some blunt words of judgment found in the Bible that goes something like this - hell in a handbasket. . . . If Christ has not been raised, then the thought of eternity can only make us shudder!
3) Finally, if Christ is still dead—then we have no real hope in this life either. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” If Jesus is still in his grave—then this sermon is silliness, your trust in Christ is childish and foolish. Go play golf. Give Sunday to some other activity because all this would be worthless. I have wasted forty years. My dad was right…He wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer.
But Jesus has been raised from the dead—really, physically, truly raised from the dead! The crucified one lives again! Jesus said it was going to happen and it did. He is no liar and neither is St. Luke. The women weren’t delusional. The angels are no myth. They are the Almighty’s messengers—proclaiming the greatest truth of all time. This Easter truth allows us to have a rock-solid foundation for our lives.
Let’s look at what the resurrection of Jesus means to us. First, Jesus’ resurrection shows he is the Son of God. Only God could say about his life, “I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it up again.” He is our God and Savior. He is alive and well and is watching over us, so don’t be afraid.
Secondly, the resurrection proves that whatever he says is absolutely true. Anyone who says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it” and keeps that promise, can certainly be trusted to keep all the promises he makes. And he makes a lot of them. There are great promises that chase away our fears – promises like the forgiveness of all of our sins, his abiding presence, his providential care, making all things work for good, answering our prayer to name a few.
Thirdly, the resurrection promises that all our sins are forgiven. Had Jesus’ body rotted in the grave and had he been just another statistic, there would be no proof whatsoever that what Jesus came to do was done. The Bible says, “Jesus was put to death for our offenses and raised again for our justification.” His death paid for our sins but his resurrection confirms that we are forgiven. Members have heard this from me again and again. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the receipt that says all has been paid in full. Not one single sin slipped by. It is not all sins can be forgiven, they are forgiven! The resurrection proves it.
Fourthly, the resurrection promises to every believer in Christ that the last day, Judgment Day, is the best day of all. The Lord promises that all will be raised from the dead like he was. All believers in Christ will be given perfect and glorified bodies like his. In other words it doesn’t matter whether people died as a martyr or in a car accident; it makes no difference if there was a violent death or whether death took place in the sleep, on Judgment Day there will be no scarred faces, no severed limbs, and no cancerous growths. “He shall change our evil bodies and make them like unto his glorious body.” We will be part of one big and grand reunion of not only our relatives who died in the Lord but with all who died in the Lord. We will meet the great heroes of faith from the Bible. We will meet that thief who came to know Jesus in his last hours. Best of all we will meet Jesus himself, along with the Father and the Spirit of God... “Because I live you will live also.”
What do we do with these blessings? It’s time to go and tell. It’s time to tell the unbeliever that the resurrection of Jesus Christ of divine origin of the Christianity. It is time to remind the believer that we can be comforted. It is time to tell anyone who is afraid that they don’t need to be. Jesus, who once was dead, is alive and well and promises “Because I live, you will too.” Turn to Jesus for resurrection and life.