I want to take us on a journey back in time
Back to Easter Sunday. Not last week, I want to take us back a couple of thousand years.
I want you to imagine it’s very early on the first Easter Sunday Morning.
Can you imagine Jesus followers waking up and remembering what had happened,
remembering the horror of Friday,
remembering that their friend was dead
thinking their dreams were shattered.
Jesus was dead,
and with him died all of their dreams,
all of their hopes - everything they believed in.
They had given everything to him,
their past, their present, even their future
up until Thursday night it seemed so good.
All he had wanted was everything,
and they gave it.
All he had asked was that they believe and
oh how they had believed.
They had seen the impossible,
they had seen blind men see,
they had seen lame men walk,
and they had seen dead men live.
They believed with all their hearts,
but not any more,
their beliefs were as dead as their master.
And there was nothing to do but to go home,
to leave Jerusalem, to leave their hopes,
to leave their dreams and just go home.
They might as well try and recover their yesterdays because their tomorrows were as dead as Jesus was.
They had seen him captured,
They had seen him beaten,
they seen him crucified,
they had seen him die
they had seen him buried
they thought the dream was as dead as the dreamer.
But then a shout, He’s alive, the tomb is empty.
The two Mary’s had seen an empty tomb,
she had seen empty grave clothes
she had seen Jesus.
He wasn’t dead, he was alive.
He was alive & everything was going to be ok.
And then, it happened, as quickly as turning on the lights, instead of mourning his death
they were celebrating his being alive.
It wasn’t defeat it was victory.
He is alive and the tomb is empty.
Easter is not about celebrating Jesus crucifixion
it’s about celebrating Jesus resurrection,
Our focus is not death it’s life.
Easter is not about mourning it’s about celebrating.
We believe as did the early church that Christ had risen from the dead, there was actually a physical resurrection.
Throughout the years there have been other theories as well.
A man called Lee Strobel was an atheist,
he was an investigative reporter and legal editor for the Chicago Tribune Newspaper.
Lee’s wife became a Christian and he began to investigate the claims of Christianity.
Through that journey he became a believer and he wrote a number of books as a result of his investigation.
In his book “The Case for Easter” Lee wrote, “The starting point seemed obvious to me:
the resurrection was the centre of the Christian faith. After all, anyone can claim to be the Son of God. But if someone could prove that by returning to life after being dead and buried --- well, that would be a compelling confirmation that he was telling the truth. Even for a skeptic like me.”
The first thing that Lee wanted to confirm was that Jesus actually died on the cross.
There have been those who have maintained that Jesus only passed out on the cross and woke up in the cool air of the tomb.
What Lee discovered was that modern doctors felt that there was little chance that Christ could have survived the torture described in the Bible.
Once Lee was satisfied that Jesus was really dead when he was placed in the tomb he needed to prove that one of the apostles hadn’t stolen the body.
The strongest argument for that is that every one of the apostles was tortured for their faith and for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead.
And while there are all kinds of people who will lie there are very few who will maintain that lie in the face of torture and death.
The same apostles who hid while Jesus was being tortured encountered something or someone that gave them unprecedented power, and according to the scriptures, that something or someone was the risen Christ.
Strobel also wrote “The disciples didn’t merely believe in the resurrection:
they knew it was fact not fiction.
Had they known it was a lie, they would never have been willing to sacrifice their lives for it. Nobody willing dies for something that they know is false.
They proclaimed the resurrection to their deaths for one reason alone: they knew it was the truth.”
If all of the people Jesus appeared to after His resurrection were here this morning,
and we asked each of them to speak for just 15 minutes on what they saw it would take 129 hours.
In other words it would take you from breakfast on Monday until Friday at dinner time listening around the clock to hear the testimony of those witnesses.
But what did that really mean, other than the obvious that he wasn’t dead?
Because the Tomb is empty Peter was Forgiven
You remember Peter don’t you?
Peter who was one of the twelve.
Peter who was one of the inner circle.
Peter who was one of Jesus’ closest friends.
Peter who walked on water,
Peter who offered to die for Jesus.
Peter who grabbed a sword in the garden and tried to fight off those sent to arrest his friend.
Peter who denied he even knew Christ, not once, not twice but three times.
Jesus had been arrested and his followers scattered, all but two of them disappeared.
John and Peter followed Christ, but not together.
We don’t really know if John was challenged about knowing Christ, and if he was we don’t what his response was.
But we do know what happened in the case of Peter.
Biblical Scholars tell us that the Book of Mark was probably the first gospel written.
The same scholars tell us that even though it was written by a young man named John Mark that he was probably just acting as a secretary for someone else.
Someone who had been an eye witness to everything that Christ had done.
And that somebody was in all probability Peter.
With that is mind let read Peter’s account in Mark 14:67-72 Meanwhile, Peter was below in the courtyard. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and then said, “You were one of those with Jesus, the Nazarene.”
Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed.
The servant girl saw him standing there and began telling the others, “That man is definitely one of them!” Peter denied it again. A little later some other bystanders began saying to Peter, “You must be one of them because you are from Galilee.” Peter said, “I swear by God, I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” And immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and cried.
Come on Peter, what is going on?
This is Jesus, the same Jesus that called you from being a fisherman and turned you into a fisher of men.
The same Jesus that walked on the water,
fed the hungry, healed your mother in law and raised Lazarus from the dead.
You don’t know him?
You practically lived with him for the past three years and you don’t know him?
You ate together,
laughed together and you don’t know him?
He taught, you learned.
Maybe you simply forgot that you knew him.
What was it you couldn’t remember?
Was it when you said in Luke 9:20 “You are the Messiah sent from God!” or was it when you said in Matthew 14:33 “You really are the Son of God!”
Peter do you even have the slightest recollection of saying to Jesus in Mark 14:29 “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” Or Mark 14:31 “Not even if I have to die with you! I will never deny you!”
But Peter did deny him, not once, not twice but three times.
And if Jesus had stayed in the tomb than Peter would have lived a life of defeat.
Wallowing in guilt, self-pity and grief.
But Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb.
And when the two Marys found the tomb empty, and the angel told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead,
the angel told them in Mark 16:7 Now go and tell his disciples, and especially Peter, . . .
Peter who denied him,
Peter who swore that he didn’t know him,
Peter who turned his back on him when he needed Peter the most.
Not to fight for him, not to try and rescue him from the Roman Centurions.
He just needed Peter to be there.
He needed to see Peter in the crowd needed to know that those three years weren’t wasted.
He didn’t need Peter to die for him; he simply needed Peter to live for him.
And Peter denied he ever knew him.
And when Jesus hung on the cross,
with the blood from the crown of thorns dripping into his eyes,
and he pulled himself up by the iron nails driven through his wrists and said Father forgive them,
he was looking for Peter.
Mark Twain said “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
And that was certainly the case here as Jesus looked out at those who betrayed him, denied him. Those who demanded his death, and those who gave into those demands.
But that forgiveness is powerless unless it comes from one who has the power to forgive.
Unless it came from one who had the power to defeat death.
Without the resurrection that forgiveness would have been worthless, simply more words from a prophet proved wrong by his death.
But when he stepped out of the tomb everything he said, everything he taught was proved to be right.
And his forgiveness became a certainty.
Have you denied Jesus?
With your words, with your behavior?
Have you denied Jesus?
At some time in our lives all of us have.
By our own lack of activity, or involvement,
we have denied the Lord?
Think of the times you had a opportunity to speak up for the Lord,
or witness for the Lord,
and yet you chose to remain silent !
Silence speaks volumes ?
Silence says......I have not been with him!
Silence says......I do not know who he is!
Have you wondered if Jesus could forgive you?
The answer is “Yes”, not only can he forgive you, he wants to forgive you and his resurrection proves that he has the power to forgive you,
if that is what you want.
When Peter realized what he had done,
the Bible says he broke down and cried,
that was remorse, he was sorry for what he had done.
God’s forgiveness is there for each one of us but first we need to acknowledge our wrongs,
and be sorry that we did it,
not just sorry we got caught doing it,
but sorry that we disappointed Jesus.
Because the Tomb is Empty Thomas Believed
“The Easter story is nothing but a myth,”
Tom’s science teacher announced to his class a few days before the Easter holiday.
“Jesus not only didn’t rise from the grave,” he continued, “but there’s no God in heaven who would allow his son to be crucified in the first place.”
“Sir, I believe in God,” Tom protested.
“And I believe in the resurrection.”
“Tom, you can believe what you wish to, of course,” the teacher said, “However, the real world excludes the possibility of miracles like the resurrection. The resurrection is a scientific impossibility. No one who believes in miracles can also respect science.”
Then the teacher proposed an experiment. Reaching into his refrigerator, he produced a raw egg and held it up. “I’m going to drop this egg on the floor,” he said. “Gravity will pull it toward the floor that the egg will most certainly break apart.” Looking at Tom with a challenge, he said,
“Now tom, I want you to pray a prayer right now and ask your God to keep this egg from breaking when it hits the floor.
If he can do that, then you’ll have proven your point, and I’ll have to admit that there is a God.”
After pondering the challenge for a moment,
Tom slowly stood up to pray:
“Dear Heavenly Father,” Tom prayed,
“I pray that when my teacher drops the egg, it will break into a hundred pieces.
And also, Lord, I pray that when the egg does break,
my teacher will have a heart attack and die. Amen.”
After a unison gasp, the class sat in silent expectation. For a moment the teacher did nothing. At last he looked at Tom and then the egg.
Without a word he carefully put the egg back into the refrigerator. “Class dismissed,” the teacher said, and then he sat down to clear his desk.
The teacher apparently did believe in God’s existence more than he thought. Many people, like that teacher, deny that God exists, yet run from him, question him, and attack him whenever they get the chance. That teacher wasn’t willing to bet his life that God didn’t exist.
Many people doubt the existence of God. Many people doubt the resurrection. On that first Easter, many years ago, one of the disciples refused to believe in the resurrection. He had doubts.
Did you ever have a nickname?
Maybe one you didn’t like.
You have to feel sorry for Thomas.
This was the disciple that tradition says was responsible for taking the gospel to India.
We are told that he was martyred for his faith in the Indian city of Madras.
If you read through the accounts of Thomas in the Gospels you see a young man fully devoted to Christ.
And yet how do we know him?
Not by his first nickname, which is what the other apostles called him.
2000 years later we still call him “Doubting Thomas”
One mistake, John 20:24-25 One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
As if he was the only one who had doubted.
When the women first came with the news of the resurrection, listen to what happened Luke 24:10-11 They told the apostles what had happened, but the story sounded like nonsense, so they didn’t believe it.
Thomas saying I won’t believe unless I can see it myself.
Not a impossible or unreasonable request considering the time and circumstances.
All Thomas was saying was “you’ve seen him, if I’m going to believe than I need to see him too.”
Not unreasonable at all.
And when he saw Christ he believed, he looked at him and said “My Lord and my God”
And do you remember what Jesus said John 20:29
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
That’s you, blessed are you who haven’t seen him and believe anyway.
You do believe in the resurrection don’t you?
You can’t take bits and pieces of the Bible, believe some of it but not the rest. Augustine said “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
Everything that Jesus Christ said and did could be duplicated or fabricated right up to his resurrection.
But at that point it became very apparent that he was not just a good man,
he was not just a prophet or a teacher.
He was and still is God.
And what does that mean for you on April 11th 2010?
Well in Romans 4:25 The Bible says He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God.
And again in Romans 6:4 And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Have you been made right with God?
Are you leading a new life?
That’s why Jesus was raised from the dead,
so that you could be forgiven,
so that you could believe and so that you could have a new life.
And all you have to do is reach out and accept it.
Jesus overcame the grave, he’s still alive and available for you to personally encounter.
He’s alive, the tomb is empty.