Summary: An Easter sermon about the great gift of Christ's death and resurrection, of which we are the blessed recipients!
Christ is risen! Christ is risen! Christ is risen!
I don’t think there are three words in the history of the world that have had a greater impact than those. It is the Easter “mantra,” but it is also the encapsulation of the greatest story ever told; the greatest life ever lived, the greatest death ever died, and the most amazing new life that followed in the resurrection. He is risen!
It’s almost humorous, if you think about it. We have this Bible, full of so many books, with so many chapters, and so many words. But those words are meaningless apart from these three words, “Christ is risen.” We spend hours pouring over the scriptures, studying their message, searching for meaning, praying for answers. On Sundays, we come to church seeking a fresh message and renewed hope. And when those are the things we are looking for, that’s what we find. We find meaning in scripture, our eyes our opened in study and worship, answers are found in fervent, seeking prayer. We learn about how we should live our lives. We hear God’s commandments and the rebukes of God’s prophets. We study the ways of those earliest Christians and seek to follow their model of fellowship and communion.
And then we hear the preacher, always telling us about how we should do this or that. To some degree, this is what we have been focusing on the last several weeks as we have studied together Christ’s Sermon on the Mount; what it means to LIVE as disciples. If we were really Christians, we would tithe to God from our first fruits and not think twice about it. If we were really disciples, we would serve the poor on a weekly, if not daily, basis. If we were really Christ followers, we would come to church every single Sunday not reluctantly, but joyfully. If we were really believers we would pray every single day several times a day. If we were really apostles, we would evangelize and tell everyone we meet the good news. If we were really Christians, we would do, do, do. This is the message that greatly permeates the body of Christ, and we live our lives accordingly.
That’s all well and good, to a point. Because the thing is, ultimately, all that we DO as Christians should be nothing more than an outpouring of what Christ has ALREADY DONE for us, which is exactly what we celebrate on Easter Sunday. The problem, though, is that we get so caught up in what we are supposed to be doing that we forget that everything we NEED has already been done. We build up these pedestals of expectation for ourselves and others; and then when we fail to live up to the high standards, the message is that we have failed as Christians. But that’s missing the point. And that’s why we are here this morning.
When Mary Magdalene discovered that the tomb of her beloved teacher and friend was empty, she quickly ran to let Jesus’ other close friends know. If the body had been stolen, they would need to act quickly if there was any hope of recovering it. And that’s what they all expected as they arrived back at the empty tomb. The curious thing, though, is the fact that Jesus’ grave clothes were still there. But even more than that, they weren’t even in a wad on the ground, they were neatly laid out, right where Jesus’ body had been. Immediately, the three understood that this was no simple grave robbery. Any of you who have ever been robbed know that thieves don’t leave anything in a neat and orderly fashion. Still, Mary and the disciples didn’t know what had happened, and as the Peter and the other disciple headed back, probably to share the news with the other disciples, Mary decided to look in one more time. And this time, she sees two angels sitting right where Jesus’ body had been. Then, when she turned around, a man was standing there as if he materialized out of thin air. At first, Mary Magdalene thought that this was the gardener, but when he spoke her name, she knew. And she said, “I have seen the Lord.”
It’s the heart of the Easter message. Jesus is Lord. But not just Lord, Jesus is the RISEN Lord! There is nothing that any of us has ever done that has made that so, and there is nothing that we can ever do that will change this fact. Jesus Christ is Lord because he conquered death and was resurrected. And Christ will still be Lord of this world long after we have come and gone, and whether we choose to serve him or not. Christ is risen!
Indeed, it is on Easter that we celebrate something extraordinary which has taken place, not only to Jesus—though that’s extraordinary enough—but to the way the world is, the way God is, to the way God relates to his disciples every where. Let me share with you what I mean. Up to this point in John’s gospel, Jesus has spoken about God as “the Father,” or “the Father who sent me,” or “my Father.” In the same way, he has called his followers “disciples,” “servants,” and “friends.” But now, on the morning of the resurrection, all of that has changed. As he speaks with Mary Magdalene, he says something quite different. Feel the force of these words to Mary, when Jesus says, “Go and say to my brothers, I am going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Christ points to a complete change; something has been altered, decisively.