Summary: The message of Easter is hope. There is something beyond the cross - beyond the suffering. There is resurrection.
April 20, 2003 Colossians 1:24-27
“Is there anything beyond the cross?”
A Sunday School teacher asked her class to write one sentence each on "What Easter Means to Me." One pupil wrote: "Egg salad sandwiches for the next two weeks!" As a child, I might have said something very similar to that. But now that I am an adult, Easter means something very different to me. It means the restoration of hope. Someone has said, “We can live forty days without food, eight days without water, four minutes without air, but only a few seconds without hope.” Speaking of the role of hope in our lives, Thornton Wilde said, “Despair all too readily embraces the ills it foresees; hope is an energy that arouses the mind to explore every possibility to combat them.”
The people who were a part of the first Easter knew all about the need for hope in order to be able to continue on. They had knelt there at the foot of the cross watching the one who carried all their hopes and dreams die. They had listened as He said, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit”, and then, they saw Him bow His head for the last time. Their guts had wrenched as the Roman soldier plunged the spear into his side removing all doubt that Jesus was really dead. They followed those who carried Him to the tomb, and when they heard the resounding sound of the rock that sealed the tomb, they knew that their hope was dead – sealed in the tomb with the one that they thought was their Savior. They knew what it was like to be hopeless.
Some of you know that same feeling of hopelessness. When you look at your marriage, you see only despair. When you think about your children – whether they are still young or full grown, you wonder what kind of a future there is for them. When you consider your life and the mistakes that you have made, you are tempted to give up hope that anyone could ever love you, forgive you and make something good out of your life.
This morning, my goal for us is that we will experience that same restoration of hope that those first century Christians experienced when they came to the tomb and heard the words, “[Jesus] is not here; He is risen just as He said.” They discovered that there is hope beyond the cross. What you are going through or whatever you have done does not need to destroy you and steal your hope. You can hope again.
1. Beyond the cross, hope endures even through suffering. (vs. 24)
One of the things that threatens to steal your hope is suffering. Suffering has been a part of what it means to be human ever since sin entered into the world. And even though, Jesus paid for our sins on the cross with His own blood, still suffering is present with us and will be until this world is a part of history. You can let suffering steal your hope, or you can hold onto that hope by concentrating on some of the positive things that can come out of suffering.
Suffering can bring believers closer to Christ. (Phil. 3:10) – It teaches us total dependence on Him. How many of you have been through circumstances where you knew that you could not have made it through without the Lord being there? Suffering also brings people closer together. Six of the rescued POW’s could have come home to America and their families sooner than they did, but they chose to wait a few extra days so that all of them would be healthy enough to come home together. Why? Because their ordeal had developed a bond between them.