Summary: An Easter Sunrise message of resurrection hope.
***AN EASTER SUNRISE MESSAGE
OF RESURRECTION HOPE***
Charles Dicken’s epic tale of struggle during the days of the Russian Revolution, "A Tale of Two Cities" begins, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." Jesus’ disciples knew the feeling! There is much about the gospel of Jesus Christ that is "bittersweet", the best, and the worst.
Israel was carried away
Six hundred years before Jesus was crucified the nation of Israel had been carried into captivity once again. It was certainly the worst of times. The temple, symbol of God’s presence with His people, had been destroyed. All the hopes, dreams and splendor of this mighty people were shattered along with the temple walls.
Enter the prophet Ezekiel, and God takes him to a valley filled with dry bones. The symbolism is of a dead nation, Israel. The Lord then asks the prophet a question, "Can these bones live?" Ezekiel is instructed to prophesy to the bleached carcasses (which he obediently does), and amidst the clatter of bone against bone, the skeletons jump back together. But the picture is not complete....The skeletons develop tendons, muscles and skin.
As a final act, the Lord commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the "breath" (RUACH in Hebrew means spirit, or wind and is usually associated with God’s Holy Spirit,) and the spirit entered these dead bodies, and they stood up on their feet. The scripture says it was a vast army. God interprets for Ezekiel, telling him that the nation of Israel was going to be restored, and the very spirit of God was going to inhabit their land once again with them. The God of prophecy has never lied.
In 1948 the Jews once again inhabited the land. And some day He will breathe His spirit back into their national body and He will dwell with them in the millenniel kingdom. Israel was carried away...the worst. Someday they will be carried in the bosom of God....the best.
Jesus was carried away
The worst Friday in all the eons of time occured in AD33. A king was nailed to a cross, and then He died, and then they put His cold, lifeless body in a borrowed grave. For the disciples, the worst of times had arrived. The promises of Messiah, and a new kingdom had become empty...a dead end. Their hope lay rottingbehind a stone, guarded by Roman soldiers. And then came EASTER!
It was Sunday morning, and the women went to the tomb to prepare Jesus for a long stay in the ground. And an angel said, "You’re looking in the wrong place....Living men don’t sleep in tombs."What was the worst of times became transformed into the best... Suddenly there was a new outlook. God had spoken....and broken the chains of death.
I love the story of the Sunday School teacher who asked her 7-year olds if they knew why it was called "Easter". One of the youngsters ventured, "Because Jesus rose from the grave, but if he sees his shadow, he has to go back for seven weeks."
The disciples may not have understood all the theological implications, but something wonderful had happened. The grave had opened, and their friend was back. And out of that grave He brought with Him hope again. The worst was the cross and death. But it was the resurrection that ushered-in the best - New Life in Jesus.
Those are two very old stories, and it’s fine to know all this. But, you say, tell me about today. I’m having a tough time with this arthritis....my bills are overdue....the car won’t start, and my dog doesn’t like me. What about reality?
I shall be carried away
Like using a straight-edge to draw a line, we plot our course. Israel was carried away - God redeemed her. Jesus was carried away - God raised Him. You and I are going to be carried away. If God redeems His people, and raises His Son, He has something in mind for the rest of us.
It is true that one day each of us will die. The nature of this fallen world is that people get sick, and poor, and dreams shatter, and lonliness is awful. And the unknown of tomorrow is scary!
Years ago the Bishop of Exeter in England was traveling by train to a ceremony. He misplaced his ticket and was unable to produce it when the conductor asked. The conductor said, "It’s alright my lord, we know who you are." Said the bishop, "That’s all very well, but without my ticket, how am I going to know where I’m going?"
We all experience difficult times, the worst times. Each person here today could tell the stories. But the best is that I KNOW where I’m going. Today I may be held captive by this old world and its’ difficult days. But some day, this valley of dry bones is going to hear the call of that same God of Ezekiel’s.