Summary: Easter Sunday: Those who plotted to kill Jesus really messed up. God turned their evil intentions into the salvation of the entire world.
Little Mark was three years old when his pet lizard died. His grandma decided to make a teaching experience out of it. She suggested that little Mark and an older boy in the family hold a “funeral” for the lizard. So granny – with all good intentions - explained what a funeral was: A ceremony where you say a prayer, sing a song, and bury your loved one. Grandma even provided a shoebox and a burial place in the backyard. The boys thought it was a great idea, so the impromptu funeral procession marched into the backyard. The older boy said a prayer. Then he turned and asked little Mark if he wouldn’t like to sing a song. With tears in his eyes, little Mark clasped his hands, bowed his head, and then he sang: “Hit the Road, Jack and don’t you come back no more, no more!” (Daily Devotions, April 29, 2002, devotions.net)
Those were the sentiments of the people who had plotted the death of Jesus and seen it through on Friday. That’s what they really wanted: “Hit the road Jesus” - and don’t you come back no more… But let me tell you – they sure made a bad call. Without knowing it, Jesus’ enemies were putting a fat fastball over home plate so that Jesus could knock it out of the park. Yes, yes – Jesus had died – no question about this. But even here – the architects of the crucifixion were not aware that their plans – succinctly stated in the words of the Caiaphas, high priest: “It is expedient for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish,” – were precisely what God had in mind! And there had been a funeral. Jesus was buried in the grave of Joseph of Arimathea. But on Sunday morning – a whole new reality had to be considered.
As tacticians – they were total failures. The folks who railroaded Jesus messed up. They couldn’t have been more wrong had they tried. They thought that they were going to be rid of their problem – Jesus. But instead, they amplified and expanded their worries exponentially. By all rights their calculations should have added up. We stir up the crowds. We have Jesus killed by the Romans. He’s buried and in a few days – our worries are in the past. The body of the One that they were trying to be rid of should now be cold and stiff and in the beginning stages of decomposition. But it wasn’t! On Sunday morning – the grave was empty.
Eliminating God – and especially Christ - from the culture has been the sport of man for many years. It began with the crucifixion of Jesus as the early religious leaders tried to kill Christ. From Friedrich Nietzsche’s, “God is dead ethics,” to the modern day atheistic movement that would eliminate all vestiges of faith from the culture – Christianity has always been under attack. Newsweek magazine carried an article in this week’s issue indicating that Christianity is on the decline.
What is the counterpoint to all of this? - Easter Sunday! The empty grave argues against all notions that Christ’s influence will end. In fact, Christ Himself indicated that the Church – Christianity - would prevail when he told his followers, “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against [the Church]!” (Matthew 16.18b) Further – Christ told us He would return and that when He returned – there would be a Church, believers ready to receive Him. I’d suggest to you, beloved, that any rumor of Christianity’s eminent demise is greatly exaggerated.
An old black preacher by the name of E. V. Hill preached one of my all-time favorite sermons. This old man had jowls like a bulldog and a voice that sounded like it was mixed with gravel. The sermon was titled: “Sunday’s Coming.” Pastor Hill preached:
- The religious leaders mocked Jesus while He was on the Cross; It’s Friday. “They didn’t know that Sunday’s Coming.”
- Herod toyed with the Lord, but when Jesus wouldn’t play along, Herod sold the Lord down the river. Herod mocked Jesus on Friday, but; Sunday’s Coming!
- The crowds shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” It’s Friday. Jesus was crucified, but… Sunday’s Coming.
- Pilate thought he could wash his hands of the whole thing. It’s Friday, but, hey governor, Sunday’s Coming.
- The soldiers beat Jesus and spat on Him and pushed a crown of thorns on his head. It’s Friday. They didn’t know that Sunday’s Coming.
- Satan and his minions jeered and shouted with glee on that dark Friday. They must’ve missed the prophecies; It’s Friday. But Sunday’s Coming.
- And death, that enemy that has hunted humanity down for countless generations, death must’ve thought if he could just take this Jesus Christ down into the grave and hold Him; but death, you messed up, cause, it’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming.