Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Easter. The Resurrection of Jesus divides the believer from the non believer. The physical resurrection of Jesus shatters the grip of the fear of death. (Heb. 2:14) One can not separate the facts of the cross from the empty tomb. "The Theography" Sweet

In Jesus Holy Name March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday Redeemer

Text: Matthew 28:1,5-6

“Our Enemy – Death- Defeated”

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Easter is the ultimate test of faith. The one great watershed that ultimately divides believers from unbelievers

is the resurrection of Jesus from death.

St. Paul confirmed this reality when he wrote in I Cor. 15:14 “If Christ has not been raise, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

You can’t have it both ways: Either Jesus actually rose from the grave or he did not. There is no middle ground. You cannot say he rose in spirit but not body, although some try.

Even after 2000 years the event of the Easter resurrection of Jesus brings joy to broken hearts, confidence to souls worried about their eternal destiny.

Why? The physical resurrection of the body of Jesus from death has shattered the grip of fear that confronts every living human being. People want to know what happens when our heart stops beating. Is there hope? Is there nothing? Is there Valhalla? Is their “reincarnation”? What is waiting on the “other side”?

It is Satan who holds people in this slavery to the “fear of death”. It is the resurrection of Jesus that shatters Satan’s grip and frees heart and mind from worry about our eternal destiny.

Philip Yancy wrote: “Christianity has two great symbols to offer the world, a cross and an empty tomb. An empty tomb without a cross would miss the central message of the gospel…”

The gospel of Matthew tells that in the very moment that Jesus died on the cross…”the curtain in the Jewish temple that kept people separated from the Holy Presence of God, was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook. The rocks split. The tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs. After the resurrection of Jesus they went into the city of Jerusalem and appeared to many people.”

Other religions have values for behavior. They have their leaders and religious teachers. There is one big difference. The graves of their religious founders are still occupied. Christianity has an empty grave because Jesus lives. He is risen!

Early in the morning. In the dim first light of dawn. Trudging feet. Drooping shoulders of sadness. With tear filled eyes, several women were walking to the garden where the body of Jesus had been placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. All the tombs were in the shadows. Mary saw well enough to discern a disaster. The stone had been rolled away from the entrance of Jesus’ tomb.

For Mary it was a sure sign that someone had tampered with the tomb, emptying it of all contents. Even without the presence of jewels or decorations it was not unusual for thieves to take the fine linen clothes that were filled with expensive spices.

The body of Jesus was gone! A shattered Mary ran off to tell the disciples. Soon Peter and John raced to the tomb to see for themselves. The women had told the truth. Jesus’ body was gone.

So powerful is the celebration of Easter -- so overwhelming has the resurrection of Christ proven to be, that even secular institutions have had no choice but to stand up and take note.

For example, several years ago the secular journal, Newsweek, in a lead story focusing on Easter, gave an almost unbelievable salute to the historical resurrection of Jesus. This is what Newsweek said, "This is the week that Christians around the world gather to remember the passion and the death of Jesus on a criminal's cross. Once again, the familiar story will be relived in liturgy, sermon, and song. The soberness of Good Friday, the tomb like solemnity of Holy Saturday, is followed by the radiance of Easter Sunday -- a proclamation of Christ's resurrection: New life by the power of God."

Newsweek then continues to say, "[It is indeed] as the apostle Paul insisted, the risen Christ is the center of the Christian faith, the mystery without which there would be no church, no hope of eternal life, no living Christ to encounter in Eucharistic bread and wine." "By any measure," Newsweek states, "the resurrection of Jesus is the most radical of Christian doctrines. Christ's teachings, His compassion for others, and even His death will find parallels in other stories and other religious traditions. However, for no other historical figure has the claim been made consistently that God raised Jesus from the dead."

Then Newsweek continues to salute the historical Easter resurrection by saying: "It was the appearances of Christ after His resurrection that lit the flame that fired a motley band of fearful disciples to proclaim the risen Christ, throughout the Greco-Roman empire."

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