Pastor Trevor Hudson, South African Missionary & Evangelist (spoke at South Texas Conference of the UMC’s "Soul Fiesta" in San Antonio) told a story about a man who had been at a party, and he had too much to drink. He decided to walk home from the party, and one his way home he decided to take a short cut through the cemetery. As he walked along, he fell into a freshly cut grave. He tried to climb out, but there was nothing to grab hold of. He tried to jump out, but it only exhausted him further. So he decided to curl up in a corner of the grave and hope that in the morning someone would come along and help him out.
A short while later, someone else from the party, who had too much to drink, also decided to walk home, and likewise decided to take a shortcut through the cemetery. Walking along, he soon fell into the open grave. He too tried climbing and jumping, which woke up the first guy who was sleeping in the corner. The 1st guy approached the 2nd from behind and said “You can’t get out… and he did!”
Mostly we don’t like talking about the grave. It brings up our fears. It causes us to face our failures and mistakes and to ask the hard questions about how we have lived our life. The grave is where in this earthly life we have to part with our loved ones and friends. Even for Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (possibly John Mark’s mother) they must have come to the grave that morning still gripped with great grief and sorrow. But the Easter story, for a believer, changes our entire approach to the grave. The “resurrection” brings us new life; new hopes; and changes our outlook, even on death. Resurrection brings new life from the grave! It turns sorrow into Joy!
Resurrection, the word, itself has power. (1) It literally means to ‘stand up again”. Lazarus was dead, and stood up again. He was raised to life. Jesus was dead! In the grave he lay three days and the power of God brought Him back to life. It was power to rise from the dead. Power to bring new life. The power to roll away stones. It was the power of God to transform. (1 – Strong’s Greek #386).
Trevor Hudson, of whom I spoke earlier, told of coming out of South African history. The question that was being asked, he said “Was do we wipe the history clean and form a new Government never speaking about the past?” Did we want the smell of death always in the air, or did we want the fragrance of new life? They decided to have two years of “Truth and Reconciliation”. Over these two years they had televised sessions in which at first the victims were allowed to tell their story, then some of those who participated in the crimes were allowed to speak.
For example, a 17 year old girl told how her father was murdered, and she said “I want to know who killed my father. I just want to know who killed my father… so that I can forgive them.” As this occurred, the stones were rolled away and new life came from the grave. It was transforming power.
That same power can transform our lives of sin; lift us up from death and despair and deliver us from the sting of death. It is victory o’er the grave! It gives us life! A few years ago, a friend of mine and I attended a seminar for small church growth. Someone spoke about the life cycle of a church, from birth to maturity and even death. In the cycle, if a church found “new life” it would lop back into the grow phase. Sadly, the other twelve churches in the room, did not speak about new life, but rather of death and dieing.
An Arab chief (2) tells a story about a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a General in the Persian Army. The General had a strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and “the big, black door”. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian General, who asked the question: “What will it be: the firing squad, or the big, black door?” The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. Finally, he chose the firing squad. Moments later, shots rang out and the execution had been carried out. The General turned to his aide and said, “They always prefer the known to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet, we gave him a choice.” The aide asked, “What lies behind the big, black door?” “Freedom!” replied the General. “I’ve known only a few brave enough to take it.” (2 – Don McCullough, “Reasons to Fear Easter,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 116).
Resurrection, may well be the thing that seems undefined, yet it offers us freedom from the grave! Matthew 22:29-32 “29Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32’I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’[a]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."
Trevor Hudson also spoke of his beloved South Africa. He said an African Leader once said, “When the white people came to South Africa we had the land and they had the Bibles. They asked us to close our eyes and pray, and when we opened our eyes, they had the land and we had the Bibles. But, the under estimated that we would take it seriously”. That we would believe in its power!
In John 20:6-7 we read “6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.” Here the Carpenter (Jesus) had left us a reminder of the power of the resurrection!
“(3) Carpenter’s had interesting custom. When a carpenter would go to a family’s house to do a project, after his job was done he would then take a towel...splash some water over himself and then cleanse the sawdust and sweat off of his face and arms. He would then take that towel, fold it in half, and then fold it in half again...and place that towel on top of the finished work. Whether it be a table or a cabinet, when that family got home from working on the fields...they would see the newly finished work in their house, and then they would see that cloth or towel laying on top of that work. They would know that the carpenter had just left a silent signatures - a reminder that the job was finished.
When Peter stepped inside that empty tomb and saw the face cloth of Jesus folded and laying by itself. He knew that Jesus was leaving a silent reminder that the job was finished.
- Jesus was leaving a silent reminder that IT WAS FINISHED.” (3 – “The Life Changing Power, by Brandon Park, www.sermoncentral.com)
Inside the tomb was a symbol of freedom, the tomb was empty, the grave was bare, resurrection had come! Christ was risen! He was risen indeed!