Max Lucado, in his book, “Six Hours One Friday,” tells the story of a missionary in Brazil who discovered a tribe of Indians in a remote part of the jungle. They lived near a large river. The tribe was in need of medical attention. A contagious disease was ravaging the population. People were dying daily.
A hospital was not too terribly far away — across the river, but the Indians would not cross it because they believed the river was inhabited by evil spirits. And to enter its water would mean certain death.
The missionary explained how he had crossed the river & was unharmed. But they were not impressed. He then took them to the bank & placed his hand in the water. They still wouldn’t go in. He walked into the water up to his waist & splashed water on his face. It didn’t matter. They were still afraid to enter the river.
Finally, he dove into the river, swam beneath the surface until he emerged on the other side. He raised a triumphant fist into the air. He had entered the water & escaped. It was then that the Indians broke into a cheer & followed him across.
That’s what Jesus did for each of us in his death and resurrection. He entered the river of death and came out on the other side so that we might no longer fear death, but find eternal life in Him.
Ø The resurrection of Christ is reaching out to us today… calling us to follow and experience eternal life.
Like the tribe of Indians… we may have to cross our own perceptions.
So it was for those we first heard about. Mary… disappointment. Disciples… locked up in fear. Thomas… confused and stuck in doubt.
What changed them?
> Reality. It’s critical to understand that the resurrection reaches out to us with reason and reality. It is not myth or merely mystical thinking that reaches out to us today. Consider….
1. Prophetic Preparation (Established in prophetic history)
There are as many as 48 prophetic pointers about the Messiah that God had given through the prophets over the previous centuries… beyond any coincidence… and any control (i.e where born, how buried, etc).
> One chance in a trillion (repeated 13 times total)
2. Historical Origins (Expressed in historical accounts)
· Nature of the testimony
J.B. Phillips, after translating and paraphrasing the NT Gospel accounts says, “There’s not the slightest flavor of myth here. No man could have set down such artless and vulnerable accounts as these unless some real event lay behind them.”
God had called together a group far too unspiritual to fathom a resurrection, and far too fearful and simple to fake one.
So what happened? What changed these confused and hopeless followers into those who changed the world with it’s message?
Perhaps John said it best….
1 John 1:1
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
Ø Unlike myth-makers and religious professionals…. These disciples weren’t trying to forge a hope, it was forging them.
What else stands out in the historical origins of the resurrection?
· Disciples died for their testimony
· Caused conversion of contenders (James, Saul)
· Immediacy of new social structures, communion, baptism… all based on Christ Divine authority and atoning death.
All this emerged so quickly after this figure was crucified and abandoned by his followers … for which no other reason can for this… no other reason is given… HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD… JUST AS HE HAD BEEN CLAIMING HE WOULD.
Sir Lionel Luclhoo, a brilliant and savvy attorney whose astounding 245 consecutive murder acquittals earned him a place in The Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s most successful lawyer. Knighted twice by Queen Elizabeth, this former justice and diplomat subjected the historical facts about the resurrection to his own rigorous analysis for several years before declaring, “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that is COMPELS acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.” (Strobel, Case for Christ, p. 255, which provides footnotes.)
3. Ongoing Power (Extended in historical experience)
Whenever and wherever He is received… lives have been changed.
Ø Just as it was described…
1 Peter 1:3 (CEV)
“ God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, he has given us new life and a hope that lives on.”
“New life”…the resurrection isn’t offering to simply enhance life as we know it… but to impart new life.
It’s not just an addition to your old life, something you just tack on. It’s a whole new deal. It’s brand new.
Notice “has given” = already available… it’s a life that can already begin… be experienced today… even if only as a start.
“Easter is the New Year’s Day of the soul.”
-Citation: A. B. Simpson in Inspiring Quotations. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 4
As Jesus himself had said,
John 14:19 (Msg)
“In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive.”
What is the new quality of life that we can experience?
Like Mary, we can experience…
1. LOVE that is always present
No doubt Mary had friends… probably some good friends…. but as we face the challenges of life, along with fellow companions, we desire a connection to One who transcends our common place and position.
Like a child who naturally needs a parent’s presence as a source to all that is beyond the child to understand, so every one of us can desire deep down not be left alone to face life.
Mary had experienced what it was to walk alongside such a guiding presence … and power. No doubt that as such a presence was taken from him, he may have felt more alone than ever… like the day after a couple breaks up…or a parent passes away.
Abandoned…by the presence of divine love.
But a risen Christ declared a whole new reality…
> She could discover what Jesus had understood so deeply… he had come to take our forsakenness: In that cry: “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?” we hear the cry of the human soul… being taken upon himself. The father did abandon him… turn away… the worst thing that would await any of us… was taken… far more painful than the blows… beating… spikes… lack of breath… > When he finally cries out from the cross, “It is finished.”… he is not speaking of nails… they are still there… he is speaking of the forsaken that he had to bear… in atoning for our sin… and bearing our shame.
> This morning He comes to each of us… to speak our names again… he sees us… all of us…
sees beyond our shame… the sham of our own pretense.
“The deepest comfort in life is not in material comforts but in meaningful companionship.” > What comforts us most is to know that we’re not alone.
The great news of Easter is that God can be present with me…each and every day.
Augustine, “You ascended before our eyes. We turned to grieve only to find you in our hearts.”
Jesus, …John 14:18-23 [NLT]
“I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. In just a little while the world will not see me again, but you will. For I will live again, and you will, too. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. …All those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and live with them.
2. MEANING that is always at work
Among the most cruel elements used in the treatment of prisoners in prison camps… has been that of forcing the prisoners to spend the day sweating through the labor of digging holes and then telling them to fill it in… and then start over. Such futility kills the soul…
> It’s natural to feel that way about life in general… “What’s the point?” What’s going to last? … matter in any enduring way?
Mary had known something about futility… her life had been blown about by the winds of oppressive culture and spirits…. Now once again no sign of God’s control… no sense of connection to anything unchanging.
In 1932 Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In July 1937, with Frederick Noonan as her navigator, she set out to be the first person to fly around the world at the equator. In the western Pacific near New Guinea she apparently lost her bearings. Her last radio message was "Position doubtful." A massive search by Navy and Coast Guard ships and planes found nothing but ocean.
(Charles E. Hummel-Freedom From Tyranny of the Urgent Page 13-14)
The tragedy is that human life is being lived apart from any reference point. When our lives have no reference point… we have no bearings in which to locate the meaning of our lives.
Ø But now, in the risen Christ, Mary found her bearings… her position in the grad experience we call ‘life’… she had found meaning that would always be at work.
Perhaps you feel frustrated by not knowing exactly where you are.
We all search for meaning in all kinds of different ways. Possessions… People… Accomplishments. But apart from any inherent value already given to our lives… they become unhealthy attachments and addictions that we simply are using to find meaning.
> You need something that gives you an underlying meaning to it all.
Where do you get that? There’s only one place. From the God who created you.
This is the impact of Christ upon the original disciples… as he revisioned their lives… even renamed some…. And at the resurrection, they got it. “We really are a part of his purpose… a divine purpose.
3. LIFE that never ends
“Our imagination so powerfully magnifies time, by continual reflections upon it (the present), …. we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing.”
We often try to ignore life’s end.
The fact is everybody has a deep internal longing to know, "What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen after I die?" It’s obvious we’re going to spend more time on that side of eternity than on this side. Here we only spend 60, 70, maybe 80 years. This is just the first inch of the yardstick. This is preschool for what’s going to happen in eternity. (R Warren)
Jesus knew that death is born of spiritual separation … the final enemy he came to defeat…
John 14:1-3 [CEV]
Jesus said to his disciples, "Don’t be worried! …There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together.
The hope that changed Mary’s life was that she would be with Jesus forever.
Romans 6:4-5 (NLT)
For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised as he was.
New bodies…”I’ll be ready.” A whole new form of existence awaits us. This is just the prologue to real life.
Such a view towards death isn’t just sentimental… it echoes the essence of all creation….
William Jennings Bryan, the well-known American political figure, was once quoted as saying,
“If the Heavenly Father deigns to touch with divine power the buried acorn to make it burst from its prison walls, will He leave neglected in the earth man who is made in the image of his Creator? If He stoops to give to the rosebush whose withered blossoms float upon the autumn breeze the sweet assurance of another springtime, will He refuse the word of hope to the sons of men when the frosts of life’s winter come? No! I am as sure that there is another life as I am that I am alive today!"
It echoes the words of Hebrews…
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.” Hebrews 6:19-20 [NIV]
God’s living son is our living hope !
In the resurrection of Jesus, God embedded in the earth an anchor of hope sturdy enough to withstand any hurricane. This living hope is reaching out to us with…
· Love that is always present
· Meaning that is always at work
· Life that will never end.
The risen Jesus simply asks this question: Are we living to die or dying to live ??
“…He said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
If we want to follow Jesus into life with God… he invites us to come enter his death.
A Life Changing Prayer
“Dear God, Thank you for sending your son Jesus Christ to earth. I believe Jesus was who he said he was and proved it by rising from the dead. Thank you Jesus for dying for me and forgiving all my sins. I accept you as my Savior and the Leader of my life, and receive your free gift of eternal life. I want to discover and begin following your plan and purpose for my life… and to know you more and more personally. Amen”