Summary: Ponder the evidences for the hope of immortality; pursue the Giver of immortality; personalize the hope of immortality.
We’ve already spent four weeks looking at the passion or suffering of Jesus in preparation for Easter. This morning, we will look at the hope of Easter, and next Sunday, we will look at the peace of Easter.
The dictionary defines hope as a “desire supported by some confidence of its fulfillment.” The Bible defines hope as a “promise that will be realized.” Hope is not only a distant reality but also a present power. Hope is like the rainbow after the storm. Hope is like the water for a thirsty hiker. Hope is like the forklift coming to rescue a person crushed under a fallen tree.
Hope gives us the will to live. If you take the hope away from a sick person, his will to live may die before his body. If you give hope to a sick person, his will to live has the potential to heal his body. The Bible says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12).”
We live with different hopes. Some hope for acceptance into a particular college. Some hope for an improved marriage or family relationship. Others hope for job security or financial independence. Because you see evidence that these desires are fulfilled in others, you believe and work toward their fulfillment in your own life and family.
We also live with shared hopes. One of the common hopes of mankind is the hope of immortality. Medical advances work toward fulfillment of this hope. From the time we are born, our parents have fought to keep us alive until we are able to keep ourselves alive. In some ways, legends and religions keep the hope of immortality alive in us.
But for immortality to move from a dream to a hope, there must be some degree of evidence or confidence of its fulfillment. Otherwise, we only have a common dream, not a common hope. Hope is a distant reality and a promise that will be realized.
Our text is John 20:1-18.
The celebration of Easter is the celebration of the hope of immortality. Because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we who trust Him have the same hope for ourselves. The hope of Easter is not a dream. We can have the same confidence demonstrated by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:52-54, “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’”
Do you want to live with this hope, this distant reality? Do you want to realize this promise from God? 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish….” God wants all of us to live out this hope. And we can learn how to receive this hope from our text this morning.
First, we need to ponder the evidences for this hope. Verses 1, 6, 10-12
God gives us enough evidences to have this hope. The stone had been removed not so Jesus could exit, but that we might see He has risen. The strips of linen and burial cloth were left behind not because grave thieves had too much time on their hands but that we might see He has risen. The angels did not ask out of curiosity why Mary was crying but that she might ponder the evidence for the hope of resurrection.
An old issue of the Focus on the Family magazine had an interview with Johnny Hart, the cartoonist for the comic strip, “BC.” The magazine reprinted one of his cartoons.
The caveman is on his knees praying, and he says, "It’s not easy to believe in you, God. We never see you. How come you never show yourself?"
In the next frame he asks: "How do we know you exist?" Just then a volcano blows up in the background, a daisy sprouts from the ground and topples a rock, a wave washes over him, two meteors converge in the sky to form the image of a cross.
Then the drenched caveman stands up and says: "Okay, Okay...I give up!" And as he walks by a burning bush and an empty tomb, he mutters, "Every time I bring up this subject all we get are interruptions."
Many see God’s evidences as interruptions, because we have our own ideas, agendas and expectations. A Muslim man told me that his worshipping Allah made him wealthy. I told him that his agenda to be wealthy kept him from believing that Jesus Christ is the only true God.