Summary: Rejoice with an Ancient Easter Hymn 1) Jesus was not abandoned to the grave) 2) We will enjoy eternal pleasures at God’s right hand
What’s your favourite thing about Easter? Is it the candy? Colouring eggs? Getting a new outfit to wear for the occasion? While those things are nice, I think the best thing about Easter is the special worship service and the opportunity to sing Easter hymns. Their melodies and words are upbeat and serve as a refreshing change from the stark hymns of Lent. Do you have a favourite Easter hymn? I’m sure you do and I hope we’ll sing it this morning. If not you’ll have to come back because we’ll be singing Easter hymns for the next month.
In our devotion together this morning I want to share with you an Easter hymn that’s not so familiar. It’s not a new hymn, far from it; it’s been around for about 3,000 years. Wait a minute, how can it be an Easter hymn if it’s that old? Although Easter is only 2,000 years old, God’s people knew about it long before it happened. They knew about it because God told them about it. In fact one of the most favourite Easter hymns today is the oldest Easter hymn on record. “I Know My Redeemer Lives” were words first penned by Job under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit 4,500 years ago!
The hymn that I want to share with you this morning was written by King David of Israel. Although David wrote the words of this hymn we could really say that it’s Jesus’ Easter hymn since he is the one speaking throughout it. And although David wrote the hymn and Jesus is speaking in it, we’ll see that this ancient Easter hymn is our hymn because what was true for Jesus, his victory over death, is true for us.
Won’t you join me in speaking the words of this ancient Easter hymn? You’ll find the words of the text, Psalm 16:9-11, printed on page 18 in your worship folder. As we join together I want you to take note of the two reasons we sing for joy on Easter. We sing for joy because 1) Jesus was not abandoned to the grave, and because of this 2) we will enjoy eternal pleasures at God’s right hand. Let’s read Psalm 16:9-11 together. “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
The words of Psalm 16 sure don’t sound like the words of a man who knew he would face a horrible death does it? Jesus didn’t fear death because he knew that it wouldn’t be the end of him. He knew that God would not abandon him to the grave or even let his body decay.
Those words of confidence proved to be true. Three days after Jesus died on the cross he came back to life. How can we be certain of this? There were eyewitnesses. First Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, then to the other women, then to Peter, then to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, then to the disciples minus Thomas in a room somewhere in Jerusalem, then to the disciples plus Thomas, then to the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, then to five hundred of his followers at once, then...do you want me to keep going? I can but I won’t because I think you get my point. Jesus really rose from the dead and we can be certain of it because he was seen by many different people at many different times.
These weren’t “Elvis” sightings either. The people who saw Jesus weren’t crackpots. The Chief Priests and Elders were the ones who were cracked up, for after receiving a report about the empty tomb, they didn’t hesitate to make up the story that Jesus’ disciples had stolen his body. We can understand their scepticism, for even the disciples were sceptical at first but at least they went and checked it out. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see that it was indeed empty. Not only that but they saw that the grave clothes had been left behind, not in a big heap as if someone was in a hurry to strip them off, but as if Jesus’ body had passed right through them (John 20:6)!
The Chief Priests and Elders must have wondered how this could happen? How could Jesus’ body be missing when they had sealed the tomb and posted a guard? Once they realized Jesus had really risen, the disciples knew how it could happen. It happened because Jesus is the Son of God and can do anything, even raise himself from the dead. They also realized that this is what Scripture had prophesied would happen for as we’ve read in Ps. 16 David said that God would not abandon his Holy One, Jesus, to the grave.