Summary: After the dark and depressing days of crucifixion Friday and silent Saturday, came resurrection Sunday. The tomb was empty and Jesus appeared to Mary, Peter, two disciples, and to all the apostles. And they were all filled with joy and amazement.
A. Allow me to begin this morning with an illustration from Max Anders’ book, Basics of Christianity.
1. Max Anders wrote: Two hundred miles northeast of Los Angeles is a baked-out gorge called Death Valley; the lowest place in the United States at 276 feet below sea level.
a. It is also the hottest place in the country, with an official recording of 134 degrees.
b. Streams flow into Death Valley only to evaporate in the scorching heat, and a scant 2 ½ inches of rain falls on that barren wasteland each year.
2. But many years ago, an amazing thing happened – due to a freak weather pattern, rain fell onto the bone-dry earth of Death Valley for 19 days in a row.
a. Suddenly, millions of seeds which had laid dormant for untold years burst into bloom.
b. The Valley of Death exploded into beauty, color, and life.
3. This is the joyful and amazing message of the resurrection of Jesus.
a. Life springs forth from death. A desert becomes a garden.
b. Beauty transcends the ugly. Love overcomes hatred.
c. A tomb is emptied.
d. The grim and haunting outline of a cross is swallowed in the glow of an Easter morning sunrise. (Max Anders, Basics of Christianity: Jesus, Nelson, Nashville, 1995, p. 1550)
B. Eight weeks ago, we started this sermon series on the last week of the earthly life of Jesus.
1. I hope it has been as inspiring a journey for you as it has been for me.
2. The past two sermons have been very dark and hard as we experienced crucifixion Friday and silent and sobering Saturday.
3. A few of you told me that you didn’t know if you could take any more sermons with such sadness and darkness, and if that’s how you have felt, well I have good news for you today.
4. Today’s sermon is about resurrection Sunday, the day of joy and amazement.
C. We gather today on what is called “Easter Sunday” to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but in truth we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every Sunday, and for that matter, not just on Sundays but on every day!
1. Today I want us to be reminded of the events of that Sunday when Jesus came out of the tomb.
2. But beyond the events of that Sunday, I want us to feel what they felt, and I want us to comprehend the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection and the hope and strength and joy it delivers.
3. So fasten your seat belts and let’s experience the thrilling ride of that resurrection Sunday.
D. Let’s be reminded of how that crucifixion Friday ended, and what transpired on that silent Saturday.
1. As the sun was setting on that Friday, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus hastily prepared the body of Jesus for burial, and Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James saw where He was laid.
2. Those women prepared additional spices and perfumes to treat Jesus’ body, but because the Sabbath was beginning they didn’t have time to return to the tomb, but had to rest on the Sabbath in obedience to God’s command.
3. Their plan was to return to the tomb on Sunday morning after the Sabbath was over and complete the burial rituals of the Jews on Jesus’ body.
4. This is further evidence that the disciples of Jesus were not expecting a resurrection, but intended to prepare Jesus’ body for permanent burial.
5. If the disciples of Jesus were anticipating a resurrection, we would have expected to read in Scripture that they were getting their lawn chairs and picnic blankets ready to go to the tomb as soon as the Sabbath was over to be in place to witness the resurrection.
E. If anyone takes the time to read all four biblical accounts of the resurrection, then they will discover that harmonizing the accounts does have its challenges.
1. That doesn’t mean that the truth of the resurrection is anyway in doubt, but it does mean that the purpose of the Gospel accounts wasn’t to provide a complete chronology of the events surrounding the resurrection.
2. Rather, the purpose of the Gospel accounts was to substantiate the claim that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead.
3. The facts the Gospel writers offered as proof can be summarized as follows:
a. First, Jesus was dead when He was removed from the cross.
b. Second, Jesus’ body was placed in a specific tomb.
c. Third, Jesus’ tomb was sealed and guarded.
d. Fourth, Jesus’ tomb was later found to be empty.
e. Fifth, Jesus was later seen alive by people who knew Him.
f. And finally, the resurrected body of Jesus was the same body as the one which had been put to death on the cross.