Summary: On Good Friday, all hope was lost. Yet, Easter Sunday brought hope, forgiveness, and life to all who would choose Jesus as Lord. He is risen, and he rises us to new life as well!
Nature’s seasons remind us of the seasons of life. There is spring, where new growth is popping up out of the earth. The wild flowers are so pretty this time of year in South Texas. There is summer, and later fall, which here is like a slightly milder form of summer. And then there is winter, where all living things lie dormant. If the weather drops in the 20s, we feel like we might not make it. I remember this winter thinking, “Will it ever grow warm again?” Remind me I asked that when July rolls around!
That first Easter weekend some 2,000 years ago felt like winter and spring all in one weekend, kind of like our up and down weather lately. On Good Friday, all hope was shattered, as Jesus the probable Messiah was executed as a common criminal. It was like a bleak winter day. Nothing happened that long Passover Saturday, as every good Jew stayed indoors for Sabbath, likely mourning the terrible events of the day before. But on Sunday, spring burst forth! The daffodils and the Easter lilies sang out, “He is risen!” The empty tomb brought a whole new perspective. Consider, then, what the empty tomb means for us even today. First,
I find it interesting that, in a male-dominated society like First Century Jerusalem, God allowed the news of Jesus’ resurrection to first come to a group of women! The details of the resurrection story differ a little from gospel to gospel in the Bible: Were there two men in the tomb or just one? Were they angels or men? Which of the women came out? The details are slightly off, as you would guess with different eye-witness accounts. Yet, one fact stays constant. All four gospels report that the first witnesses of the empty tomb were women!
Sometimes people ask me, “How do you know the Bible isn’t just made-up?” One reason is that this kind of thing never would have made it into a fictional account. Back then, women were not even allowed to serve as witnesses in a court of law. So it’s refreshing that God would choose women to first witness the empty tomb.
The men who were certainly angels presented a shocking message to these women. And note their hearts turned from fear to hope, as they recalled the ways Jesus had tried to prepare them for his death and resurrection. With the angel’s prodding, it all came back to them. It was as if the light finally turned on, and everything made sense.
Verses 11 and 12 tell of the reception they got from the disciples: “But they [the disciples] did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb...” (vv. 11-12)
The disciples discounted their testimony, perhaps because they were women, perhaps because the news seemed too far-fetched to be true. But Peter had enough hope to go to the tomb and check it out for himself.
Pastor J.D. Greear writes, “The men and women who went to bed in despair met the next morning with a surprising hope -- the same hope that is available to us today. If Jesus is alive, He can bring the dawn of resurrection into your life. As long as Jesus is alive, there is hope for you.”
Easter gives us hope: hope that when we’re at a dead end, God can bring us through; hope that no matter how alone we are, we never have to be lonely, because he is with us; hope that with God, all things are possible. Easter brings hope. And it also brings...
Something supernatural happened on that cross that first Easter weekend. Not only did Jesus die a horrible physical death, he also died a horrible spiritual death of sorts, as all the sins of the world were laid upon him. And he did it willingly for you and for me! That is love!
Why did an innocent man have to die? Because none of us are innocent. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The only way a holy and perfect God could be in relationship with us is if someone took our punishment, someone who never deserved such punishment. And that someone is Jesus.
Listen to Romans 5:8: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” You don’t have to get cleaned up before you come to Jesus. You can come just as you are, because he loves you completely just the way you are.
C.S. Lewis gave a metaphor for this sacrificial death of an innocent in his classic children’s book, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” There, he told the story of the great lion Aslan, who loved every child, even naughty Edmund, and ended up giving his life as a sacrifice in their place, so that the curse of the White Witch could be dispelled once and for all, and the dreadful winter of Narnia could turn into spring.