Summary: An Easter Sermon.
“The Hinge of History”
By: Kenneth E. Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
A few years after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, there were several thousand Christians living under Nero in the Roman Empire.
And it is reported that Christians were regularly “crucified or set on fire so that when darkness came they burned like torches in the night.”
Three hundred years later, there were 34 million Christians or 56.5% of the total population.
And according to a recent NEWSWEEK Poll, 81 Percent of Americans say they are Christians, and there are currently 2 billion believers in the world.
This is 33% of this earth’s population.
Christianity is now the world’s largest faith!!!
What are we to make of all this?
Christianity began in obscurity.
The first missionaries were commoners, whose message appeared to be nonsense to the sophisticated.
With some exceptions, Christianity’s chief appeal was to the outcaste and the marginal elements of society…
…people like Mary Magdelene and a small band of uneducated fishermen and hated tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers…
These were people with no political clout, little money—outcastes, who from the beginning, were violently persecuted.
Again, I ask, What are we to make of this?
As the sun set on the Friday of the execution, Jesus appeared to be a failure.
His promises about the Kingdom of God were little more than provocative but powerless rhetoric.
No matter what Jesus had said about sacrifice and Resurrection during His lifetime…
…well, His disciples obviously did not understand it, and did not expect Jesus to rise again.
On the night He was arrested, even Simon Peter, Christ’s most loyal disciple, crumbled to dust as he denied even knowing his Lord three times.
And after the Resurrection, “On the evening of that first day of the week,” the disciples were huddled together, “with doors locked for fear of the Jews.”
What are we to make of this?…
…well, certainly, without the Resurrection, it is virtually impossible to imagine that the Jesus movement would have continued!!!
And yet, here we are, over 2,000 years later, brothers and sisters in Christ…declaring with faith and boldness: “Christ, our Savior is Risen from the dead!”…
… “Hallelujah! Jesus lives!”
Many, if not most of us here this morning, base our entire lives on this fact!!!
It is the reason we do not fear death.
It is the reason that so many of us have put our whole trust…our whole lives into the hands of Jesus.
It is the reason that so many of our lives have been changed so radically and continue to change, as we deny ourselves each day, take up our cross and follow Christ!
It is the reason that billions of people around the world are able to face this terribly difficult life with courage, hope, faithfulness, and thanksgiving!!!
It is one of the main reasons that we have so many hospitals, so many schools of higher education, and of course…a church on just about every corner!!!
It was Christ’s Resurrection that made the Christian Church.
It was Christ’s Resurrection that transformed a huddle of dispirited and frightened people into that valiant band who were willing to risk anything for the sake of Christ!
It was Christ’s Resurrection that brought into being and set in motion this mighty Gospel which has been proclaimed to nearly the entire world and has changed the face of humanity!
And the Words of the New Testament itself leap for joy first of all, most of all, and last of all over the empty grave!!!
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is most certainly the hinge on which the doorway of history swings.
It is also the hinge on which the doorway of so many lives swing!
What hinge does the doorway of our lives swing on?
What gives us hope and meaning?
What makes this nearly unbearable life, worth the living?
It’s worth noticing that the first person to see the Risen Christ was Mary Magdelene.
For her, maybe more than anyone else, Jesus Christ was the hinge of her life.
Jesus had changed her world something fierce!!!
It’s more than likely that Jesus was the first person to ever treat her like a human being—a person of sacred worth…
…someone as worthwhile as any one else.
Someone worth loving.
And so Mary, loved Jesus right back.
So “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.”
And this caused all kinds of chaos as she ran and brought back two other disciples…telling them: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb…”
For as we read in verse 9: “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”