Summary: Hollow Hope or Living Hope? Where do you find your hope? Are you hoping to fill up on something that will leave you empty? Or are you filling up on the empty tomb that brings powerful, living and lasting hope?
1 Peter 1:3,4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you
What did you hope to find when you came here to church this morning? Maybe you hoped to see a beautifully decorated church. Maybe some of you hoped to see some familiar faces of family members and friends. Maybe you hoped to sing some of those beautiful Easter hymns. Maybe you hoped to find some peace, some answers, some inspiration or some direction for a life that at times seems to be spinning out of control. What did you hope to find when you came to church this morning? Many times our hopes are based on our past experiences. You’ve been to Easter services before and so you build your expectations for today on previous experiences, that this year will be similar to past years. Or maybe your hope is based on what someone said to you. Someone said that they were going to meet you here, that there was going to be beautiful music, singing, decorations and they even told you that the message of Easter is so much more than chocolate bunnies and brightly colored eggs, but that the message of Easter is about a man that gives living hope, lasting peace and true purpose. So here you are, with all those hopes. Well, I’ve got some good news. No matter what brought you here to today, today is a day of hope because a living Jesus gives living hope. Strangely enough this living hope takes us to a place of death, where hope normally appears to end.
We go to a cemetery. This cemetery is located just outside of the city of Jerusalem. It’s Sunday morning nearly 2000 years ago. The week leading up to this Sunday had been festive and frantic. This relatively small city was packed full of people who had travelled to Jerusalem for the annual Jewish festival called the Passover. But this year’s festival was underlined with controversy. There was a man who some people had claimed was the Messiah, the Deliverer of Israel, who had been performing miracles, healing people and even raising dead people back to life. He even had claimed to be the Son of God. His following was growing large and larger, and in the eyes of some Jewish religious leaders more and more threatening. This man Jesus had been arrested Thursday evening and crucified on Friday and that evening his body quickly placed in a tomb in that cemetery outside of Jerusalem.
It was day three of Jesus’ death and some women went to the cemetery. What did they hope to find? Their past experience had taught them that you do not go to the cemetery to see IF the person is still there. You go to the cemetery because you KNOW the person is still there. So they went hoping to find Jesus’ lifeless body. When they arrived, they saw the stone that blocked the entrance to Jesus’ tomb had been rolled away, allowing them to look in and see that Jesus’ body was not there. What did they expect had happened? Experience had told them that if the body was missing, someone must have stolen or moved it. That was the only natural conclusion that Mary, one of Jesus' followers, could come to as she asked a man who stood beside her, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him” (John 20:15). But the man who stood next to Mary was none other than the man she was looking for – it was Jesus. The women came to that cemetery hoping to find a dead body, but instead, they found a living Jesus who gave them hope. Jesus was not dead, Jesus was alive!
This man had done exactly as he had promised and repeatedly and specifically predicted. Jesus had said about himself, “He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Luke 9:22). There is nothing cryptic about those words, is there? It as a simple and straightforward as, “I am going to work on Tuesday.” What Jesus said may have been hard for people to BELIEVE, but it was not difficult to UNDERSTAND. What Jesus had said, Jesus had done! The one who once was dead, now was alive!
Think of the relief of Jesus’ disciples and the joy they must have felt! Not merely a joy that their friend and teacher was among the living. Even more than the reassurance that they were NOT crazy for believing the seemingly crazy things this man Jesus had said. It was the joy, peace and confidence that came from knowing that Jesus had done what he said he was going to do – not just rise from the dead, but bring salvation to the world. You see, this was and is personal. His death was for them, for the world, for you. Jesus died to bring you freedom from the guilt and punishment of sin, to pay the price required for us to be right with God and spend life eternal with him in heaven. Jesus died for you.