Summary: 5th of 5 on life after life. This was preached on Easter Sunday. Credit for the main illustration goes to Matthew Rogers. Sermon Central contributor.
It was a windy but sunny spring day in May of 1986…
Matt was a part of the team but the best runner was John Waller. John was somewhat of a living legend at that time in boys track. He was an incredibly gifted runner who had consistently placed in the top 5-10 spots in the mile run at the state level since he was in seventh grade.
The starter raised his arm – “Runners, take your mark.” He raised the gun, “Get set.” BANG! The gun was fired and off they went.
But something strange was happening. Matt was in the lead. They rounded the first curve and he was still leading. “Where’s John Waller?” Matt wondered. “Did he trip? What’s going on? He thought, “Did I just have too much adrenaline and start out way too fast? No, this seems like my normal pace. This is really strange.”
Matt led the entire first lap. And as he ran past the starting line where the race began he fully expected to see John Waller on the ground nursing an injury. But, nope! He was nowhere to be found. John had to still be in the race. Matt finished the second lap – still in the lead, his split times consistent with how he always ran –
Where was John Waller?
Easter Sunday is a day about death.
Death entered into the garden of Gethsemane with the temple guards of the High Priest. His fierceness is kindled as he sees the One who has eluded him so long. He snarls and roars, trying his best to intimidate and terrorize this Son of God, but Jesus looks him straight in the eye and does not flinch! There is not one indication of fear. This Jesus has the look of a conqueror!
It is Death that feels a tremor of fear! Could it be that he has finally met his master!?
I can see Death as he goes along with the crowd from the garden to the house of Caiphas and then to Pilate. Pilate, that pompous procurator of the region who would dare sit in judgment of this Perfect Personage of the Universe. I can hear Death whisper into Pilate’s ear: "Kill him. Give Him over to me. I know how to handle this trouble-maker!
Death whispered in the ears of the frenzied crowd, stirring them to cry out: "Crucify Him, Crucify Him! Release unto us Barabbas, the insurrectionist. Let the blood of this man, Jesus be on our hands and on our children’s hands!!
Death celebrates! He’s almost mine! I will devour Him. I will destroy Him. I will kill God’s child. With every lash of the whip, death lunged upon the body of Christ, yet could not get a finishing grip. Somehow he was repulsed.
Death was present as Christ was laid upon a roman criminal’s cross. He looked on with satisfaction as the brutal Roman soldier placed nails in each hand and feet of Jesus. He covered the earth with darkness as the cross was lifted and dropped into place, tearing the flesh and sinew of our Lord.
Finally, in the midst of Christ’s agony, He struggled for breath enough to say 2 things: 1) Father, forgive them; and 2) It is finished --- and He bowed His head and died!
And then something very strange happened. Death died. We can mark the day. We can pinpoint the hour… it was dawn – three days after…
The day after the Sabbath day was the first day of the week. At dawn on the first day, Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 At that time there was a strong earthquake. An angel of the Lord came down from heaven, went to the tomb, and rolled the stone away from the entrance. Then he sat on the stone.
3 He was shining as bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.
4 The soldiers guarding the tomb shook with fear because of the angel, and they became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. 6 He is not here. He has risen from the dead as he said he would. Come and see the place where his body was.
7 And go quickly and tell his followers, ‘Jesus has risen from the dead. He is going into Galilee ahead of you, and you will see him there.’ ” Then the angel said, “Now I have told you.”
8 The women left the tomb quickly. They were afraid, but they were also very happy. They ran to tell Jesus’ followers what had happened. 9 Suddenly, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings.” The women came up to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.