Summary: An Easter sermon on how Easter impacts us personally.
Norman Vincent Peale tells the story of the time he was invited to a luncheon in the great dining room of the London newspaper, The Times. Around the table sat distinguished editors and writers, as well as prominent businessmen. He had been invited by Lord Thomson of Fleet who owned 285 newspaper publications around the world. The conversation at the table ranged over world affairs, politics, the prospects for prosperity, and many other related topics.
But suddenly, in the middle of all the discussion, Lord Thomson said, “Dr. Peale, I’m an old man, and one of these days I’m going to die.” Immediately, an uneasy hush settled over the distinguished group of men. But he continued, “I want to know: is there an afterlife?” Dr. Peale hesitated for a moment, but then realizing the seriousness and the depth of the question he said, “I believe in the promises in the Bible. But beyond the Bible is the evidence of intelligence and common sense.”
“Suppose that somehow you could communicate with an unborn baby, who was still lying near its mother’s heart. And as you began to talk you tried to explain to that unborn child that in a short while he would not be able to continue life as he knew it. He would no longer be able to remain suspended in the protective, warm womb of his mother, but would have to leave and begin life in another world. You would call it ‘being born,’ but the unborn child would think of it as death. The child might even resist and say, ‘I do not want to leave. I am warm, loved, secure and happy.’ But the moment of birth comes in spite of his wishes. It seems to the child that he is violently expelled from life as he knew it. It is a cold, rough, uncomfortable environment at first. But in the next instant the child finds himself in the loving, adoring arms of his parent. He sees things he never knew before—things he could never have imagined. He realizes that this new world is a wonderful place, far greater than anything he could have experienced in his former state.”
“The years pass, and the child grows to have children of his own. As time goes on his step begins to slow, and he begins to realize that it is time to pass into yet another world. Some would call the passing death, others would call it birth. He might begin to object and say, ‘But I do not want to die. I have my loved ones, the security of my world and all its wonderful experiences. I want to stay here.’ But in the natural course of things, he dies. What happens then? Is God suddenly going to change? Or, can we not assume that this man will once again feel accepting arms beneath him, and be greeted by those who love him and were anticipating his arrival? Will he not look up into the strong, beautiful face of his heavenly Father who whispers words of love and excitement at his arrival? The violent expulsion into this new life will soon be forgotten as he looks about him and sees things he has never seen before; things which his mind could never have imagined.” There was a settled hush in the group as the reality of what Dr. Peale was saying sank in.
I believe there is real truth in Dr. Peale’s parable. If God has given us such a wonderful world here, with all its beauty and pleasures, what would ever make us think that the next life will be something frightening and horrible? It would be against all we have experienced, all God has promised, and all we know of His love and character. To believe that it will be a dull, boring existence with nothing for us to do also goes against both experience and reason; not to mention the fact it contradicts all the scriptures tell us about what God is preparing for us. The Bible says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Even the tragedies of life will not cloud the glory of the world where God will bring us, for the Bible says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.... What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:18,31,32).
It is this great fact that enables Christians to go through life with an invincible confidence. There is the knowledge that the worst that life can bring can never truly harm them because they belong to God, and even death cannot hurt them, it can only bring them to God. The resurrection is the greatest single event in the history of the world. The stone has been rolled away. And it has not simply revealed an empty tomb. The tomb is not vacant so we can see its emptiness. Christ is absent from the tomb, certainly, but only because He is somewhere else. The tomb was a doorway to heaven, and when the stone was rolled away we began to get a glimpse into God’s kingdom. The black, depressing pall of death is forever blown away by the fact of the resurrection. The grave is not our resting place. It is a passage—a corridor to the eternal. The chains of hopelessness are broken and despair has vanished as we look at the reality of the resurrection. The stone’s been rolled away.