(watch here: https://youtu.be/dv2DK_vsroM)
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
So a Sunday school teacher was asking her six-year-olds about the meaning of Easter. “Children,” she said, “Do you know why we celebrate Easter?” A little girl raised her hand. “Yes, Jenny?” asked the teacher. Jenny responded, “ Is Easter when we put on costumes and go trick-or-treating?” “No, Jenny. That’s Halloween. Does anyone else know?” A little boy yelled, “It’s when we set off fireworks!” “No Jimmy, that’s Independence Day. Anybody else?” A shy little girl in the back said, “Easter is when Jesus died.” The teacher replied, “That’s right, Shauna. And what happened to Jesus that makes Easter special?” “Well, he died and got buried. And every Easter he comes out. And if he sees his shadow there’s 6 more weeks of winter.”
So close and yet so far! We all know why we have gathered today: to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! Hallelujah! There is no greater day of the year for us Christians than today. Christmas, Pentecost, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Christ the King, they’re all pale in comparison to today. This is the big day for us! Jesus was dead but now is alive! So what? What’s the big deal about his dying and rising again? Jesus brought back many people from the dead, most notably his good friend, Lazarus. Modern science brings people back from the dead all the time. The machines say they’re dead but somehow they also manage to revive them. So what’s the big deal about Jesus coming back from the dead?
Perhaps because science and technology of 2,000 years ago were incapable of bringing dead people back to life. We didn’t know what we know now about the human body. We know how to jump start life among the dead. We also know how to sustain life among the dying. Life and death have become less defined states of being in today’s day and age. Just because something dies doesn’t mean it can’t live again. Modern science cheats death all the time these days. So what’s so special about Jesus cheating death so to speak? Contrary to popular belief, you can’t cheat death forever. Death in its purest, simplest form is irreversible. Everything dies eventually and even if it manages to receive new life it isn’t the same. Even Jesus came back to us different. Some people recognized him, some did not. And he was only here for a brief time before he ascended into heaven and left us with the Spirit to help guide our way. WE have become the body of the resurrected Christ. Just as we change and our bodies change, so, too, does the body of the resurrected Christ. Over the years we have lost members of our body and yet we have also gained members. Our distinct body of Christ has changed over time as members have left us or joined us. Sometimes the body was strengthened, sometimes it was hurt. But the body remained—we are the body of Christ now. So getting back to the question: why is Jesus’ resurrection such a big deal worthy of praise and thanksgiving?
Perhaps because of the sheer injustice of his death. Some of us like to believe that if Jesus were alive today in the form of a single man in same way he was 2,000 years ago, we would not allow such injustice to take place. We would rise to the occasion and somehow rescue Jesus from the injustice and barbarity of his trial and crucifixion. In reality, we aren’t that much different from the Roman and religious leaders of Jesus’ day. We’d consider Jesus a threat to our own established sense of order and fairness. Remember we started this week with the Palm Sunday celebration during which I told you that Jesus is more than a great healer and teacher. Jesus is a fighter too. Jesus fights whatever it is that holds us back from receiving God’s gracious and free gifts of grace and mercy. Jesus overturned the tables of those defiling his Father’s place of worship by selling their wares. Jesus fought his earthly father and mother. Why? Because he could see they were getting in the way of his receiving God’s love and favor. He needed to run away and focus on his relationship with the Father above all other relationships. Jesus fought the established church and all its roadblocks for receiving God’s love. Jesus had come to Jerusalem for a fight more than anything. And what a fight he received! First with the religious and Roman authorities, then with his disciples, then with sin and death and the devil. His week in Jerusalem was nothing but a fight. Anyone who thinks of Jesus as nothing more than a loving, soft teacher and healer doesn’t quite understand who Jesus is. Yes, Jesus is a fighter. Sometimes he picks the fights, most times the fights are picked with him. But all the time Jesus comes out on top. He’s not only a fighter but he’s a good fighter too. Jesus knows how to win so if you’re going to pick a fight with him you better be prepared to lose. He puts up a good fight!
Maybe that’s why Jesus’ resurrection is such a big deal—because of what it reveals of Jesus being the greatest fighter that has ever lived. Fighting sin and sinful temptation is no small task. It’s not easy. Sin and temptation are insidious and persistent forces of evil. Resisting them takes great courage and strength. Even more difficult to defeat is the Devil himself. The Devil uses every trick in the book to destroy us. There is nothing he wouldn’t do to pull us away from the love and grace and mercy of God. He comes from the darkness and will stop at nothing to pull us into the darkness alongside him. And for many, death is the gateway into darkness. They don’t know the love of God, the light of God, so death is but a gateway into darkness. Each on their own-sin, death, and the devil-are all formidable foes. But combined into one foe? Impossible to defeat! Yet Jesus does just that, solidifying him as the greatest fighter that has ever lived.
And how does he do it? Through love of course! Over the last 3 days we’ve reflected on the great love of Jesus-a love for the greatest of enemies, the betrayer; a love for a world that wants nothing more than to inflict pain and suffering; a love that turns Jesus into the greatest fighter of all time. Today we celebrate his great and mighty love for us. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (5:8) We don’t deserve his love. We’re nothing but betrayers and mockers and torturers and selfish beings. Yet Jesus went to the cross for us. More amazingly, he came back to us! Hard to decide which is more amazing: that he’d die for us and that he’d come back to us after what we did to him? In either case, there is no doubt of his love for us. Nothing else could compel a man to act so…foolishly!! And he did it to inspire us to love each other with the same foolishness. In his first letter, John writes, “we love because he first loved us.” (4:19). If anything, Christ’s resurrection is a great testimony to the love he has for us. I mean, come on…he came back to us! He and defeated undefeatable forces for us! And he did it all because of love. Let us go forth rejoicing and eager to share that love. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.