The world has not seen an Easter quite like this since that first Easter Day. A pale of fear has fallen upon the world as the threat of death hangs over us. Doors are barred shut, as people huddle in their homes. Bewilderment and confusion fill our hearts and minds as we see our hopes and dreams fade away. A time not so different than that first Easter. A time just like that first Easter when an unexpected joy can be ours. Let’s begin our journey in the wee hours of the morning. Turn with me to Luke 24:1-12:
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
What did the disciples look for as the third morning broke? They looked for a tomb to which they would bring spices and acknowledge the death that had happened just three days earlier. They looked for death. They did not look for life.
This is the situation for many in our land this morning. Perhaps one of their loved ones has died from coronavirus or is on the verge of dying. Perhaps their small business or their employment has died or is about to die. People have lost hope, they are only looking for death, but death is not what the women found, nor does it have to be what we will find.
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, but risen!” Because of the resurrection, life can be found where we only expect death. The resurrection changes everything. IT IS THE FINAL WORD!
We think when a person dies or a business fails that is the final word, but it is not. If you have faith in Jesus, behind every death is life. Behind every ending is a beginning. Behind every sorrow is joy! If you place your faith in Jesus you can go away amazed, just like Peter.
Let us now go to the mid-day:
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
On that same day, two of Jesus’ disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus, there conversation focused on the tragedy that was happening all around them. They were like many today. It seems all that people can talk about is the coronavirus.
Then these two men met a man on the road and he seemed totally unaware for all the events that so dominated the news. When asked by the stranger what they were discussing, “they stood there looking sad.” When they told the stranger about Jesus, what they had to confess was only their despair: “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Sadness and despair ruled their hearts, just as it rules the hearts of many today, but then the man opened up Scripture to them, blessed and broke bread with them. When these things happened, we are told their hearts were “burning” with joy and hope within them.
That same Jesus is present with us today by His Holy Spirit. As you devote yourselves to the message from Scripture I bring you today, He can open your hearts and minds. He can come to you as you gather around your Easter table. He can burn joy and hope within you! He can do this because He is alive!
Let us now go to the evening:
And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.
Still in the evening the faith of the disciples was wavering. The other gospels tell us the doors were barred out of fear. How much this is like our situation today. We are locked within our home out of fear, but our door cannot keep Jesus out!
“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” Even now, Jesus is about to do this. Jesus can go were no virus can go. Jesus can do what no one else can do—He can give us peace and joy!
The book of Revelation is a book written to Christians living in the midst of persecution, war, disaster and plague. In that book we read this message from Christ to His church:
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
As you sit at home today behind your closed doors, consider what Jesus has to say to you today; maybe this is a time for you to repent and open the door to Jesus! If you do you might discover that this Easter is the most joyous Easter you have ever celebrated. A Joy Unexpected!
Let us pray.