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(024) Easter Sunday: He is Risen Indeed

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He is Risen Indeed!

Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008

Prep: Read Luke 24:13ff and all resurrection accounts

He is risen

Easter is the pinnacle of the Christian calendar. Every kid prefers Christmas because you get a better haul, but Christmas was only in preparation of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Q   How many of you know the traditional Easter Greeting?

·         Part of my church going up, and my mom has a tradition of calling a certain friend every Easter.

This is actually a very ancient greeting, and it is taken straight from the Bible. It is meant to express the joy and amazement at Christ’s resurrection. But before we can appreciate the joy, we have to experience the sorrow.

Good Friday

On Friday, several you joined us for Good Friday service, which is one the few times we want to be somber.

·         Good Friday is meant to remind us of what Jesus suffered for our sake.

We showed “The Passion of the Christ,” a rather gruesome portrayal of his death. We made a point of stopping it at his death, before the resurrection, so that we can in some manner experience the sorrow and hopelessness the disciples felt.

·         To us, Jesus resurrection seems obvious, to them it seemed impossible, a cruel hoax.

·         We know that Easter would follow Good Friday, they did not.

False Messiah?

Even when the women saw the angles and the empty tomb, it took awhile for them to believe, but it’s not that they were dense.

You have to understand their mindset. Life in 1st century Palestine was hard, poverty and starvation were common, but the worst part was the Roman occupation

The Bible had promised that a Messiah would free them, but they had been under foreign rule for 400 years and many wondered, “How long, O Lord?” Others took matters into their own hands.

Many false Messiahs arose, including Barabbas. They all met the same fate: Crucifixion. On another occasion, 2,000 men were crucified for following a false Messiah.

Jesus was different than those guys. Granted he said strange things, but there was no getting around the miracles. The disciples and many others were sure he who would restore Israel.

·         That’s why people could go from welcoming Jesus to shouts of “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday to “Crucify!” five days later.

Disillusioned followers

When Jesus was crucified, his followers watched their world fall down around them. They thought he really was the Messiah, but when he died, they realized they had been duped like the rest.

·         The Messiah wasn’t supposed to be killed.

·         I think when Peter said “I will die with you,” he didn’t really believe Jesus would die.

What was supposed to happen was that Jesus would call down the angels and kick the Romans’ butts. Beyond their personal sorrow, they would have been confused and profoundly disillusioned.

·         It would be like calling the cops because you are being robbed, but they show up and help the thieves.

So on the third day, when the disciples heard from the women that the tomb was empty, they still didn’t know what to think, especially because women were not considers reliable witnesses.

On the way to Emmaus

Luke tells of two disillusioned disciples waking to the town of Emmaus, trying to figure out what the heck is going on, and Jesus meets up with them incognito:

As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:15-27 NIV 

Jesus had to show them that it was clearly prophesied the Messiah would die. The reason they misunderstood the prophecies is because the misunderstood why he had come.

·         They thought it was to “restore Israel,” but it was really to restore all the world.

·         They thought God only cared about Israel, Jesus show that God loved the entire world.

·         They thought that Israel were enslaved by the Romans, Jesus said that everyone is enslaved by sin.

·         They wanted Israel to be free, Jesus wanted everyone to be free.

The message and meaning of Easter, the purpose of Christ’s death and its power for us is best summarized by Paul:

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26 NIV

At one point in “The Passion,” when he was being beaten, Laura wrote a one word note: “Animals.” But the point is that that is what humanity, collectively and individually did to him.

·         Our sin put him there.

Q   Why did Jesus have to die?

·         So God could be both loving and just.

no resurrection, no christianity

Q   All of this had talked a lot about his death, but why is Easter so important?

Q   Why did he have to come back from the dead?

To demonstrate with power that this was all true. Without the resurrection, all of this just sounds like delusional thinking.

·         The resurrection shows us that Jesus was indeed the Christ and that his death did indeed free us from our sins.

·         It also proclaims that death has been destroyed, and it is the promise of eternal life.

It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul also said that if Christ was not raised, then Christians are to be pitied.

If Easter is just a fable, then there is no point in being a Christian. Christianity is lived in the hope of heaven, and if there is no heaven, then we are big suckers.

·         If you proved to Paul that the Resurrection never happened, he would have rejected Christ and the same goes for me.

Prove it

But, I am glad to say, the Resurrection doesn’t have to be accepted by blind faith, it is one of the more supportable events of the ancient world.

1. The Bible, especially the NT, is the most verifiable ancient document in the world.

2. The Gospels were written by those either saw the resurrection or interviewed people who did.

3. The Gospel accounts bear the marks of authenticity:

a. They included specific evidence.

b. They used disputable witnesses

c. Their accounts vary slightly.

d. They died for it rather than recant.

e. It powerfully and immediately transformed an empire.

So I stand here today, convinced of the resurrection, and filled with joy, because 2,000 years ago, Jesus conquered death, and gave life to all that would accept it.

He has risen indeed!

And now back to the road to Emmaus: After Jesus, incognito, explained everything to the two disciples, and they finally begin to understand that Jesus had not failed them, they failed to understand why he had come.

·         And for the punch line, he reveals himself and disappears.

And so, even though it is getting late, they went all the way back to Jerusalem, to tell everyone when they saw, and the first words out of their mouth is:

“It is true! The Lord has risen...” Luke 24:34 NIV or “The Lord is risen indeed!” (RSV)

The Easter greeting is the sound of a person who has lost all hope, not daring to believe the good news.

·         It’s really true! He did come back, and we understand. It all makes sense and it is even better than anything we hoped for.

Closing: Two thieves

The Bible says that two criminals were hung on either side of Jesus. As I watched this part of “The Passion,” I was struck by how well those two represent humanity:

·         Both were guilty and justly condemned, but one was arrogant to Jesus, but the other contrite and believing in Jesus.

As CS Lewis said, in the end there will be two kinds of people, those say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”

Our choice which one we will be, whether we will follow Jesus as Lord and Savior, or reject him a merely a moral teaching or a deluded prophet.


“He is risen!”

Go in the joy of the Spirit, knowing that sin is conquered and death destroyed, and that we have ETERNAL life in Christ.

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