|Text: 1 Corinthians 15:20
Christ has been raised from death, as the guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised.
A teenage lad was standing at my front door. Clearly he was upset. I donít know how he got there but he looked desperate. "Mum and dad are at the hospital now. Lisa has been killed", he blurted out. (Lisa was 2 years old). He quickly told me a few more details and as he turned to go back to the hospital, he asked, "Can you tell my grandparents?"
"Sure I said", but little did I know that this was going to be one of the hardest tasks that I would ever undertake. How do I tell grandparents that one of their most precious grandchildren had been killed? They lived nearby so I walked around to their place wanting time to get my head around this whole situation and praying desperately that God would give me the right words to say.
As the front door opened I was greeted with their usual friendly and welcoming smile. "Come in", they said, but they could sense that something was wrong. I asked them to take a seat; I think I was still trying to find a way to deliver this sad news. "I'm sorry but I have some bad news". The words seemed to be stuck in my throat. "There has been a terrible accident. Your grand-daughter, Lisa, has died." I could see that they could hardly grasp what I was saying. In fact, I couldnít believe I was saying this since I had baptised Lisa, knew her parents and the other children very well. The grandparents looked at each other in shock. How could this dear little girl, with so much to look forward to, be dead?
I wanted to say something more but I knew that no words could match the pain they were feeling. In the face of death there is this totally helpless feeling. All I could do was embrace both of them as they sobbed, "I don't believe it. Lisa's dead."
There is something final and horrible about death. It leaves us all feeling so helpless in the face of it, as we try to come to terms with what the loss of our loved one means to us.
Death is cruel, it takes from this life people who are most loved and it doesn't care who it takes, young and old alike. And we can't do anything about it. Doctors and scientists have been trying to do something about it for as long as there has been medical science. The one absolute certain thing I know that will happen to you and me is that we will die.
Those who stood around the cross must have said that about Jesus when he gave his last breath. "He's dead." With tears welling up in their eyes, they held each other because this man whom they loved so much was dead. I can imagine the sadness and helplessness the disciples must have felt as the news of Jesusí death was reported to them. When they placed Jesusí lifeless body in the tomb, they realised that this was it - this was the end of Jesus. He was dead. And like anyone of us when faced with death, an almost unbearable sadness and emptiness overwhelmed them Ė Jesus was gone.
The women who went to visit the grave early on the Sunday morning expected to find the dead body of Jesus in the tomb. With heavy hearts they came to complete his burial by finishing what they had hurriedly started on the eve of the Sabbath.
The grave was empty.
We have heard the resurrection story a thousand times before and so a lot of the excitement has been lost for us. But try to imagine what it was like for those women and the disciples when they heard that a dead person was now alive. They knew for certain Jesus was dead and had been buried in a tomb. The grave had been sealed tight with a huge rock. They heard the message of the angel, "He is not here; he has been raised". Jesus was alive. To hear this message and then over the next few weeks see Jesus "in the flesh", talking with them, eating with them, walking with them Ė that must have been an amazing time.
The disciples and the women werenít expecting to find the tomb empty because for a moment they had forgotten that this was no ordinary man who died on the cross, and that the death they witnessed was no ordinary death. The cross killed Jesus, but with his death and resurrection, Jesus killed death itself. Death itself died when Jesus took upon himself all of our sin, and then rose again from the grave as the conqueror over the "last enemy" Ė death.
His resurrection ensures that death no longer has the
power to scare and horrify us. It ends any uncertainty that we might have about
what lay beyond death.
His resurrection gives comfort and reassurance when disappointments and sadness strike us when someone we love is suddenly taken from us.
His resurrection calms our fears that life is passing away all too quickly and we will soon face our own inevitable death.
Jesusí resurrection gives us the assurance that not even death can separate us from the God who loves us. Death is the doorway that leads us into the beautiful life that waits for us beyond the grave.
A little girl who had to walk through a cemetery on her way home from school was asked if she was afraid. "No" she replied. "I simply cross through the cemetery to get home." That is what the resurrection has done with death. It has turned it into a harmless pathway on our journey home. As Jesus was resurrected from death, so the resurrection awaits us all. Those who are in Christ will be raised from death to live with him forever. The fear of what will happen to us when we breathe our last breath has gone.
Can you see what changes happen because of Easter?
Thereís hope that there is life beyond the grave.
There is a newness, a freshness that fills our life knowing that Jesus is our living Lord who walks with us and strengthens us every day. We can face anything with the living Jesus comforting us when we are sad, and reassuring us when we are unsure.
As we draw nearer to the last day of this earth or perhaps our own last day in this life itís natural to be anxious and afraid of what will happen, how strong we will be on that day, and how we will be able to cope. The living Jesus assures us that he will never forsake us and that we can be certain that he will hold our hands, carry us if necessary, through the difficulties that may lie ahead. The living Jesus gives us the confidence to face whatever tomorrow may bring.
The living Jesus knows our needs, is ready to use his power to answer our prayers, he understands
The living Jesus makes all the difference. Take Jesus out of Easter and youíve got nothing left. He gives us the newness and hope that we so desperately need in our lives Ė lives that are filled with so much stress and uncertainty. The living Jesus assures us that "nothing in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God."
Iím glad our Easter celebrations donít end with Good Friday. Yes, Jesus died Ė but he also rose again. Thatís worth celebrating. Jesus has overcome the grave. He has given us the victory and declared that we shall be with in heaven forever. Celebrate the resurrection of our Lord today! Celebrate your resurrection today!
© Pastor Vince
11th April, 2004