Serrmon for the Third Sunday of Easter

Text: Luke 24:37, 41
They were terrified, thinking that they were seeing a ghost. …
They were so full of joy and wonder.


The Easter difference

“What a wonderful crowd came to our Easter services this year”, a woman exclaimed as she shook hands with the pastor at the door.  She was apparently impressed by the large attendance at the Easter services. 
Then she added, “Do you suppose it will make any difference?” 
Before she could get away the pastor quickly asked, “What do you mean?  Will what make any difference?”

“Easter!” she shot back.  “Will Easter make any difference for all these people, or will life tomorrow be the same as it was yesterday?”

This little incident at the church door starts us thinking.  The woman's question is a very important one. Will Easter make any difference? 
We celebrated Easter a fortnight ago with so much enthusiasm and gusto. 
We sang those beautiful Easter hymns and songs. 
We heard the Easter message once again. 
Will Easter make a difference to each of us and our daily lives?
Will life in this church and in every other church go on “as usual”, as this unknown person asked, or will there somehow be a difference?
Perhaps the question that needs asking first of all is this – is it supposed to make a difference?

If we use the first Easter as our guide and the effect of Easter of the disciples, then yes it does make a difference.  We hear how the disciples were afraid and confused after the events of Good Friday and Easter.  And they became even more terrified when Jesus suddenly appeared before them thinking that he was a ghost.  It is only after Jesus had told them to look at his hands and feet and then had a meal with them that a difference came over their complete lives.  We are told that “they were full of joy and wonder.”

The disciples became different people because their Lord was not dead but alive.  They were in the presence of the living Lord.  Jesus is the Saviour of all humanity.

This same kind of change happened when Cleopas and his friends met a stranger on the road to Emmaus.  They were down in the dumps.  They were feeling depressed and confused.  Jesus, the one on whom they had pinned all their hope, was now dead.  What were they going to do now? 

When these men found out that the man to whom they had been pouring out their grief was actually Jesus himself, they were no longer confused and troubled, worried and anxious, but filled with the joy and confidence.  The risen Jesus made a difference to their lives.

But what difference does the resurrection make to us today in 2015? 
Does Easter still have the same effect on people today as it did back then in those early centuries? 
We’ve heard the Easter story many times and so the raw thrilling excitement of the first Easter isn’t real for most of us. 
But this doesn’t change the fact that Easter does make a difference to people even in the 21st century.  The events of Good Friday and Easter tell us loudly and clearly God has left no stone unturned to save all people including us today.

The wonderful results of Jesus' death and resurrection are passed on to us at our baptism and when we celebrate Holy Communion and when we trust the promises of God’s Word.  In the Scriptures and the sacraments, God gives to us the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross, he gives us eternal life and the promise that we too shall rise from the dead. 
We are his people.
We are his forgiven, resurrected people. 
We belong to him;
we are members of his family.

In his letter, John can’t help but emphasise with a good deal of excitement what God has done through his Son.  He says, “See how much the Father has loved us! His love is so great that we are called God's children—and so, in fact, we are.” John talks a lot about us being “like Christ” – pure, holy, without sin, at one with God and others.

Do you see what is happening here?  Because we share in the forgiveness and the resurrection of Jesus, because we have been reconciled with God and all believers are at peace with God, God brings us close together.  God has put his chosen, forgiven, resurrected people together in the one holy Christian Church made up of congregations like this one.

You see, Easter breaks down the barriers between God and us. 
Easter gets rid of the sin barrier that prevents us from enjoying the privilege of approaching God's throne in prayer. 
Easter gets rid of the sin barrier that would prevent us from entering heaven.  Easter gets rid of everything that stands between God and us. 
Because of Easter we are able to have fellowship with God, or perhaps it is better to say, GOD is able to have fellowship with US.
And in our daily lives, Easter is the power that enables us as live together in peace and harmony.

Just as barriers have been broken down between God and us, so also walls come down between those who are forgiven and resurrected.  Relationships are restored and recreated and built up.  That is the beginning of true fellowship between Christians.  We have true fellowship with one another because we have all been united with Christ. 

The apostle Paul says to the Colossians,
“You have died with Christ … you have been raised to new life with Christ … you are the people of God.  Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace” (Col 3:12-15 NLT).

Paul is here describing what it is that builds up fellowship between Christians.  We have died with Christ and so have selfishness, unkindness, lack of consideration for others, back stabbing, unkind criticism, and failure to understand – all these have died with Christ on the cross.
Be like Christ, be compassionate, understanding, kind, helpful and positive.  We have been raised to new life.  As Paul said, “Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us” (Col 3:11 NLT).  This newness and the fact that Christ lives in us has serious implications for us as we try to find new and better ways to let the Christ in us and in us collectively as a congregation be a powerful influence in the lives of those around us. 

And we need to be reminded of this especially in this day and age when there is such an emphasis on “my rights and needs” and little care for the needs and feelings of others.  Listen again to the words Paul uses -
tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience,
forgive the person who offends you,
you must wear love,
be bound together in perfect harmony,
live in peace.

Every one of these says that the new me, the Christ in me, makes a difference.  I am not concerned chiefly with my needs and wants but I am more concerned how I treat those with whom I have been united in Christ.  I am a servant of the next person.  I put that person feelings and needs above my own.  I am more willing to put that person first than to push for what I want. 

This is the example Christ gave us.  Didn’t Jesus say at the Last Supper?  “Since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet.  I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).

Paul puts it bluntly, Do not … destroy what God has done” (Rom 14:20).  And what has God done?  He has brought us all together in fellowship to share together and to have in common the forgiveness and life he has won for in the resurrection and death of Jesus.

And so Easter is the key to our living together in our homes, our community and our church.  We can see ourselves as forgiven and beloved sinners and we see our spouse, our children, our friends, our enemies, and our fellow church member as people for whom Christ has also died.  God has established fellowship with each of us, and because of that we have fellowship with one another.

The resurrection of Christ did make a difference to the early disciples.  There's no doubt about it.  But the question before us is this, “Will Easter, which we celebrated just a fortnight ago and are still celebrating, make any difference to you and me? 

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
19th April 2015

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