Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunrise

There is something scary about death. We tend to keep our distance from a corpse or a grave. While there is much superstition concerning coming in contact with the dead there is also much speculation concerning the whole issue of death and dying. People tend to proceed with caution when we tread on unfamiliar or dangerous ground. That is why there is good news for us on this Easter day.

On the first Easter we find three people who came to the tomb of the Savior with three different approaches. How much are we like them today? This morning let us ask this question; "How close are you to the Easter tomb?" This morning let's try to answer that very important question.

1 First there is a distant position. The person who observed the tomb of Jesus from a distance was that of Mary Magdalene. Mary saw from a distance that the stone was rolled away. On the way to the grave she was wondering "who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb" and the gospel writer reminds us "that it was a rather large stone". But when they got to the tomb they realized that the rather huge stone had already been rolled away. Fear entered her mind for no one could more that large of a stone by themselves. It was a stone that five to six men could not have moved. As a result she figured in her might that someone must have stolen the body of Christ away from the tomb.

How close are we to the position taken by Mary? We too can take the same position of Mary. We do that when we look at the resurrection from afar. We do this when we doubt and question whether Christ has in fact risen from the dead. We do this when we misunderstand the resurrection. This happened in the life of the church when some church teachers began to explain that Christ only rose from the dead in a symbolic way. They denied a physical resurrection. Instead, they were content to believe that Jesus merely rose in the life of the church, or in the hearts of believers.

We take a distant approach to the resurrection when we are content to become non involved in the Resurrection celebration. Easter to some is nothing more then a celebration of Spring, an observance of new life, a commemoration of another planting season. It we choose to observe Easter only from a distance we will not perceive or behold the life changing process that takes place because of Easter.

2 There is a closer position of Easter. The person who observed the tomb closer was that of John. John stood at the opening of the tomb. Having heard from Mary that the tomb was empty he headed toward the cemetery and out ran Peter. Coming to the tomb first he stopped. He did not enter the tomb. John only stood at the opening of the tomb for he was afraid to enter. He looked into the tomb but he was too timid to enter by himself. He came closer but he could not enter.

In our time, we can get close to Christ very close. During this Easter season we can get close to the resurrected Christ but some will go no further, they will not enter into Christ. Today the Gospel message of the Resurrection calls us to come closer to the reality of the empty tomb. The challenge for us is to go beyond merely being passive. Allow me to ask you this important question today. Are you content to be only a spectator of a drama?

That can happen when we hear the Easter story and observe it but fail to find the full impact of the Resurrection message. That message says that there is life, real life for all who are in Christ Jesus. The Resurrection is more then just a happy ending to a divine tragedy. The Easter message is more then a happy ending to the grim end of Friday. For us to grasp the lasting meaning of the Easter message is for us to understand that because Jesus lives we will live also.
Because He is alive there is the hope and promise of life in His Name. Because He is risen from the dead all of us who are baptized into His Name will put on Christ and will be ushered into His kingdom of glory. Because of Easter you and I can say "I'm but a stranger here, heaven is my home!"

3 The next position for us to view the Resurrection is the direct position. The person who observed the tomb the directly was that of Peter. Peter, the disciple who had denied the Savior just a few days before now saw with his own eyes the reality of the resurrection.

Impulsive, daring, brazen Peter rushed into the empty tomb. He was not afraid to enter where angels may have feared to tread. He saw the absence of Jesus body in the empty tomb. He saw with his own eyes the grave clothes, and the facial napkin folded up and separated from the rest of the body cavity. Peter came into direct contact with the body of evidence. What did that evidence say? It said that the body of Jesus had completely changed. The physical grave clothes where there. The body had not been stolen. The body had not been buried in a different grave.
The grave clothes were there, but Jesus was not, His body had been transformed and resurrected. The stone was rolled not so that Jesus could get out but that we could get in so that we could see with our own eyes that Jesus Christ was risen from the dead.

4 Distant, close, and direct are three positions by which we can view the resurrection. But the only position for us to clearly see the resurrection is through the eyes of faith. True, the evidence is overwhelming.

It stands clearly as convincing proof. And yet all of the bravado of the evidence will not change anyone's mind or heart. The only way for you and I to truly believe the Resurrection is for us to come by faith. That is why we go back to timid John. He got to the tomb first and stopped. But as Peter rushed past him and stooped into the tomb itself John follows in faith. Once John entered to tomb also he senses the meaning of the evidence and believes.

If you believe in the Resurrection today it is the Holy Spirit that has brought you to that faith. The evidence which is rooted in time and space convinces us of the fact of the Resurrection not because it is factual, reliable, and correct. You simply believe because the Holy Spirit has convinced you of that reality.

Reject not until you have seen clearly the open tomb and the empty grave. Do not be content to observe the Resurrection from a distance. Come closer, much closer.

Don't be content only to peer in, step all the way to the front. See with your own eyes what is there. The grave is EMPTY! Christ is not there? Where have they taken Him? don't you understand, He is not buried among the dead. He is alive. He lives and reigns throughout all eternity! He is alive and because He lives we shall live also. A blessed Easter to one and all. In Christ we have all been made alive. Live and bask in the warmth of the Resurrection glow. In Jesus' Holy Name. Amen.

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