Christ is risen!! Christ is risen!! He is risen indeed!! That was the early church’s greeting during this tie of the season. It was important for the people to acknowledge that Jesus was not dean anymore, but he was and is alive forevermore. We gather here in the sanctuary after we just finished our 6:30 am service. We moved it inside due to the snow but we were able to experience a little bit of the conditions that the first disciples had, especially the women who had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus.
“God knew that our greatest need would be the restoration of our relationship with him and with this he sent us the right solution,” says Chuck Swindoll in his book, The Grace Awakening:
- If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.
- If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.
- If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.
- If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.
- But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a savior.
A friend of mine, Louis Copple, once shared with me an interesting article in regards to Jesus’ tomb, written by Rev. Bob Gregg, Pastor of New Covenant Church in Allenspark, Colorado. In it was this Easter joke: Joseph of Arimathea had just returned home from work and his wife asked him, “How was you day, Dear?” Joseph replied, “I am sorry, but I have good news and bad news.” His wife responded, “Well, give me the bad news first.” Joseph said, “Well, Honey, you know that burial cave I’ve been saving for you and me? Well, I gave it to a bunch of rebels to bury their leader.” “Oh, no, you didn’t,” his wife exclaimed. Joseph consoled her, “Don’t worry; the good news is they only need it for three days.”
I’m not sure if any of you have had an experience where the news was too good for you to believe. Times like when you pass an exam that you never expected to pass, an honor that you never e4xpected or sometimes things going beyond your expectations. I believe the story of the risen Lord must have been too good for Thomas to believe. If it were today, Thomas would say, “You must be kidding,” or “Stop pulling my leg!” Yet we know that it is in these realms that God is able to surprise us every day. The world is full of surprises, as you might know, but Jesus’ resurrection was more than a surprise. It was life-transforming news for the people of faith. It changed their perspective.
The New Testament reports of Jesus Christ’s resurrection depict the bewilderment, terror, turmoil, skepticism, defeat, and confusion of the Jewish leaders and Roman rulers, and on the other hand, to the believers it was excitement, joy, new energy, boldness and hope, plus other mixed emotions were generated. We are arisen people who have experienced the risen Lord in the Easter Season. As the stories of the risen Lord went around in those days some were not sure if it was a rumor or it was true, hence there were all kinds of mixed reactions. Caught in the middle of this was Thomas, the twin, or known as Thomas Dydamus, which means twin. Have you ever thought about who the twin was? Maybe the twin is you and me because doubt/belief is our everyday challenge. It is always amazing that when the name of Thomas is mentioned people quickly remember his doubt rather than his major contribution in Jesus’ ministry.
But this morning we read the story of those who went early in the morning to try and anoint the body of Jesus. After what they experienced they came running back to inform the disciples. But Peter and John could not believe. They had o run to the tomb to confirm the story. This encounter was very special and leaves us today with a number of faith lessons that can help us in our faith journey.
1. Even in our doubts God loves us: God does not blame us. I believe each of us in this room have our moments of doubt and moments of faith or belief. These moments come because of what we might be facing at each given time. Sometimes it is in the uncompromising honesty about Christ that he is able to reveal himself to us. I wish your would read a small experience of the man by the name of Gideon and the wool (Judges 6:36-40). There is nothing wrong in having doubts. The problem is living in doubt as part of our practice. God has his own way of clearing out our doubts. To Peter and John it was meeting them in Galilee behind a closed door. To Thomas he had to touch the mater’s scars. To Gideon it was the wet and dry wool. God has his own way of confirming his will among us. What God does is to encourage us to believe that he is able to do what we human beings think is impossible. God encourages us to see beyond the mountains and the valleys of our lives. He invites us to a level where we can count on him to do what is right in our lives, even when we don’t fully comprehend.
2. Nothing can lockout God’s love from us: The Romans and the religious leaders of the day thought that the stone rolled over the tomb was a seal and soldiers at the entrance would lock Jesus out. But we know what happened when the angels came. Furthermore, Jesus does not need the stone rolled away in order to come out from the tomb. God revealed himself among his believers. Things can happen to us within the fellowship of Christ’s Church which will not happen when we are alone. When sorrow or sadness envelopes us we often tend to shut ourselves off and refuse to meet other people. It is at this time we are encouraged to meet with other believers for it is there that we are likeliest of all to meet him face to face. People today have locked themselves in the world of not accepting themselves and who they are. People have locked themselves in the world of hatred and an unforgiving spirit. People have locked themselves in the world of fear, depression and so on. But in our resurrection story today, we discover a new dimension in the risen Lord that he comes in even when the doors are locked as a means of protecting ourselves. It is the agape love that transcends all the barriers of life that the story of resurrection brings to you today.
3. In Christ’s resurrection is a happy ending: I do not know how many of you here like happy endings. This story has a happy ending. My friend from Norfolk, Nebraska, Lousi Copple, once shared with me a small article around Easter time. It was written by Pastor Bob Greg of New Covenant Church in Allenspark, CO, which shed light on this point. A little boy by the name of Jonathan promised was promised a puppy for his 10th birthday. He had a difficult time choosing from a neighborhood pet store. But after looking through all of them over and over again he decided to pick a non-descript shaggy puppy. Jonathan’s response was simple and precise, “I want the one with a happy ending.”
The Easter story brings to us a happy ending. When the people who crucified Jesus thought they were done with him they were wrong. It was like two people playing a game of chess and one says, “Checkmate! Game’s over,” thinking they are winning the game, just to discover that his/her opponent has a move that will end the game. If we think of Good Friday as a chess game the evil people thought they had done the final move to win the game but to their surprise here comes Easter Sunday and God reveals his over and says, “Checkmate! Game over. He is alive.”
Jesus’ resurrection was the greatest checkmate move of all time. Today the devil tells us each day, “Checkmate, Game over,” when our health is not good, challenges are in our family, our finances, our jobs. Remember to tell the devil that the game is not over yet, for Jesus has the last move and has a golden move to make in my life. In other words, he holds the wild card!