Our Gospel message comes to us today from the 20th chapter of John, beginning with the 1st verse, “The passion and death of Jesus.”
20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1-18)
“The Legacy of Easter”
What many of us need to know is that Easter is all about God. The resurrection of Christ is not about Jesus, but it is about God. Christmas-the incarnation is about Jesus and likewise the feast of tabernacles; the Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit; however, Easter is about what God has done through and in Jesus Christ.
And although many of us believe in the existence of God, when it comes to Easter, our faith is pushed to its limits. Some of us who are the most intelligent, the most educated, the most intellectual of us, would simply say that “I believe that Jesus existed; however, I find it rather difficult to believe that he was raised from dead.” In fact, Islam teaches that God could not and would not die for humanity—it’s just not in his nature. Many scientists and atheists challenge the validity of the whole resurrection story. They dismissed the story of an empty tomb as a pious legend.
And I have to admit at the outset that the case for Jesus’ resurrection is somewhat flawed. When you considered the discrepancies in the events of Easter morning as described by the four gospels, one may not know what to believe. I mean, who was it that first discovered that the tomb was empty and when? Was it Mary or Peter? How and when was the stone rolled from the mouth of the tomb? And how many angels appeared? Now one perspective on the differences within the stories is that it is precisely those discrepancies that make the resurrection so believable. If someone were to really conspire and make this all up, one would think that they all would have at least gotten their testimonies to agree. But the real skeptics argue that that rational just does not hold weight. And so, they ask the question, is there any truth in the underlying story the legend that the tomb was found empty?
Well, the fact of the matter is that the legacy of Easter is a faith story. It is intended not for the unbeliever, but it is for the believer. Easter is for those who believe in the power of an almighty God. Easter is for the believer. (Ask your neighbor: “Are you a believer?”)
Easter is about the belief in a God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It’s about a God who was, who is, and whoever shall be God. It’s about a God who was. That’s the God of the Old Testament—the right on time God. The God who heard the cries of his people and always showed up right on time. Easter reminds us about a God that was right on time when he parted the red sea for the Hebrew children who were cornered by Pharaoh and his armies. Easter reminds us about a God who was right on time when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down for Joshua and his ragtag militia. Resurrection Sunday reminds us about a God that was right on time when David slew Goliath; when Daniel was in the lion’s Den; when the three Hebrew boys were in the fiery furnace. The legacy of Easter is about a God who may not show up when you want him to show up, but he always shows up right on time.
Easter is about a God who is and ever shall be with us. It’s about a belief in a God that dwells with his people. Now, we tend to believe that God is only with us when we are experiencing the blessings of God—good health, good fortune, and good times. We say that God is with us when we have landed that promotion or heard some good news like the lump in our chest was not cancerous. We say and feel that God is really with us because it is at those times that life is so beautiful. But if God were only with us when things are going well, then he would not be God at all. He would be just a good luck charm—like lady luck and a rabbit’s foot. But our God is omnipresent—everywhere at the same time. He is with us not only in our good times but also in our bad times. He is with us in our pains as well as our pleasures. He is there present with us when we are losing our homes, burying a loved one, or receiving a diagnosis that means surgery with little to no chance of recovery. God is there with us while our spouses are packing their bags and walking out the door. He is there with us as we are answering the phones only to receive bad news. The legacy of Easter is about a God who is always with us. Easter is about the power, the glory, and majesty of a Sovereign God.
That is what Easter is all about. That is what Jesus told Mary when he said, “I go to My father, your father. My God, your God.” Easter is about much more than me.
One of the things that I so admired about the acceptance speech of Halle Berry on Oscar Night in 2002 was the profound statement that caught the attention of all of her peers: She stated that this moment is so much bigger than me. It’s for the women that stand beside me, and it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened. It is exactly those words that best capture the message of Jesus on Easter. In other words, this event of me being raised from the dead; this event of me defeating the penalty of sin, it so much bigger than me. This moment is about Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. This moment is about Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. This moment is about Moses, the Hebrew children and the promise land. This moment is about Peter, Thomas, and You Mary. This moment is about the opportunity for every believer in the power and authority of God to walk through this door to eternal life. It’s about giving them access to the dunamis power from the throne room of God that was once hindered, shut-up, and block by our sin. This moment is about God giving you access to your healing. This moment is about God giving you access to your deliverance. This moment is about the young woman who thinks that suicide is her only way out. This moment is about the young man ready to pick up a gun or knife because they are tired of running from street gangs. This moment is for every parent who has tried counseling, time-outs, and corporeal punishment and still does not know what to do with their child. This moment is for the woman who is tired of being alone. It’s for the man living with HIV. This moment is for those who seem hopeless, helpless, and lost. For them, a door has been made opened. For them, the stone was rolled away. For them, every valley has been exalted; the mountain made low, the crooked places made straight. Easter is about the Door that God has opened for them. Easter is about God giving humanity not only the tools to become more humane but also the power necessary to become divine.
I believe that if we realized that moments are so much bigger than us, we would have a greater impact in our homes, in our workplaces, and in our community. If we realized that our living is not just about us, but it is about testifying to the power of God—more people would be healed, more people would be saved, more people would have peace and joy. If we realized that every moment is not about us living large, or getting ours; if we realized that it’s all about God and not having our voices heard, or having our say, or feel appreciated, or doing things our way; if we would realize that it’s all God, more stones could be rolled away in our lives.
But we tend to miss those moments to give God the glory. Every moment we are given to give praise and thanks to God with a hand clap or a hallelujah, and we decide to hold our peace and fold our arms, saying, “it doesn’t take all that,” we miss the moment. Every time we are asked to financially support our local church and God’s kingdom through tithing, yet, we respond, “pastor we are not rich,” we miss the moment. Every time we are challenged to greet each other and share a hug, yet we refuse to move from our pew to extend a hand, we miss a moment. Every time we refuse to forgive those we cannot stand, to show some mercy towards those who work on our last nerve, we miss a moment. Every time we are challenged to go forth as giant-killers, yet all we see is ourselves as grasshoppers, we miss a moment.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of missing the moment. I’m tired of coming so close to the mission, the vision, and dream, to only run into stones of poor faith, stones of poor commitment, stones of disobedience. I’m ready to see moments that are much bigger than us. I’m ready to see more moments to testify to the power of my father, your father, my God, and your God.
I’m ready to see moments that people of different colors, classes, and cultures come to together, meet eye to eye, and say, “Peace of the Lord be with you.” I’m ready to see more moments that black children, white children, Hispanic, Asian, can sit down in our Sunday school classes, living, loving, and learning in the name of the lord. I’m ready to see people get pass their hang-ups on denomination, religion, and doctrine, and realize that Sunday morning is not about the sign that is on the front of the building, but it’s about the blood of Jesus spilled out for our redemption. I’m ready to see more moments where the disadvantaged, the disabled, and the discouraged can leave our sanctuaries feeling empowered, encouraged, inspired, and convicted that God lives, God reigns, and God cares. I’m looking for moments that are much bigger than us. I’m looking for moments where a drug addict is delivered, where the alcoholic is released. I’m looking for moments were lumps have disappeared, the cripple is made to walk, and people are put back into the right mind. Those are moments that are much bigger than us.
Let us pray: Lord God, Thank you that you make all things new. Thank you for the victory and power in your Name. Thank you that you hold the keys over death, that by your might, Jesus was raised from the grave, paving the way for us to have new life with you. Thank you that you had plan, that you made a way.
Keep your words of truth planted firm within us, help us to keep focused on what is pure and right, give us the power to be obedient to your word. And when the enemy reminds us where we have been, hissing his lies and attacks our way, we trust that your voice speaks louder and stronger, reminding us we are safe with you and that your purposes and plans will not fail. We ask that you will be our defense and rear guard, keeping our way clear, removing the obstacles, and covering the pitfalls. Lord, lead us on your level ground.
Shine your light in us, through us, over us. May we make a difference in this world, for your glory and purposes. Set you way before us. May all your plans succeed. We may reflect your peace and hope to a world that so desperately needs your presence and healing.
Thanks be to you God, for your indescribable gift! To you be glory and honor, on this Resurrection Day, and forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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Scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Sermon contributed by Rev. Antonio Torrence.
The significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.