When you got up this morning, what did you do? Probably the same thing you did yesterday morning, right? You might have slept in a little bit today, or maybe you got up a little earlier than usual because of children or you went to the sunrise service. But once you were up, you probably have a little routine that you do.
Was there anything special you did today, on Easter. Anything in your routine that recognizes, or pays homage to Jesus?
Friday afternoon, we gathered here with our friends from other churches and recounted the hours leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross. We heard the shouts demanding his death. We heard his final words. We listened to the nails being pounded into the cross. We sat in silence as our Christ candle, our symbol of Christ among us here in worship, was extinguished.
I have to tell you it was hard for me to do. It was hard for me to pick up the candle snuffer. As I reached towards the candle, my body wanted to stop. I almost couldn’t do it. Putting out the candle means I have to accept that my sins put my Saviour to death.
With more physical effort than I ever thought it would take, I pushed myself to do it. I felt the emotion begin to rise up in me. I never expected to feel this way. It was far harder than I ever thought it would be.
We know how the story ends. We know why we gather together just 3 days later. Yet, Good Friday is still a day of mourning for us. It still hurts us to know what happened on the cross.
We know that the women walked to the tomb after 3 days to anoint the body with oils and spices. Before the sun arose, they made their way. I doubt there was much conversation happening. They walked together in silence, still in mourning over losing a loved one who promised he would never leave them alone. And here they are walking to his grave.
This certainly would not have been their regular morning routine. But I guess, in the years they followed Jesus around the countryside, nothing was routine anymore. Nothing would have been routine anymore. Nothing would be normal.
When they get to the tomb, they are surprised, shocked even, to see the stone has been removed and the tomb is open.
Quickly they run back to Peter and another disciple and they all make their way back to the tomb in a dead sprint.
As they enter the tomb they see it is empty. They believe what Mary has told them, they have taken Jesus away. Crushed, they go back home. Not only has one they loved died, but now even his body is gone.
Mary stays behind and mourns. The angels try to comfort her. They ask her what she is looking for.
She responds, “They have taken him away!” and turns around to leave.
Through her tears she cannot see that Jesus is right in front of her. She pleads with him to know where they have taken his body.
That’s all Jesus has to say. She knows immediately who he is.
Think about this scene. How in the very early morning hours this interaction occurred. Think about the fading darkness of the night and how the light is revealing itself to the world. And how Jesus emerges from the darkness to reveal himself to Mary and how overjoyed she is to see him.
On Friday, Jesus died. The one who came from heaven to teach us, to heal us and to show us God’s true plan for the world, was crucified on a cross by those who would not accept him.
And he let it happen.
Which leads us to today.
Today is the greatest day in all of history. This is the day our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ overcame death to show to us he is who he says he is.
If Jesus Christ never rose from the grave, we would have nothing to hold on to. Our faith would be useless, empty.
Our world is a place where “seeing is believing.”
If you can’t see it, then how can you believe in it? We look for proof, we look for hard evidence showing something happened.
Which makes it hard for us today. We can’t see Jesus. We don’t know what he looks like. We can’t see him perform miracles.
For a lot of people out there, Jesus is just a nice story. For them, Jesus has no bearing on their life since they cannot believe such things happen. They didn’t see it. So how could it have happened? And how could this still impact us today?
Did anyone here see Columbus sail to the new world? How about the war of 1812? No? Have any of you here been to the moon to confirm that it’s not made of cheese? Or checked if Neptune really is just a big ball of gas?
None of us have done these things. Yet they are in our history books, our science books, we are told these things happen. People who witness these things have report them back to us. For Columbus, we are reaping the rewards of his actions by living on this side of the Atlantic. Our history books are witnesses as we read about the people who lived in those times, and how lives were impacted by his actions. We have the dates he sailed, and the course he took. It’s all there.
If Jesus never rose from the dead, then where do the disciples get their passion for what they do next? Where to they get the gall to stand up and preach in the streets about what he did, and continues to do? If Jesus never rose from the dead, then why does Saul, the enemy of the church, turn his life completely around when he’s walking down a country road and become Paul?
The Bible may not be historical in the way we expect our historical texts to be written. There are no dates, there are no easy timelines to follow. It’s a little mixed up at times as to when things happen. It’s got conflicting messages. It just doesn’t give us the straight facts.
That’s not what it’s meant to do. The Bible is a narrative history. It tells us about people who lived a long time ago. It tells us how people’s lives were impacted when they encounter God.
It tells us some of the things Jesus did, and how people were miraculously healed and moved by him. How their lives were changed as well.
The lives of the people in first century Israel, and the surrounding area, show us through their own actions that Jesus rose from the grave and lives. How we know they lived their lives after Jesus died tells us he had to rise from the grave on Easter morning. Instead of being crushed by his death, they are moved to action in ways they never acted before. They encountered the risen Christ who called their names, just like Jesus called to Mary.
Jesus, God among us, is calling to us.
When he called to Mary. Just hearing his voice, she knew it was him.
Does Jesus call your name? Is Jesus speaking to you to follow him? Like he did to Paul? Like he did to many people after his resurrection. John tells us Jesus did many more signs after the resurrection continuing to change people’s lives.
And he still changes lives today.
Jesus is calling us to life everlasting with God the Father, the one from whom he came, and the one to whom he returned after he left the tomb wide open.