By Pastor Glenn Pease
Louis Evans told of the soldier who was wounded on the battlefield at night. He could not move or speak, but he could see the lanterns of the medics as they made their way from body to body. Finally a lantern was shining down on him, and after they examined his wounds one of them said, "I believe that if he makes it to sunrise, he will live." This gave the soldier a goal to reach, and a hope to cling to, so he lay there looking up into the stars longing for the dawn. "If I make it to sunrise I will live," he kept saying to himself, and so he filled his mind with thoughts of his wife and children, and all the reasons he had to live. Then came the morning and a feeling of victory, for he knew he would see his family again.
Hope is a powerful tool in helping people get through the night of their trials to the dawn of a new day, and a new life. Most of you have probably had some experience of waiting for the dawn. The one that stands out in my mind was in my first year of college. I friend of mine hit me in the front teeth on the basketball court. I developed an abscess that began to hurt terribly in the night. I lived in the dorm, and I can remember it being the longest night of my life. I roamed the hall and pleaded for the sun to rise. I was in such pain that I had no other goal in life but to see the sunrise and be able to get some help. Nothing is so comforting as the coming of the dawn when you are suffering in the night. Thank God for the morning that enables you to endure the night.
Easter is that morning of history than gives man the courage and the hope to endure any night, even the night of death when the light of life is snuffed out and darkness seems to have won the war. God has always been a morning person, and it fits all we know of God that he would raise his Son up from the grave on a Sunday Morning. It was the greatest single victorious event ever to happen on this planet, and it happened in the morning. You don't hear of Easter sunset services, but Easter sunrise services, for it was in the early morning that the Son of God rose to never set again.
That first Easter morning was the beginning of a day of Son shine that would never end in the darkness of night, for Jesus turned on a light that all the powers of hell could never put out or even dim. Easter never ends, for on that morning of all mornings Jesus conquered death and darkness and brought life and immortality to light. There is just something about the morning that God loves. He dwells in perpetual light and he is light, and in Him is no darkness at all, yet He loves the dawning of the new day, and He made Easter morning the time of his total victory over the kingdom of darkness. Easter was just the fulfillment of what we see all through the Bible. God never slumbers or sleeps, but is ever alert to give songs in the night to his needy children. But from the very start of creation God has been most active in the morning. He does his best work in the morning. That is when he created the world.
I don't know if you have ever noticed before, but God's workday in creation always began in the morning. After each day he said there was evening and morning. For 6 days God began each morning with a whole new project. We know it was morning because God told Job it was. He asked Job in Job 38, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" And after a few more such questions he added, "While the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy. God started all his masterpieces in the morning. On the 7th morning God rested and did no work, and the 7th day became the Sabbath day of rest. It was still the sacred day of worship and rest when Jesus lay in the tomb. But Matthew now begins the last chapter of his Gospel with God going back to work on Sunday morning. The Sabbath was over and it was a dawning of a new week, and God decides it is time for a new morning creation that will begin a whole new history on this planet.
God could have raised his Son on the Sabbath, but he was starting fresh with a whole new plan of salvation. He was not going to dignify the Sabbath by the resurrection, and lock in the Sabbath forever. He came to destroy the legalism of the Sabbath and make a new day of worship. The Pharisees had no law against rising from the dead on the Sabbath, but it did involve a lot of forbidden work. The stone being rolled away, and the Messiah getting out of his grave clothes, and traveling more than a Sabbath's day journey. The whole thing would have been condemned had it been on the Sabbath. So God chose to wait until Sunday morning to start his new creation. It meant a mighty dull weekend in the tomb, but what a way to start a new week. God skipped a chance to make the Sabbath the most sacred day forever. Instead, he exalted the lowly Sunday to that status.
Sunday was just a commonplace secular day. It was not sacred time, but secular time. God took this day of common labor and made it the day that would be exalted above all others, even the Sabbath. Easter Sunday morning changed everything for God's people. It changed who they worshiped, and when they worshiped, and how they worshiped. Easter morning didn't just change our eternal destiny, it changed the whole design of our earthly life in relation to God. The one thing it didn't change, but only confirmed, is that God loves the morning. One of the reasons is, no doubt, because every morning is symbolic of Easter morning. Every night we sleep and are like the dead, but in the morning we rise to walk in newness of life. It is a fresh new day filled with the potential of tasting all the fruits of the Spirit-love, joy, peace, and all the rest. Jan Struther wrote,
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy,
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
I could spend an hour just quoting the Scripture on the importance of the morning and beginning your day with God, and hours more quoting all the poetry men and women have written on it. Let me share just a few:
Ps. 5:3, "Morning by morning, O Lord you hear my voice: Morning by morning I lay my request before you and wait in expectation."
Ps. 30:5, "Weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."
Easter morning is the greatest example of this. The darkness night ever endured by God and man was on Good Friday. Jesus entered the darkness of hell, and the world was plunged into darkness, and all of the disciples were in a state of gloom as they wept over his fate and their own. Some of you may have heard Tony Compolo on TV. He was describing how a black preacher went on for an hour and a half describing the darkness of Good Friday, but then he would say, "But that was Friday-Sunday morning is coming and with it the rejoicing of the resurrection." It was after a dark and sorrowful world that the light of Easter began to shine. Easter morning guaranteed that all evil and sorrow is only temporary, and that good and joy are eternal. There is a great gettin-up morning coming when the night of darkness ends forever, and the only kind of songs we will ever sing again are songs of victory.
Easter morning is like that which the Psalmist waited for in Ps. 130:6. "My soul waits for the Lord more than watchman wait for the morning, more than watchman wait for the morning." He repeats that, for that is the hope of the watchman-the morning, and that is the hope of all Christians. If we wake on earth we wake everyday in a world where Lam. 3:23 says of God, "...His compassions never fail. They are new every morning." If we wake from the sleep of death in heaven, we enter an eternal morning. We wake in the presence of him who is the bright and morning star, and he promises he will give to overcomers in Rev. 2:28, the morning star.
In eternity it is always morning, for we will be fresh and energetic and full of life with no weariness as time goes by. It will be a fresh start that never ends. It will be Easter morning forever. When Donald Cargill died a martyr he stood on the scaffold in Edinburgh, England and said to the crowd in a loud voice, "Now for the morning and the King's face. No more night and no more darkness." Easter morning provides us with the hope we need to face death with confidence, but it is not just pie in the sky on high by and by when we die that we need. We need pie on the table in the now, and Easter gives us this as well.
Jesus came back from the dead not just to tell his disciples that they would go to heaven when they die. He came back to encourage them in living, and to meet basic needs, and so He fed them breakfast on the beach. He gave them a purpose, and it was to reach the whole world with the good news of Easter, and to teach the world all he commanded. Easter is not just about victory over death, it is about victory over life. It is about conquering all obstacles that get in the way of achieving the purpose of Christ. The stone was rolled away, not for Jesus to come out of the tomb, but for others to see its emptiness. But there are no end to the stones that need to be rolled away to fulfill God's purpose for our lives.
God's mercies are new every morning because we can't live on yesterday's. We need new ones everyday to overcome the obstacles in a fallen world. Tom Dooley, the missionary doctor who died of an early case of cancer, told of lack of money, supplies, and tedious labor. He wrote, "Every time I get discouraged and down in the dumps someone comes along and rings the rusty bells of hope, and I have encouragement to get back at it." Easter is about a hope that enables you to cope with the frustration of a fallen world where nothing is just like it ought to be. If Jesus rose and conquered death, then it is obvious his goal is to conquer all the lesser consequences of sin as well. Death is the last enemy that will be destroyed. Meanwhile, there are many other enemies to be destroyed now as we move toward that final victory. Easter is about victory over all the forces of darkness. We need to grasp this lest we think that the final victory is the only one that matters.
Leonard Broughton was a pastor in Atlanta some years ago when the water in the poor section of town became infected and 4 people died. A city council meeting was held to talk about the problem, but it was tabled for further study. At that same meeting they approved 15,000 dollars for road improvement in front of an influential member's home. This so angered pastor Broughton that he invited the council members to attend a special service the next day. A few did, and he preached for 50 minutes on the fact that Christ was not only interested in saving souls, but also in good water. He even promised a reward for a cup of cold water given in his name. The council members there got the message, and at ten o'clock the next day money was appropriated to clean up the water. Broughton said later, "I baptized 75 people in the next few months, and almost everyone said that what got them interested in the church and in God was the fact that they were concerned about giving them water that was good to drink."
When Christians care, not just about what people are going to do after they die, but about what they are doing now as they live, they will get people to consider their readiness to die. If you don't care that they live right, they don't care if they die right. Easter is about life, and all of life, not just the after life. If it was just about the after life, Jesus would not have needed to come back and spend 40 days teaching and training his disciples. People don't just need hope for after death, they need hope for every morning, and Easter hope is an every morning hope.
Jesus is alive, and he is now as always a morning person. He always rose early in the morning to pray, and though he does not need to do that now in heaven, he still needs to grant us new mercies every morning. So every morning is special as a fresh new opportunity to serve the living Christ and be a channel of his love and light in a dark world. Easter morning makes every morning special, for every morning is a new chance to know and serve the Christ of Easter. Arthur Tubbs wrote,
A moment in the morning ere cares of the day begin,
Ere the heart's wide door is open for the world to enter in,
Ah, then, alone with Jesus, in the silence of the morn,
In heavenly sweet communion, let your day be born.
In the quietude that blesses with a prelude of repose,
Let your soul be smoothed and softened, as the dew revives the
It is a pretty poem, but the practice of it can make life beautiful. A young office worker wrote about her experience in an article entitled, "The Day That Changed A Life." Her attitude was so changed it changed the atmosphere where she worked. When her employer asked what made the difference she told him she was not enjoying life as she knew God wanted her too. She was bored and just generally unhappy. She decided she would begin everyday with a determination to sense the presence of Christ in her life. She would consciously seek to say what He would want her to say, and do what He would want her to do. It became an exciting experiment that changed her, and as a result changed all around her. It was making Easter morning a way of life in which she encountered the living Lord, and not just a yearly few hours of celebration.
Easter morning never ends, as I said, but that is not necessarily true in our personal lives. For some it never begins, for they are without God and without hope in the world. But for most of us it is intermittent. It is off and on and off again, because we do not work at being conscious of the resurrected life. After Easter is over we sink back into a spiritual coma, and don't come out of our cocoon state again until the following Easter. I know that is a radical way of stating it, and it is not accurate for many Christians, but none of us are as alive to the Easter morning experience as we need to be. We could all benefit by praying every morning something like the prayer of Ella Scherick:
Lord, in the quiet of this morning hour,
I come to Thee for peace, for wisdom, power
To view the world today through love-filled eyes;
Be patient, understanding, gentle, wise.
To see beyond what seems to be, and know
Thy children as Thou knowest them; and so
Naught but the good in anyone behold.
Make deaf my ears to slander that is told;
Silence my tongue to ought that is unkind;
Let only thoughts that bless dwell in my mind.
Let me so kindly be, so full of cheer,
That all I meet will feel Thy presence near.
O clothe me in Thy beauty, this I pray,
Let me reveal Thee, Lord, through all the day.
The best argument for the reality of the resurrection, and both temporal and eternal hope, is not the empty tomb. A negative fact, or an absence of something is not where the power is. It is in the presence of something positive, like the power and love of Christ in life. Charles Bradlaugh went about England debunking the Christian faith, and one day he challenged Hugh Price Hughes, a pastor at one of the missions, to a debate of the merits of the Christian faith. Hughes agreed and said "I will bring to the meeting one hundred people who will testify to the power of Christ in their lives. They will tell of sin forgiven and walking in paths of victory where they once sat in chains." He said to Bradlaugh, "You bring those who can testify to the new and better life they have because of their unbelief." Needless to say, the skeptic never showed up for the debate, for there is no argument that can match the reality of changed lives, and that is your most powerful weapon. If you have no light to shine because Christ has made a difference in your life, then you are not going to have much of a witness to a doubting world. We need to roll the stone away and let the Christ entombed in us rise and shine and bring morning into the night around us.
You are your own best argument, and that is why it is so vital that you begin your morning with Christ, and learn to develop a Christlike attitude that takes you through the day. I know that not everyone is a morning person, and mornings are hard for some. In the new heaven and new earth all God's people will be morning people, for it will be morning forever, and night will never come. Meanwhile, we have to live in this world where mornings are not always pleasant. The poet put it-
The alarm is set,
But I fear the worst;
Come dawn, the baby
Will go off first.
The idea of being an Easter morning person is in developing an Easter attitude of optimism. Genesis begins with the earth as a formless empty mass in darkness. Then came the morning and God said, "Let there be light," and thus began the beauty of creation. Chaos first, and then came the morning, and cosmos was formed. This is God's pattern. On Good Friday the God-man relationship was thrown into chaos. Man in hatred killed God on the cross. God in judgment cast man into hell in the person of his Son. It was the most bitter battle the universe had ever seen. God and man killed each other in violent conflict, and the world was plunged into darkness. But then came the morning-Easter morning, and with it the dawn of a new day, a new life, a new age, a new people, and a new kingdom. On Easter morning all things were made new.
It was a world of darkness, then came the morning and a light that could never be put out. It was a world of death, then came the morning and life conquered death. It was a world of hate, then came the morning and love triumphed over hate. It was a world of despair, then came the morning and hope was born anew. Some poet put it-
Behind him were the shouts of scorn.
No longer wore he the crown of thorn.
This was the day that hope was born,
On that first glorious Easter morn.
And now it is always morning somewhere, for the Son of righteousness has risen with healing in his wings, and the sun never sets. Everything connected with Easter is a symbol of optimism, hope, and life. Even the secular symbols of Easter can teach Biblical truth if we see them for what they are.
Easter eggs are symbols of the sealed tomb of Christ. But then comes the morning, and we break them open, and out of them comes life giving food. Little chicks, or new life can be born from this mini-tomb as well. The egg is a valid symbol of the Easter message. So is the rabbit that is so popular in the secular world. The rabbit lives in a hole in the ground much like the tomb of Christ, and out of that darkness comes a great deal of life. If you have a few rabbits, you will soon have a lot of rabbits, for they have 5 or 6 litters a year. They are symbolic of abundant life out of a tomb-like atmosphere. I haven't watched a Bugs Bunny cartoon for years, but I know my grandchildren watch often. Nobody consciously made Bugs a symbol of the Easter message, but the fact is, he can be made to be such a symbol. He is pursued by those who seek to destroy him and rid the world of his presence. But no matter how clever and deadly the schemes to do him in, he always comes out on top with a victory.
No matter how big the cannon, or powerful the bombs, Bugs finds a way to escape and come out a winner. That is the secular portrayal of the Easter message of optimism. All the powers of darkness and hell could not defeat our Lord. They did their best at the cross and it looked devastating, but then came the morning, and Christ broke loose like Samson from the feeble ropes that held him, and he rose victorious over all his foes. We need to teach our children that many of our secular and cultural heroes are symbols of Christ.
Characters like Superman, Batman, and Tarzan are often the target of clever evil forces that almost do them in, but every time these forces for good escape and come out victorious. The difference with Jesus is that his victory was not just fiction but real, and he can save us from all these evil forces that he conquered. He saves us, not just for heaven, but for earth, in order to add life and light to this fallen world.
Charlie Brown was telling Linus what an awful world it was. And Linus said, "I think the world is better today than it was 6 years ago." Charley protested, "Don't you read the paper or watch TV? How can you say the world is better today than 6 years ago." Linus responded, "I am in it now!" That could be said in a spirit of pride, but it can also be said in a spirit of Easter optimism. If the living Christ has come into your life because you have asked him to be your Savior, and have asked him to forgive you and make you a light in this dark world, then the world should be a better place because you are in it. If you have never asked Jesus to be your Savior, do so this morning and make this Easter morning the beginning of a day that will never end. Be able to go out into this dark world with the testimony, "I was lost and in the grave of darkness. I could see no way of escape. Then came the morning, and the Christ of Easter became my Lord, and I now live in the light of his victory over all the powers of evil." Ask Jesus to be your Savior and enter the kingdom of optimism where the last word is-then came the morning.