Easter Can Change Everything for You
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - April 20, 2014
*In November of 2001, "Sports Illustrated" covered the World Series in which the Arizona Diamondbacks came back to beat the Yankees in the last inning of the last game. That inspired the editors to think about the greatest comebacks in history, and they published their list of the "Top Ten Comebacks of All Time."
*It was a very broad list. Elvis Presley was on it, due to his TV special in 1968 that revived his sagging career. President Harry Truman made the cut, because of his 1948 victory over Thomas Dewey after all the polls had Truman losing by a huge margin. Michael Jordan's return to basketball made the list. So did all of mankind for recovering from the Black Plague in the 14th century that killed 25 million people.
*The number two all-time comeback was a tie between Japan and Germany for their recovery after World War II. Of course, that never would have happened without our generous help.
*But the number one, greatest comeback of all time, named by the editors of "Sports Illustrated" in their Nov. 12, 2001, issue: It was Jesus Christ coming back from the dead in 33 AD! (1)
*That first Easter was the best day ever in the history of the world. Easter changed everything! And Easter can change everything for you, because Jesus is alive!
1. That's why Jesus can turn our darkest night into day.
*Jesus Christ can turn your darkest night into day. Verses 1-3 help us to see this resurrection truth:
1. Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
2. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.
3. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.
*Think about those ladies on the way to the grave that day. They weren't going to a party. They were going to finish preparing Jesus' body for the grave. They had great adoration in their hearts for the Lord. But there was no celebration, because they were sure that Jesus was dead.
*Jesus had told His disciples many times that He would rise from the dead, but for some reason it never sunk in. This was not a new dawn for them. Emotionally and spiritually, it was still the darkest night of their lives.
*But everything changed on that first Easter morning! That angel shined as bright as lightening. But his light was just a spark of the light they would see that day, because Jesus was alive! And Jesus can turn our darkest nights into day.
*Some very hard things are going to happen in your life. Where are you going to find the comfort you need?
*When Dan Yeary was the Pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, he had a big medical scare. Just after preaching one Sunday, Dan suddenly lost his balance, as his blood pressure shot up, and he began sweating profusely. Dan was rushed to the Emergency Room, and his heart checked out fine, so they continued to run tests to find the cause.
*Of course the people in his church were praying, visiting, calling and sending cards to their pastor. Those things helped comfort Pastor Dan, and he appreciated it all. He told his church about two of the cards he received from young children. Dan said, "My favorite get-well card was handmade with construction paper, glue, glitter and delightful misspellings. It said, 'Pastor Dan, I am sorry you are sick. -- I hope you get well before you die!'" The other kid's card said, "Pastor Dan, I like to hear you preach. I hope your sermon doesn't make you sick next time." (2)
*God's people can surely help us find the comfort we need in life. But the best comfort comes from God Himself. He can put light in our darkest days. Jesus Christ is alive, so He can turn our darkest night into day.
2. And He can put a new perspective on our problems.
*Remember what the women were worried about on the way to the tomb that day. Mark 16:2-3 tells us that:
2. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
3. And they said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?''
*That heavy gravestone was far too big for those women to move by themselves. But vs. 2 here says, "Behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it."
*Those women were worried about a problem they never had to face. What are you needlessly worried about today? The resurrection of Jesus Christ can put a brand new perspective on our problems, because it reminds us of God's amazing power.
*We are going to come up against stones too heavy for us to budge, but nothing is too hard for Jesus Christ. And we know this because He even rose from the dead. Nothing is too hard for our God! His infinite power can shrink our problems down to size, so He can put a new perspective on our problems.
3. And He can give us the faith to overcome our fears.
*In vs. 3-5, that angel was a terrifying sight:
3. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.
4. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
5. But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified."
*I don't know what fears you have in your life today, but if you will seek the Lord, He will seek to calm your fears.
*Most everybody knows the Old Testament story of how young David killed the giant Goliath. David used his sling, and then he finished the job with the giant's own sword. But sometime later, King David was taken captive by the men in Goliath's home town of Gath. That's when David wrote Psalm 56, and the terrified young warrior opened his Psalm with these words:
1. Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me.
2. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High.
*Then the Lord must have given David a new burst of courage, as he remembered that God really is the most High! And David said:
3. What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
4. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
*No matter what fears you have in your life today, if you will seek the Lord, He will seek to calm those fears. Down in vs. 10, one of the first things Jesus said to those women was, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."
*"Jesus said, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brothers. . ." If you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then He is your brother too! And it's comforting to know that the world's biggest big brother is on your side!
*Jesus wants to help us overcome our fears. Years ago, our Katie and I were on a trip to Georgia, when we happened to hear Janet Parshall speak on American Family Radio. Janet is a Southern Baptist radio host for Moody radio. That day, Janet told about the time she was supposed to go on a TV show to talk about abortion and other hot political issues.
*Before the program, they told her that the panel would be two conservatives and two liberals. But when she got to the studio, Janet she found out that she was facing a panel stacked seven to one against her. All of the radical feminist heavyweights were there, like Patricia Ireland and Gloria Steinem.
*Janet was scared to death, and wanted to back out. Off by herself, she began to complain to God about how bad the situation was. But the Lord put this thought in her mind: "Janet, when you are in the lions' den, your job is not to count the lions. It's to count on ME!"
*That great truth gave Janet the courage she needed to go on, and as it turned out, there was a group of students in the audience that day. They were there on a field trip from their Christian high school. So every time Janet spoke, the audience applauded. But every time the pro-abortion people spoke, there was dead silence.
*Finally, at the end of the show, the pro-abortion people stomped off the stage, but Janet went out to meet the audience. That's when a young man told her about the field trip from their Christian School. God had a plan to help overcome Janet's fears, and He wants help us too.
*Jesus is alive! -- So He can give us the faith to overcome our fears.
4. And He can defeat our death forever.
*Listen to the great news again in vs. 5-10:
5. But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
6. "He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
7. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.''
8. So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
9. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!'' And they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.
10. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.''
*Easter means that death has been defeated. But how do we know that? One of the biggest proofs is eyewitness testimony. A lot of people saw Jesus alive after His death.
*Michael Luke said, "If several of us were playing golf, and I hit a hole-in-one, I'd go and tell a lot of people about it. If they didn't believe me, I'd call up those of us who played together that day and have them confirm my story. Any sensible person will believe a report backed-up by several witnesses. But the Bible reports that Jesus appeared not just to a couple of people. He appeared to hundreds of people during the 40-day period after His resurrection."
*Mark 16:9 tells us that Jesus "appeared first to Mary Magdalene." Today's Scripture records the Lord appearing to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. In Luke 24, Jesus also appeared to two of His followers walking on the road to the village of Emmaus. They ran back to Jerusalem to report what had happened.
*Then Luke 24 says:
35. . . They told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.
36. Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you.''
37. But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.
38. And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39. Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.''
40. When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.
*That's not all! -- Jesus appeared to many more people. Paul gave this partial summary in 1 Corinthians 15:
3. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4. and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
5. and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
6. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
7. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
8. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
*The resurrection of Jesus Christ wasn't the silly dream of a broken-hearted disciple. Large numbers of people saw Him alive at different times, in different places, and in different circumstances over a 40-day period. (3)
*Author Lee Strobel pointed out that if every eyewitness to Jesus' resurrection were called to the witness stand, it would take over 128 hours to hear their testimony at only 15 minutes a person. In other words, it would take from breakfast on Monday until dinner time on Friday, listening around the clock to hear the testimony of those witnesses! (4)
*Jesus Christ has surely defeated death, and that means He can defeat your death. Now unless the Lord comes back first, you will still have to physically die. But when Jesus does come back, your body will rise again, just as His body rose again on the first Easter.
*Infinitely more important than physical death is the spiritual death you are under right now without Jesus as your Savior. Zombie movies and TV shows are pretty popular these days, and there's nothing real about that. But from a spiritual point of view, there really are living dead around us today.
*These are the people going through life without Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They are spiritually dead, and most of them don't even know it. But Jesus wants to give us life, eternal life, the life that defeats our death forever.
*This is what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote these words to Christians in Ephesians 2:
1. And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
2. in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
3. among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5. even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
*This is the eternal life God wants you to have, and it's the reason why Jesus died on the cross in the first place. He died for our sins. And now the Risen Savior wants to give you His eternal life. That's why Romans 6:23 says: "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
*You see, this eternal life can only come from Jesus Christ. It is so closely tied in to the Lord that Jesus prayed these words just a few hours before He died for us. In John 17:
1. Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,
2. as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
3. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
*If you will turn to the Lord, trust in the Lord, and open your heart to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He will give you the life that lasts forever!
*Pastor Steve Brown told of losing his brother Ron. Steve's brother had died suddenly of a heart attack, and he was only in his 40s. Ron had been a popular public servant, a superb district attorney, a good dad, and Steve's closest friend.
*Three or four weeks after Ron's death, Steve visited his mother. And while he was there, Steve went to the cemetery in the mountains where they had buried Ron. It was a cold, rainy, winter afternoon, the kind of day that chills your bones. When Steve got to the cemetery he couldn't find the place where Ron was buried. A stone had not yet been placed on his grave, and a number of other people had been buried in the same general area.
*As he stood in the cold and wind and rain, Steve Brown began to sob. And he cried out this prayer: "God, this has been the worst month of my life, and now I can't even find my brother's grave." God comforted Steve that day, and he later wrote about the Lord's presence in the cemetery. Steve said, "I knew there was a presence, the presence of the One I had almost forgotten in all my grief and the grief of my family."
*That day, God's Spirit comforted Steve with the angel's question to the women on that first Easter morning. From Luke 24:5, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" Those words from God's Word comforted that heartbroken pastor. He remembered that the cemetery was not his brother's home. Ron was more alive than ever, because his Savior was alive! (5)
*The first Easter was the best day ever in the history of the world. But better days are still to come, because Jesus is alive! And Easter can change everything for you, because Jesus is alive!
*Let Him turn your darkest nights into day. Let Him put a new perspective on your problems. Let Him give you the faith to overcome your fears. And let the Lord Jesus Christ defeat your death forever. You can trust in the Lord right now, as we go to God in prayer.
(1) "Sports Illustrated" magazine - November 12, 2001 - Source: SermonCentral sermon "You Can't Keep a God Man Down" by Michael Luke - Luke 24:1-8
(2) Personal Email from Dan Yeary - Source: "IN OTHER WORDS" - April 2006 - #2 by Dr. Raymond McHenry - www.iows.net
(3) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "You Can't Keep a God Man Down" by Michael Luke - Luke 24:1-8
(4) Lee Strobel, "The Case for Easter" - Source: SermonCentral sermon "You Can't Keep a God Man Down" by Michael Luke - Luke 24:1-8
(5) Stephen Brown, WHEN YOUR ROPE BREAKS - Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "He Is Risen!" by King Duncan - Colossians 3:1-17