Text: Matt 28:1-10
Problem: what a hollow religion that does not ring with the triumph of Easter.
In the midst of a storm, a little bird was clinging to the limb of a tree, seemingly calm and unafraid. As the wind tore at the limbs of the tree, the bird continued to look the storm in the face, as if to say, "Shake me off; I still have wings."
Because of Christ's resurrection, each Christian can look the experience of death in the face and confidently say, "Shake me off; I still have wings. I'll live anyway."
-- Wayne A. Lamb in 100 Meditations on Hope. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 4.
1) Easter is a triumph of victory
a) Over Death
When President Makarios of Cyprus died some years ago, his followers spray-painted the buildings in Cyprus with the words, "Makarios Lives!" He hadn't risen from the dead, but his influence was still living.
In Latin America there are many students who have such confidence in Che Guevara as one of their leaders that they often sing and chant, "Che lives."
Or, if I may mention D.L. Moody, he once said in New York in 1899, "Some day you'll read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am today," But Moody was not talking about having been resurrected. He simply meant he would survive death. So the Resurrection is not just the survival of Jesus.
-- John R. W. Stott, "The Up-to-the-Minute Relevance of the Resurrection," Preaching Today, Tape No. 79.
b) Over Sin
0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory? This is so true that even Satan cannot deny it. Christ's resurrection and victory over sin, death and hell is greater than all heaven and earth. You can never imagine his resurrection and victory so great but that in actuality it is far, far greater.
Martin Luther, quoted in The Joy of the Saints. Christianity Today, Vol. 37,
I knew an old Glasgow professor named MacDonald who, along with a Scottish chaplain, had bailed out of an airplane behind German lines. They were put in a prison camp. A high wire fence separated the Americans from the British, and the Germans made it next to impossible for the two sides to communicate. MacDonald was put in the American barracks and the chaplain was housed with the Brits.
Every day the two men would meet at the fence and exchange a greeting. Unknown to the guards, the Americans had a little homemade radio and were able to get news from the outside, something more precious than food in a prison camp. Every day, MacDonald would take a headline or two to the fence and share it with the chaplain in the ancient Gaelic language, indecipherable to the Germans.
One day, news came over the little radio that the German High Command had surrendered and the war was over. MacDonald took the news to his friend, then stood and watched him disappear into the British barracks. A moment later, a roar of celebration came from the barracks.
Life in that camp was transformed. Men walked around singing and shouting, waving at the guards, even laughing at the dogs. When the German guards finally heard the news three nights later, they fled into the dark, leaving the gates unlocked. The next morning, Brits and Americans walked out as free men. Yet they had truly been set free three days earlier by the news that the war was over.
While Christ's Kingdom is not fully achieved, we know the outcome of the battle. We too have been set free.
-- Ray Bakke, Chicago, Illinois. Leadership, Vol. 19, no. 2.
2) Easter is a triumph of joy
a) No more tears
b) No more fears
Let's celebrate Easter with the rite of laughter.
Christ died and rose and lives.
Laugh like woman who holds her first baby.
Our enemy death will soon be destroyed.
Laugh like a man who finds he doesn't have cancer or he does but now there's a cure.
Christ opened wide the door to heaven.
Laugh like children at Disneyland's gates.
This world is owned by God and He'll return to rule.
Laugh like a man who walks away uninjured from a wreck in which his car was totaled.
Laugh as if all the people in the whole world were invited to a picnic and then invite them.
-- Joseph Bayly in Psalms of My Life; calligraphy by Tim Botts. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 6.
3) Easter is a triumph of reunion
a) Reunited with Jesus
“I’ve just seen Jesus” –how the reunion must have impressed Mary Magdalene.
b) Reunited with the bretheren
Norman Vincent Peale tells a story of the early days of his ministry. He was in Brooklyn, New York. One Christmas Eve he was out visiting some families, and he walked by a doorway. He noticed that on the door was the red ribbon of Christmas and a black wreath of mourning. While the people who lived there were not parishioners of his, he decided he would call on the family.
So he knocked on the door, and the father of the family came tot the door. Dr. Peale introduced himself and was invited in. He sought to give condolences to the family, and he saw in the sitting room a small casket where a 6-year-old girl was lying in state. He expressed his sympathy to the father, and this father said, "Dr. Peale, its' going to be all right, for she is with God, you know."
While they were talking, Dr. Peale could hear the mother of the family reading the Bible to two little boys of the family, and he heard her reading these words: "Because I live, you shall live also."
Christ's love is for keeps, whatever comes.
-- W. Frank Harrington, "The Love That Brought Him," Preaching Today, Tape No. 51.
Conclusion: On the Easter just before he died, D. William Sangster painfully printed a short note to his daughter. A deeply spiritual Methodist, he had been spearheading a renewal movement in the British Isles after World War II. Then his ministry, except for prayer, was ended by a disease which progressively paralyzed his body, even his vocal chords. But the last Resurrection Sunday he spent on earth, still able to move his fingers, he wrote: "How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, 'He is risen!' Far worse, to have a voice and not want to shout."
--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 167.