John 20:1-18 – Easter Sermon – Believe

Here is my rough draft for Easter Sunday, enjoy…

John 20:1-18

Christ has Risen (He has risen indeed). Christ has Risen (He has risen indeed). Christ has Risen (He has risen indeed). There is one day that separates us from all other religions and makes us unique among the world’s belief systems. There is only one day that we point at and say, if you want to know who we are start there. There is only one day that we as Christians look at as the definition of who we are…that day is today. Christ has Risen (He has risen indeed). Christ has Risen (He has risen indeed).

Today is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. It is the day that the tomb was found to be empty. It is the third day after Jesus’ death on the cross. Today is the day the promise is fulfilled and the world changed forever. Today is Easter the day we as followers of the Risen Lord proclaim with our whole being, Christ has Risen (He has risen indeed). Christ has Risen (He has risen indeed). Christ has Risen (He has risen indeed).

But what does it mean to believe in the resurrection? What does it mean to take what we celebrate today and turn it into something we live out daily? What does it mean to believe in the resurrection? I cannot tell you want to believe but here is what I believe.

I believe in the resurrection. (Why?) I believe because it means sacrifice. (Amen) As I am reading through the Bible in a year I notice how detailed the rules for sacrifice were for the Israelites in the dessert. They had to do certain things for sin offerings, praise offerings, freewill offerings, guilt offerings and so forth. The had to sprinkle the blood of some offerings on the altar and others by the side. Certain festivals required certain sacrifices. It goes on and on in the Torah explaining the meaning and the procedure. As I have been reading this I am amazed at the dedication it took to follow through. But it had to because this was the only way to atone for their sins. This was the only way to make right what went wrong in the garden of Eden.

But if you know the story of the nation of Israel you know that they would go back and forth in their dedication and loyalty to God. They would be dedicated and then they would fall away. God would send a judge, a prophet, a plague, an exile or a leader who would bring them back into right relationship once again. Things would be good but then they would fall away once more.

Finally God was tired of this and decided to make things different. In order for the world to be justified in his eyes, in order for his children to come home, a sacrifice had to be given; a perfect and complete sacrifice. His son spoke up and ‘send me.’ I will put on flesh and dwell among them. I will give up my body and my life as the perfect sacrifice. I will die an innocent man’s death in order to make it right again. I am willing to do that, to be that. I believe the resurrection is a sign that the sacrifice was completed and our sins are now atoned. Christ has risen, (He has risen indeed).

I believe in the resurrection. (Why?) I believe because it means covenant. (Amen) Covenant is a promise and God is known to keep his promise. He told Noah that he would never flood the world again and the rainbow was a sign of this promise. He made a covenant with the people of Israel that they will always be his people. God promised David that he would have a child that would succeed him and establish his kingdom and that kingdom will last forever.

In the 31st chapter of Jeremiah, the prophet speaks and says,
31 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]”
declares the LORD.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

Jesus at the last Supper took the cup, he gave thanks to God for it and then he said to the disciples, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” On the cross on Friday that blood was shed. I believe in the resurrection because that new covenant of salvation that Jeremiah promised would come, has come and has been fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ has risen, (He has risen indeed).

I believe in the resurrection. (Why?) I believe because it means power; it means strength (Amen). There is power in the empty tomb. There is great strength in knowing the tomb is empty. It is powerful because it means the powers of this world do not have anything on God. Jesus was paraded in front of the religious leaders. They accused him of blaspheme and other false crimes. Then they took him to the rulers of the day, Herod and Pilate. Both looked at Jesus and tossed him aside. Finally Pilate offered up the opportunity to set a prisoner free, Barabbas or Jesus. The crowd that was waving palms and laying down their coats on the ground instead of praising the Son of God in front of them, cried out crucify him.

The power of the resurrection tells us that God’s authority is greater than anything of this world. Guards on duty watching the rock didn’t stop it from being rolled away. There is strength in Jesus as he went through the capital punishment he had to endure; the flogging, the spiting, the hitting, the mocking, the pain, the suffering, the stabbing into his side and the feeling of breathing your last breath. All of that couldn’t hold him back. Death, that thing that come for all of us, Jesus was able to look at and laugh. Death where is your sting!

This shows me that no matter what happens in my life I can tap into that power and strength. The powers of this world hold nothing on me because of the power God has which is shown in the resurrection. The strength I can have to face any difficulty, any sickness, any trial, any sadness is because I can look at the tomb and know that on the third day it was empty. When we realize we can tap into this power and strength the difficulties of this world fad away because we do not have to rely on our own power, we have God’s. We don’t have to do it ourselves because we have the strength that comes from the one God sent to take our place. I believe in the resurrection because it gives me the power and strength I need to face anything in life. Christ has risen, (He has risen indeed).

I believe in the resurrection. (Why?) I believe because it means beginning of renewal and hope. (Amen). I bet God was saddened when he had to remove Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden. His whole plan for humanity was shattered when they used their free will to disobey. God had to separate himself from them because sin now divided them. They were broken and God had to fix them. When Jesus was raised from dead it was fixed. The process of renewal was started and we can look at the life to come as one of wholeness and completeness.

The world that we know is not the way things are supposed to be. Tornados are not supposed to rip through our land and destroy lives. The earth is not supposed to shake and cause waves to wash away towns, cities, and people. Children are not supposed to be hungry and sick people are not supposed to be sick. People are not supposed to be use to war, slavery, crime, poverty, and oppression. Cancer, AIDS, and all other diseases should not exist. Our kids should not see suicide as the only way out and our parents should not look nursing homes as simply a crowed tomb.

The world is not what it is supposed to be. But there is renewal that comes from an empty tomb. The resurrection promises us that we will be made whole again. When our bodies fail us, when sickness ravage us, when circumstances get the best of us, or when life seems too hard to go on, we are made whole again in the presence of God. We are renewed and we have hope because of the resurrection. Christ has risen, (He has risen indeed).

I believe in the resurrection. (Why?) I believe because it means purpose. (Amen). The resurrection doesn’t stop after Mary comes to the tomb. The resurrection isn’t over because the disciples learn about it or after Jesus appears to them in the upper room and shows Thomas his hands. The resurrection isn’t over when the Church is started and spread. The resurrection isn’t over because today we can come here, on this Easter and celebrate it and enjoy the presence of the resurrected God in our midst.

Our jobs as Christians is not to sit back and be passive. To celebrate Easter and sing to the joys that heaven will bring one day. We are participants in an active faith and one that calls us to serve our neighbors. When the confirmands join today they will be asked the membership questions. One of those questions is, “will you be loyal to the Church and uphold it by the giving of your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness.” There is nothing passive about that membership vow. We don’t ask people to promise that they will show up when they can make it and sit in their pews. No we ask them to be active participants in the ministry and life of the church, which is how the resurrection of Jesus Christ is shared with the world. It is through the followers of Christ that God shares his love with the world.

Our purpose is defined by the one whom death could not hold. Our lives are to mirror the one who gave himself up for us and who transformed the world through an empty tomb. I believe in the resurrection because it is what defines who I am and give my life purpose. Christ has risen, (He has risen indeed).

I believe in the resurrection. (Why?) I believe because it means grace and love. (Amen). We do not deserve to be here today. We are not worthy of the being followers Christ. As Charles Wesley said in a hymn, we have “sin soaked souls.” We are unworthy people who think we are gods. We think we can fulfill our own destinies and do it all our own. We are a pig-headed, stubborn people. Yet, God still loves us and that is because he is full of grace.

It is an amazing feeling when you are loved. It is a high like no other. It is something that is transformative. You will change who you are because of love. You will move mountains, part oceans, and journey through the wilderness for love. I am willing to do what it takes to live out the example of Christ because I am loved by God and I know this because of the grace I have felt in my life. Once I noticed the God’s grace I saw it all around me, from birth and still now. I could feel that grace inside me as I realized what the love of God did for me and it is that love and grace that continues to drive me as I attempt to live a life worthy of the one who died and rose again.

I believe in the resurrection because that grace and love is felt deep within me and it wouldn’t be there if death had the last laugh. I believe in the resurrection because I look at this moment in time and I can see the covenant, hope, strength, power, sacrifice, purpose, salvation, love and the grace that was found in the empty tomb. I can see that because the resurrected Christ has whispered my name and I have turned around and proclaimed, Christ has risen, (He has risen indeed). This is what I believe…what does the resurrection mean to you?

And all God’s people said…Amen.

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