Sermon from April 1st, 2018

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“Easter Message: Yes!”

1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 24:1-12


By Pastor John Bent



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Sermon Text
Yes! Yes! Yes!  It must have been all the angel could do not to break out in hilarious laughter as he told the women “Ladies! Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, He’s risen!”  Good morning and welcome to worship on this Holy Hilarity Sunday!

The resurrection of Jesus is the biggest April Fool’s joke in history of the world. God has just won the championship of the universe.  Heaven was filled with dancing and laughter. The angels were high fiving it around the throne. “Yes, yes, yes!” 

The stars were singing, the trees of the fields were clapping their hands. The only ones not happy were Herod, Pilate, the devil, and the other bullies of the world. They didn’t find the resurrection hilarious at all! But I do, how about you?  Yes! Yes! Yes!

The earliest Christians turned their joy into a secret greeting. “He is risen!”  Sin, death, and the devil were trounced by the power, the love, the faithfulness of God.  The love of God is more powerful than fear, more powerful than shame, more powerful than any evil. Jesus is risen from the dead, the stone is rolled away, the grave is empty. Yes!

For 2000 years, skeptics have worked overtime to disprove the resurrection of Jesus but they continue to fail. In fact, as a result of their research many of these determined skeptics became believers.
 
They scoffed at Christians and called them “fools” but the joke was on them. Doesn’t God have a great sense of humor!  He chose the women to be the first witnesses to the open tomb. God always puts the last first and the first last.

When the women raced back and told the men about the open tomb and Jesus’ missing body, the disciples scoffed at them but guess who had the last laugh! How these early believers must have yucked it up as they told their kids the story of that first Easter morning! 

Luke, who wrote our Gospel today, was a Gentile scholar, historian, medical doctor. He was sent by a wealthy nobleman to go to Jerusalem and investigate this strange story. I think it was through his research and interviews that he met Jesus and became a believer.

So what does the resurrection of Jesus mean for us this morning!  First, the resurrection of Jesus validates the truth of the Bible. Have you ever opened your Bible and really read it?  Or are you afraid of what would happen if you did?  The devil will do everything in his power to keep you out of that book because the Bible is the word of life.

If you want to avoid God, don’t read the Bible! If you want to meet God, it’s the place to go! If you read the Bible you will find out that God created you and everything that exists. You’ll find out you are not your own!  You belong to him. You will learn how much he loves you, even when you aren’t so lovable!

You’ll discover He wants to bless you and make you a blessing. He wants you to get more out of life than simply wasting your time living for yourself.  Whether you are aware of it or not, he has always been there for you, watching over you, protecting you, providing for you.

When your sinful behavior separated you from him, he made a way for your sins to be forgiven by the blood of his own precious Son shed on the cross for you.

Jesus told Nicodemus “For God so loved the world (that’s us) that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him, trusts him, seeks him, may not perish but have eternal life”

If you read the Bible, you’ll discover that your righteousness - the best you’ve ever done on your very best day - is only filthy rags before the holiness of God.  All your good works won’t get you to heaven any more than flapping your arms will get you to the moon. That’s what the Bible says, though maybe not in those exact words.
 
If you will read the Bible you will discover that the wages of sin is death, eternal separation from God who is the source of life. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus’ death on the cross for you.

Jesus didn’t come to condemn you, he came to forgive you and save you. Your sin had separated you from God and the holy hilarity of heaven. Your sin had stolen your joy, your peace, future. But God loves you too much to abandon you. Rom 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” Rom 8:1   The empty tomb is the guarantee!

The empty tomb is also God’s guarantee that sin, death, and the devil no longer have the final word.  That’s good news when you feel overwhelmed by the evening news. Or when you fail in your relationships, or blow it big time, or when somebody mistreats you, when you get sick, and on that last day when your body dies and you leave this world.

The apostle Paul wrote “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:38

I imagine Mary and Martha and the disciples going back to that open tomb in the years that followed Jesus ascension into heaven. No matter how difficult the day may have been, they remembered that first Easter morning and the angel’s words, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, he is risen!”  And they said to themselves, Yes! Yes! Yes!
 
Listen carefully. There is far more to this Jesus than you thought. Don’t underestimate him.  He emptied himself of his heaven glory to be born into our world.
 
He faced unbelievable temptation, struggle, pain, to live a sinless life all for the sake of taking the curse of your sin upon himself and giving you his righteousness as a gift to be received by faith. Gentle Savior yes, but this is one tough guy. He is God in the fullest sense of the word and his power is beyond human comprehension.

The Bible says… “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  In him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might have first place in everything. In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God reconciled all things to himself, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Col 1:15-20

So if Jesus is so real and the resurrection so indisputable, why do many people still refuse to accept it?  What are the obstacles that keep people from saying “yes” to Jesus?

The first obstacle is pride. We are afraid to admit our weakness so we create masks. We become actors. The Greek word is “hypocrite”.  We pretend to be in control. We pretend to be tough. We pretend to be real religious. We say, “I’m fine, just fine!” when we’re not! We’re phony. Bring your ego to Jesus, let him crucify it and raise you up as a new person. He can replace your false pride with integrity, humility, and grace. Yes, Lord!  Make it so!

The second obstacle is shame. We drag our guilt around with us. We say “How can God love a sinner like me?” Stop putting God in a box. He’s not like you. He loves you. Your sin is no surprise to him. Come to him just as you are.  He has the power to forgive you, cleanse you and set you free. Yes, Lord! Make it so!

The third obstacle is fear.
  We are afraid of how Jesus might change us. He will change you! He will move you from death to life. The question is “Do you want to be changed?” When you invite Jesus into your heart he will begin a process of transforming your heart.  He will begin to displace the fear in your heart and fill you instead with his peace and courage so that your desires begin to match his own. Yes, Lord! Make it so!

The fourth obstacle is selfishness.
We have made our comfort and security into an idol. Jesus said, “Follow me!”  Where are we going? To a cross! Gal 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the one who loved me and gave his life for me.” Gal 2:20  Bring your selfishness to Jesus and let him crucify it. Let him change your heart and fill you with his love. Yes, Lord! Make it so!
 
You can’t overcome these obstacles to faith in your own power. But Jesus can. Confess them as sin because that is what they are. Tell him, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24   It’s not what you do that saves you. It’s what Jesus has done for you!

This Jesus, whose resurrection we celebrate today is far greater than you can imagine. Don’t run away from him, run to him, he is your only hope! He loves you and when you follow him, you will discover what David wrote in Psalm 30 is true!

“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever!” Psalm 30:11-12

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen!”


Want to join the party?   Say “Yes! Yes! Yes!” to Jesus!  Open the book, learn about him, invite him into your heart and home. Follow him.

Amen.

Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615


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