Every year thousands of people climb a mountain in the Italian Alps, passing the “stations of the cross” to stand at an outdoor crucifix. One tourist noticed a little trail that led beyond the cross. He fought through the rough thicket and, to his surprise, came upon another shrine, a shrine that symbolized the empty tomb. It was neglected. The brush had grown up around it. Almost everyone had gone as far as the cross, but stopped there.
Far too many have gotten to the cross and have known the despair and heartbreak. Far too few have moved beyond the cross to find the real message of Easer — the empty tomb.
Every Christmas we gather in amazement that Jesus would leave the splendor of heaven and come to our little planet, become human, and experience life on earth. A few months later, we gather on Good Friday in humble amazement that our Jesus would die on the cross for our sins that He would take the punishment we deserve and die in our place.
And then we come to this day to Resurrection Sunday, to the climax, to the highest point, to the culmination of Jesus ministry. And now we celebrate! Now we rejoice together! Not just that Jesus came to earth. Not merely that He died. BUT! That He rose from the dead!!!
You see if Jesus had only come to earth, He would merely have been a visitor a God on a holiday. If He had only died, He would merely have been a religious teacher another Buddha or Mohammed. But He didn’t just come to earth, and He didn’t just die on a cross. He rose from the dead!
That is the excitement of Christianity that is the uniqueness of our faith! As the wonderful old hymn says it: I serve a RISEN Savior, He’s in the world today. I know that He is living, whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him He’s always near. He Lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.¨
We’ve heard the story many times, and we heard it read again this morning. I hope we never tire of hearing the words He Is Risen! I hope we never cease to be amazed to be awestruck at the incredible fact that death couldn’t hold the Lord of Life. And, most of all, I hope we never miss this simple fact Jesus is alive today.
That is what I want to talk about for a few moments the fact that Jesus is alive today. At Christmas we celebrate an instant of a moment in time. We do the same thing on Good Friday and we remember a single moment in history. But the resurrection is different it is not just something that happened at a moment in time but it is a new daily reality. When we say He is Risen,¨ we don’t mean just that at a moment in time Jesus came back to life, but really we mean He is Alive Today. Right now. At this very moment.
And that changes everything. The Apostle Paul is incredibly blunt in 1 Cor. 15:14 when he writes, if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.¨ What does it mean for you and I that Jesus is Risen? Let me suggest four things that I see in the resurrection
1. There is Love in the Resurrection
1 John 4:9 says, This how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him.¨
We see this love in a painful way on the cross. We see the extent of God’s love for us as we reflect on Jesus death. But it doesn’t end there! The love of God did not only send Jesus to the cross, it also raised Him back to life! The love of God did not leave Jesus in the tomb, and us in despair, but it raised Jesus back to life so that, as John writes, we might live through him.¨ Love hates death. Love struggles against death and in favor of life. And in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, love overcomes death.
There is love in the resurrection not just expressed in terms of the love of God for us. The love we find in the resurrection also overflows from us to others. 1 John 3:14 says, We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.¨ We know that we participate in the resurrection life of Jesus because it spills over into our relationships with one another even with those who are difficult to love. Jesus prayed that the world would know we were His disciples by the depth of our love for one another.
This resurrection love needs to characterize all of our conversations. It needs to be the central part of all of our interactions with one another. And by saying this I don’t mean just the happy, easy, nice part of love, but also the confrontational part the part that says because I care about you I want to say so, There are two extremes I see on the one hand we don’t want to say anything sometimes because we don’t want to meddle or upset someone that isn’t love! On the other hand I sometimes see and hear about people who do say something but do so harshly and critically that isn’t love either! True love, the love of God, finds the middle place of saying what needs to be said in a loving way. I believe that any of you could say anything to me you could tell me I was an awful preacher, you could say you voted no to extending a call to me as senior pastor, you could say you thought I should choose a different career and if you did it in love, I would walk away somehow encouraged. I would walk away knowing that your comments came out of your deep love for God and a love for me also.
That is what the resurrection of God calls us to love one another. To abandon our needs and desires so that we might lift one another up. God’s Kingdom cannot sustain harsh, critical, unloving words and spirits. They need to be replaced with the incredible love of God that raised Christ from the dead. That is what will grow a strong bride of Christ, and that is what will be irresistible to those outside of Christianity.
As I look around our world, I think it is love that we need most. A few weeks ago I rented the movie AI. It is set in the future, where a company has created a human robot child with the ability to love unconditionally. In many ways it was a disturbing movie, posing a number of difficult questions about what it means to be human and what the limits of our dependence on technology should be. But probably the most poignant question that came to mind watching the movie is, to what extent will we go to find love? I won’t give away the plot of the movie, but the thread that runs through it from start to finish is capsulated by a question this robot-boy asks repeatedly: then will mommy love me?
It is perhaps the deepest longing of our hearts to be loved. And it is the first thing I find in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him. (1 Jn 4:9).
If you are searching, striving, dying to be loved come to the empty tomb. Go first to the cross, of course, and see the love and forgiveness on the face of God. But don’t stay there come and meet the resurrected Jesus the God who is risen and is alive today. And you will discover love beyond what you could imagine.
2. There is Life in the Resurrection
I would imagine at some point you have been to a memorial service. And had a wonderful celebration of their life and his faith in God. I wonder, what would that have been like if Jesus had not been raised from the dead? What would it be like to stand at the time of death of a loved one without any knowledge that there is life beyond the grave? I can’t imagine the desperation and I don’t have to try! For there is life! There is victory! All because Jesus rose from the dead.
Victor Hugo, French novelist perhaps best known for Les Miserables, wrote these words:
I feel within me that future life. I am like a forest that has been razed; the new shoots are stronger and brighter. I shall most certainly rise toward the heavens, the nearer my approach to the end, the plainer is the sound of immortal symphonies of worlds which invite me. For half a century I have been translating my thoughts into prose and verse: history, philosophy, drama, romance, tradition, satire, ode, and song; all of these I have tried. But I feel I haven’t given utterance to the thousandth part of what lies with me. When I go to the grave I can say, as others have said, “My day’s work is done.” But I cannot say, “My life is done.” My work will recommence the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes upon the twilight but opens upon the dawn.
Romans 6:4-5 says, We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. We will be united with Jesus in His resurrection life.
And in fact that is exactly what happens at the moment we respond in faith to God. Jesus described it as a new birth. 2 Cor 5:17 says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, then new has come!
Do you know that resurrection life? Romans 8:11: And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. That is what God freely offers to us new life. He offers the chance for us to participate with Jesus in the life that comes through resurrection.
Jesus is alive today. He is here, right now, according to His promise. And He brings with Him the gift of life, His hand outstretched at this very moment offering it to you. He won’t force it on you, stuff it down your throat but He will freely offer it. Life eternal. is Hope in the Resurrection.
The fact that there is life in the resurrection is the source of the third thing: hope. I have hope because Jesus rose from the dead. One of the recent hymns of the faith says, Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, I can face uncertain days because He lives.
The resurrection gives us hope for today, hope for tomorrow, and hope for eternity. Hope that things can change. Hope that even if they don’t change, and the worst happens and death comes, that is not the end! There is more life after that, better life after that, life without sickness or pain or tears. Life without ever having to wonder, Lord, where are you? because we will see Him with our eyes, touch Him with our hands, and never worry or fret again.
I know that for many of us, one thing we fear is death. We are afraid to die. It seems so final, so horrible, so unavoidable. But in the resurrection of Jesus I find hope, hope for something greater, something better, something eternal. We know that because Jesus lives today, we too can live with Him. This hope effects how we live, and how we die.
Jesus’ resurrection forever changed Christians’ view of death. Rodney Stark, sociologist at the University of Washington, points out that when a major plague hit the ancient Roman Empire, Christians had surprisingly high survival rates. Why? Most Roman citizens would banish any plague-stricken person from their household. But because Christians had no fear of death, they nursed their sick instead of throwing them out on the streets. Therefore, many Christians survived the plague.
And so, for each of us when the moment of death comes we have hope. We can know that Jesus will be right there with us, His presence right at our side. We don’t go through it alone, we go through it with Him.
A missionary in Brazil discovered a tribe of Indians in a remote part of the jungle. They lived near a large river. The tribe was in need of medical attention. A contagious disease was ravaging the population. People were dying daily.
A hospital was not too terribly far away across the river, but the Indians would not cross it because they believed it was inhabited by evil spirits. To enter the water would mean certain death. The missionary explained how he had crossed the river and was unharmed. They were not impressed. He then took them to the bank and placed his hand in the water. They still wouldn’t go in. He walked into the water up to his waist and splashed water on his face. It didn’t matter. They were still afraid to enter the river. Finally, he dove into the river, swam beneath the surface until he emerged on the other side. He punched a triumphant fist into the air. He had entered the water and escaped. It was then that the Indians broke out into a cheer and followed him across.
That is what Jesus did for us with death He entered it, made it safely to the other side, and punched a triumphant fist into the air. But here’s the thing Jesus doesn’t stay on the other side of the bank. No, He jumps back in, and swims back to our side. He is alive, and present with us. And then, when our turn comes to face death, I believe He takes us by the hand and swims across with us, safely to the other side.
1 Peter 1:3 says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Because He lives, we have hope.
4. There is Power in the Resurrection
1 Cor. 6:14 tells us, By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. This is the fourth thing I want to remind us of this morning that there is power in the resurrection.
You see, the simple point I want to make, that winds its way through each of the four things I have talked about, is that Jesus is alive. He is alive right now, with us, walking beside us. He didn’t rise up from the dead and then take off to heaven, maybe to come back again someday. But He is Alive and with us through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. And because of that, His power is available to us. The same power that raised him from the dead. The same power we know will raise us also according to the verse I just read.
That power is here for our daily lives, and God desires us to experience it more deeply. It is there to enable us to have victory over sin, it is there to bring us hope and encouragement, it is there to shine through us to our world around us, it is there to enable us to worship and celebrate. Let me rephrase that in light of my main point that Jesus is alive: HE is here to enable us to have victory over sin, HE is here to bring us hope and encouragement, HE is here to shine through us to our world around us, HE is here to enable us to worship and celebrate.
It is my prayer that you would know the Risen Lord Jesus. That you would know the love, the life, the hope, and the power of the Resurrection. That is the simple message of our faith, Jesus is Alive!
About 1930 the Communist leader Bukharin journeyed from Moscow to Kiev. His mission was to address a huge assembly, his subject was “atheism.” For a solid hour he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity, hurling argument after argument heaped on top of ridicule. At last he was finished and viewed what he thought was the smoldering ashes of men’s ruined faith.
“Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded.
A solitary man rose and asked permission to speak. He mounted the platform and moved close to the Communist. The audience was breathlessly silent as the man surveyed them first to the right, then to the left. At last he shouted the ancient Orthodox greeting, “CHRIST IS RISEN!”
The vast assembly arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sounds of an avalanche, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”