This is an Easter like none other.
- I need not restate what we all know to be true...
- # of dead and infected
- # of people who have lost jobs, income, businesses
- Social distancing
We're faced with a lot of the same decisions from our pre-corona lives - except now, even the most mundane activities have turned into moral dilemmas. Whether it's trying to decide if you should visit a sick family member, order delivery, take public transit, or take a trip to the grocery store, we now have to think through the potential implications of many of our totally normal, everyday actions and decisions in a way we never had to before, because of how they could affect others. This is called ""moral fatigue,""
and it's exhausting. Elizabeth Yuko, Rolling stone Magazine
- Never has the word uncertainty described better our existential crisis
And yet here we are.
- Want to tell you that starting next week we are beginning a 4 weeks sermon series we're calling ""What Now? Faith when nothing's normal anymore.""
And one other personal note - this is my very last Easter message. Surreal doenst began to capture how this feels to me.
So...What does the story of the resurrection say to us at this moment in our lives.
The resurrection story may be, pound for pound, the hardest hitting story of the entirety of the gospel. The best of the best of the good news.
- It became the focal point of the message out of the mouth of the early church throughout the world.
- It confirmed there is life after death
- It confirmed that there is a resurrection body - we are not just spirit beings
- It confirmed all the teachings of Jesus - that he indeed is God
- It confirmed that sin can be atoned for
- It confirmed the prophecy of the OT
- It was the inauguration of Jesus as King and...
- Marked the commencement of his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven
- Even for the irreligious Easter has some significance...the kick off of spring and new life
But I want to look at another aspect of the story that is deeply personal to us all very attuned to our present moment. I want us to look deeply at a moment in the story that literally took just minutes of even seconds.
- Something happened to Peter that can and should happen to us
- After weeks of turmoil...soul crushing, heart rending, stomach churning, guilt inducing...Peter suddenly stumbled into hope.
What is hope? An emotion? An event? A state of mind? Whatever it is. I need it and so do you.
We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon. Franklin D. Roosevelt
The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Hope opens new horizons, making us capable of dreaming what is not even imaginable Pope Francis
This Easter I want to lift your eyes to the horizon. And through this marvelous story remind us all of... For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
But first backstory story: ""previously in the Life of Peter""
- Chaos, confusion, guilt, fury, and grief
- Peter's mind and heart were a dumpster fire as we enter into the resurrection story...
The resurrection story: (Composite of the four gospels)
- Sometime in the night or early morning an angel or several angels appeared at the tomb
- violent earthquake
- He/they shoved aside the heavy stone covering the entrance
- The guards placed there by Pilate were frightened and we presume abandoned their post
- At dawn a group of women approached the tomb with spices to help cover the odor of decomposition
- Mary Magdalene
- Another woman named Mary
- Likely others
- They entered the tomb
- Discovered that Jesus was gone
- Suddenly two angels appeared to them, presumably the ones who had removed the stone
- The women were terrified and ended up face down on the ground in terror
- The angels told them
- Don't be afraid
- Why are you looking for the living among the dead?
- Look - no body!
- He is risen from the dead!
- Remember he told you this would be the case!
- Go tell his disciples!
Let's pick up the story in the John 20:1
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 2
She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, ""They have taken the Lord's body out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!""
- Clearly she was not in total belief of what the angels told her - or still struggling
Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. 4
They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5
He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn't go in.
- Peter and John (the author and one who had arguably the closest relationship with Jesus) race to the tomb (3/4 mile?)
- John beats him there but doesn't enter the tomb
Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 7
while the cloth that had covered Jesus' head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.
- Peter enters and notices the head cloth folded (and other linens...Luke) and neatly set aside
Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed - 9
for until then they still hadn't understood
the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10
Then they went home.
It's these two verses I want to focus on.
for until then they still hadn't understood
the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.
Let me restate Vs 8- 9: At that moment they got it. They finally understood that Jesus had to rise from the dead and they believed. At that moment they had hope.
- After weeks of uncertainty, fury, sadness, and fear they lifted their eyes to the horizon and had hope.
I'd like to explore what happened to them in that moment. Something changed in their minds that made its way to their hearts and finally to their behavior.
- If I made this into a movie here's what I'd do. I'd picture Peter standing there, look of shock on his face when suddenly he has one of those high speed flashbacks...images, words, moments and memories all mashed together flooding his brain.
I see this flashback in 3 categories:
- Supernatural or otherworldly events
- Mary and the women, I'm sure, breathlessly told him about the angels and the stone being moved.
- That triggered so many other mystical moments of the past 3 years.
- A ton of OT scriptures he had been taught suddenly made sense
It was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.
Isaiah 53:10-11 (NIV)
For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. Psalm 16:10
- The words of Jesus
The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again Mark 8:31
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. John 2:19
And in that high-speed flashback moment Peter went from uncertainty to hope.
Can that happen for us?
Yes. It can. If you are right now ready to Pay Attention with a level of intensity that you have not yet mustered. In the same three ways Peter received hope...
We will have hope if we...pay attention to the supernatural.
- Watch for where God is moving around you
- notice encouragement that comes out of nowhere.
- Be conscious of new personal connections
- Look for miracles and ""God-things""
- Review miracles from the past...including the resurrection to remind yourself that God still moves.
- Dwell on the borderland on the supernatural. Even in this pandemic God still intervenes in the affairs of humanity.
We will have hope if we...pay attention to the scriptures.
- Like...I have plans for you. Plans to give you hope and a future (Jer 29:11)
- Like...wait on the Lord and he will renew your strength (Is 40:31)
- Like...do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed I am your God (Is 41:10)
We will have hope if we...pay attention to the words of Jesus.
- Come to me all who are weary, and I'll give you rest!
- You may ask for anything in my name and I will do it!
- In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world!
Reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead allows us to remember the promises of God - that they still stand!
Considering the empty tomb reminds us that God has and always will do miracles.
Embracing the risen Christ turns all of his teachings into essential truths.
On this most peculiar, uncertain, and even frightening Easter lift your eyes to the horizon. Claim the promises of God. Watch for the supernatural. Soak in the life-giving words of Jesus. For there indeed is hope.
Questions for meditation:
- Where do you see the supernatural happening around you?
- What promises of God should you claim for today?
- What words of Jesus bring you the most hope right now?