Golgotha UnBound #1
You probably don’t know the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin. Neither did I until I read a little article by Leonard Sweet. Nikolai was as powerful a man as there was at the time. As a Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today.
There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insult, argument, and proof against it.
For an hour he lectured. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of the Christian faith. “Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded.
Stunned silence filled the auditorium. Nobody moved or spoke. Then one elderly man approached the platform and stood at the podium. He looked at Nikolai and then the crowd, sizing them up. Then he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: “CHRIST IS RISEN!”
The entire crowd rose to its feet and like thunder responded as one: “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”
Christ IS Risen. He has been raised from the dead. The tomb which had held Him; the linen cloth that had wrapped him; and the ropes which had bound Him were no more. And that’s what we come to celebrate this morning. But what difference does it make?
This is the day which defines all other days. This is the day which defines the church and the message of the church. This is the day which forever changed the world and how we think about the world. This is the day which defines why we meet on Sunday, the first day of the week, as our Sabbath and not Saturday, the seventh day, as the Old Testament teaches.
This is the day which frightened the women, startled and amazed the disciples and shook the world to its very core. All because of one phrase, “Christ Is Risen. He is Risen Indeed.”
Luke shares the events of that first Easter Sunday this way:
Luke 24:1-12 (NRSV)
 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.
 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
 but when they went in, they did not find the body.
 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.
 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.
 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,
 that “the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
 Then they remembered his words,
 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.
 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.
 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
I. THE POWER:
A. Have you ever asked yourself what the world might be like if everything had ended in the darkness of Good Friday and Jesus’ death on the cross? Someone said there wouldn’t be any hospitals as we know them, no public schools, no assistance programs, no thrift stores, no food banks, no orphanages, no nursing homes, no homeless shelters and the list went on and on.
The reason all those things wouldn’t be is because all of those were begun out of compassion for others, Christian compassion for social justice; Christian compassion to bring good news to the least, the last and the lost just as Jesus did.
But because “Christ Is Risen” this day is filled with power;
The power of life over death;
The power of hope over despair;
The power of Forgiveness over sin;
The power of Mercy over justice;
The power of Light over darkness;
The power of Love over hate;
The power of Faith over fear;
That power, the power of the resurrection can be seen all around us. And it reveals itself at critical times in our lives, usually when we least expect it.
B. Let me tell you about Miss Emma. Miss Emma and, Tom, her husband had been sweethearts since the seventh grade. From that moment on, they were inseparable. They went and did everything together. In their later years, whenever I saw them, they were always holding hands. They were still deeply in love.
Miss Emma was devastated when Tom died. The day he died, she shut the blinds and drew then curtains and darkness of her grief engulfed her.
A couple of months after the funeral, on one of those dark, drizzly days, I stopped to see her. I wasn’t sure she was home. The house was dark and all closed up; all the blinds and curtains were drawn. I rang the doorbell, nothing. I knocked and then I heard a quiet voice say, “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
Miss Emma finally came to the door, and as I walked down the hall to the living room, I couldn’t help but notice that the whole house was sealed up like a tomb. We sat down and went through all those first few minutes of formalities that you go through when you have guests. And then all of a sudden Miss Emma burst out with, “Is the resurrection real?”
It took me back a little but I answered, “Yes.”
She in turn asked, “Well, how do you know?”
We talked about the passages of scripture which deal with the resurrection. And those where Jesus foretold his own death and told us of the promise of the resurrection. We talked about how we have to accept it on faith. It was all very Biblical and theologically correct. I would have gotten an A back in seminary, but I could tell it wasn’t getting through. With a deep sigh Miss Emma said, “I want a sign. I need proof.”
I told her the only sign I knew of was the empty tomb. She said, “That’s not enough. I want more than that.”
As we talked the rain had been coming down harder and harder. It had gotten even darker. The day seemed to match our moods. She was grief stricken and depressed. I was depressed because I’d come hoping to help and it didn’t seem like I did a very good job.
Before I left, we prayed and I prayed for a sign for Miss Emma; something to ease her grief and to help her know the truth of the resurrection. As I walked down the hall, I felt sort of useless because I hadn’t been able to reach her. Nothing had changed.
When I opened the door, the first thing I noticed was that it had stopped raining and the sun was starting to peek out of the clouds. The sky off in the east was still dark and stormy but the western sky was beginning to lighten up. About the same time that I heard the door close, I looked up. I immediately turned around and rang the doorbell.
The door opened and I took Miss Emma’s hand. I pulled her outside and pointed. We both stood there in stunned silence as we looked at one of the most beautiful rainbows I have ever seen. It was a full horizon to horizon rainbow. The colors were brilliant and in stark contrast to the dark sky behind the. Miss Emma started crying.
And then she started laughing. She looked at me and through her tears and laughter said, “He’s alive!!!” She hugged me, ran inside and started opening curtains and blinds.
That’s the power of Resurrection UnBound and in the world today.
II. OUR BLIND SIDE:
A. How many of you have seen the movie “The Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock? For those who haven’t seen it, it’s based on the true story of Michael Oher and the Tuohy family. On the outside, it’s a touching story of a homeless and hopeless, young football player who finds more than home and more than hope. But on the inside, at a deeper level, it’s a movie about redemption, reconciliation and resurrection.
Michael Oher has no idea who is father is and his mother is a crack head. Michael has had little formal education and few skills to help him learn. Leigh Ann Tuohy is a take charge, take no prisoners kind of woman with a compassionate heart the size of Texas, who enters Michael’s life, opens her heart and her home and in process Michael’s life and her life are changed forever.
When Michael expresses an interest in football, she goes all out to help him, including giving the coach a few ideas on how best to use Michael’s skills. Watch this:
Michael is like Ferdinand the Bull in the classic children’s story. At least that’s Leigh Ann’s take. The coach says he looks like Tarzan plays like Jane. Leigh Ann realizes what is going on. Michael needs the right kind of motivation. He scored 98% in protective instinct. Leigh Ann marches out onto the football field during practice and tells Michael that the team is like his family. She knows he had her back when they went to one of the hard parts of town. She tells him to treat the quarterback just like he would her.
Her motivational speech turns him around and he becomes and dynamo on the field.
I think that’s one of the pivotal scenes in the movie. This is the scene when Michael is raised from the dead so to speak. He realizes he truly is a part of the family. And that family can extend beyond those who sit around the dinner table.
And in this scene you realize there is scene after scene of someone protecting somebody else’s blindside. Leigh Ann does it for Michael. She does it for Michael’s mother. Michael has done it for S.J.
Sean did it for Michael when he signed the school papers becoming responsible for all of Michael’s medical needs. The teacher, Mrs. Boswell, does it for Michael when she discovers that he really is learning, he just can’t read very well and he’s never learned how to study. Collins does it when the other girls treat Michael like an outsider and she moves to sit and study with him at the school library.
It’s Resurrection over and over again, every time Michael gives one of those little grins in his normally stoic features, there’s a resurrection. Michael is raised from being a nothing and a nobody dead to the world, to being a son, a brother, a valued team member, and a somebody who coaches from every major university try to recruit.
All because one woman had Michael’s back and protected his blindside. All because one woman walked to the empty tomb of Michael Oher’s life, peered in and saw what resurrection and new life could mean for this young man. And in the process, she was raised to new life as well.
That’s what resurrection does for us. It changes everything. It changes the context of everything. Resurrection reminds us that Christ Jesus, the Son of the living God, who gave His life on the cross for our sakes, has our back. Jesus is protecting our blind side through the power, the presence and the work of God’s Holy Spirit.
We may live in an anti-Easter world where the bad news seems more powerful than any message of hope we can preach. The headlines may scream of pain and disaster, and the stories of family and friends who have experienced foreclosure, job loss, health worries, and more. But it is the helpless, desperate cry of sin and death to keep us distracted and forget the power of resurrection, the power of the empty tomb.
Resurrection reminds us that the meanness, desperation and evil of this world we live in didn’t, hasn’t and won’t win. Sin and death have been defeated, they’re just in denial. They’ve partnered with fear and they’re all just trying to make us forget that the tomb is empty. Life has triumphed over death. God’s unconditional love has triumphed over evil. Forgiveness has defeated sin.
That’s the power of the Resurrection. That’s the power of this day. That’s why we celebrate Easter. The stone wasn’t rolled away so Jesus could get out. It was rolled away so we could get in and see the power of Resurrection. The tomb is empty.
Christ IS Risen. He is Risen indeed.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.