EASTER SUNDAY - JUST GIVE UP #7
Michael Duduit, the editor of Preaching Magazine tells the story that most funeral homes ask members of the family are given the option to choose a selection from a music CD to have playing as the people either enter or leave the service or both.
At one of the local funeral parlors one family asked if they could leave the funeral to Elvis Presley’s hit, “Love me Tender.” The day of the funeral arrived and as the family was leaving, the music started. Unfortunately the wrong track number was entered into the CD player, and the family found themselves walking out to the song, “Return to Sender.” (1)
Years ago, a woman told the story of heading to Church on Easter Sunday with her two children. They had found their Easter baskets and talked about the Easter Bunny and Mom wanted to make sure they knew what Easter was all about so she said, “This is the day we celebrate Jesus coming back to life.” Immediately her 3-year-old son, Kevin, piped up from the back seat and asked, “Will He be in church today?” (2)
It’s good to laugh. And while I’m not sure that laughter was Peter and John’s first response to finding the tomb empty, I’m pretty sure it was probably God’s first response.
You see, sin and death thought they had won. When the darkness of Good Friday descended the low chuckle of sadistic glee started. And as the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb and the tomb was sealed, sin and death broke out in laughter and applause as the party began. They thought they had defeated us and defeated God. But they were wrong.
Tomorrow is April Fools’ Day. I bring that up because Today is the greatest April Fools’ Joke ever played. It was one which God and Jesus played on sin and death.
Still hung over from partying all weekend long, sin and death were unaware of what was happening in the tomb or what was about to happen in the world they thought they owned. Let’s look at Matthew’s version of the story of that first Easter morning, when God laughed. Matthew 28:1-10 (NRSV)
 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.
 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Jesus basically said, “Get Up and Speak Up.” We know the story that follows, they went and told the disciples and they all came running. At first they could hardly believe it was true. But as it began to sink in, as the reality of the resurrection took hold, their spirits began grew lighter, their hearts became strangely warmed and the excitement built. And then when Jesus just popped in and ate dinner with them, the laughter broke out because it was real. The Resurrection was real.
Today, Easter Sunday, is the day we affirm that the resurrection is real. I know there are some people who will ask, “Well how do you know it’s real?”
I. SOMEONE TOLD ME:
A. First, I know it’s real because someone told me it is real. And not just anyone but someone I loved; someone I trusted; someone who had never lied to me. They told me it was real, they told me it was true and I believed them.
Women that the Disciples knew and loved; women that they trusted; women with whom they had shared the work and struggles as they travelled with Jesus; these women told them and they believed. Oh, not at first, partly because of gender bias and partly because it was too good to be true. But eventually, they believed because someone told them.
B. The Gospel of Mark has a totally different ending, at least the original texts did. The oldest versions of the Gospel of Mark end with these words found in Mark 16:8 “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Go ahead, check your Bible, most translations now show the second half of verse 8 in parenthesis with a footnote saying, that the verses following verse 8, the Long Version or Longer Version as they call it, were probably added as late as the 2nd Century.
So, what happened? Did Mark die? Did the rest of the manuscript get torn off? Was it done deliberately? The irony of the Gospel of Mark is that in every incident of Jesus ministry where he told that person or group of people NOT to tell anyone, they ran and told everybody. But in this instance when he gave them orders to tell EVERYONE, they said nothing, because they were too afraid.
Whatever the reason, the Good News is that according to Matthew, Luke and John word got out. Jesus is alive. He is Risen and it’s Real. I know it’s real because someone told me it is real.
II. STOOD THE TEST OF TIME:
A. Second, I know it’s real because it has stood the test of time. Newton’s third law of motion says: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So, what does that have to do with Easter? “The Church is that reaction.” What was the action? The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Think about those first disciples sitting in the Upper Room. They were defeated, beat down emotionally. Their spirits were broken and all hope had been drained from their lives. Jesus was dead. Their Messiah, or at least their expectations of the Messiah, had been discredited by the crucifixion.
But something changed. Something happened. Because these same disciples became the nucleus of the greatest spiritual movement the world has ever known. Something happened that gave validity to their story. Something so phenomenal that they willingly gave their lives to make sure we heard about it. It was something so real and so life changing that the story has changed very little over the centuries of it being told. It has stood the test of time.
B. I read an interesting quote as I was preparing for this morning. The author wrote: “I accept the resurrection of Easter Sunday not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as a historical event….”
Do you know who wrote those words? Pinchas Lapide, a Jewish scholar of the New Testament. In his book The Resurrection of Jesus he says these startling words: “…as a faithful Jew, I cannot explain a historical development which, despite many errors and much confusion, has carried the central message of Israel from Jerusalem into the world of the nations, as the result of blind happenstance, or human error, or a materialistic determinism….. The experience of the resurrection as the foundation act of the church which has carried the whole Western world must belong to God’s plan of salvation.” (3)
Lapide goes on to say that we have to “explain the fact that the solid hillbillies from Galilee who, for the very real reason of the crucifixion of their master, were saddened to death, were changed within a short period of time into a jubilant community of believers.” (4)
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The reaction is the Church. The action is God’s raising Christ from the dead. Without Easter, there would be no Church. But the church has been around to 2,000 years. I know the resurrection is real because it has stood the test of time.
III. I’VE EXPERIENCE RESURRECTION:
A. And finally, I know the resurrection is real because I’ve experienced resurrection. There was a children’s Easter Pageant. The director was trying to make sure that each of the children would feel comfortable in his or her role. One young boy was offered a speaking part, but he turned it down saying that he would rather play the part of the stone guarding the entrance to Jesus’ tomb.
The Pageant went well and, when it was all over, the director finally got around to asking the boy, “Why did you want to play the stone?”
With a big smile, the boy replied, “Because it felt so good to let Jesus out of the tomb!”
I love that little story because I think that’s exactly how Jesus feels every time one of us accepts the grace He offers and we step out of the tombs our addictions; our sins; our habits and the burdens that have bound us for so long. When we experience resurrection in our lives, I think Jesus says, “It felt so good to let you out of that tomb.”
I know the resurrection is real because I’ve experienced that kind of resurrection in my own life.
B. In a Sunday school class, the teacher was working with her students on the subject of the Crucifixion. As they were going through the Event, the teacher asked, “Do you understand? Do you understand this Crucifixion?” They all nodded yes. But she wanted more, so the teacher asked, “Do you really understand the meaning of the Cross for you and for me?”
One of the students replied, “Why are you trying to make it so hard? It just means that God will do almost anything for us.”
That is a beautiful answer. “God WILL do almost anything for us.” God gave His only son. God paid an incredibly exorbitant, almost ungodly price in order that you and I could be set free from the terrible bondage that so many of us are living every single day.
I know the resurrection is real because I’ve experienced that kind of resurrection in my own life. That’s the reason I stand here. When I gave my life to Christ I stepped out of the tomb of my past into new life with Him. That’s the reason why I answered the call to preach.
I know the resurrection is real because I’ve experienced that kind of resurrection in my own life; because the story has stood the test of time and because someone told me. And that’s our calling, to tell others, just like we’ve been told. And when we do, it changes the world. WATCH
I know it’s real because someone told me it is real. That someone listened to Jesus command to tell the whole world. That someone made a difference in my life and because of that God has used me to tell others. But it’s not just MY job. It’s OUR job to Get Up and Speak Up about the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We don’t know whose life our life will touch but God does. And God wants to use you.
Remember when your Mom or Dad would come into your bedroom before school and say, “It’s time to get up.” That’s what God said to Jesus that first Easter morning “It’s time to get up.” And that’s what God is saying to us today: “It’s time to Get Up and Speak Up. It’s time to let everyone know that the Resurrection is real.”
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Michael Duduit firstname.lastname@example.org (Adapted)
2. Peggy Key, Portage, MI. Today’s Christian Woman, “Heart to Heart.”
3. Lapide, Pinchas, The Resurrection of Jesus, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983, p. 142)
4. Ibid., P.129