Thoughts from an Easter Morning Service
Sonrise Service Homily – This was given as a part of a Sonrise Service for Easter 2018
So far, we have considered the tomb, the stone, the person it contained, and the people who arrived at the tomb. We have seen that if the stone had not been moved, we would all still be lost in our sins without hope. However, Christ Jesus arose from the dead, having won the redemption of our souls with His death and subsequent resurrection. This is the best established fact in all of history, albeit the most hotly contended – that Jesus Christ did not stay dead!
The apostle Paul identifies this as the entire point on which Christianity rests. In 1 Cor. 15:13, 14, he says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” And yet, with the stone moved, we can enter an empty tomb and see for ourselves that the man that was put there on Friday was not there on Sunday.
See the evidence of the eyewitnesses of the event! They had all seen, and perhaps helped Joseph of Arimathea place Jesus’s body in the new tomb, its tragic first occupant. It must have been a hurried affair, with the Passover Sabbath coming at the sun’s setting that evening, but Jesus was carefully wrapped with new grave clothes. The stone, estimated at between 1 and 2 tons was allowed to slide into place. The High Priest placed a seal on the stone with the authority of Pontius Pilate himself, and the place was left guarded by a full guard (16 men) of Roman soldiers (the US Navy SEALs of the day) and an unspecified number of Jewish temple guards (and it would be difficult to imagine that they did not at least match the Romans in number). The Jewish Leaders thought they had won and that this would all soon settle.
The Sabbath passed peacefully for them. The tomb was well guarded. And then came the first day of the week – and the event that changed the world – the stone was rolled away. Despite the Roman Seal, the Jewish High Priest, the 16 sons of Rome that guarded the tomb and at least that many Jewish Temple guards, the 1- to 2-ton stone that blocked the entrance, the shroud that covered the body, the wrappings left like Jesus has simply sat up through them and left them lying there – the ladies that came to embalm the body to stop the stink of death found a deserted and peaceful scene without the body of Jesus. Where could He have gone? An angel announced to them that He was no longer there, but He had risen from the dead!
Consider that the stone was not moved to let Jesus out of the tomb. The risen Lord has no need for such things. No, it was moved to let us in to the tomb, so we could see that Christ is RISEN! Risen, indeed!
What does that mean for us today? In practical terms, without any prevarication, equivocation, or imagination, it means that because He lives, WE – ARE – REDEEMED!
Yes, friends, we who were lost in our sins, because of what we had done and because we were born dead in sin thanks to our first parents, have been reconciled to God so that we may believe, and having believed in Jesus’s horrifying death, extremely secure burial, and miraculous resurrection, we may pass out of death and into life (John 5:24).
This is THE most important day in history! Because of it, Christianity cannot be reduced to catchy marketing ideas, or benevolent ideas like treat others the way you want to be treated, or being a good person. God has not called us to “come to church.” Rather, He has called us to “be the church,” His body, His representatives on earth. He has called us to participate in His life and mission – to share the kingdom of God with everyone we meet! All because He was the victor in the titanic struggle with sin and death!
He has risen to new life – and He calls us to join Him in it!
And we can, by believing that He really did pay for our sins on that cross. By admitting to God that we are hopeless and helpless without Him to make ourselves righteous. By accepting the gift of His extended grace toward us and turning from our sin and toward Himself and following Him. For by grace are we saved, through faith, not of ourselves – it is the gift of God, not of works, so that none of us may boast.
Because of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, this perishable body must put on the imperishable. This mortal must put on immortality. And when this happens, it will come about what has been written, Death has been swallowed up in victory! And then in humility, and in worship of God, we will ask, “O Grave, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” And we will thank God that our Risen Lord has given us that same victory that He won through the power of God when He was crucified on a hill far away – on an old rugged cross.
That is what we are gathered today to celebrate! The Tomb is empty!
He has Risen!
[Congregation: He has risen indeed!]
He has RISEN!
[Congregation: He has risen INDEED!]
HE HAS RISEN!
[Congregation: HE HAS RISEN INDEED!]
May our God bless you on this most auspicious of days!
Benediction: Now GO – in the power of God the Holy Spirit to make disciples of all the nations as Jesus the Christ of God has commanded us, in His authority and name; in humility knowing we have contributed nothing to our own justifying; in hope, knowing that because He lives, whatever may come, we can face it together in His name. GO – Go and serve Him who loved us unto death and washed us from our sins – serve Him in faith and in faithfulness to the end. Hallelujah! He has RISEN!