He Has Risen!
There were plenty of mixed emotions around on the first Easter Sunday morning. Some of the people in Jerusalem that day were probably fairly indifferent to all that was going on – there are always some who don't seem at all personally interested in what is going on around them. But that was not the case for many others. On the one hand Jesus' followers were downcast and depressed. On the other the Jewish authorities were mightily relieved thinking that they had at last got their way. If we consider the Roman governor, Pilate, well he had been caught in the middle and had had a bruising time of late, he was surely hoping for things to settle down.
Jesus died on Good Friday. A couple of high ranking Jewish officials somewhat surprisingly took the initiative and asked Pilate for Jesus' body: they wanted to ensure that Jesus might have a proper burial.
But it was the wider class of Jewish leaders who thought they had prepared best for the new day.
You see they thought they had succeeded in their endeavours to rid themselves of the nuisance that was Jesus of Nazareth as far as they were concerned. That rascal was now safely buried in a tomb – he was dead, they had all seen him die, there was no doubt about it – he was dead alright! Surely the whole Jesus' affair was now over and the excitement he had caused would melt away and disappear...
But these Jewish leaders still had one matter to sort out – they had a nagging fear that perhaps things weren't quite sorted yet.
The tomb where Jesus' body was laid had to be made secure. The Jewish authorities didn't trust Jesus' disciples. They knew that Jesus had openly taught that after suffering and being put to death he would return to life being raised from the dead. They didn't believe that themselves but they thought that the words of their Master Jesus would surely lead his disciples to attempt something.
If the imposter had taught he would rise from the dead then maybe his disciples would come and steal his body away and then try to spread the story that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. If that were the case then they would find themselves in a right mess.
What to do then? One more time they went off to Pilate who by now was heartily sick of the whole business. Pilate had earlier tried unsuccessfully to wash his hands of Jesus but had failed. He had been out-
At last the Jewish authorities were ready.
The guard was there now too – they probably thought that they were on to a good thing – guarding a tomb – money for old-
What of the disciples and the women? Were they ready for Easter Sunday?
The male disciples were trying to keep their heads down – they were afraid of the Jewish authorities and certainly weren't thinking about resurrection nor about trying to fabricate one!
And the women? Well yes they were prepared for Easter Sunday morning. They had got together the spices and the ointments they needed – needed that is for anointing and embalming a corpse! They were prepared to carry out the funeral rites that they hadn't been able to perform due to the rapid burial that took place on Good Friday.
If the guard thought their money was to be easily earned they were about to be jolted out of their complacency.
If the Jewish authorities thought they had triumphed they would have to think again.
If Pilate hoped that things were about to blow over he couldn't have been more wrong.
If the women expected to embalm a cadaver they would soon find themselves worshipping at the feet of the man they expected to find dead.
If the disciples were afraid of the Jews they would before long be used to turn the world upside down.
And why so?
Because something utterly extraordinary was about to take place. Jesus was about to rise from the dead. The man they had observed as a massacred corpse was about to be filled with life, he would be throbbing with life, victorious life, never-
And the world as it had been known would never be the same again.
In rising from the dead Jesus showed that he had defeated death – he hadn't merely pushed it back for a few weeks or months but had definitively defeated it. By his resurrection he showed that one man had escaped death's shackles. Pretty soon that good news would be being preached and proclaimed throughout the world! And along with the sharing of such good news would go an explanation of what Jesus' victory implied.
Death is not the end! There is hope for all who will trust the Saviour!
The Jewish authorities knew what Jesus had taught his disciples about resurrection but they wouldn't countenance the possibility that what he said was the truth.
The disciples had heard what Jesus said but they failed to take it on board – they simply didn't see how it could fit in with what they thought they knew about him.
Nobody was ready for what happened next!
It was still early in the morning as a small group of women made their way to the tomb. And extraordinary things happened.
The earth quaked! The cause wasn't the usual one of tectonic plates moving against each other – this earthquake was caused by angel as he descended from heaven to roll back the large stone that served to close off the entrance to the tomb!
The guards seeing this were terrified and some legged it back to the city to report what had happened.
The angel wasn't interested in the guards but he did have a message for the women and he shared it with them. The Easter story is much more than a story – it contains a message – will you pay attention to the message of Easter this morning?
The angel knew that the women had gone to the tomb in order to honour Jesus by taking proper care of his dead body, he knew they weren't expecting anything else, and he had great news for them!
Jesus was alive!!
And because he was alive again they would soon be able to see him again. In fact they wouldn't have long to wait because Jesus would very soon come to meet them.
The news wasn't for these ladies to keep to themselves either. They were to go back to find the disciples and tell them the startling but wonderful news that Jesus had truly risen from the dead!
And what did the women make of it all? Not unsurprisingly they were in turmoil with various competing emotions struggling within them: they were full of fear – after all they had just heard unheard of things; but they were also full of joy – the one in whom they had formerly placed their trust was indeed trustworthy: he was alive!
And they race away from the tomb back towards the city to tell the others but before they can go very far Jesus himself met them and spoke to them. He greeted them warmly, he didn't have words of rebuke for them but only spoke encouraging words they needn't be afraid any more – Jesus was alive! He then sent them on their way adding some more detail to the message that they had to pass on to the disciples.
Perhaps the most obvious implication of the resurrection is that Jesus was now alive again. Since his resurrection he has never subsequently died but lives with the power of an indestructible life.
The risen Lord Jesus met the women who went that morning to the tomb. He sent instructions to his disciples that he would meet with them. The NT tells us about many encounters that Jesus had with his followers after his resurrection:
Because Jesus is alive it is possible for us too to meet him and we too can be encouraged by him and all that he offers to sinners who will repent of their sins and trust him.
Now the way in which we meet with Jesus is not the same as the way in which the women met him that first Easter Sunday morning. They were living in that limited time period between the resurrection and the ascension, the moment when the risen Jesus returned to heaven. For a limited period Jesus stayed on earth and during that time he frequently met with his followers leaving them with undeniable proof that he was indeed alive.
We don't live in that period but in the period between, his ascension and his return to earth when he will come to wind everything up, to introduce the judgment and to take his people home to be with him forever. But we can still meet him and we do so by faith as we believe in him and place our trust in him!
And this is exactly what men and women have been doing down through the running centuries as the message of the gospel has been preached to the ends of the earth.
We hear the good news that God has made provision for our salvation by sending his Son to die for our sins and given proof of the effectiveness of the Son's work by raising him from the dead. We not only hear that news but God grants us the faith we need to respond to his offer of forgiveness of sins and embrace the Saviour who is offered to us.
More than that, not only does he grant us faith he gives us a new life to live in union with our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. As we are enabled to respond with this God-
Will you respond in faith to Jesus Christ today? He is alive and ready and willing to welcome all those who will cry out to him in faith and trust – will you not be one of those who does respond positively to such an offer of love and mercy?
Don't be like those Jewish authorities who simply refused to respond to Jesus – they had prejudiced minds that refused to face new facts that contradicted their established opinions. They knew that Jesus had taught that he would rise from the dead but they refused to believe. Even when confronted with solid evidence that what he had said was true they stubbornly resisted and came up with what they knew to be a lie as they continued to reject him.
There is so much more that could be said but that is all I plan to say this morning. We have focused upon one consequence of the resurrection – the possibility of us entering into a personal relationship with a risen Saviour. This evening I intend with, God's help, to look at a number more of the practical consequences of this the resurrection of this most remarkable man.
God bless you all.