April 7, 2012

He Has Risen! He Is Not Here!

Easter Sunday, 4/8/12
Mark 16:1-8

He Has Risen! He Is Not Here!
I. Easter’s triumphant declaration
II. Easter’s confident living

Throughout history there have been memorable words spoken by famous people. For instance, you’ve likely heard these words many times, “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation.” Many of you recognize that opening line from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Or how about these famous words from more than 2,000 years ago, “Veni, vidi, vinci,”? That’s Latin for, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Those few words were spoken by Julius Caesar, describing his incredible military conquest.

But as famous as they are, how much do those words impact your life? I would guess hardly at all. Those famous words are among the countless factoids of our lives. We know them, but they aren’t useful for much of anything.

But how about these words, “He has risen! He is not here!”? Those words are the very reason we have gathered here this morning. As God’s people, those words mean everything to us. Without those words, there would be no reason for us to join in praising our God. Without those words, we’re all doomed eternally. Without those words, Easter is an empty holiday at best and a cruel hoax at worst.

But Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! And on this Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord, we not only shout our praises to God for the resurrection of Jesus, we also praise and thank him for what that resurrection means for us. Listen again to these words of the angel to the women who first came to Christ’s empty tomb on Easter morning, “He has risen! He is not here!” May those words bring us Easter comfort, Easter confidence and Easter joy as we take them to heart this morning.

Part I.

In the past six days there were champions crowned in men’s and women’s collegiate basketball. Later today, someone will don the green jacket as the Masters’ champion. In the business world, awards are routinely bestowed on those who manufacture the most and those who sell the most. Depending on whom you believe, a particular company lays claim to the highest customer satisfaction. We love top dogs. We appreciate and enjoy the efforts it takes to be the victor.

But those victories are so fleeting. As soon as the victor’s crown has been awarded, the defense of that crown begins once again. Countless opponents are waiting to knock the victor off his pedestal.

What Mary, Mary and Salome didn’t realize at the moment they looked into the empty of Christ was that they were witnessing an eternal victory. Death failed to keep its hold on Jesus. Satan’s wishes to the contrary, Jesus had risen from the dead. In fact, by this time that morning, as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, Jesus had risen from the dead, descended into hell and proclaimed to Satan and all his demons that he was indeed alive and, therefore, the eternal victor over Satan, death and hell.

But are those just some antique factoids? Are they simply words for us to ponder for a while and then store away with the rest of our Easter decorations? God forbid! The truth of Christ’s resurrection is the most practical truth our gracious and loving God has ever accomplished and revealed to us. Let’s consider for a moment some of the great impact his resurrection has on our lives right now—today—and forever.

He has risen! He is not here! The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is our guarantee that Jesus is who he said he is—the very Son of God, equal in deity and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Every year at this time the media re-examine who Jesus was and they always stoke the embers of doubt in a veiled attempt at completely denying that Jesus could have been anything more than just a notable prophet. His resurrection proves otherwise. Hundreds of people witnessed the risen Jesus over the next 40 days. Indeed, Jesus is true God.

He has risen! He is not here! That means our greatest spiritual need has been met. Without a doubt, our greatest problem is sin. Try as we might, we can’t stop committing them. And just one of them makes us guilty and brings the punishment of hell. But Jesus died for our sins, all of them. But how can I be sure of that? How can I be certain that his death actually paid for my sins and yours and not just for someone else’s? Because he rose from the dead. He rose as true God and he died as true God. That means his death paid for the sins of all people of all time.

He has risen! He is not here! That means heaven is ours! Do you get tired of this life from time to time? Is it, at times, more than you can take? And then there’s the sobering thought that it might not get any better. In fact, it will probably get worse. So what do we have to look forward to? Heaven itself! Life with our God! No more stress, sin, trouble, pain, crying, mourning or death. Just eternal glory and bliss! It’s all yours by faith in Jesus who not only died but rose again.

His has risen! He is not here! The two certainties in life are death and taxes. But death isn’t the victor. Jesus is. And though death may come, it’s but the door to life for us—life with our God.

In fact, his resurrection means our own resurrection. That’s what Jesus himself declared. He promised to raise our bodies on the Last Day and glorify them. Christianity doesn’t proclaim only a misty, foggy existence in the life after this one. It promises what we’re all hoping for—a perfect life for soul and body for eternity. Because the risen Jesus promises it to us, it will happen.

Sin, death, hell, sickness, sorrow and pain–all our enemies have been defeated forever. He has risen! He is not here! That’s Easter’s triumphant declaration!

Part II.

A few minutes ago we spoke about some recent winners. I didn’t mention the owners of the three winning lottery tickets as announced last Saturday. How long do you think it took for them to actually believe they had won that much money and what it all meant for them?

I don’t play the lottery and I don’t encourage you to do so, but I mention it because I think that the reaction to winning that amount of money it similar to what these three ladies went through on that first Easter morning. They had just witnessed and heard the greatest news ever—Jesus had risen from the dead. But look at their reaction. Our text ends with the words, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” It took awhile for the good news to sink in and for them to realize what it all meant for them.

We’re no different. For most of us, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and what it means for us. But we have a hard time applying that truth to our lives. Hardly a day goes by in which we aren’t filled with fear of some kind. If we’re not afraid for ourselves, then we’re afraid for our children and our loved ones. We tremble at what’s going on in our world. We agonize over what our country is facing.

But Easter means confident living. First, it means no fear in life. If Jesus can overcome death itself for us, what else can possibly stand in his way? What other problem in life is he unable to overcome? What can possibly keep him from bringing us to himself in heaven? Nothing in life!

And nothing in death. We have a risen Savior who is with us always, guiding us even through the valley of the shadow of death. He’s been where we haven’t gone—to the grave—and has come out of it alive. He sacrificed himself and rose again so that he could make our eternal life with him certain. No fear in death.

In fact, now he lives to rule over all things for our good. We fear the powers of evil in our world. We’re worried about what world powers and economic forces will do to us. We shudder to think where we’re heading. Jesus knows it all. And he not only knows, he’s still in control. That doesn’t mean he will soon solve all our problems. But it does mean he will even use the problems and the tragedies of this life to accomplish his grand plans and purposes. You can count on it because he has risen! He is not here! That’s Easter’s confident living.

I don’t mean to minimize what you’re facing in this life. In some cases, it’s tough, real tough. It can be heartbreaking. But don’t keep your focus there. Instead,Easter calls for you to join the women and look inside the tomb and see that it’s empty. He has risen! He is not here! A Savior who lived for you, died for you and then rose again for you is the one in control.

That makes the following words eternally meaningful for you: He has risen! He is not here! Find your eternal comfort and confidence in the resurrection of your Savior, Jesus Christ! Amen.