It is Easter Sunday! Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a marvelous day to remember His victory over sin and death and to proclaim resoundingly that “He Lives!” Jesus’ resurrection is the centerpiece of Christian faith and practice.
For the past several weeks we have been preaching about things that happened during the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We began on Palm Sunday, when He rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey. On Monday He cleansed the temple and on Tuesday He taught there all day. On Wednesday Jesus remained in Bethany while Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Him. On Thursday He enjoyed the Last Supper and was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. On Friday Jesus was wrongly convicted, sentenced to die, crucified on a Roman cross, and hastily buried. On Saturday His followers mournfully grieved the loss of their Master and Friend...
All 4 of the gospels provide particular details concerning the events that took place on Sunday. However, each of them are written from a unique perspective that emphasizes different things. The casual reader might conclude that these accounts are contradictory, but - in fact - they complement each other quite well. Several Christian theologians have put forward proposals that reconcile that various testimonials and provide a seamless explanation of what happened that morning. I will present my theory, which you’ve heard before, in today’s sermon.
With this in mind, let us now conclude our “Passion Week” series with a message titled “Resurrection Sunday”. We have been steadily building up to this climactic sermon for over a month. While most of us have heard the resurrection story countless times, my prayer is that God will stir our hearts afresh today - that the Holy Spirit will move mightily in our midst - and that we will encounter the risen Jesus here in this place.
I. AT THE TOMB
At some point during the night, a severe earthquake occurred. An angel descended from Heaven, rolled the stone away from the tomb’s opening, and sat on it. The angel was dressed in dazzling white clothing. The guards stationed there were paralyzed in fear, helpless to do anything, and likely fled. It was at this point that Jesus miraculously rose from the dead and came out of the grave.
Early Sunday morning, just before sunrise, several women - including Mary Magdalene - came to the tomb bringing their spices. Some of them had prepared their own spices, while others had purchased them the day before. They had planned to return to the tomb after the Sabbath day to anoint and provide additional care for the body of Jesus. Along the way, they wondered if they’d be able to move the large stone to get inside the tomb. To their surprise, when they arrived it had already been rolled away from the entrance. The women were very concerned, likely thinking that something bad had happened. Mary Magdalene told them to wait there while she went to get Peter and John. Perhaps they’d know what to do. Leaving them, she quickly ran back into the city.
After standing outside for several minutes, perhaps fearful to go in themselves, an angel appeared and invited these other women to enter the tomb. When they went in, a second angel greeted them. He told them that Jesus had risen, showed them the place where His body had been lying, and instructed them to go inform the rest of the disciples. These other women slowly went out from the tomb overcome with fear and hesitant to tell anyone what they had seen or heard. Because they were afraid and anxious, they didn’t immediately do what the angels told them, but instead dawdled and delayed.
Moments after they’d left, John arrived at the tomb and stood outside looking in. Seconds later, Peter showed up also - both men had been running. When Peter got there, he barreled straight into the tomb. John then followed him inside. They both saw the linen wrappings and head cloth that had been used to shroud Jesus’s body, but He was not there. Amazed, the 2 disciples left the empty tomb and returned to the place where they were staying.
By this point, Mary Magdalene had also arrived and stood outside the tomb weeping. Looking inside, she saw the 2 angels who had appeared earlier to the other women. They asked her why she was crying, and she answered, “They have taken away My Lord and I don’t know where they’ve laid Him.” Turning around, Mary saw a man that she assumed was the gardener. She asked him if he knew where Jesus’ body was. The man called her by name, and she suddenly recognized that He was Jesus! Mary joyfully clung to Him, but He lovingly told her to let go. After speaking briefly with Jesus, Mary Magdalene rushed away to find the disciples and tell them that she had seen the risen Lord.
Meanwhile, the other women had put off returning because they were scared. But Jesus appeared to them also, and they fell at His feet and worshiped Him. Now fully convinced of His resurrection, their fears were turned into joy. They too ran to tell the disciples what Jesus and the angels had said. So both Mary Magdalene and the other women came and reported their news to the disciples, but the disciples did not believe them.
The guards who had been stationed at the tomb and actually witnessed the resurrection came into Jerusalem and described to the chief priests all that had happened. A story was concocted to explain away the resurrection as a grave robbing, and the soldiers were paid to keep their mouths shut. This lie was widely circulated and believed by many, even to this day.
II. ON THE ROAD
Later that afternoon, Jesus appeared to 2 disciples as they were travelling home from the Passover festivities to Emmaus. Jesus approached them and talked with them as they walked along the road, however they did not recognize Him. When they finally arrived, the pair asked Jesus to join them for dinner and He agreed. As they ate, Jesus took some bread, blessed it, broke it, and began to give it to them. Their eyes were opened and they immediately recognized that this stranger was Jesus. In an instant, He vanished. They were completely astonished. Though the hour was already getting late, the 2 disciples hurried back to Jerusalem to find the disciples and tell what had happened. When they arrived, they found the disciples gathered in the upper room. Jesus had appeared to Peter also sometime earlier that day, and they were all talking excitedly about it.
III. IN THE ROOM
Most of the disciples were present that night. For some unknown reason, Thomas the apostle was not there. Nevertheless, as they conversed with each other, Jesus suddenly appeared in the room with them. At first they were startled, thinking perhaps that He was a spirit. To alleviate their doubts and reassure them that he was real, Jesus showed them the wounds in His hands and feet. They actually touched His resurrected body. To provide further evidence, Jesus asked for and ate a piece of fish. There was no question - Jesus had literally and physically risen from the dead. He then spoke about forgiveness and the soon coming of the Holy Spirit.
By the time Sunday was over, Jesus had not only risen from the dead but had also made at least 5 post resurrection appearances. He had been seen by Mary Magdalene, several of the other women, the apostle Peter, 2 other disciples on the road to Emmaus, and all of the disciples (except for Thomas) together in the upper room. Over the course of the next 40 days, Jesus would make several more appearances to numerous people in different places leaving behind literally hundreds of witnesses that boldly attested to His physical resurrection.
The “Passion Week” had come to an end. The 8 days spanning from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ were filled with triumph and treachery, with anger and adulation, with pain and petition, with instruction and indignation, with suffering and sorrow, with death and life… As the week came to a close, Jesus had gloriously risen from the grave. He was alive again, just as He had promised!
My friends, the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides indisputable proof that He is the Son of God. It confirms everything that He taught and said. Because Jesus is risen, we as God’s children can be absolutely certain that we will rise also. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us, and gives us the assurance of eternal life. This is the wonderful message of Easter - Jesus lives, and in Him we live also!