This year, as we were approaching Easter, I was thinking, “If I had one word to express my response to the idea of the resurrection, what would it be?”
* No one had ever lived like Jesus.
* No one had ever loved people the way Jesus did.
So imagine you were there and you wanted to become his follower, and you left everything.
* You left your home.
* You left your family.
* You left your work.
People told you you were crazy, but you didn’t care, because you were convinced that to follow Jesus was the opportunity of a lifetime.
* He understood how to live life to the fullest.
* His love was beyond anything you had ever experienced.
* His brilliance was unmatched.
* He was unlike anyone you had ever known.
And you believed his little community was going to change the world.
But he wouldn’t be that kind of king. And things went south real fast.
By Friday, what we call Good Friday, this man you had given up everything to follow was dead. Not just dead; he was crucified like a common criminal. That meant failure, and you would have experienced deep confusion and despair.
It’s very confusing — the tomb is empty and the stone that had blocked it has been rolled away.
The Roman guards who were guarding it are gone, and there’s an angel, and the angel says, “Jesus is not here. He’s still alive.”
So you go and tell everyone this good news, which is a dangerous thing to do. The Romans will probably kill you for it. But they killed Jesus and he was doing great, so you don’t worry about that.
That’s a beautiful sentiment, but I don’t think your response would have been that polished.
I think the word that would have come out of your mouth would have been — “Wow!”
“Wow” is an expression of wonder and awe and being dumbstruck.
And yet wow doesn’t really have a definition.
The Wright brothers get into this machine, and all of a sudden human beings can fly.
Then several decades later, a man named Neil Armstrong takes his first step on the moon. That was a “Wow!” moment.
Maybe you remember watching that moment on TV when you were a kid.
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016, proving that there is a God and that God is infinitely good. That was a wow moment.
Birth — what a mystery. It never ceases to be.
I remember when our daughter Lily was born. I was in the hospital room with Kathy. It was noisy and messy, and then at one moment the doctor gets really serious and has to do an episiotomy.
I couldn’t take it. I started to get woozy. I’m supposed to be coaching. The doctor made me sit down in a chair and put my head between my legs. It’s all I could take. A few moments later, I heard the cry of a baby.
My wife asked the doctor, “Is she okay?”
The doctor said, “Yes. In fact, your baby and your husband are both pinking up at the same time.” It’s called resurrection. Wow.
* Go to the Great Wall of China and see this structure. Wow!
* Get a driver’s license. I can drive a car all by myself for the first time. Wow!
* I meet a girl in college, and propose, and she says, “Yes,” and we get married. Wow!
Every life has these wow moments. The universe is built on a wow. Birth and death are wow. But we’re here to talk about the most extraordinary wow in human history.
They’re real simple.
* One of them is that the resurrection actually happened in history.
* The second truth is the resurrection changed everything.
* And the third truth is the resurrection is deeply personal. It can mean the world, life or death, to me and to you.
1. The resurrection really happened
This is important, because in our day, often, there’s a kind of idea floating around about Easter. It goes something like this.
Jesus probably existed. He was probably a really good man, probably a great teacher, probably deeply inspirational, but he was just a man. It’s just stuff happening at the natural human level.
They were presenting it as something that actually happened. And a lot rides on this.
It was a very different genre than myth or folklore, and they believed — to write serious history depended on talking to eyewitnesses who were still alive who had actually experienced, hopefully been participants in, the event, the war, or whatever they were going to write the history of.
So history is built on eyewitness testimony by ancient historians who are serious about their craft.
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you… so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Whatever you think about this writing, it is not intended to be a symbolic story.
And we’ll see this in serious academic work.
In physics textbooks or peer-reviewed journal articles or Stanford research, there are footnotes. In light, fluffy, symbolic stories there are no footnotes.
There are no footnotes in Dr. Seuss or The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Cal Berkeley research. (I’m just kidding. I apologize if that offended you.)
I’ll show you one place, but it’s all over. This is in the gospel of Mark.
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
Mark notes that there’s a man Simon.
Simon was a very common name in ancient Israel, so he wants to distinguish him — the particular Simon who came from Cyrene.
Then to make him even more clear he notes that this was the father of Alexander and Rufus.
Now why in the world would Mark include “The father of Alexander and Rufus”? They were not famous people back then.
Mark is understood to be the first gospel written. Interestingly enough, the other gospels don’t include these names.
Mark was saying, “These guys are still alive, and if you don’t believe me, you can ask them. Check it out. This happened, and it matters.”
We would tend not to think about this a lot, but this would be very striking in the ancient world. Because in the ancient world women were not regarded generally as credible witnesses.
In ancient Israel and in ancient Rome, women generally were not allowed to serve as eyewitnesses in a court. They could not legally give testimony in a court, but men could.
Luke is writing about the resurrection, and he says:
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
Can you believe there was a time when men were slow to take women seriously?
Whatever you may think about these accounts, they are presenting the resurrection as something that really happened.
Alright, the first truth is — the resurrection actually happened in human history. The writers of Scripture take the historicity of the resurrection very seriously.
Why? Because of this next truth.
2. The resurrection changed everything.
It is the hinge of history.
If you’ve been to Yosemite and have seen El Capitan or Half Dome or Inspiration Point. Those are wow moments.
I saw how much of it went to the IRS. “Wow.”
Our problems keep right on going. Life and death keep right on going.
* God cares about you. Not a sparrow can fall from its nest that God does not know and care about.
* God is infinitely good.
* God is concerned about justice.
There was this amazing movement, and then Jesus died, and the movement died with him.
One day it did not exist and then the next day it did exist, and people were ready to die for it. And as a matter of historical fact they did die for it.
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said.
They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.
Yesterday he was a crucified criminal, a failed messiah. Today he’s Lord of the universe, and they worship him.
You don’t have to live in defeat anymore.
Nations rise and fall, civilizations come and go, and the life of this one man, Jesus, impacts the human race 2,000 years later like no other.
3. The resurrection is deeply personal
Whatever is going on in your life, we all face this wonder of being born and then of having our lives come to an end.
Biblical writers talk a lot about this.
Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Are you waiting for him?
We don’t talk about that much, but it’s a good thing to think about now and then, especially at Easter, because it will come to everyone.
A little kid comes running out of his bedroom and says to his mother, “Mom, is it true that from dust we are made and to dust we return?”
She says, “Yes, why do you ask?”
And he says, “I was just looking under my bed, and someone is either coming or going.”
The moment will come in your life when your life will be over. And then something amazing will happen.
Either you will see God —
I went to visit someone recently who was at home on hospice, dying from cancer at a fairly young age. She was in the last hours of her life, and the last thing she said to me when I was leaving her was, “I’ll see you in heaven.”
Not just that. It means that creation itself is going to be redeemed, that suffering has been repealed, that every loss is going to be restored, that God himself will wipe every tear from every sorrowing eye, that sickness and sadness and grieving and mourning and weeping will be no more. This moment will come. It will surely come.
And it will come for one reason, for one thing that actually happened. — Jesus Christ is risen. Wow!
That’s the great gift. That’s what we celebrate on Easter. Wow!
* Maybe you’re in a situation where you feel like the hope has gone out of some relationship. Maybe it’s with a friend, or your marriage feels dead, or you’ve been betrayed by someone, or there’s a problem with your children.
God wants you to know that because of the resurrection power of Jesus, anything is possible. Would you make a decision to live with that perspective? Anything is possible because of the resurrection power of Jesus.
Most people have a clear picture of who God the Father is. They’re not confused about the person of Jesus, either. But who is the Holy Spirit? What does he do? And how do we feel his presence?
In this series, I’m going to work to remove some of the mystery that surrounds the Holy Spirit so we can understand him better. We’re meant to know God the Holy Spirit as fully as we know God the Father and God the Son.
God, there are people being still right now, and they really need your presence and the power of the resurrected Jesus in their life.
If this is you and you’ve never committed your life to God before, you can do it right now. You just surrender. You just tell him, “God, I confess my sin and I repent, and I ask you to come in and forgive me as a gift of grace and be the leader of my life.” God loves doing that.
God, bring your resurrection power to every person listening who needs it now. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Blue Oaks Church