Sunday, April 04, 2010

Part Three: Easter – “God Found a Way!”

This is probably a partial sermon. I "ad-libbed" a good bit of it. As is usual in preaching, the energy of the service (especially high on Easter) led to more of a sermon than is on the printed page. The gist of it is the same, but I think it was better "live" than in print.

Luke 24:1-12
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " 8Then they remembered his words.
9When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

If there is a theme for Holy Week, it has to be this: “That’s impossible!”

One week ago, amid a raucous and triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus uttered impossible words, “If these children are quiet, the stones will shout!” God will find a way to get his message proclaimed, even if He has to use a bunch of rocks!

On Thursday, at their last meal together, while still hoping it was all some cruel joke, the disciples heard more amazing words, “This is my body . . . this is my blood.” Is this really what God intended for His Messiah? No way! Its not possible!

On Friday, Jesus was dead. Three years of following and teaching and miracles - over! Its impossible that all that the Kingdom of God could be wiped out so fast!

On Saturday, the hard reality was sinking in. Evil had won. The hopes the disciples had for the Kingdom of God really were over!

On Sunday, three women were about to discover they didn’t know the meaning of the word “impossible.” Mary Magdalene, Joanna (whoever she was) and “Mary, mother of James” went to the tomb out of obligation; they didn’t go expecting to see a miracle. They went to finish preparing Jesus’ body – dead for three days, wrapped in linen – not a job many of us would volunteer for!

It was an unpleasant job also because it was their friend, their teacher, their Savior in that cave! They were as sad as the 11 remaining disciples, but they got up and did what they had to do.

This is the first place I find a point of identification in this story. These three women had reached their lowest point, but still found the strength to go on.

How many of us have been there? Working for 40 years only to find your retirement funds drained . . . losing friends and loved ones . . . waking up and wondering what happened to the joy of life? I’m sure we know what the three women were feeling.

They had the basic ingredient for faith – perseverance, pure, dogged determination to put on foot in front of the other. Without that perseverance, they never would have seen the greatest miracle of all time!

By their actions, they remind us of another truth: there is no resurrection without death, no Easter without Good Friday. We cannot experience the heights of glory without the depths of despair.

When, like Mary, Joanna, and Mary, we feel defeated, we sometimes get to glimpse into God’s mystery.

I wonder, if on that Easter morning, the women remembered Jesus’ words from Palm Sunday, because one more stone had something to say.

One more stone had a shout of praise. Sitting over there, beside the empty tomb, that great, big stone, shouted the news – Jesus is alive!

Truly, nothing is impossible for God. God found a way! God finds a way! God will find a way to reach us, to help us, to encourage us, to love us!