Sunday, April 20, 2003

Easter Sunday
Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8 

I have seen the Lord!

How odd it is. Here I sit, looking forward to one of the most important days on the Church calendar and I have writer's block. What can we say about the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that hasn't been said already? The only words that come to mind are "Alleluia, He is risen! He is risen indeed."

It doesn't help that this Holy Week, as I have done for years, I am following the footsteps of Jesus to the cross, listening to His words and warnings. I often wonder what the disciples and other people were thinking as they watched every move Jesus made. How could they go from a royal welcome to crucifixion in such a short period of time? Did the disciples ever try to stop Jesus? What made the people change their mind about Jesus? Perhaps these are silly questions, questions without answers, but it helps me identify with the people involved and understand my own role in the death of my Lord. I see the imperfection of those whom Jesus chose as His own and I can believe that He chose me too. I experience the hypocrisy of the temple rulers and know that I am no different. I sense the confusion of the people and I rejoice at His love and mercy even when I have doubts and fears.

So, I'm not ready to talk about the resurrection. I think it is unfortunate that so many Christians would prefer jump past the events of Holy Week and move right into the celebration. Oh, we have the advantage of looking at everything with twenty/twenty vision. We know the end of the story. We know we are saved. Yet, if we ignore the message of the cross -- the forgiveness of sin given through the blood of Jesus -- what need is there for the resurrection? How can we live as Easter people if we do not know we were sinners in need of a Savior? Though it is hard to write about the Resurrection today, by Sunday morning the crucifixion will be over and the day of mourning past. We will wake to the jubilant cries of Christians worldwide who sing praises to God. "Alleluia, He is risen, He is risen indeed."

Easter is not just a special day filled with baskets and bunnies and pretty new dresses. It is the culmination of the redemptive work of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The crucifixion brings us forgiveness and the resurrection brings us eternal life in Christ. We are now drawn into a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, as He calls our name and reveals Himself to us in a new way, just like He did with Mary.

She was frightened and upset. Jesus was gone, where could they have taken His body? Peter and John went to the tomb and saw for themselves that His body was missing. They went home, but Mary stayed near the tomb. As she wept, she turned to see Jesus, but she thought He was a gardener. When He asked her what was wrong, she answered, "Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away."

"Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turneth herself, and saith unto him in Hebrew, Rabboni; which is to say, Teacher." She went to the disciples to told them the news, "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them all that happened.

We have heard this story at least as many times as years we've been Christian. It is imbedded in our hearts and yet as the song says, "I love to tell the story, for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest. And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, I'll sing the old, old story, that I have loved so long." It is good to hear the story again and again, to rejoice with the disciples as they realized what Jesus was saying all along. All that happened was exactly as God planned, fulfilling the promises for salvation.

That first Easter was the beginning of something new. Now we live as Easter people, looking forward to the day when we are face to face with our Lord, just as Mary was face to face with Him in the garden. In that day, we will feast with Him at the great banquet that He is preparing. At that banquet we will feast on the finest of everything - the best meat and finest wine. Imagine the most spectacular meal you have ever eaten and it will pale in comparison to what will be.

This is not just a future hope, but it is also a present reality. In the Lord's Supper, we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ a foretaste of the feast to come, a physical reminder of the promise. In the passage from Isaiah, we hear the praise of the nations as they rejoice. "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is Jehovah; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." This is not just the voice of the Jewish people, but it is the voice of all who trust in God for salvation.

In a vision from God, Peter learned that the Easter people are not only Jews. He saw God's miraculous hand in the lives of Cornelius and his family. He knew when Cornelius asked to hear the Gospel that God shows no favoritism, and He witnessed to them the entire story. While he was speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon them. God's promise was for all who trust and believe in Jesus. Now, we share in that promise as we rejoice together and look forward to the feast to come. We can go forth in that promise today and by the grace of God we too can share the story of God's love with the world. While the resurrection is a most miraculous event which changed the world, let us never forget how we got there -- through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ where He took upon Himself all our sin, our doubts, our confusion our hypocrisy and our fears. May we live each day in the knowledge that Jesus is preparing something even greater, a feast beyond our imagination and until that day cry out to the world, "I have seen the Lord!" so that they might also trust in Him and believe. Thanks be to God. 

A WORD FOR TODAY
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