Sunrise on the Square

Posted: April 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Resurrection Sunday – Sunrise on the Square

Today is the pinnacle of the Christian calendar – the very foundation of our faith as we remember the moment that Jesus was discovered to have been risen from the grave.  This is a very exciting day, but exciting for many different reasons that what many people believe.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with many family traditions, but we need to be very clear as to the reason we celebrate & rejoice today.  It’s not about bunnies, eggs, chocolate, ham dinners, pretty dresses, or anything like that…it’s about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  HE is the reason we come together to celebrate. HE is the reason we rejoice.  On Good Friday, we remember that our Savior died; on Resurrection Sunday we remember that our Savior lives, and that He continues to live to this day.

If you were with us this past Friday, we read through the account of Jesus’ crucifixion from the Gospel of Luke.  We read about the suffering and the death of our King.  This Sunday, as the sun rises upon the horizon, we again turn to the Gospel of Luke to read about the resurrection of our King.  May we put ourselves into the shoes of the disciples, as they discovered very early Sunday morning the plan that God had put in place before the foundation of the world: that not only would the Son of God die for the sin of the world, but that He would rise from the grave defeating death itself.

Luke 24:1–12 (NKJV)
1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

  • The resurrection was unusual.
  • The women had gone to the grave just as they would have gone to any other grave.  Normally, they would have put prepared spices on a dead body on the day of death (it helped with the decomposition), but due to the fact that Jesus had died at 3pm, and His body had to be acquired from Pilate & laid in the tomb, it was just prior to sundown by the time things were finished – which was on the edge of the Sabbath.  Thus the women couldn’t do anything on Friday evening, Saturday morning, or Saturday evening (being the Passover).  The earliest opportunity they had was Sunday morning, so that is when they came to the tomb.  The act itself was not unusual in the slightest; the timing was.
  • Despite the timing, they had gone to Jesus’ tomb as planned, and found something highly unusual once they arrived: the stone had been rolled away.  Keep in mind this wasn’t merely a door that had been opened – this was a big deal!
    • The typical tombstone was huge.  Think of a large millstone used to grind grain into flour.  That was the sort of stone used to seal up a tomb.  Some scholars estimate that the stone would have weighed between 1.5-2 tons, which would have required several people to move back and forth.  At the very least, the stone would have been many hundreds of pounds – as Mark’s gospel tells us, it was “very large” & the women going to the tomb were wondering who could move the stone for them to get inside.
    • The tomb had been sealed.  Matthew tells us that of all of the things that the Pharisees wrongly accused Jesus, the one thing they did listen to Him correctly about were the prophesies concerning His resurrection on the third day after His death.  Thus the chief priests & Pharisees went to Pilate & specifically requested that the Romans ensure Jesus’ tomb would be secure, in order to ward off any potential attempt from the disciples to steal the body.  One of the methods that Pilate had granted them was a seal.  This isn’t a reference to mortar & cement, but rather a bond with the seal of the Empire of Rome affixed to it.  To break the seal was to incur the wrath of the Roman army & come against the premier world superpower at the time.  There would have been no way of removing the stone without breaking the seal.  No one would be foolish enough to risk coming against Rome – Rome was far too powerful for any mortal man.  (Yet Rome was no match & certainly no threat to Almighty God!)
    • The tomb had been guarded.  Along with the seal came a contingent of Roman soldiers as guards.  Not one soldier or two soldiers – a minimum of 4 & upwards to 16 was the typical number.  It was doubtful that the disciples untrained in ways of war & combat would have attempted to take on any small number of Roman soldiers – it would have been ridiculous for them to attempt to overwhelm (or sneak by) a number equal to their own.  Yet where were the guards?  Matthew tells us that when they witnessed the events of the day, they became as dead men – but none of the gospels even record their presence.  They seem to have been so scared that they ran off – a punishment worthy of death.  Yet it seems they feared something more powerful than the wrath of the Caesar!
    • And yet the stone was rolled away.  That would have gotten the women’s attention as soon as it came into sight!
  • If the removed stone wasn’t striking enough, there was one more event that truly amazed the women: Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found.  Keep in mind Jesus HAD been dead.  There was no doubt that He had died upon the cross – His death was even certified by the Roman Centurion (a man who had much experience in watching men die).  His side had been pierced & His body poured out “blood & water” which we know medically today to be a sign of heart rupture.  A dead body had come down from that cross.  A dead body had been laid into the tomb.  The women were direct eyewitnesses to all of these events (Luke 23:55).  Yet the body of Jesus was not there.  Something was certainly unusual – outside any expectations they may have had for that day.

4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen!

  • The resurrection was supernatural
  • Angels gave the news.  Granted, Luke does not specifically use the word “angels” – all he describes are two men in shining clothes with the knowledge of Jesus.  Yet the other gospel accounts make it clear that these were not ordinary men, but angels (messengers) of God.  No wings or halos; just the appearance of men – yet it was obvious that they had been supernaturally sent by God (clothed in His glory).  Something special had taken place: a supernatural event in need of a supernatural messenger to tell the tale.
  • The news was amazing: Jesus is risen from the dead!  (We just have to love the way the angel put the question.  As if there was no other expectation for the disciples other than knowing that Jesus was alive again!  Of course He is alive, what else would He be?! J)  There can hardly be any more supernatural act than resurrection.  After all, the one absolutely assured event to occur to every single living being is that we will die.  The Bible makes it clear: it’s appointed to every man to die once, and then face the judgment of God. (Heb 9:27)  Even though every single human being is destined to die, it’s still the one event that people fear the most.  Why?  Because there’s no coming back from the dead.  Death is the ultimate finality.  People have been known to recover from the most severe of disease & horrible disasters, but no one comes back from the dead.  No one, that is, except Jesus.
  • Let’s be clear about what took place.  Jesus did not cheat death; He defeated it.  Jesus did not simply swoon at the cross on Friday, and miraculously recover on Sunday; He literally and physically came back from the dead.  By any definition, that is a supernatural miracle, unprecedented in the history of man, and unsurpassed by anyone following.  Jesus rose from the grave – and He is alive today.  Our Lord is a living Lord.  We do not worship an idea – we do not worship history – we do not bow before a myth or nice story – we worship the Living God, incarnate in the Living Lord Jesus.
    • This is the foundation of our forgiveness!
    • This is the foundation for our present abundant life!
    • This is the foundation for our eternal hope!
    • Our Lord Jesus is alive.  Rejoice & celebrate that fact today!

…Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ” 8 And they remembered His words.

  • The resurrection was foretold
  • Although the events of the morning were unusual and unexpected, they certainly should have been expected.  Even the chief priests and Pharisees seemingly paid more attention to the prophecies concerning Jesus’ resurrection than His own disciples did.  Jesus had repeatedly told the disciples that He would be killed & resurrected on the third day – after which one time He was even rebuked by Peter & Jesus had to respond to him, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matt 16:23)  The gospel of Luke alone records at least 4 different occasions in which Jesus had told them about His resurrection on the third day.  If anyone should have expected Jesus to rise again, it ought to have been the disciples.
  • We can believe God at His word.  When He says something, we can know without a shadow of a doubt that it’s true!  Granted, it may not come according to our expectations, but it will certainly come exactly as God has foretold.  This ought to hit home in a few areas.
    • God has told us that those who continue in sin & rebellion against Him will suffer eternal punishment.
    • Jesus tells us that God loved us so much that He sent His Son so that we would NOT perish, but have everlasting life.
    • God tells us that those who confess Jesus is the Lord & believe that He is risen from the dead will most certainly be saved.
    • Jesus tells us clearly that He is coming again to receive us to Himself.  Has it been 2000 years?  Yes.  Is that an obstacle to God fulfilling His word?  No.  We can believe God at His word!

9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.

  • The resurrection was doubted
  • Why didn’t they believe?  They didn’t believe the prophecies regarding Jesus’ resurrection, and they didn’t believe the eyewitness account once it was told to them.  Why were they so hard-hearted to the good news?  Because it was truly GOOD news…seemingly too good to be true.  So accustomed they were to the reality of their sin and the finality of death, that the idea of true and eternal forgiveness from God & life beyond the grave seemed like a distant hope – even comforting children’s stories, but not reality.  They had lived day-in & day-out with Jesus, and they continually heard the word of God, seen the miracles of God, and experienced the compassion of God, yet the promise of God still seemed like a fairy-tale to them.  Reality was still cold, dark, and death.
  • To too many people, that’s the same way it is today.  They’ve heard that Jesus is risen from the dead – they’ve gone to church celebrations & even sung songs commemorating Jesus’ resurrection, but it’s still just a story-book tale to them.  They can quote the gospel to someone without missing a beat, reciting the facts that Jesus is God incarnate who died for the sin of the world upon the cross, rose from the grave three days later, and offers life & forgiveness to everyone who believes & receives Him as Lord…yet they themselves don’t really believe it.  Deep down, it’s just a nice story.  Beloved, you need to know this: it’s not merely a nice story, it’s true history.  Jesus truly IS alive today.  Whether or not you believe this truth is your decision, but you need to know it is indeed the truth.  Jesus rose from the dead, and He lives today.  He can hear your prayer because He is alive.  He can forgive your sin because He is alive.  He can grant you grace & eternal life because He is alive.  A dead Savior is no savior at all because His sacrifice would have been in vain.  Only a living Savior can offer you this hope & grace…Jesus is alive!  BELIEVE today.

12 But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.

  • The resurrection was marvelous
  • Other gospel accounts go into greater detail, but Peter’s story here truly sums it up.  The disciples had to see with their own eyes, and Peter did…and marveled.  He wondered at these things – was amazed at the events that he witnessed – thought long and deep about the reality of what had happened.  Peter had witnessed many miracles in his time with Jesus, but nothing compared with this.  Certainly people had been raised from the dead before (Peter witnessed Jesus raising some of them), but everyone else who had been raised from the dead had been raised by someone else.  In the case of Jesus’ death & resurrection, there was no one else.  There was only Jesus.  If He had truly been raised from the dead, then He had been raised by His own power – the power of God.  Although Peter had previously confessed on many occasions that Jesus was the Son of God, it seems at this moment for the first time he truly understood what that meant.
  • The resurrection is truly marvelous – and it deserves your thought and consideration.  People use Jesus’ name as an exclamation or a curse word.  People use the holidays of the Church to engage in all sorts of ritual without thought or meaning.  Today, give the resurrection of Jesus Christ the thought that it deserves…especially if you’ve never truly believed that it is really true.  If Jesus really is risen from the dead – what does that mean?  It means that Jesus really is God.  It means that Jesus really does forgive sin.  It means that Jesus really does offer life & grace.  It means that to refuse the grace of Jesus is the most horrendous thought in the universe.  It means that every single thing the Bible says about Jesus is true.  Think upon this today, for Jesus is alive.  It’s a fact worth marveling over.

Conclusion:
The resurrection changes everything!  For the disciples, it took them from mourning to joy.  It took them from crushed hopes to assured faith.  It was the final step necessary to prove without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus truly is God in the flesh.  It was many things (unusual, supernatural, foretold), and received in many ways (doubted, marveled), but through history we know that the resurrection of Jesus Christ changed literally everything about the church – which ended up affecting the entire world – and still affects us today.  What is your reaction to the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

If previously you have already believed, let this be a day of renewed marvel, hope, and joy!  Let this be a day of celebration & worship.  Your King is alive!  Your King is victorious over the most final of all enemies (death), and He offers you exactly the same thing.  Rejoice passionately in your King today, celebrating His life.

If previously you have not believed – if these things have all been idle story tales to you, then I implore you to consider the reality of the resurrection.  See Jesus for who He truly is: God in the flesh.  He died because your sins incurred the wrath of Almighty God, so Jesus stepped into your place & took your punishment on your behalf.  He rose from the dead (proving His sacrifice was sufficient) & He offers you grace & life today.  All that you need to do is simply respond.  Turn away from your sin (repent) and believe upon the Lord Jesus today.  Trust Him for who He is & entrust everything in your life to Him.  He promises to save everyone who comes to Him in faith.  Our prayer is that you would come today.

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