He is risen! He is risen indeed.
Today is the most important day in the Christian calendar. It is a day of hope. It is a day of victory. Hallelujah!
This is not a new story that we have never heard before. It is an old story that we pause today to look at. We take time today to remind ourselves of its meaning.
Two days ago Jesus was beaten, whipped, mocked and murdered. His dead body was placed in a tomb. The tomb was sealed with a massive stone. It was guarded by soldiers.
Yesterday was the Sabbath, so no one could visit the tomb.
This morning before dawn, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. The other Gospels say she was accompanied by Joanna, Salome, Mary the mother of James and several other women.
The important point is not exactly who saw Jesus first, but that the people who loved him most deeply witnessed an amazing miracle. There was no dead body and no stone in front of the tomb.
This was not because the corpse had been stolen. Jesus was not in the tomb. He was standing there in the garden, and he spoke to Mary Magdalene.
Verse 16: “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!”
Jesus was alive and he gave her a message for his disciples, which she took to them.
That Sunday evening, Jesus met with his disciples. We read in John 20 Verse 21 that he said: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Everyone who knew Jesus, all of his followers, had seen him die.
Everyone thought it was over. Maybe they had made a mistake. Time to move on.
The ladies wanted to pay their last respects, and ensure his battered and bloody corpse was properly cared for in the tomb. They were going to embalm it.
Friday was the worst day ever. Saturday was dark and dismal and depressing. The ministry of Jesus, God’s great rescue plan for mankind, had seemingly ended in failure. The Messiah had been killed by Satan.
The situation was just so bad. There seemed no light in the world any more, until sunrise on Sunday.
To human eyes and human minds, looking on heavenly things from an earthly perspective, evil had triumphed over good. But God is not like that. God takes the bad things and makes them new, brings good out of them.
For example, the story of Joseph. The writer of Genesis tells us of how God made a promise to Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob that their descendants would fill the earth. Joseph was the favoured son of the great patriarch Jacob. He was raised in a pampered lifestyle to be part of the fulfilment of this promise. God had shown him a great future in his dreams. Yet he was sold as a slave by his jealous brothers.
They lied to his father about his coat so the old man would believe that his boy was killed by a wild animal. Then Joseph seems to prosper in Potiphar’s house, until Potiphar’s wife lies about him and accuses him of attempted rape. So he is put in prison. And there things seem to go well after a while because the jailer trusts him. But then his hopes that Pharaoh’s butler will get him out are dashed as the butler forgets about Joseph for two more years. Finally, after about 17 years of nothing apparently working together for any lasting good for Joseph or his poor old father, Pharaoh makes him a kind of vice president in charge of all the food in the land as a seven-year famine comes.
Joseph says (Genesis 45:7) the reason all of these bad things happened was, “God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors”
He says (Genesis 50:20) to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position.”
Satan intended it for bad, but God intended it for good.
It must be very frustrating for Satan, he does all his best with his wicked plans and at the very last moment God turns it all to good.
God did it again with Job, with Esther, with Jonah, with Paul. He can do it with you.
Esther was a faithful Jewish girl forced to be the concubine of a pagan king, and yet she was in the right place at the right time to save her people.
Jonah was swallowed whole by a huge fish. Now that is a terrible thing. But did God have good purpose in that terrible thing? Yes, he did. The horrible experience of being swallowed by a fish was in fact God’s appointed means of salvation for the unbelieving people of Nineveh.
Paul was locked in prison for being a Christian, but he said (Philippians 1:12-14), “I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.”
Every time Satan seeks to destroy God’s work, God turns it around and gains a great victory.
Romans 8:28 says, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
That is everything. All things. Good things and bad things. Plenty of bad things will happen to us in this world of sin. But for those who love God and follow him, God will cause these things to work for good.
Notice that each time God brings good out of evil, there is a person of faith standing firm at the center of the trouble.
Today we remember the ultimate bringing of good out of evil as we celebrate the victory of Jesus over death. Because Jesus has defeated death, all of his followers have also defeated death. When we die, we will not lie with our bodies in a grave but we will be raised like Christ to new life. Jesus walked in faith and love, and God won.
Every time we walk in faith and love, the bad things that Satan is doing in our lives will lead to God’s victory. Jesus is alive, he is not dead. The tomb is empty.
This Easter we have the assurance that God’s side has won. Satan’s team has lost.
Do not respond to this message and the truth of Jesus victory with passivity toward Satan and resignation toward evil and a casual attitude toward consumerism. Take Romans 8:28 as your battle cry. All things work together for good, so we cannot be ultimately defeated in the cause of Christ. This is a call to take risks, to spread a passion for God’s supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples. This is a call to go to a hard place or do a hard thing in the cause of love. This is call to spend yourself for Christ and his kingdom. This is a call to do something radical and crazy in the eyes of the world. Find out the needs of the world. Then let your heart dream how you might invest your life to move toward need, and not comfort.
Easter is our trumpet call. Follow Jesus in risking love no matter what it costs. Because whatever it costs will work for your good.