If I would have preached on Easter . . .

Religion 211-212 The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His ApostleIf I would have preached on Easter I would have offered this simple message based on Mary Magdalene’s desire to be near her friend and Lord.

Art Linkletter built a humorous legacy from his interviews with children.  One such conversation with a five-year-old girl produced the following thoughts on Easter. She was asked, “Do you know what Easter is?” She replied, “Oh yes. Easter is when Jesus died and they put him in a tomb with a big rock and then three days later they rolled back the rock and Jesus walked out and he didn’t see his shadow.”

Well, she had it partly right. Jesus did walk out of the tomb. He casts a shadow of hope that you can still see today.

Picture yourself for a moment in a historical story. . . For about three years you have followed a man by the name of Jesus Christ. You have watched Him do incredible miracles and you have also witnessed the incredible change He made in your own life.

For the last few days you have watched Him be tortured publicly, lied about, sentenced to die and then you watched Him die. Inhumanely He dies hanging on a cross between two common criminals. It is more than you can take. Your heart is breaking. You feel like dying yourself. You really don’t want to go on living.

Her name was Mary and she discovered early in the darkness of the morning following Jesus burial that He was not in the tomb. It was an incredible moment and she shared it with two of the disciples who were also on their way to the grave site. The others observed the empty tomb and the Bible says they simply went “to their own homes.” But Mary stayed.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels sitting at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned toward him and exclaimed, “Teacher!” “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.” John 20:11

Circumstances, situations and things happen that cause us to reel in pain. Life can be harsh, cruel, painful and devastating. You may feel as though life itself has been sucked or drained out of you. If you feel nothing, if you feel dead or you feel like life is not worth living, then I have some really good news. You can be alive again!

The caterpillar crawls into the cocoon and there are no signs of life, no production, no creeping and crawling or whatever else caterpillars do. There is just nothing that you can see. But then there is an emerging. A coming from a death like state to life. The cocoon breaks open, the caterpillar emerges and you have a new creature. Wings, life, freedom.

For a few minutes I want to ask you to think of your life. Think of what you carry around with you on a daily basis. The things that drag you down and hold you back. Now I want to show you what happened in Mary’s life that brought her to a place of being alive again.

1. We all will endure seasons of weeping.

Everyone will weep at some time in their life. Recently I have watched people weep for things that range from the serious to the silly when you compare them. Watching the anguish of a Father in Florida shedding tears over the horrific death of his daughter seems legitimate in comparison with college basketball players weeping over the loss of a game during the so called March Madness.

Life is full of disappointments. They can come in all kinds of ways: job, relationships, marriage, children, parents, money, poverty, riches, or a host of other things can bring on times of weeping.

Whether you know it or not everyone weeps at some time in their life. The question is how are you holding up? How are you enduring the long night of your soul?

You may say, “I don’t feel any better knowing that everyone else has wept. I am concerned about me and what is going on right now.”

I understand that. Mary was so focused on her own loss that while others left to go home she stayed in the cemetery by herself.

“Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels sitting at the head and foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

You may feel that you have lost something precious to you and you are lost with out it. In fact you are dead without it or that person or circumstance. There is a verse of scripture buried deep within the Psalms I want to pry open the first glimpse of life for some of you today.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

There is something else that happened to Mary. “She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned toward him and exclaimed, “Teacher!”

2. We must embrace our soul-need to worship.

Every human being on the face of the earth has a built in internal drive to worship. People worship the craziest things. sports figures, rock bands and the people in them, Weird religious gurus, money, things or possessions, relationships, power, control, titles, sex and pornography, drugs, parents, children, cars and a whole lot of other crazy things.

According to the dictionary worship means: n 1: the activity of worshiping 2: a feeling of profound love and admiration [syn: adoration] v 1: love unquestioningly and uncritically or to excess; venerate as an idol; “Many teenagers idolized the Beatles” [syn: idolize,  hero-worship, revere]  The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.

What are you worshiping today? What have you invested your devotion and profound love in?

To experience our own personal resurrection we must embrace our soul-need to worship and the only thing we believe that merits or is ultimately satisfying is to worship Jesus Christ. That is what Mary did. The object of her affection was none other than Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.

For some of you that may be tough to believe. How could what happened so long ago have any effect on me? All I know to tell you today is that the testimonies of millions of people ring true. The true testimony of a real genuine Christ follower is simply, “I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.” Find a genuine Christ follower and you will hear the story of a worshiper. One who worships the Christ who is worthy to be worshiped. Ask yourself this question, “Is what I have given my life to going to mean anything to me when I come to the end of my life?”

The only thing I know that will mean anything to anyone when the face eternity will be Jesus Christ. In Mark 8:38 Jesus challenged his followers with these words, “Then he called his disciples and the crowds to come over and listen. “If any of you wants to be my follower,” he told them, “you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul? If a person is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, I, the Son of Man, will be ashamed of that person when I return in the glory of my Father with the holy angels.”

Nancy Cheatham writes: “My sister bought a new car that was loaded with high-tech options. The first time she drove the car in the rain, she turned a knob she thought would start the windshield wipers. Instead a message flashed across the dash: “Drive car in 360 degrees.” She had no idea what that meant, and so when she got home she read the car manual.

She learned that while trying to turn on the windshield wipers she had inadvertently turned off the internal compass, and the car had lost its sense of direction. To correct the problem, the car had to be driven in a full circle, pointed north, and then the compass had to be reset.Each time we gather to worship, we are resetting our internal compass. We establish “true north” in our soul, remembering who God is and what his truth proclaims.

3. We emerge to share a witness!

Just like a butterfly that emerges from a cocoon to fly into open and free air we to emerge from an encounter with Jesus Christ to tell a story of freedom and life!

Mary was so overwhelmed she couldn’t keep it to herself. We read these words, “Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.”

This message is not just for people who don’t know anything about Christ or Easter. Let me address the rest of us for a moment. How excited are you about what Christ has done in your life? How connected are you to Him? You see what can happen too often is while we serve Him and live for Him and show up at church every Sunday there is more to Jesus Christ than that. He longs for us to have a relationship with Him. He wants us to pray, to sing to Him, to worship Him with our lives and actions every day of the week.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—light! sunbursts of light!” Isaiah 9:2

“But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

When you see the light and walk in the light you will have your own resurrection. You will be alive again. The question is what are you doing with this incredible gift that comes to us in the form of Jesus Christ?

A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was the custom in that affluent neighborhood for the parents to give the graduate an automobile. “Bill’ and his father had spent months looking at cars, and the week before graduation, they found the perfect car.

On the eve of his graduation, his father handed him a gift wrapped Bible. Bill was so angry that he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house.

He and his father never saw each other again. It was the news of his father’s death that brought Bill home again. As he sat one night going through his father’s possessions that he was to inherit, he came across the Bible his father had given him.

He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cashier’s check, dated the day of his graduation – in the exact amount of the car they had chosen together.

As I thought about this story, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people in this world have done the same thing to God. Literally tossed aside a wonderful promise, because they didn’t understand it, or they didn’t believe that it was possible.

The truth of the matter is, the world is full of empty promises. We watch TV, and the advertisements tell us that we can be happy, sexy, rich, or famous, if we only purchase a certain product. It doesn’t take long before we have been fooled enough to know that the world’s promises are full of emptiness. But, God is different. Instead of promises full of emptiness, on Easter, he gave us emptiness that is full of promise.

I would love to remember the promises of Easter. There are three of them. Each promise is marked by something empty. An empty cross, and empty tomb and empty burial clothes. It is the very fact that each of these is empty that assures us that God’s promises are real. Because they couldn’t hold Jesus, because he couldn’t be contained by the cross, the tomb, or even his burial clothes, we can be sure of the fullness of God’s promises in our lives.

I believe that it is John Maxwell who tells a story about a blazer that he bought from Nordstrom. “About a year and a half ago, I bought a new navy blazer at Nordstrom. It was one of those cases you may have gone through where you buy an item of clothing and the more you wear it, the more you realize you don’t like it. My blazer wasn’t the right color, and to make matters worse, it attracted lint like it was going out of style. After wearing it pretty regularly for six months or so, I stuck it in my closet and didn’t wear it for a long time. Tucked away in the back of my mind all the while was that famous Nordstrom unconditional-return policy. I thought, I’ve had this thing for a year and a half. I’ve worn it lots of times, and there’s just no way they’re going to take it back. About two weeks ago I decided I had nothing to lose. I pulled the blazer out, threw a lot of lint on it to make it look bad, and took it down to Nordstrom’s men’s department. I walked in, and immediately I felt nervous. I felt like I was about to pull a scam of some sort, but I played it straight. I walked right up to the first salesman I saw and gave this little prepared speech. I said, “I am about to put your famous unconditional-return policy to its ultimate test. I have here a blazer. I’ve worn it lots. I’ve had it for a year and a half. I don’t like it. It’s the wrong color, and it attracts lint like it’s going out of style. But I want to return this blazer for another blazer that I like.” Then I stood there.

I couldn’t believe it. This guy with a big handlebar mustache just looked at me and shook his head. He said, “For heaven’s sake, what took you so long? Let’s go find you a blazer.” Ten minutes later I walked out with another blazer that was marked seventy-five dollars more than I paid for the one that I brought in. It was perfect for me. Didn’t cost me a penny. In a small way, the Nordstrom Department Store is a lot like God. They are willing to back up their promises.”

God backs up His promises. Today He is sitting at the right hand of the Father praying for us. Interceding for us. He knows about you. He cares about you. He longs to be in a relationship with you. He is preparing a place for us so that we will never be separated again from those we love.

Tell His story because His story is your story. And He is alive and walking with you today. I am so thankful for the hope of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. Because He lives I can face tomorrow. I can face today. I can face the past. I rest on His unchanging grace. I am unworthy but filled with the passion love that Mary felt on that day. He is my Lord. He is alive.


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