Exeter Temple Message notes: Easter Sunday 28th March 2016
Theme: Resurrection Hope!
Bible Readings: Matthew 28:1-10 1 Peter 1:1-9
Peter equates hope with the Resurrection of Jesus.
1. We need hope in the face of the inevitability of death.
Physical death is inevitable for all of us but when it happens it is a shocking, difficult thing because it means separation from those we love and because we cannot comprehend what a life beyond this one will be like, any more than we knew what life in the world we now live in was like before we left our mother’s womb. The unknown scares us. On the one hand the thought that we are born, live and die and that’s it seems so pointless, on the other what if there is a life beyond the grave but it is one that is empty, barren, full of pain and loneliness?
“Life is just a dirty trick, a short journey from nothingness to nothingness. There is no remedy for anything in life. Man’s destiny in the universe is like a colony of ants on a burning log.” Ernest Hemingway
Job asked the question that every human being has to face. “If a person dies, will they live again?” (Job 14:14).
It is a question that touches on what it means to be human, how we relate to other humans and how we relate to God. It determines our views on abortion, assisted suicide and capital punishment. As humans death bothers us so much that we idolize youth, seek to deny aging, don’t talk about it and comfort ourselves with such ideas as reincarnation or spiritualism to make it seem less dreadful.
It could be that the Christians hope of eternal life is an anesthetic used to numb the pain of death but with no real foundation.
However, there is good reason to have hope of eternal life and the reason for our hope is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
2. Our hope in the face of death is Jesus
Rather than point people to God for salvation Jesus called people to himself. In his “I am” sayings in John he claimed to be the source of light, satisfaction, truth, fruitful living, guidance and protection and the one through whom reconnection can be made with God. He also declared that he even had the answer to death itself when he said, “I am right now, Resurrection and Life. The one that believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all.” (John 11:25 The Message)
The only way to validate such a claim would be to die and come back to life again yourself. At Easter we celebrate the belief that he did just that.
Those who deny that this was possible use some of the following argument.
a) Jesus was not dead when placed in the tomb
- Jesus had been flogged, nailed to a cross for six hours. How did he roll away the stone in that condition?
- The soldiers would not nave let him live otherwise they would have been executed themselves.
- When the soldiers found Jesus had died earlier than expected one of the soldiers pierced Jesus side with a spear bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. This appears to be the separation of clot and serum, which is medical evidence that Jesus was dead.
b) The disciples stole the body
- The tomb was guarded by trained soldiers
- It is psychologically improbable. The disciples were depressed and disillusioned at the time of Jesus death.
- It is unlikely that they would have faced the persecution they did for something for something they knew to be a lie.
c) Others stole the body stole the body
- Grave robbers would not want take the body and leave the grave clothes which were the only thing of value in the tomb.
- If the authorities had moved the body they would have quickly produced it to quash the rumour that Jesus was alive.
d) The Appearances of Jesus were hallucinations
- Hallucinations normally occur in highly-strung or in people who are sick or on drugs. The disciples do not fit into any of these categories.
- People who hallucinate would be unlikely to suddenly stop doing so. Jesus appeared to disciples on eleven different occasions over a period of six weeks. The number of occasions and the sudden cessation make the hallucination theory highly improbable.
- Over 550 people saw the risen Jesus. It is possible for one or two people to hallucinate. but it is unlikely that 550 people would all share the same hallucination.
- Jesus could be touched; he ate a piece of cooked fish and on one occasion cooked breakfast for the disciples. He held long conversations with them teaching them many things about the kingdom of God.
It is unlikely that with their leader a failure the disciples would have been filled with such enthusiasm and power, even more so if they had faked the resurrection. The church began with uneducated fishermen and tax collectors and swept across the whole known world in the next three hundred years. Millions of Christians from different ages, races cultures, social and intellectual backgrounds say that they experience presence and power of Jesus as a daily reality.
3. This hope of a secure and better future
The Bible calls Jesus “the firstborn from the dead.” (Colossians 1:18) Because of Jesus’ resurrection we have a certain hope that even if we die, one day we will live again. Jesus was not raised from death just for Himself but to open the door to life for every man who follows Him. It is first Him and then us.
Jesus said; “I solemnly assure you that the one who hears my word and believes on Him who sent me has eternal life, He does not have to face judgement, he has already passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
And this is a life that lasts forever and is secure
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…” 1 Peter 1:3-4 [NIV]
Our inheritance can't be destroyed, it won't decay like a piece of overripe fruit, and it won't fade like an old shirt that's been washed too many times.
4. Our hope gives us new life now
The future is secure so the present has meaning.
“Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.” (Romans 6:4)
Many who have been trapped in sin, who have battled the same sin time and time again, and have been beaten over and over and over again, sometimes reach the point where they believe they can never escape but a risen Jesus gives us the possibility of living in victory over sin in our daily life now.
“Christ in you the hope of glory!”
Alan and Carol