Was It a Morning Like This?

Scriptures: Matthew 28:1-10; Colossians 3:1-4

How many of you were awake at dawn this morning, at sunrise? The day has brightened considerably. It was kind of cloudy and damp. The ground was damp, and the air was damp. I was half expecting fog. And I wondered, as we drove in, for the sunrise service, was it a morning like this?

For many, it was just another day. Maybe the sun was shining, and the birds were singing, Just an ordinary day. Was it a morning like this? When the men went off to work; fields, fishing, hunting. Carpenters had things to build, and day laborers worked at whatever they could find. Others were off to the stone quarries. Perhaps some warriors, lawyers, or politicians, were off to the courthouse. Maybe others even went to the synagogue.

Was it a morning like this? Women were washing, cleaning, taking care of kids, milking the goats, baking bread, and preparing the noon meal. Just an ordinary day.

Or was it a morning like this? Because for some, it was not just another day. For the apostles it was a horrible day. Jesus was dead. He was buried. They didn’t know what to do. Their hopes and dreams of a new Kingdom were gone.

How could they have been so wrong, they asked themselves. How could Jesus have been three and a half years of talk and miracles, and then a weekend of disaster? Their world was coming to an end. Many went back to their previous jobs, like the fishing nets. They had all been so afraid, they finally all ran away.

Some had a meeting planned for that Sunday evening, to meet, and no doubt some decisions would be made. But even there, Thomas, one of the apostles, was apparently so disillusioned, so full of grief, that he said he wasn’t going to show up.

For Mary, the mother of Jesus, it was no doubt a terribly sad day. Just a few days before, on Friday, she watched as her son was executed, as a common criminal, on a cross. Saturday was the Sabbath, so she couldn’t even go to the tomb. Perhaps she spent the day weeping, feeling alone, trying to understand what had happened.

Was it a morning like this? Sunday, and Sabbath was over. She could go to the tomb, but for whatever reason, she chose not to. Was it grief? Despair? Mother’s intuition? Did God speak to her and say, “don’t Go”?

But on that morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had a job to do. They were going to the tomb to permanently embalm the body of Jesus. So at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb – and the world began to shake again.

Not just another earthquake. Think about it. They just had a huge earthquake when Jesus died. It says that the temple veil split in two. So I’m sure they wondered, “What’s happening?”

The Scripture says “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.”

At that moment, the ordinary day became extraordinary.

“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.’”

And I am sure that the first reaction of the women, in their minds, was “What?! What did you just say? He is risen?” And perhaps they were even bold enough to think “Show me!” (People from Missouri.)

“The angel said, “Come and see the place where he lay.” So they did, and they looked and saw an empty grave. “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.”

And I’m sure as they ran to tell his disciples, they had questions in their head. I’m just guessing, but given the second-class status of women during Jesus’ day, they were wondering, “Who will believe us? How can we convince them that this really happened?”

It was as if Jesus was listening to their very thoughts. Because as they moved forward, it says, “Suddenly Jesus met them, and said, ‘Greetings.’ And they came to him, and they took hold of his feet, and they worshiped him. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go, and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’”

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. What started for some as an ordinary or even depressing day, became extraordinary.

What had started for the Apostles as a day of failure and despair, what started for Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene and the other Mary turned into a day of celebration, wonder, and awe. Maybe there was even a little shouting and dancing! (I’m trying to imagine that here.) It wasn’t long before that entire region of the country was aware that something unbelievable had happened.

Looking back at the crucifixion in Matthew 27, we see the tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. It notes at that time that after the resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many. So they were in their tombs for a couple of days, waiting.

So on this early Sunday morning, some people were getting the shock of their lives. Mothers had returned to them their beloved sons. Fathers had returned to them their beloved daughters. Friends were reunited with their old synagogue mates. And it wasn’t the Walking Dead. They were alive.

What had happened? In the words of the angel, HE IS RISEN! Jesus had raised from the dead.

1 Corinthians 15 says “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, the brother, and to all the apostles.”

So even those who had not believed, but had loved him, got to see him. And what was the message that was constantly, continuously, being given during that time? There’s a song that we’re going to be singing later, and it kind of says it:

Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Christ is alive. There is an illustration that I found, amongst several sermons. It was apparently so popular that Claude even used it on Friday (at the Good Friday service).

A Muslim in Africa became a Christian and some of his friends asked him, “Why have you done such a thing?” He answered, “Well, it’s like this: Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions. You didn’t know which way to go, and there at the fork were two men—one dead, and one alive— which one would you ask to show you the way?”

For us, Jesus is alive. The difference between Mohammed and Jesus is, Jesus is alive! The difference between Buddha and Jesus is, Jesus is alive! The difference between Śiva, Viṣṇu, or the Goddess Devī of the Hindu faith, they’re not there, but Jesus is alive! The difference even with the messiah yet to come of Judaism and Christians is, the Messiah has come, and he is alive.

Of the five major religions of the world, this is the major difference: our Savior, our Messiah, our Jesus the Christ is alive and well and ruling today from heaven. Because He was resurrected, we can participate in and benefit from that resurrection.

Romans 6 says:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Because he was resurrected, we too will be resurrected. In Colossians, it tells you to “set your minds on things that are above, not on the things of the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden within Christ our God.”

We are to be different in the way we live. We live lives of victory. We live lives of joy, even in this world. And it’s one of those situations where it doesn’t mean we don’t experience grief and we don’t experience trial, anger, depression, discouragement. But we have a hope that can never be taken away from us. A promise of a future, so that we never need despair.

The song “He Lives,” that we sang at the sunrise service, reminds us:

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.
He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today.
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives! He lives, salvation to impart.
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

The second verse says:

In all the world around me, I see His loving care,
And though my heart grows weary, I never will despair.
I know that He is leading, through all the stormy blast.
The day of His appearing will come at last.

Why? Because He lives. He lives today. He walks with us and He talks with us through all life’s narrow way. “He lives! He lives, salvation to impart,” and victory to give us in our lives.

It’s amazing to me how many people don’t seem to experience that joy and that victory. They’re much more like the man in this illustration.

A man was in front of a preacher coming out of the church one day. The preacher grabbed him by the hand, pulled him aside and said to him, “You need to join the Army of the Lord!” The man replied, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Preacher.” The preacher questioned, “How come I don’t see you except on special occasions like Christmas and Easter?” He whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.”

When you understand Jesus lives, when you understand Jesus was resurrected, when you understand Jesus is sitting on the right hand of God, when you understand Jesus is waiting to come back for you and me, you cannot possible stay in the secret service.

You need to say something. Like the earth itself in the song Zach sang earlier (“Was It a Morning Like This?”), we need to praise the Lord, crying out “He is Risen!” We need to show the joy and excitement we should feel over this good news. We need to share with urgency and passion the Gospel and the salvation that it brings.

We need to take our joy from that, and do what the Westminster Shorter Catechism says. One of my favorite things, most of you probably know it by now. The first question is “What is the chief end of mankind?” And the answer is? [Congregation responds, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”] To glorify God and enjoy Him. To enjoy Him forever.

May you know the joy of the resurrected Christ this Easter, and every day following, as we celebrate with our hearts and our minds and our spirits, that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Amen.

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