Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | April 4, 2010

2010.04.04 Easter Sunday “24 Hours That Changed the World: Christ the Victor”

Central United Methodist Church

“24 Hours That Changed the World: Christ the Victor”

Pastor David L. Haley

Luke 24: 1 – 12

Easter Sunday

April 4th, 2010

     “At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus.

       They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?”  Then they remembered Jesus’ words.

       They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn’t believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up.

       But Peter jumped to his feet and ran to the tomb.  He stooped to look in and saw a few grave clothes, that’s all. He walked away puzzled, shaking his head.” – Luke 24: 1 – 12, The Message


Once again, I want to welcome you and thank you for worshiping with us today.  We are honored, and pray this will be a significant and memorable Easter for you.

Today, we come to the final sermon in our Lenten/Easter series, “24 Hours That Changed the World,” a journey through the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life.       

We’ve done this series – along with other United Methodist churches – using materials developed by Pastor Adam Hamilton of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City.  My son Chris and his wife Lynne, who were here last Sunday for Palm Sunday, reside in Kansas City and are getting their last sermon in the series at Church of the Resurrection, from Adam Hamilton in person. (You see, when we United Methodists cooperate, we can do amazing things!)

Those of you attending for the first time today should know that as we’ve done this series, some have followed along in a daily devotional book. Others have been reading the book that accompanies the series.  Each week during worship – just as we’ll do in a few minutes, we’ve gone with Pastor Hamilton – through video – to the traditional sites of these events in the Jerusalem. 

The point of the series has been not only to better understand the events that took place in the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life and its meaning for our lives, but most importantly, based upon this new understanding, to grow in our devotion as Jesus modern day followers.

However, regardless of whether you’ve been here every Sunday or here for the first time today, what we all come seeking is a message of hope. 

Let’s face it, it’s still tough out there: the economy is still difficult, jobs are uncertain, circumstances can be trying, and we all still face the common enemies of human happiness: boredom and ennui, evil and injustice, sin and alienation, suffering and death.  All of these together or any one in particular can make us distant: distant from God and distant from each other.

The ONLY thing I know that’s good about this is that it can give us a thirst for change, a hunger for hope. In life, as in the Easter story, it’s true that sometimes we cannot comprehend the joy of Easter until we’ve experienced the hell that goes before.

In fact, as we’ve told this story and found ourselves in it, it has sometimes been ugly, as we saw not only the horrible things people did to Jesus then, but the horrible things that people still do to each other now. We’ve seen desertion and betrayal, fear and apathy, abuse and torture, evil and injustice, suffering and death; all alive and well in every morning’s news. But for the grace of God, go we.

      Finally, Jesus agony ends, or so it appears. Jesus dies, and is buried, and extreme measures – a huge stone and a posted guard – are taken to prevent either grave robbers or his own disciples from stealing his body. 

After his death on Friday comes Saturday – the day after. The “day after” is a day we know. It’s the day after the diagnosis of cancer; the day after a spouse walks out; the day after the lawsuit is filed; the day after the verdict.  It’s the day after someone you love has been buried, and life feels like a nightmare from which you can’t wake up.  It’s the day when the world seems so dark there’s no hope to be found. It’s a time so terrible, so painful, and so difficult that we may even question God’s existence. I’ve experienced days like that and so have you. That’s the way Jesus followers felt the day after he died.

Though in the Gospels details vary, this much is clear: nobody – least of all Jesus’ followers – expected what happened next. 

      When the women returned to the tomb on Sunday morning to find it both open and empty, they were surprised and shocked. When two mysterious strangers suddenly appeared, their message was even more shocking: “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up.” When they raced home to tell the others, “the apostles didn’t believe a word of it, they thought they were making it all up.” Luke (24: 8 – 11)

How grateful we are for the honesty of the Gospels and their mixture of belief/unbelief: even on Easter morning, they meet us where we are.  When it came to the resurrection of the dead, even those were there struggled with doubt. 

To better understand what we’re talking about: what a tomb from the time of Christ would have looked like, what the sites in Jerusalem revered as the tomb of Christ look like, let’s go there with Pastor Adam Hamilton via DVD.  [DVD: 24 Hours That Changed the World: Christ the Victor]

As interesting as this is, even after seeing this, do you realize we are still subject to the question asked on that first Easter morning: “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up.”

Once again, we find ourselves in the story.  As with Jesus’ first followers, slowly it begins to dawn upon us that the most significant fact is not that Jesus tomb was empty, but that he may still be experienced as alive in the world.  Not alive as we are alive, mind you, in a limited and temporal kind of way, but spiritually, universally, and eternally, to those who seek him.

And if he is alive, then all he said and did, how he suffered and died, are of inexhaustible significance. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are a sermon for us, God’s message to us.  His message of repentance and forgiveness of sin are not only for those in Jerusalem, not only for us, but for all, to the ends of the earth.

If Jesus is alive, slowly it begins to dawn upon us that the evil, injustice, suffering and death he faced – the evil, injustice, suffering, and death we still face – are neither ultimate nor victorious, but trumped – ultimately trumped – by goodness and justice and wholeness and life.  As Dr. King used to say, “The moral arc of the universe may be long, but it bends toward justice.”  The book of Psalms puts it this way:  “Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

Slowly it begins to dawn that – after all Jesus suffered – if he is alive, then maybe there is hope for us too, difficult at that may be to understand, comprehend, or even imagine.

There will be days to challenge our faith and shake our souls.  As a pastor, as a fire and police chaplain, I’ve stood with people through some horrible things, things to make me wonder. 

A few years ago, for example, in the middle of the night I stood in the ER with a heartbroken couple, friends and church members, whose newborn infant died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  We baptized the child there in the ER, and a few days later gathered at a nearby lake to scatter the child’s ashes.  I can still see it now: the lake, the sky, the scattered ashes mixed with roses on the ice.  That was a hard day, both personally and as a pastor, to proclaim the hope of the Resurrection:

“I am the Resurrection and the Life,” said Jesus,
whoever believes in me, even though they die, yet shall they live,

and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

At the end of the book accompanying this series, Adam Hamilton says he has ended his Easter sermon the same way for 20 years. He says, “People ask me, ‘Do you really believe this story of the Resurrection?’  And he says, “My answer is always the same, I not only believe it, I’m counting on it.”   

I believe it, and am counting on it, too.  Not the way I did when I was 20, not even the way I did when I was 40. And if, in fact, it should turn out to be different than I believe or imagine, I still choose to follow Jesus, believing that, in fact, Jesus’ story has less to do with the AFTERLIFE, and more with how we – and consequently the world – are changed IN THIS LIFE. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus: 24 Hours That Changed The World.

In conclusion, I speak on behalf of Adam Hamilton and myself when I say that it’s been a joy to share this study with you. My hope and prayer is that through this series, you have learned something, and even more importantly, what you’ve learned has deepened and enriched your faith and given you a greater desire to follow Jesus.

To that end, let’s pray:

Thank you Jesus, for walking among us,

to show us the way, the truth and the life.

                           Thank you for your faithfulness to God.


Thank you for your suffering and death

by which we are reconciled to God.


Thank you for the victory and hope

that come from your resurrection.


Jesus, we trust you as our Savior,

and follow you as our Lord.


In your name, we pray. Amen.


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