Jesus Rose from the dead
Sermon for Easter Sunday, 23 March 2008

by Bruce Fraser
Scripture Reading: St. Mark 16:1-8

What difference does it make that Jesus rose from the dead?

Here are some questions about strange things.
• Why don’t sheep shrink in the rain?
• Why is the word “abbreviation” so long?
• If a hammer hammers, and a drill drills, what do scissors do?
• Why do doctors only “practice” medicine?
• During this weekend, over a billion people around the world will celebrate Easter. How is it that something that happened two thousand years ago still causes traffic jams today?

Those may be interesting questions, but most of them are trivial. They don’t matter. But that one about Easter is both interesting and important. What is the big deal about someone rising from the dead?

The most obvious thing is that it has never happened to anyone else besides Jesus. Sure, lots of people have had near-death experiences. Probably all of us here know someone or have heard of someone who been through that. I’m talking about someone being truly and completely dead, who then becomes alive again.

Some people say that Jesus didn’t really die, either. This is called the “swoon theory.” Weakened by going without food for twenty-four hours, by being flogged, and then crucified, He merely fainted. After He was in the tomb, He revived and escaped from the tomb. Of course, that would mean pushing aside the boulder which blocked the entrance, and doing so without the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb noticing. It would mean appearing to His followers in such a state of health and vigour that they believed He had conquered death. I would suggest that people who believe the swoon theory have never read what is involved in flogging and crucifying someone. Some day I may describe it to you, but I will spare you the gruesome details today. Let’s just say that it is not something where you get up and walk away.

Jesus really did die. Then He came back from the dead. But that still doesn’t answer the question: OK, that’s pretty impressive, but so what? What does that have to do with my life here in 2008?

1) The resurrection matters because my past can be forgiven

If we could take a projector, and show on the screen in this church all the mistakes that you have made, all the sinful acts and secrets, you would be ashamed. We all have regrets—regrets that have taken a terrible toll on our relationships. We wish we could start over. We feel guilty. We feel bad about things.

A fellow pastor received this letter:
“I’m 31 years old and divorced, though I fought the divorce bitterly. I feel bad. I have no hope for my future. Often I go home and cry, but there’s no one holding me when I cry. Nobody cares. Nothing changes, and I continue to fail. I’m stressed our emotionally, and I feel I’m on the verge of a collapse. Something is very wrong. But I feel so hurt and embittered that I can scarcely react or relate to others anymore. I feel as if I’m going to have to sit out the rest of my life in the penalty box.”

The tragedy is, I know a lot of people like that. They can’t get on with the present and the future because they’re stuck in the past. Some guilt or regret has tied them down. Sometimes they’re letting a former relationship mess up their current relationship. They say, “I guess I’ll just have to live with this the rest of my life.”

Here’s the good news.
Colossians 2:13-14, New Living Translation: You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.

There is nothing that you have done that cannot be covered by what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross. And when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He gave you new life.

Romans 4:25, New Living Translation: He was handed over to die because of our sins, and He was raised from the dead to make us right with God.
Do you remember playing with an Etch-a-Sketch? If you messed up the picture you were drawing, you just turned it over, and shook it, and there would be a clean screen. You could start all over.

God is giving you a spiritual Etch-a-Sketch. He promises that you can walk out of here this morning, knowing that every single wrong thing you have ever done is completely forgiven.

John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

2) The resurrection matters because my present can be managed.

One of the most common complaints people have is they feel their life is out of control. Things overwhelm them, and they feel powerless.

• I feel powerless to change the situation…
• I feel powerless to break a bad habit…
• I feel powerless to save a relationship…
• I feel powerless to get out of debt…
• I feel powerless to manage my schedule.
What you need is a power greater than yourself. You were never meant to live this life on your own power. God wants to work with you, to help you.

Romans 8:11, New Living Translation: The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. Ephesians 1:19-20, New Living Translation: I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe in him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honour at God’s right hand in the Heavenly realms.

The same power that enabled Jesus to rise from death will help you rise above your problems.
You don’t know what the future holds. I don’t either. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year, next month, next week, and neither do you. But it doesn’t matter, because God will give you the power to face it. Philippians 4:13, Today’s English Version: I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.
No problem is too big for God. No situation is hopeless if you’ll turn it over to him. Listen while I say it again: “I am ready for anything through the power of positive thinking”? No, it doesn’t say that. “I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.”

3) The resurrection matters because my future can be secured

One of the things we often don’t talk about in our society is death. I remember back in Newfoundland visiting a man in his seventies named George. I asked George how he was doing. “I’m dying. My time has come, and I’m glad to see the day. I’m awful tired of being like this.” We talked some more about how he felt, and about God’s presence with him at this stage of his life. Then we prayed, and asked God to stay with him and give him the strength he needed for the next few days.

Then the family came into the room—his son and daughter-in-law and the grandchildren. They were horrified. “Grandpa, don’t talk like that! You’re not going to die! You’ll get better—you’ve got to get better!” He wanted to tell them he loved them, that he was thankful for all they had done for them; but they would talk only about how he was going to get out in the fishing boat that summer.

Let’s face it: people don’t like to talk about death. If you don’t believe me, invite your friends over, sit them down, serve them some coffee and pie, and say, “Let’s talk about death.” See what happens.

But the truth is, all of us will die. I’m going to die someday, and so are you. Only a fool would go all through life unprepared for something he knows in inevitable. That doesn’t make sense. But sometimes we get so busy in the here and now, we don’t stop to think about what’s going to come.

What is it really going to be like? Let’s check it out with the source. When you go to the Bible, what does God say it’s really going to be like in Heaven and Hell?

Number one, Heaven is a perfect place. Total love, total peace, total joy, total perfection. No sin, no mistakes, no evil, no bad, no errors. It’s perfect in every area.

The second thing the Bible says is that in order for you to go there, you have to be perfect, because only perfection can exist in Heaven. You say, “Well, thanks a lot. That leaves me out.” Yeah, it leaves me out too. You say, “I’ll never make it if I have to be perfect.” Right! That’s the point. Neither will I. Neither will any of us, because none of us is perfect; we’ve all messed up.

There are two ways the Bible says you can get to Heaven. Plan A is the performance plan. You earn you way, and the way to do that is to never sin and always do what’s right for your entire life. Just be perfect.

Since none of us qualify for Plan A, God came up with Plan B, which is this: You trust Jesus Christ when He says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He was the only perfect person who ever lived, because He was God. He came so we could know what God is like. And by trusting and establishing a relationship with Him, you get in on his goodness.

A father by the name of Ron Dunn took his young son to a carnival one time for his birthday. His son picked six boys to go with him, so Dad bought a roll of tickets. Every line he’d come up to, he’d pull off seven tickets and give them to all the kids. When they got to the Ferris wheel, all of a sudden there was this eighth little kid with his hand out.

Dad said, “Who are you?”
The kid said, “I’m Johnny.”
Ron said, “Who are you, Johnny?”
Johnny said, “I’m your son’s new friend. And he said you would give me a ticket.”
Ron, “Do you think I gave him one? Absolutely.”
When you get to Heaven, you’ll say, “God, I can’t get in on my own effort. The only way I can get into Heaven is because I’m a friend of Jesus Christ.”

So I invite you to pray:
Lord, I know that I’m not good enough to earn my own way to Heaven. I acknowledge today that I carry guilt for sins. You are a holy God, and there is nothing that I can do to earn my way to Heaven myself. But You have provided a way. Jesus has died on the cross, to cancel the list of charges for the sins I had committed. He is offering me forgiveness for sins, power for my life, and a secure future in Heaven. I turn away from my sins and accept this free offer this morning. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There might be someone here who has wandered away from Christ. The good news is that God is welcoming you back this morning. Just pray right now that you would make your way back and re-establish that relationship with God once again.

There might be someone here who is overwhelmed with circumstances. The stress is too much. Let us pray that God’s incomparably great power – that same power that raised Jesus from the dead – would be directed to you. Turn these problems over to God and to his power this morning. Ask him to work in them now. Amen.

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© 2007 & 2008, Bruce Fraser