April 12, 2020 – Easter Sunday
by Jeffrey M. Lindsay
I am going to take a moment to thank everyone for choosing to spend Easter morning with us — streaming at Colonial Church. Whether you’ve been coming to Colonial all your life, this is your first time, or it’s Easter and you are back with us, we’re glad you’re here because Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s such a good day to celebrate the most significant event in history.
It does, however, seem strange to be talking about good days in this season of the unknown, anxiety, fear and loss. All the more reason we should ponder the Easter message and the hope that interrupts hope.
The Christian message is that God offers a hope that transcends all that we place in our human hope. The Christian hope is guaranteed by faith in God and was won at the cross by Jesus. This virus has shattered the confidence of the world. This virus has been the great equalizer for the world’s hope which is often placed in power, might, hard work, and mustered resources… but so far, that has not been the answer. So, where is the promise of hope, then?
I heard about a little boy sitting next to his friend at church one Easter Sunday. His friend asked, “How did you get that bruise on your arm?” The boy replied, “I ate some Easter candy.” His friend said, “Eating Easter candy won’t give you a bruise.” The boy quipped, “It will if it’s your big sister’s candy!”
I heard another one about two brothers who were getting ready to boil some eggs to color for Easter. “I’ll give you ten dollars if you let me break three of these on your head,” said the older one. “Promise?” asked the younger. “Promise!” Gleefully, the older boy broke the first egg over his brother’s head, then another one. The younger brother braced himself for the last egg, but nothing happened. “Are you gonna break the third egg?” the boy asked. His brother replied, “Nah, if I did that, I’d owe you ten dollars!”
Life is full of empty promises like that. Often, if something sounds too good to be true, well, it probably is. We won’t find our hope in empty promises.
So what is the hope that interrupts our human hope
As many of you know, I was the youth pastor for 13 years here at Colonial, so you will have to forgive me, as I share one of the ways we entertained ourselves on long van rides.
A man lives on the tenth floor of a building. Every day he takes the elevator down to the ground floor to leave the building. When he returns home, he takes the elevator to the sixth floor and walks up the stairs to reach his apartment on the tenth floor. He does this every day, unless it’s raining. If it rains, he rides the elevator to the tenth floor. Why does he do this?
Here’s another one. Anthony and Cleopatra are lying dead on the floor of a villa in Egypt. The window was open, and there is water and glass all over the floor. There are no marks on either Anthony or Cleopatra, and they have not been poisoned. How did they die?
Yet another. A man rode into town on Friday. He stayed for three nights and then left on Friday. How is that possible? Did you figure this one out? The man’s horse was named Friday.
Mr. Black asks for tea and gets $5,000. Then he asks for eyes, but Mrs. White can’t give him any. Get it? Mr. Black is a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune.
Did you ever play these kinds of mind games? Some of you might sit for hours to figure them out. Others will simply wonder who thought this up; and think they have too much time on their hands, especially when you hear the answers.
Just so you won’t be trying to figure these out for the rest of the morning, I’ll tell you the answers.
In the first case, the reason the man would only go the 6th floor on his return home was because that was the highest button he could reach on the elevator control panel. He was a short man. On days that it rained, he had his umbrella with him, so he could use the umbrella to punch the button that sent him to his floor.
In the second situation, it might help you to know Anthony and Cleopatra are fish. The cat, Boots, knocked over the fishbowl, jumping out the window, which broke and spilled water all over the floor.
Now that you’ve got the hang of it let’s try one more.
On Friday night, a man died, and that same night was buried. On Sunday morning, his friends arrive at the grave, only to discover his body is gone. What happened?
One of the problems of Jesus’ resurrection, is that some people try to make sense out of everything that happened, like it’s a riddle to figure out. They try to understand precisely what happened and how Jesus could die and then come back to life again. Let me tell you something –and it’s a secret, so I will whisper it– none of it does make any sense!
Now you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about? But think about it from your rational, logical, analytical minds. Does it make sense that a person can be dead for three days and come back to life? No, it doesn’t make any sense.
But you wouldn’t be here on Easter morning if you weren’t trying to make sense of it, would you?
Let me ask you how much of life does make sense right now? Events in the world today? Something that happened in China has now created fear and chaos across the globe. Toilet paper is practically being rationed, we are afraid to travel, jobs are uncertain and we wonder when it will end?
Do you wonder where God is in all of this? What God’s will could be in our situation? I do! We who claim to confront these questions, these puzzles, with a different heart, a Jesus-centered heart, what are we to do?
What do we make of it all?
What do we make of our own lives?
As a culture, we are so enamored by reality television shows. Is it because our own
real lives are not what we want them to be? I guess that might be an understatement.
We have lots of questions and not a lot of answers.
Yet, I do declare to you today, Easter 2020, we can have hope because God offers it to us. It is the hope that brings us to the empty tomb, to God’s love, God’s faithfulness, and God’s resurrected son Jesus.
It can be easy to disbelieve who Jesus is and what has been proclaimed that He did, because we can’t see the physical evidence of His resurrection. We weren’t there, so how can we prove there was a resurrection? Physically, we can’t. And so we come up with lots of excuses for not believing in this miracle. Are you like my friend Craig who works at my Holiday station, with whom I recently had this conversation? He told me that if I can prove to him that Jesus rose from the dead, then he would believe. Have you ever been stuck like Craig?
I’ve told him, I can’t literally prove Jesus rose from the dead. If the only way you will believe in Jesus is to see the physical evidence of the resurrection, then you’ll be sadly disappointed, because I cannot give it to you.
In Charles Colson’s book, “The Faith,” the former counsel of President Nixon, the convicted conspirator in the Watergate scandal, wrote that the Watergate cover-up was the final straw convincing him Jesus was raised from the dead.
He wrote — “There were only 8 or 10 of us in the inner circle around the president who knew what was going on. All we had to do was stonewall for a couple of months, and the Watergate scandal would be over. We had all the power and prestige of the presidency at our fingertips. And if the truth broke, there would be an embarrassment and perhaps a prison sentence. There was no grave danger, our lives were not threatened, but we couldn’t hold the conspiracy together for more than three weeks. We could not contain the lie. Once prosecution was possible, the instincts of self-preservation were so overwhelming that one by one, the conspirators caved in and stood in line at the prosecutor’s office to escape jail.”
Colson concludes, “I know that the disciples could not perpetuate a lie like the resurrection, because it was not just their reputations that were at stake, their lives were in danger. They had no clout, they had nothing to gain by the lie, and yet every one of them stood fast in the conviction that Jesus was alive. Take it from one who saw first hand how vulnerable a cover up is: nothing less than a witness as awesome as the resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and He is Lord! Add to this that each apostle, except for John, died a martyr’s death.”
They died rather than recant their belief in the resurrection.
Friends, I don’t believe the disciples would’ve died for a lie. I mean, would you die for a lie? History has shown people will give their lives for what they believe is true, but not for what they know is false.
So when it comes to believing in the resurrection of Jesus, we cannot merely seek knowledge; instead, we must seek faith, we must watch for transformed lives. I think some come to faith in Jesus because of knowledge of Him. But it must be our heart that pulls us into a relationship with Jesus.
The Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Roman, ‘if you believe in your heart and confess with your lips that God raised Jesus from the dead, then you find hope.’
Do we understand where our believing comes from? It comes from our heart! The heart is the source of all that we long for, and it is the place where we make some of our most significant decisions. So our hearts can lead us to the resurrected Jesus; if we are willing to let down the walls – the walls we often erect to protect ourselves from the world’s hope that can disappointment and hurt.
In the Old Testament, from the prophet Ezekiel, God said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you”
You see, our hearts matter to God. It is the source of all meaningful life. My friends let us look to God with our hearts and let down the walls that keep us from experiencing the life God longs for us to experience in a hope, healing, joy, peace, and a grace-filled love for us all.
So this Easter, let us allow that to happen in our lives.
This hope applies to all of us, whether you have known Jesus for years or you are searching. Allow your hearts to be open to the heart of God, so you can experience God’s hope, the hope that interrupts the hope of the world, in your lives.
I love what Luke tells us in verse 11. The women told the disciples what happened, but the story sounded like nonsense, so they didn’t believe it. Even though the disciples lived with Jesus for three years, they still didn’t get it. To believe that Jesus was resurrected as he said he would, blew their mind. What they assumed to be reality, wasn’t. It didn’t make sense. Yet, it was a reality for the disciples, and it can be a reality for us. Jesus has risen from the dead. That’s the good news of the Gospel story that brings us to this place year after year.
Maybe you just need a fresh start from a fresh start, God.
I love golf because I can trap my friends in a 4 hour round with me, and when I am playing with friends and trying to have a good time, I often suggest we take a mulligan or two. That means you can get what is called a “do-over.”
You hit a lousy shot, and now with a mulligan, you can re-take your shot. It’s just one shot per side. It is not like cheating or anything.
We all need mulligans — a second chance, a fresh start. The resurrection of Jesus Christ makes this possible. And just as Christ was raised from the dead, we also may live new lives here and now. God promises us a fresh start, a completely new experience, simply by putting our hope in Jesus and the resurrection. Don’t just look in your mind for the answers today but search your heart to embrace the Risen Jesus, celebrate the new life Jesus offers, live today in the interrupted hope of Jesus’ loving presence.
Because as we live in God’s hope, maybe then and most importantly, then we will be used by God’s Spirit to make a difference in the world.