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Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar, April 5, 2015

The Crown of God's Grace

Text: Mark 16:1-8

Allleluia! Christ is risen! [The Lord is risen indeed!] That Easter greeting is the best thing we have to say for ourselves. Christians all over the globe—one-third of all humanity—are ushering in this most glorious of feast days. In majestic cathedrals and house churches and storefront worship spaces, in mud buildings and grass huts, under trees and in prisons , in hideouts and in foxholes, Christians are saying to one another today, “Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed!” I’m always intrigued on these festival days, to think of how Easter arrives progressively around this spinning globe.

•  Fourteen hours ago, the Christians in Vietnam began their worship by saying, “Chuc Mung Phuc Sinh.”

•  Seven hours ago, our friend Stephen Kaziimba, began his worship by proclaiming, “Kristo ajukkide!”

•  Today in my ancestral homeland of Slovenia, people are greeting each other on the streets with “Christos voskrese!” And they are greeted in turn with, “Voistinu voskrese!”

The first ones ever to hear those words were the three women who came to anoint Jesus’ body in the tomb where He lay. Along the way, they worried about the huge stone that was rolled over the entrance to the tomb. “Who will roll away the stone for us?” they wondered. When they got there, the stone had been set aside. An angel greeted them and said, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here.” But the women were alarmed. They ran away trembling with astonishment. And later, they saw Jesus, and at last they were able to say, “The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

Why is this the best thing we have to say for ourselves? Why has the truth that the Son of God rose from the dead fed and comforted and strengthened and empowered Christians these two thousand years? How has the resurrection of Jesus Christ set us free and made us whole?

On Good Friday we commemorated Jesus’ death on the cross. His sacrificial death was God’s gift to us to rescue us from sin and death. The temple veil which separated us from God and from one another was torn in two. And the jewel in the crown of God’s grace is what we celebrate today, Jesus’ triumph over death, as He rose to life and victoriously burst forth from the tomb.

Let’s reflect for a few minutes on what the resurrection means, and why it is the exclamation point on the Good News that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

First, the resurrection shows us there is a lot more to reality than meets the eye. Those three women were trembling in astonishment because they had never imagined what God was about to do. One of our great limitations as human beings is that we take our daily experience and conclude from it that we know what reality is all about. We’re like the baby who covers her eyes and believes that if she can’t see it, it’s not there. Many of our academics have sold out to the scientific method, and don’t believe in anything you can’t prove by an experiment.

But reality is always more than meets the eye. In 1987, a friend and I chartered a sailboat and took our families sailing in the Virgin Islands. Part of our trip was to sail to Anegada, an island out at the far eastern tip of the British Virgins. As we approached the island, I was disappointed. All we could see was a low, desolate looking island surrounded by flat, boring seas. As we came closer, my friend, the captain, assigned me the task of standing on the bow to guide him through a narrow opening in the coral reefs that surround the island. And as I carried out my task, I saw that there was a whole lot more going on under the surface than the view above could ever convey. By the time we left there three days later, I had scuba dived on three sunken ships and the most amazingly beautiful coral reefs, teeming with exotic sea life.

So it is with reality. We can only see a part of it. We tend to assume that there is no more to reality than what we can see. But what we cannot see on the surface is fantastic. That is what the Easter story tells us.

What we see on the surface is that when someone dies, that is the end. It is over. We never see them again, so it seems that they cease to exist. But Easter tells us that death is not the end, but a new beginning. Jesus promised that this is true. He said, “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40) He said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51)

Before Jesus died, He said,

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. [John 14:2-3]

When He rose up from the grave, He came and stood among them, and they knew it was all true.

There is so much more to reality than we can imagine. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9) For those who put their trust in Jesus, death has lost its sting. For Christians all over the world, the truth of the resurrection, and the promise of new life, has fed us and encouraged us and empowered us and set us free.

The second thing Easter tells us is that life is not as scary as we think. What we see on the surface is that a powerful force with deadly strength will win the day over weakness. But Easter tells us otherwise. Jesus went through the indignity and horror of His kangaroo court, without defending Himself. Arrayed against Him were the vast powers of the Roman Empire and all the evils you could imagine. And God simply let Him go humbly and obediently to His death. But the grave could not hold Him. And on the third day, He moved aside that great stone and walked right on out.

The world is not as scary as we think, for in the end, the powers of darkness have no teeth. There is a whole lot going on in this world that makes people afraid.

•  Ebola


•  Nuclear bombs

•  Terrorist threats

•  Collapsing economic systems

But if death has lost its sting, and the powers of darkness have no teeth in God’s reality, how can we be locked in prisons of fear? If God is for us, who can be against us? He, who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, will He not give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32) For two thousand years, Christians have put their trust in Him, and He has fed us, encouraged us, empowered us and set us free.

•  Free to venture to West Africa to treat those suffering from Ebola;

•  Free to stand before the murderous Jihadist and proclaim, “I am a Christian.”

•  Free to stand up and say, “This is not right, because God’s word forbids it.”

The third thing Easter tells us is that life is not as uncertain as we think. We do our best to leave behind the bad parts of our past. Most of us deal okay with our present reality. But it is our future that torments us because we don’t know what it holds. We put a lot of time and money into trying to take the uncertainty out of the future: investments, insurance, savings plans, warranties, contingency plans. Any time we get involved in a venture of any kind, we may succeed, or we may fail. That is part of the anxiety about life. But for those who give their lives to Christ, there is enormous comfort in the Easter story. For what it tells us is that God is in control. God is the one who writes history. And God always gets the last word.

As God said through the prophet Isaiah:

I am God and there is no other; ...I[I declare] the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish my purpose....” [Isaiah 46:9-10]

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, the future looked uncertain. The disciples had their doubts. The Bible tells us they ran away. Peter had his doubts. The Bible tells us he denied knowing Jesus, because he didn’t know what would happen to him if they knew he was a disciple. Nobody in that whole chain of events knew the future. But God did. He knew that His Son would go obediently to His death. He knew that on the third day, He would raise Jesus from the dead. He knew that Jesus would pull together the believers and send them on their way to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth. And He knew that He would send the Holy Spirit to empower us and lead us into all truth.

And Jesus has encouraged us with what He has told us of the future: that one day—we cannot know the day or the hour—He will come again in glory, on a cloud with His angels and the sound of a trumpet. And He will gather the elect from the far corners of the earth. And Jesus will judge the living and the dead. And those who believe in Him will be blessed with eternal life and joy. And He will throw Satan and all his evil forces into the lake of fire. And all will be made right. And the world will be restored to the perfection for which God made it in the first place.

When the three women went to the tomb that Easter morning and found that the stone had been rolled away, God was issuing a statement: Death has no dominion over those whom He loves. And Evil has no place in God’s Kingdom. And God is in control.

This is the Easter message from God’s heart to ours.

•  There is so much more to reality than we can imagine.

•  And life is not as scary as we think.

•  And the future is not uncertain, for it belongs to God.

These messages have fed and encouraged and empowered and freed Christians and will continue to do so until that last trumpet sounds. And today, I invite you to be fed and encouraged and empowered and set free—

•  free to love as Christ loves us

•  Free to be in peace about your life

•  Free to be hopeful about your future

•  Free to let the presence of God’s Holy Spirit dwell within you

•  Free to be in God’s presence and enjoy Him forever.

Chuc Mung Phuc Sinh!

Kristo ajukkide!

Christos Voskrese!

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

© Jeffrey O. Cerar, 2015

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