Presented on The Lutheran Hour on April 5, 2015 By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour Copyright 2015, Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Mark 16:1-8
"When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.....Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back-it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he (the young man) said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here....He has arisen!"
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed; and that changes everything for you and me, now and into eternity! Amen.
Let me say it again, are you ready? Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! This is what caused the very first celebration of Easter, dear friends. It was the miraculous, the shocking, the supernatural resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. Yes, Jesus was dead, three days dead, blood and water drained from His body, dead. All that came after He was tortured and crucified. His body was broken and wounded. Here is the historical fact. At only thirty-three years of age; Jesus was put to death at the hands of the Romans and at the urging of the local religious leaders.
But, Jesus' three-year ministry changed lives and it showed that He was truly the Son of God who had come down to earth to be with us, to bind up our brokenness, to pay the price for our sin, and to give us eternal hope by conquering our greatest enemy, death.
That was the plan. This was the point. Jesus even prepared us for this. Days before entering Jerusalem that fateful Holy Week He said, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him." Then Jesus added: "And after three days he will rise" (Mark 10:33-34).
The celebration of Easter didn't start because of ancient traditions welcoming springtime. Easter isn't celebrated today because people really, really like to eat chocolate. Easter is not a holiday created to entertain children with egg hunts. No, Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of the One who was crucified for us. Jesus was killed and then miraculously was raised to life. More than that, He was abandoned by God and condemned to hell for your sin and mine. He took it all for you and me! But death and hell could not keep a hold on Jesus. After paying the price for your imperfection and rebellion and mine, Jesus rose from the grave and He preached victory to every spirit that would crush you or enslave you.
That's what 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, is talking about. The resurrection chapter of the Bible says, "'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). That victory, that victory is for you! That new life is a gift from God to you! The Apostle Paul, a man living because of a second chance from our forgiving Savior, he said it this way, "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:2-4).
We celebrate Easter because of Jesus, a rugged and determined Savior who came to grab hold of your life and help you when you needed it most. And today He reaches out to you, dear friend. Will you believe? Will you believe in Him? Will you put your faith in Him? Will you let go of your efforts to control everything, or to acquire everything, or to fix everything, or to worry about everything, and, instead, will you trust the risen Jesus to give you His new life and His peace? Jesus Christ is real. He is alive. He is with you to save you.
That's what some sad but faithful women encountered on that first Easter morning. They didn't run to the park for colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. They went to a tomb to pay final respects to Jesus; but they were shocked by an empty grave and a message of resurrection. There, "they saw that the stone had been rolled back.... They entered the tomb; they saw a young man sitting on the right side. He is dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed by that. But he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here, He is risen!
Out of the blue, shocking good news when you least expect it. That's what hit them in the resurrection of Jesus. And that is God's good news for you today too! Listen carefully to this promise of God for you from Romans, chapter 6. He says it this way: "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him...So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:5-11).
I wonder if you believe that promise. I wonder if you realize how incredible that promise is for you, for all people. Jesus did it all, and He did it all for you, as only He can.
I recently heard that Oprah Winfrey scoffed at the idea, the assertion, that Jesus alone can be the Savior. She indignantly said that there are 1000s of ways to be saved, even millions. What she failed to mention though, among those 1000 other ways to be saved are 1000 failures to that task. Now, I suppose, in some ways she has helped folks, but in this way, she is leading people away from the only One who has done all things well, and He's done them all for you!
Salvation on your own? Well, here's what that would take: be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, be holy in thought, word, and deed to live forever in the presence of a holy God, be righteous through and through, each and every day to everyone, every time. There may be thousands trying, but only Christ has succeeded; and then grace upon grace, He takes your punishment, your failure upon Himself to give you God's gift of life and salvation freely, now and forever! He is the crucified One. He is the risen One. You can have life in His Name, now and forever! That's Easter!
But, you still may be feeling like this can't be for you. Maybe it's too good to be true. You may consider your life too far gone or not the type of life Jesus would want to be connected with.
You're not alone if you feel that way. Jesus' disciples felt that way. They abandoned Him! Peter even denied Jesus three times! That may be why the angel told the women on that first Easter morning, "Go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Jesus, just as he told you" (Mark 16:7).
Jesus' own disciples didn't feel very much part of that first Easter.
Maybe you don't today either. Maybe you've never been part of a church, or, perhaps you left the church long ago. Maybe your doubts about God make you feel alienated from Him. Why would God ever want to befriend you? Perhaps you're mad at God because of hard times in your life. You feel disappointed. Or you feel like you've failed God and now you're certain that He could never accept you.
Maybe Easter Resurrection joy is the farthest thing from your mind today. Well, that's what the disciples of Jesus felt that first Easter too. They, like you and me, were overwhelmed by life, even overcome by the grief of Jesus' death. Their minds were racing. They felt stretched to the limit and stressed beyond what they could take. They felt hopeless and aimless. They felt lost.
But God had good news for them; the angel at the empty tomb sent them a life-changing message. He told the ladies to let them know that Jesus was going before them to Galilee. In other words, the disciples, they were not on their own even then; that Jesus was one step ahead of them. And you can't go wrong when you have Someone like Jesus one step ahead of you.
When the right people are one step ahead of you, that can make all the difference in the world. Let me explain. It's spring training time and teams are hoping they've assembled the right players with the right stuff but they've done more than hope; they've sent out scouts to make that happen. One of the most famous baseball scouts was Epy Guerrero. Guerrero grew up in the Dominican Republic. He even played in the major leagues for a couple of years. But he found his true talent when he began to scout for the Toronto Blue Jays. Epy had a knack for seeing greatness when others couldn't see it. He scoured the Latin American countryside for future baseball stars. He held tryouts in the rain. He even rode a donkey up a mountain in Nicaragua so a father could sign off on a son's baseball contract. Epy signed a gangly kid from the streets of San Pedro who became one of the best shortstops in major league history: Tony Fernandez. Tony was one of the roughly forty pros that Epy discovered.
People said Epy Guerrero had eyes that could see the future major league ball player in a young boy. In other words, he was always one step ahead. While others thought kids had no chance, Epy could see something more.
Jesus not only sees more for you, He made your life with God possible again because of the cross, in the resurrection! I'm asking you today to trust Jesus' vision for you by faith. You might be seeing only darkness, disconnection, despair in your life at the moment; but Jesus is one step ahead. Your risen Savior goes before you. Put your trust in Him. He handled all darkness and pain on the cross; He opened up a new beginning for you when He rose from the dead. God sees something more for your life in Him. Ephesians, chapter two, I love how it says it this way:
"You were dead in the trespasses and sins...But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when you were dead in your transgressions, He made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-6).
Your Savior is one step ahead. He graciously goes before you, meets you in your greatest need, and leads you to new life in Him. You can trust Him to do that. You can trust Jesus who suffered death for you, but made His way through it, so you could be brought through it, too. Jesus is one step ahead.
Have you failed God? Your Savior is one step ahead. Even when Adam and Eve failed God in the Garden of Eden, God was one step ahead with the promise of the coming Savior. The promise of Jesus is always one step ahead of our broken humanity.
Do you feel like your heart is cold and lifeless, bruised and burned out by a brutal world? Your Savior is one step ahead of you. He promises: "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put it within you" (Ezekiel 36:26).
Do you feel alone, maybe like you have no one rooting for you, no one to advocate to help you? Jesus is one step ahead. He came to this earth to save you. He entered into your pain to rescue you. He forged the way through this broken world to be your friend, your Savior, even sending you His Holy Spirit as your Advocate, your Consolation. Jesus is always one step ahead.
He knows your personal needs too. You heard the angel say in Mark, chapter 16, "Go, tell the disciples and Peter that he (Jesus) is going before you to Galilee." I think that Jesus singled out Peter because Peter had failed Him so miserably. Peter fell so completely. Three times he denied that he had anything to do with Jesus. He swore that he did not know Him at all. Could Jesus ever have anything to do with him ever again?
But the angel said, "Go tell Peter...." I'm already ahead of his failure with My gracious restoration for him, for all.
Jesus knows your name. He knows your needs. He's one step ahead to help you out of the muck and mire you're stuck in. He doesn't cast you aside or forget about you. He loves you and He calls you by name.
The risen Savior goes before you into life, into death, and into the resurrection to eternal life. He even makes a way for you to receive this gift personally. The Apostle Paul said it this way: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, that just as Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4).
When you believe in His Word, when you receive the gift of His washing in baptism for your forgiveness and life, your eternity, your rescue, and your hope is now tied to the Jesus who is one step ahead as you take on the challenging journey of life.
Sometimes life seems like you're climbing a mountain, doesn't it? If you're familiar at all with Mount Everest, you know that this summit was scaled only with the help and the preparation of the Sherpas. The Sherpa people live at the base of the mountain and they go ahead of climbers to prepare the way, to carry supplies, to scout campsites, and help make the trek successful. The very first successful summit of Mount Everest was by Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. It was Tenzing Norgay who planted the flag at the top of the mountain.
Or listen to climber John Reiter speak about his Sherpa guide. This was after he survived a devastating avalanche during a Mount Everest expedition just last year. He said of Dawa, his guide: "He's a perfect example of the selfless Sherpa people that we entrust with our lives while on this mountain and who we quickly learn to call our friends." The Sherpa experts are one step ahead and that makes all the difference in the climb.
But, for the mountain of life we need more and Jesus is the ultimate One who prepares the way. He said,"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me! In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you" (John 14:1-3 NIV).
Jesus Christ is alive, dear friend. He is risen from the dead. For your life, for your pain, in your sadness, through the turbulence of family struggles and relationship heartbreak, in your worry and stress, when you are puzzled and confused, even through death, the living Savior Jesus is one step ahead. You can trust Him with your life because He has gone before you and has faced every obstacle imaginable. He has made a way for you. Follow Him. Jesus is one step ahead.
A band called Casting Crowns wrote a song about Jesus called "Already There." It talks about the hope we can have in our risen Savior who goes before us. Here's part of the song:
From where You're standing Lord, You see a grand design That You imagined When You breathed life into me And all the chaos Comes together in Your hands Like a masterpiece Of Your picture perfect plan.
When I'm lost in the mystery To You my future is a memory Cause You're already there You're already there Standing at the end of my life Waiting on the other side And You're already there You're already there.
Jesus goes before you, dear friend. He's one step ahead. He is risen! Your life is not up for grabs. Your future is not a mystery. By faith in the risen Lord Jesus, you have a friend who never leaves you, a helper who will not let you fall, a Savior who forgives you, and a leader who gives you the gift of everlasting life and leads you in His ways of new life.
Jesus is one step ahead. He has risen, indeed! And to those who believe, that makes all the difference in the world. Alleluia! Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for April 5, 2015 Topic: Why Is Jesus' Resurrection So Important?
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, Easter, a very significant celebration all around the world, but why is Jesus' resurrection so important?
SELTZ: Great question. Our listener's question makes me think of something the Apostle Paul said, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ, then, have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). But then he goes on to say, "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of all those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20-21).
ANNOUNCER: And to be clear, when he refers to all those who have "fallen asleep," he's talking about people that have died.
SELTZ: Yes. The Apostle Paul is saying that if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, those who trusted in Him are lost forever. They die and have nothing good to look forward to afterward. He also said that if Christ was not raised, faith is futile and we are still in our sins. Paul is making two important points about Jesus' resurrection. First, Jesus' resurrection solved our sin problem. Second, Jesus' resurrection solved our significance problem.
ANNOUNCER: What do you mean by that?
SELTZ: Our sin problem is that every human being is flawed and a fallen person. You can see that every day. You can look at the news; you can see war, violence, hatred, abuse, arrogance, disaster. You can look in the mirror and see grouchiness, dissatisfaction, envy, anger, lust, grief, and pain.
ANNOUNCER: Now that's a basic teaching of the Bible, but many would still deny it.
SELTZ: Yes, but, even if you try to deny everything wrong with this fallen world or everything flawed about yourself, the ultimate evidence of our sin problem is that we all die.
ANNOUNCER: But God created us for something better.
SELTZ: Right, and that's the Bible's point. In order to save us from our sin problem, God sent Jesus to pay the price for our rebellion and failure and make His way through our difficulty and death. Jesus died in our place, He took our sins upon Himself, and receiving the just punishment for sin, that's what we deserved. Then Jesus rose from the dead, breaking the hold that death had on us.
ANNOUNCER: In doing so, He solved that sin problem.
SELTZ: He did....for all. And, now, through the promise of His Word and through the renewing gift of baptism, we are seen as forgiven and holy before God Himself. So, when we die trusting in Jesus as our Savior, we live with Him eternally.
ANNOUNCER: And that's the answer to the significance problem.
SELTZ: Exactly. Everyone wants to have a purpose, to matter on this earth. People seek significance in so many ways. They may try to excel in a job, or write a best-selling book, or win American Idol, or buy the latest fashions, or become a philanthropist, or serve in the Peace Corps. Human beings want to make a difference, make an impact, make their mark. It's a quest for significance.
ANNOUNCER: The problem is those things all come to an end. They pass away.
SELTZ: Yes, glorifying ourselves always comes to an end. But because of Jesus' death and resurrection, putting our faith in Him as our Savior, we not only receive His gift of eternal life, we begin to see life, even live life as a way to glorify Him and serve others in His name. The Apostle Paul said "we are God's workmanship," (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). Jesus' resurrection solved our significance problem.
ANNOUNCER: Jesus' resurrection gives us a different perspective in life; it gives us an eternal perspective.
SELTZ: Great point, Mark. People need to know that this life is not all there is. We are eternal beings. Without the resurrection of Jesus, Paul emphasizes we are to be pitied. Eternal death is a terrible demise. Facing death without the Savior is a fearful and awful end.
ANNOUNCER: And that separation from God eternally is a fate no one should experience.
SELTZ: Right and that's why we're here every week talking about a whole different way to "be alive." Because of Jesus our Savior, because of God's grace--His love and kindness--we receive a free and precious gift this Easter. Think about it; life everlasting--forgiven, restored, blessed, cared for; one that even cares for things and people differently.
ANNOUNCER: That's life with Jesus, now and forever!
SELTZ: It is. For more on that....I encourage our listeners to read 1 Corinthians, chapter fifteen for yourself. Find out more about the resurrection of Jesus as well as our life in Him. It's been called "the resurrection chapter of the Bible." You'll be blessed to really know it!
ANNOUNCER: 1 Corinthians, chapter 15. Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
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