Sunday, April 4th, 2010, Sermon Summary
Easter Sunday is the most important day in the history of the church. Everything about Christianity hinges on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 15 says if Christ has not been raised from the dead then our preaching is in vain, our faith is in vain, we are misrepresenting God, we are still in our sins, Christians who have died have perished, and we of all people are most to be pitied. But, Christ has risen and that’s why we celebrate Easter.
This morning, in celebration of Christ’s resurrection, I want to reconstruct the events that unfolded on the first Easter Sunday 2,000 years ago. What happened that first Sunday? The four gospels are not identical but by combining them we can piece the day together. Here’s what we find:
1. The Stone was Rolled Back. (Matthew 28:1-4)
The first thing that happened on Easter morning was that the stone was rolled away – revealing that Christ was not there! Jesus had risen from the grave. “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). Matthew 28:2-3 explains that it was an angel who moved the stone. The sight of the lightening-like angel and the accompanying earthquake scared the guards to death. Matthew 28:4 says they fainted, “like dead men.”
2. The Women Discover the Empty Tomb. (John 20:1-2; Luke 24:1-9; Mark 16:1-8)
The second thing to happen was that Jesus’ female followers arrived and discovered the empty tomb. At least four women went to the tomb at sunrise to finish anointing Jesus’ body: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome the mother of James and John, and Joanna the steward of Herod. They were dumbfounded by what they saw and heard.
Two angels (Matthew and Mark only record the angel that spoke) met the women at the tomb. They told them six things: 1) We know you are looking for the crucified savior, Jesus of Nazareth, 2) He is not here, 3) He has risen, 4) Come see for yourself, 5) This is what Jesus told you would happen, 6) Go tell the disciples. You can imagine the emotions and thoughts racing through their minds – remember, everyone thought Jesus was gone forever.
3. Peter and John See for Themselves. (Luke 24:10-12; John 3-10)
When the women told the remaining eleven disciples what had happened, Luke 24:11 says, “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” However, Peter and John decided to check it out for themselves and ran to the tomb. When they saw the stone, the empty tomb, and the linen grave clothes lying there they believed the women. The linen clothes mean no one had stolen the body. Jesus had left them behind.
4. The Guards Report the News. (Matthew 28:11-15)
Meanwhile, the guards who had fainted at the sight of the angel reported what had happened to the chief priests. The chief priests are the ones who had Jesus arrested, they are the ones who paid Judas to betray Him, they are the first ones to interrogate Jesus and strike Him and vote for His crucifixion. Rather than argue with the guards about the disappearance of Jesus’ body they pay the guards hush-money and create an unbelievable lie about the disciples stealing the body while they were asleep. (Matthew 28:12-13). Ever since then skeptics have tried to explain away the resurrection. Like the chief priests, they cannot have a risen Christ.
5. Jesus Appears to the Women. (John 20:11-18; Matthew 28:9-10)
Next, Jesus begins appearing. First He appears to Mary Magdalene who remained at the tomb after Peter and John left. She doesn’t understand. She can’t make sense of it. An angel appears and asks her: “Woman, why are you weeping?” Then Jesus appears asking the same thing, “Why are you weeping?” Then Jesus reveals Himself to her and she clings to His physical body before Jesus sends her to tell the disciples. Afterwards (or maybe before) Jesus appears to the other women and they cling to His feet and worship Him. This is no spirit or ghost. This is no walking dead man. This is the resurrected Lord! He sends them to the disciples, too.
6. Jesus Appears on the Road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-35)
The sixth thing that happens on the first Easter is Jesus appears to two men as they are walking and talking on the way to a nearby village. These two were not part of the original twelve but they were followers of Jesus and were discussing everything they had heard that day so far. Jesus appears to them and He explains the Scriptures to them without them even recognizing Him. At dinner that evening their eyes are opened to His identity, but just as they recognize Him He disappears. They race back to Jerusalem and before they can tell the disciples what they saw, the disciples report, “The Lord is risen indeed and has appeared to Peter!” So sometime that day Jesus appeared to Peter in an unrecorded event.
7. Jesus Appears in the Upper Room. (Luke 24:36-49)
So far, Jesus has appeared to the women, the two disciples on the road, and to Peter but there are more disciples who haven’t seen Jesus or even the empty tomb. As they are discussing these things, it is now evening on Sunday, Jesus appears in their midst. John says the door was even locked. Knowing their fear and confusion and disbelief (just imagine!) Jesus proceeds to proove that it is really Him and that He is really risen from the dead. He shows them His hands, His feet, He lets them touch Him, and even eats a fish before their eyes. This is really Him. He is really alive. Everyone there now knows for sure. What a day!
Folks, Jesus really is alive. We don’t get to see Him like they did - not yet. We don’t get to touch Him like they did – not yet. But we can trust their testimony. Nothing else can explain the transformation they experienced. After this Easter Sunday the disciples became courageous men for Christ and turned the world upside down preaching, “Jesus has risen from the dead!” If it weren’t true, we wouldn’t be here today worshiping a risen Savior.