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Because He Lives Easter 2015 Sermon Manuscript

Below you will find the manuscript for the sermon preached at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia on April, 2015 – EASTER SUNDAY.  The sermon is based on Mark 16:1-8 which is the story of Jesus resurrection from the dead.  Unfortunately, the audio did not work this morning and the sermon was not properly recorded.  Apologies.

All Tied Up

All Tied Up

The sermon is titled:  “Because He Lives”

Life often makes us feel tied up…

…with grief

…with anger

…with feelings of despair

…with a sense of powerlessness

The question is:  Can the resurrection make the difference? Can the resurrection release us from all that which that bind us?

The confession of EASTER makes all the difference.

‘JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN!’ “He is risen indeed!”

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Because He Lives

Mark 16:1-8 (NIV)

 

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

 

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

 

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

 

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

This past week I have been driving a new car.  I wish it were my new car, but it’s not.  It’s a “loaner.”  The transmission on our Versa needed to be replaced.  That part of the repair work was covered by a warranty, as was the complimentary use of the new car.

 

Have you ever noticed that when you drive a new car that you seem to notice every other car on the road that is the same make and model?   Prior to this past week, I have never notice a single 2014 white Nissan Sentra.  Since Monday, however, I have notice them every day and nearly every corner and intersection.

 

Nothing has changed in terms of the number of such cars on the roads.  What changed was my awareness and perceptions?  When I started driving the  newer car, it became the framework through which I perceived my reality.

 

I think this might be the sort of thing that was happening with the disciples – especially Peter, the only one of the twelve mentioned by name in today’s scripture lesson.

 

Prior to the crucifixion, life seemed pregnant with possibilities for Peter and the rest.  They had seen Jesus walk on water, feed the multitudes, heal the sick, and raise the dead.  They witnessed his courage confronting the political injustice and religious elitism of his day.  All this altered their perceptions about God and their world.  They came to believe Jesus might be the messiah.

Then the unthinkable happened.  Jesus made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.  As the week began, he looked untouchable.  The crowd welcomed like a conquering king shouting, “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

 

Then it happened.  A few days after Jesus arrival, those who greeted him with shouts of praise were now calling for his crucifixion.  He was betrayed by one of his own.  He was taken before the Sanhedrim  for trial.  He was shipped off to Pilate for sentencing.  Then he was crucified on a cross.

 

Peter’s perceptions (and those of the rest) were dramatically altered in almost an instant.  Imagine the emotions they all must have felt following Jesus’ crucifixion.

 

There must have felt some intense personal grief.  Peter and the others were more than just students of his teaching.  They were more than simply witnesses to his miracles.  They had seen him laugh with joy and weep in deep sorrow.  Jesus was their rabbi, their mentor, their confidant, their friend.  Now he was gone and everything in their world was seen through the lenses of their personal grief.

 

They must have been angry well.  The religious leaders had performed such an ungodly act.  The political leaders had become victimizers and abusers.  The crowd had been revealed as two-faced and fickle.  One of their own number had had betrayed him.  Everywhere they looked they saw people through their lenses of angry and resentment. They were probably feeling guilty as well.  As a group, they had not stood with Jesus when it mattered most.  Peter had even denied even knowing Jesus.  They could not look in the mirror without feeling shame and humiliation.

 

In addition, they must have felt powerless to make a difference.  “We are too small.  We are out-numbered.  We don’t have the resources necessary.  What could we have done in the face of such opposition?”  Peter and the others perceived themselves to be weak and inadequate in the face of what confronted them.
In a less than a day all their perceptions of reality were altered dramatically.  Their views about life moved from a sense of possibility into extreme grief; from joyful expectation to intense anger and frustration; from cheerful hope to debilitating guilt; from bravery and bravado to feelings of limitation and weakness. Their perceptions were colored by the cross and the cemetery.
Now what? …what would they do?…where would they go?…what would become of them now?

 

Let’s pause here for just a moment and ask ourselves where the dark side of life comes crashing in, causing our perceptions to become clouded.

 

Where is it that we have lost our sense of hope and confidence?

 

What are those places in our lives where we feel like giving in and giving up the ghost?

 

I am not going to try to answer these question for you.  But I do want you to pause and mull over your reply to that challenge.  And I we do, I want us all to consider that the proclamation of this day, if we accept it as true, can forever transform our perceptions of reality.

 

Several of the women followers go to the cemetery on the first day of the week to anoint the body of Jesus with ointments and spices.  It was sort of a first century embalming ritual.  Early in the morning, they make their way to the cemetery.  They only speak in whispers when they ask: “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb?”

 

When they arrive, they discover that the stone has already been moved.  A young man is standing nearby.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “I know you are here looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He has risen.  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  Now go and tell his disciples and Peter.”

 

The only one mentioned by name was Peter.   Why is Peter the only one who named by the young man at the tomb?

A few days earlier, the religious leaders had sent the temple guard to arrest Jesus while he was praying in the garden of Gethsemane.  They took Jesus into custody.  While the others ran, Peter followed at a distance and stood outside the building in which Jesus was on trial.

 

Peter had made a vow.  “I will never abandon you!  I promise!”

 

Jesus knew better.  “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.”

 

Peter was passionate about his vow to stand up for Jesus.  It would not matter what the other disciples did.  It would not matter what obstacles stood in his way.  He would never deny Jesus.  If it came right down too it, he would die with Jesus.

 

So far, so good!  All the others had turned tail and run.  Not Peter.  He is there, just outside the building where Jesus on trial.  He has made a promise and he intended to keep it.

 

Then the young servant girl of the high priest sees Peter:  “You one of them.  You one of the followers of that Nazarene named Jesus!”

 

Peter denied it!  “I don’t even know what you are talking about.”

 

She persisted, following Peter around saying:  “Do you see this man.  He is one of students of Jesus!”

 

Again, Peter denied it!

 

Moment later she came back, accompanied by a crowd:  “Certainly you must be one of Jesus followers.  We can tell from your accent that you are a Galilean.”

 

Peter’s denial was vehement.  He called down curses upon himself if he were lying.  He said it again:  “I don’t know this man!”

 

Strike three!  The rooster crowed.  Peter recognized his betrayal.  He broke down, wept, and ran away as fast as he could.

 

Many things would race through the mind of Peter over the next few days.  He would grieve when he heard that Jesus was dead.  He would feel guilt for not doing more.  He would become fearful that the religious leaders would turn their attention toward him.   More than any of that, however, he was probably thinking about his own duplicity and failure.

 

Why is Peter the only one who named by the young man at the tomb?

 

It certainly was not that Peter had been more loyal than the rest.  In fact, his failure was more pronounced.  He had let Jesus down.  He had made a promise and broke it.

 

Maybe that’s why Peter’s name is called out. Peter needed assurance.   Jesus had not turned away from Peter.  He had not turned away from any of them.  Peter needed his perceptions of reality transformed by the proclamation of the resurrection.

 

“Tell the disciples . . . and Peter!  He is not here.  He has risen.”

 

That’s part of the Easter truth we often overlook. Easter is more than a message about life after the grave.  In reality, it is a message about life in the here and now.  It’s a message about life that is bigger and beyond all our faults, failure, foibles, and follies.  It is a message about hope coming out of our despair; about peace that overcomes our anger; about the freedom to live free of the guilt that holds us in captivity.  Easter is about LIFE NOW.

 

If we are going to live now, then we need a transformation of our perceptions of reality.

 

When I was cruising around town in that nice, neat, new 2014 white Nissan Sentra, the world looked different.  No longer did I notice the old, dingy, grey colored Nissan Versa.  I saw those fresh new cars on the road that looked like the one I was driving.

 

Easter’s proclamation, if we believe that it’s true, will change our perceptions about the life.  Easter means that Jesus is the center of life NOW.  He is the way, the truth, and the life NOW.  He is the resurrection and the life NOW. Easter puts to shame all our plans, and programs aimed at fixing ourselves and making ourselves right.

 

Easter reveals that the only thing that makes us acceptable is the grace revealed at the empty tomb.

 

Easter reminds us that our hope is found in the God who rose Jesus up from the grave.  That Jesus is the source and resource for all of life.

 

Easter declares the amazing and radical message that everything about us (everything) is make right by God in a moment on the day of Christ’s resurrection.

 

Tell Peter and all the broken down failures whom he represents:  “Jesus Christ is risen!”

 

Tell everyone stuck in grief and sorrow the good news:  “Jesus Christ is risen!”

 

Tell those who are saddle with guilt due to their faults, foibles, and failures that they have been forever forgiven because:  “Jesus Christ is risen!”

 

Tell those who think feel powerless that  “Jesus Christ is risen!”

 

Tell those who feel that the end is near that “Jesus Christ is risen!”

 

Tell those who believe there is no hope to take courage because “Jesus Christ is risen!”

 

“He is not here.  He is risen.  Go tell his disciples…Jesus Christ is risen!”

 

In the earliest versions of Mark’s gospel, verse eight is the last verse.  The earliest manuscripts of this gospel end with these words: Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

 

Why did the earliest text’s of Mark end in such a manner?  The reason, I believe, is that it leads those who read the story to ask:  “What are we going to do with this amazing news?” Those who later included the longer ending were answering that question.  They were declaring their confidence in the Easter proclamation.  They were affirming the truth that Jesus resurrection made all the difference for the way they lives and saw the world.

 

That’s the challenge we face today.

 

We get to decide whether we really believe that Jesus’ resurrection matters, or whether it is just something to say amidst all the pomp and circumstance of this day.

 

Here’s one way we can answer it.  We can sing the chorus of a favorite Easter hymn.  We can sing it with gusto, passion, and faith:

 

“Because He lives I can face tomorrow; Because He lives all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives!”

 

 

 

Easter Faith: Believing In The Risen Jesus by: Gerald O’Collins publisher: Paulist Pr, published: 2004-01-05 ASIN: 0809142589 EAN: 9780809142583 sales rank: 1781113 price: $7.53 (new), $0.01 (used)

Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith. But how sure can we be that this belief is well-founded? In “Easter Faith one of the most distinguished Catholic biblical scholars and theologians of our time draws on a lifetime’s study and research to review the evidence for the credibility of the resurrection. The result is a lucid and elegant work that brings together biblical scholarship, theology, and lived experience into a unique and compelling portrait of the Easter faith of the Christian community.

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