Mark 16:1-8 (NKJV) Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?" 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 "But go, tell His disciples; and Peter; that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you." 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The single most significant event in the history of the human race took place on the Sunday after Passover in about the year 30 A.D. It's the day we're celebrating today; Easter. Or, as some call it, Resurrection Sunday.
Why is it the most important day in history? Because the events of that day - the events we just read about in Mark 16:1-8 - confirm three very important things about life.
Without Easter Sunday, the church never would have come into existence. Without Easter Sunday, the name of Jesus Christ would be about as recognizable as the name Theudas. Who, you may ask, is Theudas? That's my point. He lived in Israel several years before Jesus. He was, in his time, a popular prophet and teacher. He attracted hundreds of followers, and when he offended the wrong people, he was put to death. Sound familiar so far? Then why haven't we ever heard of him? Because after his death his followers scattered and went on to other things, and the world soon forgot about Theudas. When Jesus died, it looked like the same thing would happen - before he was even dead, the overwhelming majority of his followers had deserted him. In fact, do you remember the Apostle Peter? He was one of Jesus' key disciples. But when Jesus was facing death, he deserted him, he denied ever having anything to do with him, and he disappeared - he went back to his fishing boat. When Jesus died, it appeared that his cause would die with him, and that he would become as obscure as Theudas.
But, it didn't happen that way. The followers of Jesus didn't fade into oblivion. In fact, they all came back bolder and more courageous than ever before. What happened? What made the difference? Easter Sunday, that's what made the difference. When they saw Jesus die on Friday they were plunged into indescribable disparagement and agony. Jesus was dead, they put him in a tomb, and everyone assumed that that was that. Then, he came back to life. Seeing firsthand his resurrection from the dead changed his followers' perspective on life, and everything related to it.
Seeing the risen Lord changed the disciples from disparagement and agony to boldness and joy? What else can explain the great change in their attitude? Did they all say, "Let's pretend he's alive, let's say that he rose from the dead." Then they all went out and laid down their lives for a lie? The majority of them were persecuted unto death. Some of them were thrown into boiling cauldrons of oil, some of them are burned at the stake, some of them are crucified - all for a known lie? That is psychologically impossible! They sealed their testimony with their blood because they had seen the risen Lord.
Now, as I said, Easter Sunday (and what it stands for - the resurrection of Jesus) confirms three important truths about life. Let's look at each one, and consider how these truths affect our lives today. First of all, because of the resurrection, we know...
1. JESUS IS WHO HE SAID HE WAS.
Jesus claimed to be God, and he proved it. He did what Theudas couldn't do; he beat death.
You have probably heard people say something like, "Jesus was a great moral teacher, like Buddha, or Confucius, or Mohammed." You can't really say that, and here's why. Buddha and Confucius claimed to be moral teachers, and nothing more. Mohammed claimed to be a prophet of God, but he never claimed that he was more than just a man. Jesus made claims about himself that Buddha, Confucius, or Mohammed never made about themselves. Jesus claimed to be God.He claimed that he had always existed, that he would always exist, and that this world and everything in it belonged to him and would someday be ruled by him. Jesus told the Jews that he existed before Abraham.
John 8:58 (NKJV) Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."
A literal translation would read, "Before Abraham was brought into being, I existed." The statement, therefore, is not that Christ came into existence before Abraham did, but that he already existed before Abraham was brought into being; in other words, Christ existed before creation, or eternally. In that sense, the Jews plainly understood him, for they wanted to stone him for blasphemy.
Jesus said he would some day rule the world:
Mark 14:62 (NKJV) Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."
Now, if I made those claims - If I stood before you this morning and said, "Folks, I am God and someday I'll rule the world" - would you leave here today thinking, "What a good moral teacher David is!"? Of course not. You would think, "That man is lying, he's crazy, and he's dangerous." And, of course, if I made those claims, you would be correct in thinking that. But when Jesus made those claims, he wasn't lying, he wasn't crazy, and he wasn't dangerous - he was telling the truth. Repeatedly Jesus claimed to be God, and it drove his enemies crazy.
John 5:18 (NKJV) Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
Jesus claimed to be God, and he proved his claim by conquering death. Do you know what that means? It means that we have to take seriously everything he said. For example, he said that he is the only way to heaven,
John 14:6 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
This means we have to abandon the notion that "all religions lead to the same place," and "it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you're sincere." Jesus said specifically:
John 10:9 (NKJV) "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
By the "door", he is saying he is the only way to heaven. And apart from trusting in Christ, you will spend eternity in Hell.
John 3:36 (NKJV) "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
John 11:25-27 (NKJV) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."
In verse 26, Jesus asks, "Do you believe this?" What is this? It is the statement about Jesus himself that he gives in verse 25. He tells Mary that He is the resurrection and life. But that's not all he asks her to believe. Jesus is saying, "I guarantee resurrection and life to everyone who believes in me." To believe that Jesus is the Christ is in essence to believe that he is the guarantor of eternal life to everyone who trusts in Him.
Because of the resurrection, these words carry weight they never would have carried otherwise. If he had remained in the grave, the question of whether or not he is the only way to heaven would be a matter of debate. However, the resurrection answers the question, and ends the argument once and for all. Is Jesus really the son of God? Well, he has power over death, so I guess that means he is everything he claimed to be.
Another important truth that Easter confirms is...
2. NO SITUATION IS BEYOND GOD'S POWER.
On the surface, it appears the death of Jesus ruined everything he had talked about. It appears that his death initiates the death of his dream.
He died the worst possible death that a man could die in those days. He was ridiculed, mocked, spat upon, beaten, stripped and hung on a cross -the ultimate humiliation for a Jewish person.
There was no greater way in which people of the first century could express their utter disgust with a human being than by crucifying them. It was the chief, the most extreme, form of human degradation that existed. It was in the fullest sense of the word an obscenity. In polite Roman society, the word "cross" was an obscenity, not to be uttered in conversation. Cicero said, "Let the very name of the cross be far removed not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts, his eyes, his ears." By Jewish law, anyone who was crucified, died under the curse of God (Deut. 21:23, Gal. 3:13).
This utterly vile form of punishment was that which Jesus endured. Why did Christ do it? To be our substitute!
Romans 5:8 (NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
He died for US! Jesus did all the work, all we need do is trust what He did. Luther said, "Nothing more is required of justification than to hear of Jesus Christ and believe on Him as our Savior." Salvation is free, but it wasn't cheap.
The turn of events towards the end of Jesus' life ran contrary to what everyone expected would happen when the Jewish Messiah appeared. They had expected the Messiah to usher in a political kingdom. Instead, they watched everything unravel for this man whom they had come to believe was the Messiah. It was unthinkable to most people that God would be behind the events of Jesus' death. Yet, God had a plan. The death of Jesus would pay for the sins of God's people. And through his resurrection, he would be shown to be the Lord of all.
When you read the gospels, and read about the death of Christ, or if you've ever watched a movie that realistically portrays the life and death of Christ, you can't help but experience a sense of tragedy - a sense of loss - as Jesus is nailed to the cross. He did nothing to deserve death, yet the events of his life seemed to spin out of control, and on the surface, it appears that his enemies won the war.
But God wasn't finished. In fact, since we know how the story turns out, we can almost hear God laugh triumphantly as they laid Jesus' corpse in the tomb. Because he knew on the third day the stone that closed his tomb would be rolled away, and the lifeless body of Christ would rise from the dead. The resurrection proves that no event in the world is beyond God's power, or out his control.
And if God can bring a dead man back to life, he can cause a resurrection in your life as well. What has died in your life; what dreams, what hopes, what relationship, what vision? What seems to be spinning out of control? What is happening in your world that appears to be beyond the hand of God? No situation is beyond his power. No circumstances are out of his control.
Have you heard the sermon called "It's Friday...but Sunday's Coming!"? The idea of the message is: "It's Friday...Jesus has died...the devil is laughing because he thinks he has won...Jesus lies cold in the grave...but Sunday is coming! It's Friday, Jesus is in the grave and all hope seems to be lost...but Sunday is coming. It's Friday, and it looks like the dream has ended...but Sunday is coming. It's Friday, and you may be tempted to give up and quit...but Sunday is coming." Easter morning teaches us that no matter what happens on Friday, Sunday is coming. Nothing is beyond God's power. The resurrection makes the word "hopeless" obsolete. It makes the word "impossible" meaningless. It makes the word "despair" insignificant.
That's why Paul said:
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
And it is why Paul said:
Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Paul had learned that no matter how tough things got in the physical world, there was a spiritual undergirding. Paul says, "My sufficiency comes from Christ, the all sufficient One." His power, His all-sufficient power, is available for the demands of life, and we need nothing else.
Paul says, "I can do ALL THINGS." What are the "all things"? This doesn't mean that he can leap tall buildings at a single bound or run faster than a speeding bullet. It doesn't mean that you can pass an exam that you haven't studied for, or fly an airplane even though you have had no instructions. Verse 13 must be taken in the context of verses 10-13. What he is saying is, "I have the power of Christ to sustain me in life's difficult circumstances." A literal translation would read like this, "I am strong for all things in the One who constantly infuses strength into me."
Paul is saying, "I am strong enough to go through anything because the Lord Jesus Christ makes His power available to me as I trust in Him." Trusting in Christ gives us inner power to deal with any and every situation in life. When we come to the bottom of our human resources, we find an unlimited power in Christ. Paul talked a lot about the power of Christ. Walking in fellowship with Christ gives us the power to deal with any and every situation.
2 Timothy 4:17 (NKJV) But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
The Lord gave him the power to deal with the circumstances that he found himself in. In fellowship, the omnipotent One empowers us.
Have you ever seen a Christian in a very difficult situation and asked, "How can he deal with the situation that he is in?" He can deal with it, because the power of Christ is available to those who walk in dependence on Him. No matter what circumstance you are facing, you have the power to handle it if you are living in dependence on Christ. And if your situation is more than you can bear, it is because you are not trusting in His strength.
No situation is beyond God's power, and the resurrection proves it. No marriage is beyond the power of God to repair, no child is beyond God's reconciling power, no life is beyond God's power to heal and fill with joy and purpose.
Thirdly, another important truth that Easter confirms is:
3. GOD'S FORGIVENESS IS AVAILABLE.
As the women stepped into the empty tomb that Sunday morning, they were met by an angel dressed in a white robe. He told them that Jesus had risen from the dead. Next, I want you to notice what he said to them:
Mark 16:7 (NKJV) "But go, tell His disciples; and Peter; that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you."
Why did the angel mention Peter specifically? So there wouldn't be any doubt in anyone's mind that God intended to fully restore this fallen disciple. All of the disciples (with the exception of John) had deserted Jesus in his final hours, but Peter's failure was the worst of all. He denied Jesus, three times. And remember, Jesus said:
Matthew 10:33 (NKJV) "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
I'm sure Peter believed that he was washed up as a follower of Christ, and I'm sure some of Jesus' other disciples believed the same thing about Peter. God wanted to make it clear to them, and he wants to make it clear to you now: His forgiveness is available - even for you.
Here's the part about the death of Jesus that no one really understood at the time, but it became increasingly obvious as time went on: When Jesus died on the cross, all the sins of the elect were placed on his shoulders. Every sin we ever committed - sins of the past, sins of the present, sins of the future - were all placed upon Jesus. The Bible says:
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the price for your sin, and he paid it all. There's nothing left for you to pay. There's nothing left for you to do...except receive his forgiveness.
All through his earthly ministry, Jesus went around forgiving sins. His promises of forgiveness would have been meaningless without the resurrection. But the resurrection proves that he has the power to forgive your sins.
Listen to me closely. If you have sin in your life, and the guilt is eating you up, God will forgive you. Your husband or wife may never forgive you. The people you work with may never forgive you. Your enemies may never forgive you. But listen! Forgiveness isn't theirs to give or withhold. The one who has power to forgive is the one who has power over death - and he will forgive you, absolutely and completely, without fail, when you come to him and confess your sins.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
That's why the angel said, "Tell his disciples AND PETER."
Easter Day is the most significant day in all of history. Were it not for Easter, our world would be a much different place. Because of Easter, because of the resurrection, we know that Jesus was who he said he was; he is who the Bible says he is - God in the flesh. Because he is, he has power over death and the power to change your life. And because he is who he said he was, he has the power and the love to wipe away your sins forever, and welcome you back into his arms.