Wednesday, April 19, 2017

As He Said: The Meaning of Easter

“After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him” (Matthew 28:1-9 NRSV).

You know, one of the hardest commandments to keep in all of Scripture just might be, “Thou shalt not lie.”  It’s so easy to lie.  Now, traditionally a lie is limited to any attempt to intentionally distort the truth.  But as my wife likes to remind me, if you tell me you’re going to do something for me, and you failed to do it, you lied to me!  Now the simplest way around unintentionally lying to someone we love, is to never make a promise that you can’t keep.  But we don’t do that, do we?  No, you and I are constantly making promises that we simply can’t keep.

We promise we’ll always be there for our friends, we promise to make every sports game, we promise to make every dance recital, we promise to never get angry again, we promise to never hurt our loved ones again.  Yet, over and over, we let our friends down when they need us the most, over and over we miss a child’s special event because of work, we yell at our significant others, and we say things that often will haunt them for the rest of their lives.  If only somebody, anybody, could do what they said they would do!

Enter Jesus Christ, Son of Man, and Son of God!  All week long, the threat of execution on a Roman cross had been looming heavily over every meal, every conversation, even, every prayer.  All week long the death of Jesus Christ was eminent.  All week long, Jesus had been reminding the disciples and all those who had so faithfully followed his life and ministry, “I must be lifted up, I must go to the cross.”  But in the midst of the doom and gloom, in the shadow of death, facing unspeakable betrayal, a farce of a legal trail that was rigged to begin with, and a Friday evening execution that was certain to lead to a shameful end, Jesus made a promise.

You see, in John 2:19, Jesus said, “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’”  And so it happened one day on Good Friday, Jesus sacrificed his life for you and for me on the cross of Calvary.  Two days come Holy Saturday, Jesus’ body was laid up in the tomb.  But my Lord, and my God, three days later on Easter Sunday, Jesus kept his promise.  Many of us are still waiting for Jesus to keep some of the promises he’s made us.  Maybe you’re still waiting for an emotional or physical healing, maybe you’re waiting for a husband or a wife, maybe you’re waiting for a career or a ministry, or more importantly maybe you’re waiting for Jesus to save your loved one.

For every promise Jesus has made you, God’s Word declares in Matthew 28:5, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”  As you begin your small group discussion today, remember that the meaning of Easter is that not even death can stop Jesus from keeping his promises.  Jesus said he would rise from the dead, and Jesus said he will come again, and Jesus will do…as he said!

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

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