Easter. This story. This Holiday…it all comes out of the brokenness of our Savior. A story passed down for generations. But is it a story that is relevant for today?
My dad, who is 92, and my mom, who is 87, have a lot of stories they like to tell. But one in particular that they have passed down through the generations has to do with their migration from Germany and Russia/Ukraine. The story is told of their hardship when they arrived. My mother recalls her first few Christmas’ when they received no gifts accept that which they already had been given. She had a doll that her mother refreshed by stitching her a new face and updated her with a clean dress. That was Christmas for mom. I love that story every time she tells it reminding me of how simple gifts can be.
These stories, so beautifully told, paint a picture on my journey that helps me appreciate them more.
And the interesting thing about this story is it’s no Lifetime movie…it is truth. They know because they lived it.
There was a foretelling of the story we celebrate this time of year ….
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
It was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
A punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
Crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
The sins of us all.
Isaiah 53:4-6 nlt
God sent His only son to earth. He lived and breathed among us. He touched our bruised skin. Healed our wounds. The lame began to walk. Those who were demon possessed were no longer possessed. And, anyone who wanted to be freed from their sin…all they had to do was believe.
Believe that he was the Savior. Believe that his life was going to set them free.
His message was radical. Unconventional. Inspirational…and they couldn’t take it. Who? It was the church of that day…the Jewish leaders that led him to his death. I think we forget that. And it paints such an interesting picture of our hearts…our sin…our selfishness. None of us are above that. We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s wholeness and purity…Romans 3:23 says. We, together, wanted him dead. What he was doing was killing our pride and making religious leaders deal with their own humility.
Could they? Would they be willing to accept the fact that God wanted to send his son to die for us all?
So they unjustly killed him. They crucified him. You know the story. That cross hangs from our rear view mirrors and around our necks. It’s placed on top of steeples on churches and tattooed on bodies. It’s sewn into fabrics and screen printed on t-shirts. We know the cross but do we value its worth.
Because behind the symbol, a life was given so that we could find worth.
And so Jesus was murdered. Martyred. Beaten to a bloody pile of flesh and bones and then they hung him on a tree. You’ve seen the movies. I’ve seen them too. We set in plush theaters with popcorn in hand watching them rip open the flesh of our Savior and then weeks later we watch as awards are won for the portrayal.
A few years ago a handful of us gathered in a village of Africans as they watched the story of Jesus for the first time in central Ghana. They clapped through every miracle. They cried when he died on the cross. They cheered when Jesus rose from the dead. The story was as real to them as it had been a few thousand years ago.
But in our Western state do we really understand the story? We find ourselves too busy to listen. Too selfish to commit. And what can happen is if we’re not careful is Jesus just becomes a part of history. Passed down through Easter eggs and ham dinners when it’s really something we should be celebrating every day. Because … the cross isn’t where the story ended.
Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.
2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3 His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.
5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”
8 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. 9 And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”
People ask me all the time as a pastor how I know that Jesus is real. My answer is always the same. All you have to do is look around you. Lives mended only by the grace of God. Widows rejoicing only by the mercy of God. Hearts healing only by the love of God.
I say it all the time, but even on my best day, I’m still full of me. I can’t do these things for others on my own. It is only by the hand of our great creator.
I’ve seen some of you overcome attempted suicide in your struggle with death. I’ve seen you overcome the fingers of pornography and those who have struggled with their sexual lusts and flesh.
I’ve seen some of you let go of the bottle and some of you overcome your addiction to meth...
That’s how I know it’s more than just a story…it’s living and active and full of truth.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. In any season. Through every season. Why? Because the X Factor this weekend is that Jesus overcame death. A lot of great religious leaders taught great things. Made a move for peace. Even gave their lives in the process. But only one through the course of history…has overcome death. And when you overcome death, you have bragging rights to overcome it all.
Every sorrow. Every pain. Every fear.
Although we still struggle with those things, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved… can overcome. All we have to do is call.
This story we tell of Christ and the resurrection isn’t just for those who don’t know him on their journey. It’s for all of us to follow him more closely, to live our lives more joyfully…to embrace his love gracefully…and share it with all those around.
And one day, we will be resurrected with Him. What will that look like? What will that feel like? I don’t exactly know, but I do know that we can count on it. God’s Word promises us that. That will be the part of the story to come ... Your story and mine.
Mark / Christ Follower / Husband / Father / Son / 29:11 Pioneer