Easter

"SONRISE IN THE MOURNING BRINGS AN END TO A GRAVE PROBLEM"

TEXT: Luke 24:1-53

INTRO:

We like to avoid the subject of death. Young people live as though it doesn't exist, middle age people think it only happens to other people, and elderly people try avoid the obvious nature of death by using terms like, "so and so passed on" or "so and so is no longer with us", etc.

The fact is that every human being will die! There is nothing in this world that offers hope against this, only the Easter message has a real solution to the 'grave' problem man must face!

We have holidays to celebrate work (Labor day), to honor the dead (Memorial day), to honor independence (July 4), to celebrate love (Valentine's day), to honor people (Mother's day, Father's day, President's day, Martin Luther King day, etc.), to celebrate material blessings (Thanksgiving), to celebrate a new start (New Year's day), but in all the world there is only one holiday that can celebrate victory over death and this is Easter - a Christian holiday!

Without Easter there is no hope for mankind to exist outside of short life spans like most animals. Christ's resurrection is the single most important event in human history!

Since Christ alone has conquered death, faith in Christ can mean the difference between eternal life with God and eternal life without him.

Someone may say, "But how do you know God is real and that Christ rose from the dead if you can't see it firsthand?" The evidences alone are strong enough to demand our faith!

ILLUS: A student wrote on a physics exam that he did not believe in atom, so he did not write a paper on it like instructed. The professor called him up and asked him why he didn't believe in atoms. The student's response was, "I have never seen one, and no one else has either." The professor felt duty bound to fail the young man because though it was true that an actual atom has never been seen the evidence for their existence was very well known. Their effect on matter, the mathematical formulas that say they must be there and predict their behavior, the understanding we have about their nature in order to combine them to make new products and suddenly he understood the logic of Christians as he explained this, true, no one has seen God, but His powers and presence in the hearts and lives of Christians for thousands of years, changing them in predictable ways, the vastness of creation, the constant ways life springs from death in the universe, etc. all point to the reality of God and Christ's resurrection.

PROP. SENT: The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus rose from the dead and because of this those who put their faith in Him will find eternal life. There is a 'grave' difference between those who believe in Christ and those who don't!

I. A 'GRAVE' SITUATION! 24:1-12

A. Barriers to Faith 24:1-5 1. The followers of Jesus were hardly the kind of people to make up a story about Jesus being raised from the dead, consider the following: a. The women came with spices to embalm his body, not to run around telling people he was raised from the dead! b. The men were hiding behind locked doors for fear of the authorities, they were hardly in a state of mind to bring the authorities down on them by stealing Jesus' body! c. Besides this, the tomb had been sealed with a wax seal and Roman guards on 24 hour duty. d. A huge stone was placed at the entrance to block any possible attempts to reach Jesus. e. They had all seen Jesus die! 2. It had been almost 3 days since Jesus had died. 3. Everything was dark and cloudy, none of the disciples showed any faith!

ILLUS: It was June 18, 1815, the Battle of Waterloo. The French under the command of Napoleon were fighting the Allies (British, Dutch, and Germans) under the command of Wellington. The people of England depended on a system of semaphore signals to find out how the battle was going. One of these signal stations was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral. Late in the day it flashed the signal: "W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N---D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D- -." Just at that moment one of those sudden English fog clouds made it impossible to read the message. The news of defeat quickly spread throughout the city. The whole countryside was sad and gloomy when they heard the news that their country had lost the war. Suddenly the fog lifted, and the remainder of the message could be read. The message had four words, not two. The complete message was: "W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N- - -DE-F-E-A- T-E-D- - -T-H-E- - -E-N- E-M-Y!" It took only a few minutes for the good news to spread. Sorrow was turned into joy, defeat was turned into victory! So it was when Jesus was laid in the tomb on the first Good Friday afternoon. Hope had died even in the hearts of Jesus' most loyal friends. After the frightful crucifixion, the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding had crept in on the friends of Jesus. They had "read" only part of the divine message. "Christ defeated" was all that they knew. But then on the third day--Easter Sunday--the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding lifted, and the world received the complete message: "Christ defeated death!" Defeat was turned into victory; death was turned to life! --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 165-166.

a. Christ had died all right, but they had only heard part of the message! b. In all the dark moments of disbelief they failed to see the whole message! 4. What is the alternative to faith in God for life? THERE IS NONE! a. While it was hard to believe, it was necessary to believe! b. It is not "seeing is believing" it is "believing is seeing!" 5. They needed a "sonrise" to destroy their "mourning"! 6. There is nothing in the entire world that offers hope against death except the resurrection of Jesus Christ! a. While the barriers to faith are great, the benefits of faith are greater! b. It would be a greater challenge to go through life thinking that there is nothing more beyond the grave that it is to live knowing there is an even greater future.

B. Based on Facts! 24:6-12 1. While our salvation rests on faith, faith does have some facts to base it on! a. The sealed tomb was open and empty! b. The Roman guards admitted that angels came and rolled away the tomb. c. The officials in town paid off the soldiers for their silence! d. The burial clothes were still in their wrapped style around the body, but with no body inside them anymore! e. The women came to embalm Jesus with expensive spices, not to find a risen Lord! f. Only weeks earlier Jesus proved a dead person can return from the dead even after 4 days, Lazarus who had been dead that long was raised again, and there were tons of witnesses to this! g. Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah were all fulfilled in Christ's life! h. Jesus had raised other dead people besides Lazarus - many witnesses to that as well. i. Jesus appears to these women, and to the 11 disciples behind locked doors! j. Jesus was seen by over 500 people after His crucifixion! 2. With so many facts it is weird that so many people find it hard to believe in Christ's resurrection, but they can believe in other things without knowing hardly anything!

ILLUS: William Jennings Bryan wrote this about miracles: "Some skeptics say, 'Oh, the miracles. I can't accept miracles.' One may drop a brown seed in the black soil and up comes a green shoot. You let it grow and by and by you pull up its root and find it red. You cut the root and it has a white heart. Can anyone tell how this comes about--how brown cast into black results in green and then red and white? Yet you eat your radish without troubling your mind over miracles. Men are not distressed by miracles in the dining room--they reserve them all for religion!" -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

II. A 'GRAVE' SOLUTION! 24:13-35

A. Bereaved Followers 24:13-27 1. As were the disciples, these two men on the road to Emmaus had no faith in the possibility of Christ being alive. a. They were traveling home from Jerusalem after the terrible things were over. b. Since the men had considered the story by the women that Jesus was alive to be "nonsense" (24:11) they decided to return home and get on with life. c. While stating that Peter and John had indeed found the tomb empty as the women had said, they did not see Jesus. 2. Their view of Jesus now was that He had only been a "prophet" 24:19 3. They admit that the ladies found the tomb empty, but this had not yielded faith in their hearts, only more grief. 4. Jesus is traveling with them and they can't even see Him! a. Sometimes Christ is right there in our sorrowing, and we don't recognize His presence! b. Their hopes for something greater in life were gone 24:21

B. Brighter Future! 24:28-35 1. Fortunately for them (and us!) Jesus reveals Himself! a. The primary source for bringing their faith alive was the Scriptures! b. As Jesus opened their understanding to the Scriptures their hearts began to "burn within them" as they stated later. c. This witness we still have with us! 2. With both the WORD of God and the WORKS of Jesus their eyes become opened! a. They began to realize that the empty tomb was God's plan!

ILLUS: The stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in.

b. If Jesus was able to appear to the disciples through a locked door, He certainly didn't need the stone rolled away, it was to let us in to see God's power to empty the grave! 3. As they began to believe the Scriptures, they began to see Jesus - and we have the same mechanism in which to see Jesus today! 4. Now that they had seen Jesus with their own eyes, though tired and a long ways from Jerusalem they don't wait for the next day to go back, they travel at night back to the other guys in order to share the 'good news' (the meaning of the term 'Gospel'). a. Jesus who had come to Earth in a WOMB, now exits it through a TOMB! b. Once back they tell Jesus' disciples that it was all true, Jesus was indeed alive. (The ladies were probably glad to have the men finally believe their "nonsense"!)

III. A GREAT SALVATION! 24:36-53

A. Blessed Fellowship! 24:36-44 1. While they were still telling the 11 disciples about what had happened to them and Jesus' appearance to them while they traveled Jesus appears to them all - while they are still behind a "locked door!" (John 20:19) a. The 11 however think they are seeing a ghost, they had yet to have Jesus do for them what He did for the 2 men on the road to Emmaus - open the Scriptures! b. Without the Scriptural understanding all they had left was superstitions! c. This is precisely what the world has without God's Word! 2. Jesus offers to eat food to prove He is real, but the real proof came not so much in eating the fish as in sharing the Scripture as He does right after eating. 3. Jesus does a 'house call' in order to do a 'heart call!'

ILLUS: Jerry Rice, who plays for football's San Francisco 49ers, is considered by many experts the best receiver in the NFL. Interviewers from Black Entertainment Television once asked Rice, "Why did you attend a small, obscure university like Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Mississippi?" Rice responded, "Out of all the big-time schools (such as UCLA) to recruit me, MVSU was the only school to come to my house and give me a personal visit." The big-time schools sent cards, letters, and advertisements, but only one showed Rice personal attention. How much more important is the personal touch in matters of the heart, soul, and spirit. -- Edward J. Robinson, Urbana, Illinois. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 1.

B. Believing Faith 24:45-53 1. While eating food calmed them down a bit on the "ghost" issue, Jesus immediately starts opening the Scriptures up to them in order to do more than just calm them down, He wants to call them to faith! 2. As Jesus opens their minds to the Word of God and understanding it, faith begins to take hold, it really is "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God!" a. This is still the way to faith! b. "Believing IS seeing" and not "seeing is believing!" 3. Only after revealing to them God's Word did Jesus dare to leave them! 4. They were faced with a decision, as we all are, to put their faith in a risen Lord - the outcome of all eternity hinges on that choice! 5. So many are afraid to believe in the "unknown," choosing to only believe in themselves as a known factor, but Christ offers us hope, He offers us life, but we must choose it!

ILLUS: An Arab chief tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, "What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?" The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad. Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution. The general turned to his aide and said, "They always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet, we gave him a choice." The aide said, "What lies beyond the big door?" "Freedom," replied the general. "I've known only a few brave enough to take it." -- Don McCullough, "Reasons to Fear Easter," Preaching Today, Tape No. 116.

6. What will you choose, is Easter only another great holiday, or will you make it the HOLY DAY God created it to be, a day we celebrate our Lord's victory over death and the relationship we can have with God through Christ by faith?

CONCLUSION: The resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed the world more than any other single event! Without His resurrection there can be no Christianity - and no hope against death! Jesus Christ is the only one to conquer death, all other religious leaders are still buried in their graves, it is only through Christ that we can find eternal life. Have you received Christ as your Lord and savior?