Good morning and welcome to Journey Church. My name is Phil and it’s an exciting day here at Journey. Today is the day we celebrate the risen Jesus. On Friday night we commemorated the day of Jesus death on the cross with a somber celebration. He died for our sins. On Friday afternoon he was placed in the tomb. On Sunday – Jesus was raised from the dead. And on Easter Sunday, once a year – the church – the universal church – we celebrate the truth that Jesus is alive. Jesus defeated death.
I heard a little story recently about a young boy – maybe 5 – he and his father were walking past a cemetery – and the cemetery was getting ready to bury someone and so they had dug a hole and there was a big pile of dirt. The boy asked his father what that was all about? And his dad said, trying to be a good dad – Son when people die they often get buried. And that place is called a cemetery – it’s the place where they bury dead bodies.
The boy looked at the hole and the pile of dirt and said – uh-oh Dad – looks like one got away!
Easter is a celebration of the one that got away! You know – death had a pretty good track record until Jesus shows up on the scene – up to that point everyone who died stayed died. Until Jesus starts flexing on death – starts bringing people like Lazarus back from the dead.
But that’s okay – death thought – temporary set backs – they will die eventually- and death was right – it had nothing to worry about. All of those people Jesus brought back from the grave eventually died again.
Death flew it’s undefeated banner high – 100% victorious – a big bully that never lost a fight – until death bit off more than it could chew – it tried to put Jesus in the ground – and God the Father breathed life into Jesus and
Up from the grave he arose.
With a mighty triumph over his foes.
He arose the victor from that dark domain.
And he lives forever – with his people – to reign.
Jesus removed the championship belt that death proudly wore and Jesus draped it across his own death. He is the King of Kings – the Lord of Lords. The master of life and Death.
And so – as we near the close of our series that we started back over Christmas – our look at the Real Jesus- we come to the climactic ending this Easter morning – the real Jesus died on that cross for the forgiveness of our sins. The Real Jesus was put into the tomb and our sins went there with him. Three days later Jesus rose from the dead – he only thing left behind was a few linen clothes and- all the sins of everyone who has placed their faith in Him. The real Jesus is alive and well this morning and he is here in our midst.
What I want to do this morning is walk you through what happened after the resurrection. To whom did Jesus appear to? If the resurrection is good news – then to whom is the news good?
Let’s take a look at the people Jesus interacted with after the resurrection and discover exactly how the resurrection is good news to these seven people. Yes! A seven-point sermon on Easter. No – it’s a one point sermon with seven examples. The point is- The Resurrection of Jesus is Good News.
- The Resurrection is good news for anyone who feels left out. Do you ever struggle with fitting in? Do you ever feel like you are on the outside looking in? Good news – the resurrection of Jesus is proof of your friendship with Jesus.
Jesus was a friend collector. He never met anyone he didn’t think he could be friends with. Zaccheus – the guy collecting taxes from Jewish people to give to Rome and getting rich while doing it? That guy was hated. Jesus is like – I’m eating at your house – let’s do this.
One time Jesus ends up in a cemetery- in the middle of the night. And in the pitch darkness Jesus hears a guy dragging chains and howling like a dog at the moon! and there’s this guy who lives in the tombs – howls at night like a wolf! Dragging chains – scary, right? Who’s that?
Jesus is like – bring that guy to me! I want to be friends with that guy! You’re not too weird to be Jesus’ friend. You’re weird, but not weird enough to be excluded by Jesus.
Everywhere Jesus went he had a way of collecting friends. Especially those pushed to the fringes by circumstance or society.
Now – sometimes people feel left out because society forces them to the sideline. Cultural norms often relegate people in society to second-class status.
And such was the case for women in the first century. Now Luke, who is one of four people who detailed the life and ministry, and the death burial and resurrection of Jesus – Luke goes to great lengths to record how Jesus elevates the role that women played in his ministry.
For instance – Luke makes sure to note that – while almost all of the male disciples fled from the cross on Friday night – there was a group of women who stayed by Jesus’ side until he died on that cross.
They have to be asking themselves – What will come of them now? Who will be their champion now that Jesus, their friend, is dead?
And early on Sunday morning – those women gather to go and prepare the body of Jesus for burial – Luke mentions them by name in chapter 24 – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary mother of James – along with others. Except when they arrive at the tomb! It’s empty!
4 As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. 5 The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!
For everyone here and listening today who feels misunderstood – overlooked – pushed aside – unvalued – the resurrection is good news for you! It means your champion – your friend – is alive today! Not even death can get between Jesus and you, his friend.
The one who understands you better than anyone else – the one who gets you – is alive and well. And you can count on him. The Resurrection is good news for anyone who feels left out.
- The resurrection is good news for people who are battling their demons.
That term is an expression that we use nowadays to talk about people who are fighting an intense inner battle against something that seems to control them – whether it’s an addiction or a compulsion.
It might be that you are here today and on the outside you look put-together – they have no idea of the war that wages inside of you. They have no idea that you are fighting an internal battle that is tearing you up on the inside.
It is an invisible to everyone except you – and Jesus. Jesus knows.
The Bible tells us a tiny bit of Mary Magdalene’s story. We are introduced to her as someone who was fighting inner demonic forces that had enslaved her. Mary was literally battling her demons but she was not winning – she was unable to find freedom.
Until Jesus comes along. When Jesus shows up – Mary learns that there is one who is much stronger than her demons. There is one who is able to deliver to her the victory she sought.
Jesus frees her and she begins to follow him from that moment until that fateful Friday evening, when she, along with the other women we just heard about – stood by Jesus’ side until he breathed his last breath upon that cross.
Friday Night. Saturday. Sunday Morning. Mary is living in fear. If Jesus is dead – does that mean she is bound to be enslaved by her demons once again?
On Sunday morning she, along with the other women, journey to the tomb in order to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. Except he is not there. The tomb is empty! “Why are you searching for the living, among the dead?”
John 20 tells us that – though the other women left the tomb to go tell the disciples – Mary Magdalene stayed behind at the tomb.
Guess who Jesus chooses to be the first person he appears to after his resurrection? It’s Mary.
The resurrection is good news to Mary, and good news to anyone fighting their demons. The one strong enough to fight off your demons, is strong enough to defeat death itself. And now – nothing will separate you from his mighty power ever again for eternity. Nothing can drive a wedge between you and Jesus.
The resurrection is good news for people battling their demons.
- It’s good news for people who feel like failures.
Do you have a chapter in your life you wish had never been written? A chapter that you wish you could tear out the pages and throw away ad pretend never happened because the title of it is my failure?
You know what’s interesting? The Bible is filled with people that fail miserably. There is hardly a biblical figure we read about who doesn’t have a chapter in their life like yours. You know why? Because life is filled with people who have failed.
Look at Peter. When you look at Jesus’ closest friends, Peter stands out as perhaps the closest. And yet – on the night Jesus is arrested and is being beaten and humiliated – Peter is there in the courtyard watching it all unfold.
Luke 24:56 A servant girl noticed Peter in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”
57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”
61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter.
62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.
Can I tell you one of my favorite things about the Easter story? Mark tells us that when the angels sent the women to tell the disciples – the angel said – Mark 16:7 “Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.” Make sure you tell Peter – especially Peter.
And – even cooler – according to Luke 24 and also 1 Corinthians 15 – the second person to see the resurrected Jesus was Peter. And we don’t ever get to read about what they talked about. It’s never recorded other than to say – Jesus appeared and met with Peter.
What we do know is Peter emerges from that conversation a totally changed man – Peter is transformed into the rock solid leader of the early church.
Jesus has a private meeting with Peter to make sure Peter knows – he not defined by his failure. And neither are we. There are many chapters of your life yet to be written.
The resurrection of Jesus is good news for those who need forgiveness. It is proof that the debt we owed has been paid in full. The Resurrection is the receipt. All is forgiven. All things are made new.
The resurrection is good news for people who feel like failures. Jesus died for our failures. He rose again to give us a new beginning. A new chapter. A new birth.
- The Resurrection is good news for people trying to figure it all out, spiritually. The next people – after Mary and Peter – that Jesus meets with face to face – are two guys taking a walk – one guy is named Cleopas – first and only time he shows up in the bible. We don’t even know the other guy’s name.
We do know they are trying to figure things out. And as they walk – Jesus shows up next to them. They don’t even know it’s Jesus – but Jesus appears and asks them what they are talking about – they tell Jesus – where have you been the last three days? Been living in a cave? And they tell Jesus all about himself and that they are trying to make sense of it all.
And Jesus graciously leads them to understand the Real Jesus. Explains it all to them so they understand – and only by the end of their walk did the lightbulbs come on – that they had found the living Jesus. Luke says, Suddenly their eyes were opened- and they recognized the real Jesus.
Listen – the resurrection is good news for anyone trying to figure this Jesus thing out. He is alive and he wants to be found. Search for him with all your heart and you too will end your journey by saying, we’ve discovered the real Jesus.
- The resurrection is good news for people who doubt. See, only now doe Jesus show up to the disciples – all of the disciples except Thomas. When Thomas comes back to the group the group is overwhelmed with excitement – Jesus is alive, they tell him. Thomas famously rebuffs them. Nah. I don’t think so. Thomas is skeptical. He has doubts and those are legitimate doubts.
You know – here at Journey – we value the role that doubt plays in our faith.
Timothy Keller writes, “A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts — not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’.
We love skeptical people here at Jesus. We understand the role that doubt plays in faith. It forces us to ask tough questions. But truth is never afraid of being asked tough questions. Truth will always triumph. And the resurrection of Jesus stands up under the closest of scrutiny.
Lee Strobel was a Yale law School graduate and the legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. At age 29 his wife started going to church and told Lee she wanted to become a Christian. Lee claimed to be an atheist and in an effort to free his wife from what he thought was a cult – he decided to investigate the resurrection.
Strobel came to the conclusion that it would require more faith for him to continue being an atheist than it would for him to follow Jesus and become a Christian.
“To continue to be an atheist I would have to swim upstream against this torrent of evidence pointing toward the truth of Jesus Christ. And I couldn’t do that. I was trained in journalism and law to respond to truth.”
And on Nov 9th , 1991 Lee Strobel decided to place his faith in Jesus and follow him. Because the evidence he found for the historical reliability of the resurrection was too great to ignore.
Resurrection is good news for the serious skeptic. (BTW – We have about a dozen copies of Lee’s book on the back table – if you’d like to grab one on your way out and read it – be our guest.)
The resurrection is good news for the doubter.
- The resurrection is good news for those who are facing death.
And I’m going to double up on Peter here. But in John 21 we read about one of Jesus’ last interactions with two of his friends. Peter and John. And Jesus looks at Peter and prophecies about how Peter is going to die.
He tells Peter – But when you (Peter) are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”
Stretching out your hands is a euphemism for crucifixion. Jesus tells Peter that he is going to be crucified. And one of the things I love about the story is how Peter responds. Peter looks at Jesus and points to John and says – What about him?
I’m not sure if misery was looking for company – but Jesus says – don’t worry about him. Just follow me and everything is going to be okay.
The resurrection takes the sting out of death. And one day Jesus is going to come back and we will have new bodies – amen. Living in a new world, amen. Jesus is the first to rise from the grave – and we are all going to follow suit.
The resurrection takes death and puts it in it’s place. We can trust God with our life. With our death. With our life after death.
The resurrection is good news to those who are facing death itself.
Finally – it’s good news for you. It’s good news for anyone ready to believe the good news. That Jesus lived. That Jesus died for our sins. That Jesus rose from the dead. A new kind of humanity awaits. A new kind of real is available.
Two kinds of people here today. We believe this and so we celebrate. And there are people who don’t. I’d like to invite both kinds of people to be part of Journey. It’s okay here to not believe. We will do our best to try to help you discover the real Jesus. But it’s only because we truly believe that when you discover the real Jesus you will find him irresistible. Irresistibly good and kind and loving and forgiving and affirming and risen.
Come now and lets worship the risen Lord.