April 16 2006  Easter Sunday

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

John 11:25-26

25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

(Message by Rev. Robert Selle)


            I always enjoy the spring of the year … the grass is turning green again, the trees leaf out and flower, and the bulbs return to life and sprout.  That always amazes me, how a seemingly lifeless, dry bulb can come to life!  But it does!  Each and every year the gladiolas, tulips, jonquils, and one of my favorites, onions, come to life!


This miracle of nature is merely a miniature of the excitement that Easter brings to all the children of God.  To all who walk in the valley of the shadow of death, resurrection morning offers visible proof and a certain promise:  a proof that our Lord is alive forevermore and a promise of the beauty we will one day behold in blooming time, on the day of our own resurrection.


      Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;” That’s mighty good news for a dying world!


I expect you’ve heard it said that there are only two certainties in life:  death and taxes.  I’m not so sure about taxes … even after tax reforms there are always loopholes, exemptions, exceptions, and deductions. 


But I do know this:  Everybody’s going to die (except for those who are alive when Jesus returns in glory.)  That’s the inescapable truth.


Ever since the dawn of time, death has been spoken of in a hushed and solemn voice.  Even today, some people don’t even like to use the word.  When someone dies, they prefer to say that the person “passed on,” “passed away,” or “expired.”  In plain English, the person is dead.  And that is something that frightens us, because with all our scientific ability and sophisticated technology, we still cannot explore or satisfactorily explain what happens when a person dies.  After death, what?  That’s still the age-old question. 


There are many people who have described near death experiences” when they go through a tunnel toward a bright light.  But those people did not truly die.  They are still with us.  Nobody has ever come back from the grave to tell us what’s on the other side, what happens, what it’s like … except one:  Jesus of Nazareth.


Yes, Jesus died, just as all humans die.  He was laid in a grave and mourned by those who loved Him, His followers.  Then something wonderful happened – something unexpected and unprecedented.  On the third day after he was buried, Jesus became physically alive again.  He overcame death.  He rose from the dead!  He rose as a sign and seal that death is not final.  There is life on the other side of death, not only for Jesus, but for all of us here who will face the day of our own death trusting in Him.


Today is the anniversary celebration of Jesus’ rising from death and coming to life.  It’s a celebration of joy because in that Easter event is proof of a living Lord, and the promise of eternal life.  To you and me, who day by day come closer to the moment of our own death, that’s mighty good news!


I realize, of course, that somebody might say, “Yes, that’s good news, if it’s true.  But how do you know it really happened?  What if it’s just wishful thinking?”  That’s an honest question, and an important one.  For me, the proof is demonstrated again and again in the written record of the eyewitness testimony.  People who were there, people who saw it happen with their own two eyes, people who touched Him with their own two hands, wrote it down for us.  These were not fools.  They were folks like you and me – workman, professionals, housewives.  They were just as hard-nosed, hard-headed, clear-sighted, and skeptical at first – not easily taken in by some unfounded fairy tale.


            These were people who knew what death was!  They had watched loved ones die.  They had seen children uprooted in the flower of youth.  They had grieved as adults with so much to live for were carried to the cemetery and lowered into the ground.  To people who knew the finality of death, to people who watched it happen, the startling news of Easter morning sounded pretty fishy.  When the news of the resurrection was relayed to the disciples,  they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 


Understandably so!  Who had ever heard of such a thing?  And Thomas went so far as to say, Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it! Don’t get the idea that these were gullible people, because they weren’t.  They required visible, tangible, demonstrable proof that something so unimaginable could possibly occur.  In modern terms, we might say that they demanded verifiable scientific proof.  And they got it!  For 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared again and again to men and women who had intimately known him in life – those who could and would recognize if indeed it really was Him.  It was!  It was Jesus come back from the dead.


            They were not gullible people, and neither should we be taken in by the false and fictional writings of the Da Vinci Code or the reported “Gospel of Judas” which is in reality, no gospel at all.  These two books are written in the Gnostic style, meaning that the story they tell is not one of salvation found in through the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus.  For the Gnostic, salvation is found in some secret, hidden message that can only be revealed to a few, but is hidden from the many. 


Salvation to the Gnostic is found in our knowledge, our knowing some secret truth.  Salvation to the Christian is found in trusting the action of a holy God who lived for us, died carrying our sin with Him on the cross, and rose victorious over sin, the devil, and death!


No, neither the Da Vinci Code nor the “Gospel of Judas” speak about our Lord truthfully.  Our Lord, desires all to be saved, not just a few who know secrets.  Jesus proclaimed Himself clearly and plainly to be the Savior who would Himself go to Jerusalem, be handed over to the authorities, be flogged, and be crucified and raised on the third day so that the forgiveness of sins could be proclaimed in His name to the entire world.  What Jesus had to tell the Disciples and the world He spoke plainly.  There is no secret hidden knowledge.  He had no wife; He leaves no bloodline on the earth.  His bride is the Church and by His life, death and resurrection we are made children of God.  Don’t exchange the truth of God for a lie.  Don’t be misled.  This is nothing new under the sun … there is no mystery here.


            After He rose from the dead, Jesus showed Himself alive many times to His disciples, in ways that would convince them beyond the shadow of a doubt.  It was no dream, no hallucination, no figment of the imagination, no product of wishful thinking:  it was fact!  They saw Jesus.  They touched Him.  They ate with Him.  Jesus was alive, risen from the dead, just as He had said.


            Since this is true, the rest follows.  From the sprout will come the flower.  From the proof flows the promise.  In Christ, the living Lord, all people have access to new life – eternal life.  Like a beautiful flower, the promise of life through Christ unfolds from the pages of Scripture.


            If you want a life that is meaningful and real:  If you want a life that’s free of guilt and fear; if you want a life that will not and cannot be snuffed out or destroyed by death; then look to Jesus!  Look to the empty cross!  Look to the open tomb!  Believe in Him!  Receive from Him the gift of life that will, in fact, be perfected on the other side of death!  Jesus is the proof, and Jesus is the promise! That’s why Easter is special.  That’s why we celebrate.  That’s why we who appreciate the simple joy of a newly-sprouted bulb can experience joy a thousand-fold as we look to true faith in Jesus.  He is our proof for today.  He is our promise for tomorrow.  He is our life forever.  Amen.