Easter Sunday (16 Apr 2017)

Readings: Matthew 27:62-66, Matthew 28:1-10.

If I might hark back to Good Friday, my message then was about the two ways that the cross of Jesus works in our favour against sin.

Firstly it strikes at the symptoms of sin, which is the sins we commit that are offences against God.  This is forgiveness.  Why, we do not know, but we have been clearly told – by the blood of Jesus we are forgiven our sins.  Thanks be to God for that, because by it the way is open between us and God.

That is crucial, but it would be a half measure to strike only at the symptoms.  The cross of Jesus strikes also at the disease of sin itself, and defeats it altogether.  Having defeated death, the way is opened, through Jesus, for us to become citizens of heaven.  There the law of sin and death simply does not apply, and therefore we are delivered from its power.

There is no reason to separate the death and resurrection of Jesus – they are inseparable – but by them the way is first of all opened between us and God by forgiveness of our sins, then we are delivered from the power of sin by transferring us to the Kingdom of God.

If we grasp these two things, and the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the truth of them, we will know freedom, maybe more-so than you’ve ever known freedom before.

What, then, remains to be said about the resurrection of Jesus?

Firstly there would be nothing without it – the message of a dead Saviour would have died an immediate death.  Jesus’ followers never would have bothered to spread it.  But he was alive, he appeared to them, and they were 100% convinced it was true.  They would not be turned aside once the promised Holy Spirit came upon them.

Secondly, Jesus’ resurrection vindicated all he had been teaching.  Other people had been raised from the dead – some by Jesus himself.  But this was unaided by visible intervention.  This was 2 days or so later in the darkness of a closed tomb.

Matthew doesn’t want us to miss the impossibility of this – it was an historically monumental event that shook the world.  The tomb was guarded, and guard duty was a life and death thing in the Roman forces.  Failing your guard meant execution, so needless to say they were vigilant guards.  Yet the guards were helpless, and Jesus came out from the tomb in glory.

This historically monumental event shouted “YES” to all that Jesus had taught about God, about himself, about the Kingdom of God, about the devil, etc.

And when he went on to give his followers the mission of taking his Kingdom to the world, of offering salvation in his name, of healing the sick and driving out evil spirits; when he promised the gift of the Holy Spirit as power for the mission – he meant it.  When he said that all authority had been given to him, he meant it, and his followers believed him.

How sad it is that we need to pick ourselves up and work out how to become a passionately faithful and growing church again.  How can the world not fall in love with this Jesus?  How can they not embrace his grace; his forgiveness?  How can they choose emptiness and self-dependence when Jesus offers eternal life of a kind we scarcely imagine?

Well it may seem obvious, but the same kind of question needs to be asked to his followers, of which I claim to be one, and most of you do too.

How is it possible, in the face of these gifts of God, that our faith could ever grow cold?  How is it possible we could lose confidence in our mission, or even lose confidence in Jesus himself?

Because we do.  I think we listen to the unhappy world around us too much, and listen to Jesus too little.  We trust our eyes and ears and our own minds more than we trust the promises and the faithfulness of Jesus.

We are going to talk about some of these things in the coming weeks, I think, because the appearances of Jesus to his disciples sharpen his call to us all.

What kind of a Saviour is he?  What kind of Lord?  What kind of followers are we?  What kind of mission are we being given?  What kind of life is a life of faith?  And who is willing to live it?

All these questions are unavoidable in the face of that empty tomb and the risen Jesus.  He has gone through hell and back to offer us life and purpose.

In his risen glory you might expect him to say “I told you so.”  But what he says instead is “Shall we be friends?  Come and know freedom from sin.  Come let’s do eternal work together.”