Easter Sunday 2020

An Easter message from Dave Newmarch

Christ is risen! Christ is risen! 

In the Anglican tradition we would say, “He’s risen indeed.” It’s an incredibly special day isn’t it. The most important celebration as we celebrate Jesus conquering death. Our readings today have taken us through 3 incidents where Jesus appeared to his followers. 

There were eyewitnesses that testified to Jesus having risen. Paul mentions 500 that saw Jesus.

Important for us – as proof of the need for us to repent and seek the true God. Acts 17:31

This morning we’re going to do 2 things.

1.Look at v.19-23

2. Three things that connect Easter with our present situation

v.19-23 First, in these verses 3 things that Jesus DID and then three things that Jesus SAID

1. The doors were locked. Jesus came in where no else could go

Jesus did not have to knock. He did not even have to open the door. He simply was there. And he wasn’t a ghost. Look at verse 20: “He showed them his hands and his side.” So he has a physical body. But not exactly like ours: the same, yet different. He was simply there, in spite of the closed doors.

Which means that today in your life, Jesus can go where no one else can go. He can go where no counsellor can go. He can go where no doctor can go. He can go deeper than even you closest friend can go. He can reach you, and reach into you, anywhere and any time. There is no place where you are, and no depths of personhood that you are which Jesus can’t penetrate.

Jesus’s resurrection from the dead makes it possible for him to do what no one else can do. There is no one else like him in all the universe. He is alive, and he is the one and only God-Man. What he is capable of you cannot imagine. All the complex layers of your life, which neither you nor anyone else can understand, are familiar territory to him.

2. They were afraid. Jesus came to them in their fear

Verse 19: “The doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. . . .” Their leader had just been crucified as threat to Caesar. Their fear is totally understandable. And into that fear Jesus comes.

As we face this  time of uncertainty with coronavirus I’m sure you’re like me at times. I don’t know what the future holds. I certainly feel the need of risen, living Jesus more than ever. Fear. I’m sometimes fearful that I won’t be prepared for what I’m expected to do. Fear that I might not do the things that are necessary for the church to grow. Fear that I might drift into worldliness and uselessness.

Jesus comes to us like he did to the disciples. Jesus come to us when we are afraid. He doesn’t wait for us to get our act together. He doesn’t wait for us  to have enough faith to overcome  our fear. 

We can cry out to Jesus when we are fearful; when we don’t know what to do. And my testimony after almost fifty years of being a Christian, is that Jesus comes to us when we call out to him. The risen, living Jesus is still doing this. He comes when we cry out to him in our fear. He helps us. And sometimes it’s just enough for him to say to us , “Wait with me. Wait.”   And he has come near with the promise: “Fear not I am with, be not dismayed, I am your God, I will help you” (Isaiah 41:10). 

3. Jesus comes to them and stands in their midst.

Verse 19: “the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them.” The point here is that he came right into the middle of their meeting. He did not come to the edge and call out through the wall and deal with them as a distant god. He wasn’t playing games with them. He wasn’t toying with their faith. He wanted them to see him and know him and believe in him and love him.

Jesus wants to come close to you, not calling to you from a distance, but coming right into your midst. That’s what I pray is happening in your life even as you are in isolation. Jesus wants to come and be with you.

In v. 21-23 there are three things that Jesus wants to give to the disciples:

1.Peace. Twice he says this. v.19 and then again v.22

We’ve talked a lot about this peace a bit in the last 2 weeks

And how do you receive this? Everybody doesn’t have it. It’s a gift of God. We receive it. Or we walk away from it. Or better to say: we receive him. Or walk away from him. He is our peace. If you have the risen, living Christ as your Saviour, and Lord, and Friend, you have the peace that he gives — the peace that he is. Jesus offers you that. 

The gift of peace is a special gift at this time.

2.Jesus wants to give us the Spirit

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” 

Jesus was going to pour out the Holy Spirit when he ascended into heaven (Acts 2:33). That happens about seven weeks after his resurrection. We read about it in the first chapter of Acts. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). The work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gives is that he makes us able to do what we are simply not able to do on our own. He gives us power.

So here in John 20:22, Jesus performs a kind of acted out parable. “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” He didn’t say, Receive him at this very moment. He said in effect: Realize that my breath, my life, my word will be in the Holy Spirit. We’ve seen this before in John 14. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). The risen, living Jesus has come to us. He has sent us the Holy Spirit. His Spirit. He has breathed on us.

And he says in verse 21b: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” I want you to live in the world as my representatives. My ambassadors. I want you to take my peace and take my power, and glorify my Father the way I have (John 12:27–28).

Jesus comes to us and gives us his peace with God. Then he gives us power to do the kinds of things that mere humans can’t do — like defeating our own selfishness, and loving other people, and treasuring Christ above all. And then with that peace and that power he sends us as his witnesses: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

I’m sending you to extend my peace and my light and my truth and my life in the world. I am going to my Father. But I give you my Spirit. I am the power in you. So go and glorify me in this world. He sends us — in the peace of God, by the power of God, to do the will of God for the glory of God, and for the good of others.

And just a quick word on v.23, it’s a bit puzzling isn’t it. Here’s what I think it means. It’s a good way to end. Jesus says to the disciples: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

What he means is this: When you tell people about what I have done, speaking my word, about my work, in the power of my Spirit, I am the one speaking through you, so that if anyone believes your word, I forgive their sins. And if any does not believe your words, I don’t’ forgive them. And since you are my voice and my truth, I speak of you forgiving them, and you withholding forgiveness.

Which simply means that right now: How you respond to this message from me, simply a sinful, human messenger who makes mistakes will decide whether you are forgiven or not. As an ambassador of Christ, I urge you, be reconciled to God: receive as a free gift his peace, his power, his purpose. 

I now want to make some more general comments about the resurrection as they apply to us today.

We miss church and we especially miss going to church this week.

As we sit isolated at home we can feel miserable and like life has been badly disrupted

But instead of seeing  this week as a terrible disruption I want you recognize that the message we gather to celebrate every year is the exact message the world needs right now.

Let’s consider three pandemic themes that help us process this most unusual year:

1. GOD HATES DEATH.

On Good Friday we pause and ponder the excruciating and unjust death of Jesus Christ.

We pause and ponder this moment because in the death of this innocent man is the death of death.

We must remember that God hates death. In 1 Corinthians 15, we are told death is the “final foe,” an evil that has been there right from after creation and infected human hearts since the garden of Eden.

Death brings viruses and violence, murder and medical tragedies.

Sometimes Christians paper over death as if it’s just a window into eternity, but we see that Jesus wept and was angry at death when he peered over and looked in on the corpse of His friend Lazarus.

Good Friday reminds us just how much God hates death and all of its diabolical cousins, like coronavirus.

When we read Jesus’ last words, which were actually a shout of triumph, “It is finished,” know that in His agony is the sure hope/ the certainty, that one day, not long from now, viruses like COVID-19 will lose their sting.

2. JESUS WAS ALONE SO YOU WILL NEVER BE ALONE.  

The most tragic reality of this moment is that many are forced to be alone in the most trying of times.

We’re intensely social creatures, not made for isolation. And yet we can see in the agony of Jesus in his dying moments a true loneliness we don’t have to experience.

Jesus—the blame of humankind’s worst evil thrust upon his sagging shoulders—felt the cold shoulder of the Father, who turned His face away. Jesus was alone so you would never be alone and could enjoy communion with the One who created you.

Jesus felt the sting of isolation so you could be baptized into a body of believers in Heaven and earth. Jesus took upon himself your sins so you could enjoy intimacy with your Father.

I don’t want to make this trite and pretend to play down the crushing weight of loneliness that’s gripping people in our church and I think across the country. It’s real and you’re right to lament your situation.

But we’re not without slivers of hope. Jesus has broken through the sting of death, he’s defeated sin and he welcomes us into communion with him and the Father.

3. JESUS ROSE AGAIN AND SO WILL ALL WHO KNOW HIM.  

This is where our theology gets real. To the grief-stricken sisters of Lazarus, who succumbed to death, Jesus gave this promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25).

Jesus isn’t only saying that He would rise again. He would and He did. Jesus is saying more than that: He is the resurrection and the life.

When He walked out of that borrowed tomb three days later, He put death to death. It means that the curse that takes mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, children and grandchildren isn’t eternal.

It’s hard to see it now, as we watch news reports. But if the resurrection really happened, then it means this reality isn’t forever. There’s a new world coming, a new creation.

Easter is the sign that a new world is coming, that one day God will take rotted dust particles, ravaged by disease and decay, and will reconstitute them into real, physical bodies fit for eternity. Just like Jesus had a new body we too will have a new body.

This cycle of pain and sadness, viruses and death has an expiration date. This is the reality of Easter. And this is why, of all years and all days, this message of the resurrection is the message we need to hear.

We might have had plans to have Easter celebrations to reach out to our neighbours. But God doesn’t need our best-laid plans to make the gospel relevant. In the midst of a crisis, where death is on our minds, Easter is the healing that we need.

So the resurrection reminds us that 

1. Jesus can come where no one else can go

2. Jesus comes to us in our fears , he stands in our midst

3. He gives us his gift of peace and his spirit

4. Jesus death means we don’t have to be alone anymore

5.Easter is the sign that a new world is coming with no isolation, no fear, no death.

Thank you Jesus.

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