Resurrection Sunday Morning Prayer (4 April 2021) John 20
We welcome this celebratory occasion.
JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED!
Often the preacher will tremble at the responsibility of trying to proclaim such glorious truth, as words can fail one. How can one describe these wonders?
Well, let us first look at some Scripture teachings.
We learn that, after the Crucifixion and the burial, the Body of our Saviour
lay in a garden tomb from the first day to the third day.
On Good Friday, in our churches, or at home, or elsewhere, we remembered the agonising death, when Jesus, as Son of Man and Son of God, took upon himself the weight of, and the punishment for, our sins.
Then, in the Gospel accounts of Resurrection Day, and shortly thereafter, we see the visitors to the tomb. They tell of an angel, the stone rolled away, the empty tomb. The women with the anointing oil arrived there first, the Sabbath being over, who in their devotion came to follow tradition and to anoint the dead body of the Lord.
BUT WHERE WAS THE BODY?
The disciples, Peter and John, saw and left the scene, having seen the empty tomb and the neatly folded grave-clothes.
But Mary Magdalene lingered, the ointment unused, with puzzlement in her heart.
Then she saw whom thought was the gardener, and said, “Where have they put the body?” Some gardener! This was none other than the One involved in the original, miraculous creation of the world, including plant life.
But movingly we again see Mary’s heart. Because this meeting of Mary and the supposed gardener included those immortal words that epitomised the conversation.
Jesus looked at her and said: “Mary!”
Mary suddenly realised WHO this was, thus her drooping heart leapt within her, and now she simply uttered the comforting word, “Master”.
From that moment, in a new light, the words of John the Baptist about Jesus take on an added poignancy. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” Because Mary Magdalene was conversing with the Lamb of God, slain for sins, but now the conquering, risen Lamb of God. Indeed, the Lion of Judah.
My dear late mother loved to sing the chorus, “For the Lion of Judah shall break every chain, And give us the victory again and again!”
Have we, by God’s grace, helped by the Holy Spirit, been in a meeting, or dialogue, with God? Have we felt His call, even if it was with a silent, inner voice?
And did we respond, “Master?”
Do we still on occasion hear His promptings, and do we still respond, “Master”?
SO THEN, MARY MAGDALENE REALISED THE JESUS IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD. Soon others would learn this, too.
Jesus said He would meet the disciples. They waited in the Upper Room. He came.
Then there were the two followers of Jesus on the Emmaus walk. When Jesus blessed the food, they recognised who He was, and “He vanished from their sight”. (But He did not vanish from their hearts. Hallelujah.) How can one do justice in sermonising to such marvellous and meaningful events, such magnificent happenings?
HOW PROCLAIM THE TRIUMPH OF THE CROSS?
Today I wish to keep in mind that we have a great span of ages amongst us, so some of my thoughts perhaps are geared to younger minds. I would just like, for the occasional minute or two, to spend time weighing things up, seeking to obtain a perspective. I am asking the older people and experienced Christians please to be understanding of my approach.
Perspectives? How do we value these matters? What really matters in life?
When I was of Primary School age, I remember standing near my father and listening to the radio. The announcement came that World War 2 was over in Europe. Germany and the Axis powers had surrendered.
The courage and efforts of the Allies had won the victory.
My dear father’s honest face showed such joy.
Which reminds us of various forms of earthly power. From the mighty military power of the giant nations, from the unleashing of the atomic power. Many more forms. Impressive at times, destructive at times, but ultimately limited in effectiveness and outcomes.
Totally impotent against the power of God.
Totally eclipsed by the power of the risen Christ.
When I was in my teens, King George VI died, and Princess Elizabeth became Queen. The announcement had been given, “The King is dead. Long live the Queen!” That was some occasion. I attended Ashford Grammar School for Boys, and we were all expected to wear a black armband to show respect and to mourn the loss of a splendid, faithful, war-time monarch. But his time had then ended.
HOWEVER, OUR KING JESUS REIGNS FOR EVER AND EVER.
George VI reigned over some nations, with limited power, for a few years.
JESUS REIGNS OVER ALL, IN SPACE, TIME AND ETERNITY, ALONG WITH THE FATHER AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.
I am trying to give some perspectives. How do we weigh things up?
Again, in 1952 Princess Elizabeth ascended the throne, and the next year, 1953, there was a splendid Coronation. She was crowned.
Quite an occasion, but it only affected a few nations, of course, although watched on TV or listened to on radio by excited or curious people from scores of countries.
Today we are remembering an event in which JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD AND SON OF MAN, rose from the dead, and would soon be ascending to heaven again. HE WAS, AND IS, THE KING OF THE JEWS, but also much more that. HE IS KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
“Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.”
For the sake of our younger folk, and to remind us all, we need to weigh this up with very great care?
So many events in history have been impressive.
In the year that Queen Elizabeth was crowned, 1953, Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing climbed Mount Everest. A magnificent feat for those times, of tenacity, of hardship, teamwork and more. Of courage, of determination, of struggle. Of primary success and fame.
Yet all they found at the top was coldness and barrenness.
But, for our pure, holy Lord Jesus, the climb up Calvary’s Hill was an immensely, immeasurably tougher climb for Him than was the ascent of Mount Everest by Hilary and Tensing!
Jesus did not carry the weight of equipment and oxygen mask, etc.
Battered, he physically carried the weight of a wooden cross, so weak that he needed help some of the way. But He carried a greater weight, of course.
How can one find words to describe what the dear Lord experienced in His suffering during Passion-tide, His prayer in the garden when He sweat as it were great drops of blood at the prospect of what awaited Him.
Then on the cruel cross, bearing the weight of sin, was One who knew no sin.
Jesus bore the heaviest, ugliest, foulest weight anyone has ever carried.
The weight of the sins of the world. ONLY JESUS WAS ABLE TO BEAR THIS WEIGHT. The spotless Lamb of God would be rejected, berated, mocked, spat upon, wrongly accused and unjustly executed by a compromising power base and the will of the hysterical, baying crowds.
Jesus came in love for these people. He wanted them to come to Him as only he could forgive and redeem them. They rejected Him. How tragic.
But how about us? Remember that our sins were part of the weight he took upon himself on that cruel cross.
We have remembered this on Good Friday.
Now, today, due to His victory for us, we rejoice on Resurrection Sunday.
How can we find the words to describe this victory of Jesus?
At Easter we often reflect on the Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross.
Throughout the history of mankind great orators have sprung up., espousing good or bad causes. God created mankind in his own image, and gave us abilities beyond those of mere animals. The expressing and understanding of concepts and beliefs being possible for humans.
This is needful as our lives, as our eternal destinies depend on these attributes and how we use them.
So perspectives. Weighing things up. How does this matter?
It matters because we are mortals with also have immortal souls.
Because within us things of time and eternity are mysteriously united.
We know that humans are made in the image of God, and we have understandings beyond those of the creatures over which we have dominion.
Throughout history, prophets and writers have sought to express and explain matters of faith and doctrine, history and prophecy. Animals cannot do this. We as humans are unique. Great gifts of oratory have been granted to quite a few people, throughout history. Orators? Recently people like Winston Churchill, who combined reason with emotion. Or Adolf Hitler, who inflamed passion and loyalty, seeking to give a vision of a golden future. Tricking many by his clever speech. Yes, many were fooled by Hitler. To their eventual cost, alas. Various orators and leaders could perhaps offer a little something for a short time, for some people, but nothing for eternity!
BUT THE CRUCIFIED, RISEN AND GLORIFIED LORD JESUS CHRIST CAN HELP IN TIME AND FOR ETERNITY. His help was not limited to a few during a small window of time, but sufficient for people anywhere in the world, throughout the generations of time.
We are considering essential perspective, as we weigh up events.
Orators, with a cause, influenced some parts of society. Secular writers left ideas we can read about in books. But not words of life!.
Jesus, during His ministry, gave the amazing and precious Sermon on the Mount. Plus much other perfect teaching.
Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Only Jesus can forgive sin and give righteousness. Provide such blessing.
One final example of perspective. That influential Russian revolutionist Lenin’s lifeless body remains in a showcase tomb in Russia, and still people file by to show their respect, 97 years after hisdeath. Pointless, really. He left no help for the soul.
BUT THE TOMB OF JESUS IS EMPTY. JESUS IS ALIVE.
The enemies of Jesus opposed Him, but He triumphed.
People still do seek to be self-sufficient, self-determinate, and many seek to oppose God and His truths. But, as in generations past, today’s opponents of Jesus are fighting a losing battle, sadly to their cost. Jesus triumphs still!
We can pray to our God, 2000 years after Calvary, in Jesus’ Name. For some 2000 years people have received forgiveness of sins and eternal life from Jesus.
Today, hundreds of millions reverence the name of Jesus.
We can receive blessings from the Saviour, Who, in the eternal realm of glory. intercedes for us poor sinful creatures in our lifetime on Earth.
Our risen Christ can grant us eternal life.
So the perspective is truly clear, when we weigh things up!
Of all the events in history, there is one that really matters.
Jesus Christ coming to this world for us, doing what He did.
We urgently and always need to see things in perspective, to weigh things up in the terms of time and eternity. We dare not do otherwise. Jesus said: “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?”
If one could combine all the oratorical brilliance of these orators over history, one still could not find sufficiently brilliant words to fully and worthily honour and extol the wonders of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.
But we have an inspired Book, the BIBLE! Read it, prayerfully.
Let the Holy Spirit help you as you read.
There in the Bible you read of the wonders of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Any ability we may find in our hearts to extol and honour the Lord Jesus Christ is the gift and provenance of the Holy Spirit within us.
Yes, today is Easter Sunday. We celebrate Jesus’ victory over death.
JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED.
Jesus on Earth was the greatest teacher who ever lived.
Never did anyone speak like Jesus. And His words on the Cross and after the Resurrection continued to be moving and wonderful.
We remember that Jesus dealt with issues of time, and eternity as well!
When we reflect on the seven sayings on the cross, we further see Who Jesus really was, and His perfect divine and human character.
One saying on the Cross was just three words long, in our English translation.
JESUS SAID, “IT IS FINISHED!”
Hymn writer Philip Bliss wrote:-
“Lifted up was he to die; “It is finished” was His cry.
Now in heaven exalted high. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”
So, as we weigh things up, in the light of time and eternity, or of salvation or separation from God, --- What really counts? --- Who really matters?
IT IS JESUS, AND THE LOVE OF GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SON AND GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT. Provision is made. Jesus paid the price for our forgiveness. He died and rose again for us! We can repent and be forgiven.
His righteousness and His love covering and removing the guilt of our sinfulness.
So, truly, as one hymn puts it, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations,” --- or, as another old hymn puts it, “Tell me the old, old story of Jesus and His love.” So, let us tell it! Another hymn says, “Tell out, my soul, the greatness of our Lord!”
Remember, as another hymn states, that “The price is paid! The victory is won!”
Often we used to sing, “I serve a risen Saviour; He’s in the world today!”
JESUS DIED. JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD. JESUS IS COMING AGAIN.
Thanks be to God for His wonderful gift of love.
“Alleluia now we cry, to our King immortal,
Who, triumphant. burst the bars of the tomb’s dark portal.
Alleluia, with the Son, God the Father praising:
Alleluia, yet again, to the Spirit raising.”
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen.