As much as Good Friday makes us sad that much more Easter brings inexpressible joy to our hearts. The Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus are two central pillars of Christian faith and the only hope for the world. If you remove these two core beliefs there will be no Christianity. Since, the first day of Christ’s resurrection, Satan tried his best to distort this amazing truth and is still trying to discredit it. In the midst of age old controversies and skeptics who rejects the resurrection of Jesus Christ what evidence do we have? Is it the empty tomb or the transformed lives? For all of the mystery of the empty tomb, it was the presence of Christ with the disciples that proved the resurrection to be a historical reality. The same is true today. We do not point to a hole in the side of a garden wall as proof that Jesus rose from the dead. Rather, we point to those who were transformed by His presence both then and now.
The Apostle Paul was one of those transformed ones, what did he have to say about the resurrection of Chris? “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”(I Cor 15:14) The truth of the matter is that Christ was indeed raised from the dead. In John 20:20 we read, “As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!” Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook suggests that this verse serves as the perfect “vision” test for the believer. The Christian who “sees life clearly, is the one who sees life in light of the Resurrection of Christ” will live a life overflowing with joy. When we “see” life in light of the resurrection, all else pales in comparison; we can face all circumstances. The Resurrection Sunday is a day of inexpressible Joy.
Let’s look at the lives of those whose lives were transformed and hearts were filled with that inexpressible Joy when they saw the risen Lord. We read this incident in John 20:1-29, (Read) this passage can be divided into three sections. 1. A deeper look (John 20:1-9), 2. An earnest look (John 20:10-18) 3. Jesus’ appearance (John 20:19-23),
I. A DEEPER LOOK: (John 20:1-9)
It was the first day of the week; while it was still dark Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw the stone was rolled away from the tomb. She assumed that some one must have taken the body of Jesus away so she ran and told Simon Peter and John the disciple whom Jesus loved the most. They both ran to the tomb. John out ran Peter and came to the tomb but didn’t go inside; he only stooped and saw the linen, where as Peter jumped right in and beheld the linen wrappings. The word beheld is much deeper then just seeing; it means to gaze from a spectator to look with interest and for a purpose usually indicating the careful observation of details. When Peter had a deeper look he saw a few more details than his counter part did. He saw the face cloth, rolled up.
These two disciples represent two types of Christians. John represents shallow and hesitant followers. They have no desire to know God better and follow him closely, for some reason they remain on the outside. They may come to Church regularly but never really get involved with the ministry of the Church. What hinders them from having a deeper walk with God? It could be the fear of man; they are afraid of what others may think of them if they follow Christ. Or it could be the fear of letting go of certain sinful habits that became their security. On the other hand Peter represents those who are not just satisfied by fringe benefits instead they want all of God, they are not afraid to take risks for God. They get their hands dirty when it comes to serving God and others. They dig deeper into God’s word, in order to know him more.
II. AN EARNEST LOOK:(John 20:10-18)
Mary Magdalene refused to leave the tomb; she was determined to find out what happened to the body of Jesus so she stood outside the tomb weeping. She was one of those faithful followers of Jesus while He was still alive. Do you remember that Jesus drove seven demons out of her once? You might also remember the woman who poured the most expensive alabaster oil on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her tears, many scholars think that it was the same Mary Magdalene. What did Jesus say of her? “Her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much. At the tomb Jesus appeared to her and said, “Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? She thought it was the gardener, Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away. That shows how earnestly she loved Jesus. Finally Jesus called her Mary she turned and said Teacher. After that encounter with Jesus she returned to the dispels and said “I have seen the Lord.”
Mary represents an indebted person whose many sins were forgiven therefore he or she loves Jesus more than any one else, putting many of us who think we have it all together to shame. He never turns away anyone who earnestly seeks him. One of such earnest followers of our time was Keith Green. At age 15 the first time he ran away from home. He looked for musical adventure and spiritual truth. Keith had a Jewish background, but he grew up reading the New Testament. His journey led him to drugs, eastern mysticism, and free-love. When Keith was 19 he met a fellow seeker/musician named Melody. They were married a year later -- but his spiritual quest continued. Then when he had nearly given up hope, Keith found the truth he was looking for. When he found the truth he proudly said “I am a Jewish Christian” He was 21 and he never looked back.
The radical commitment Keith preached was also a desire of his own heart. He said, “Loving Him is to be our cause. He can take care of a lot of other causes without us, but He can’t make us love Him with all our heart. That’s the work we must do... Anything else is an imitation.”
When I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ at age 17 though I was not as radical as Keith was, I gave Him my all, my rights and my future to follow Him. I never had any regrets in following my savior until today and I hope to continue to follow him the rest of my life. Jesus is looking for earnest followers. He is not happy with lukewarm Christians. Are you an earnest follower of Jesus Christ or are you a casual follower?
III. JESUS’ APPEARANCE: (John 20:19-23)
On the same evening Jesus made a surprise visit to a group of fearful disciples. They were afraid of the Jews so they hid themselves in a room with doors tightly shut. Jesus came straight into their midst. How was that possible while the doors were closed? Well by now Jesus was having a glorified body which can pass through closed doors. The first words he uttered to those petrified disciples “Peace be with You.” He went one step further and showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Men have pursued joy in every avenue imaginable. Some have successfully found it while others have not. Perhaps it would be easier to describe where joy cannot be found: Not in Unbelief -- Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: "I wish I had never been born."
Not in Pleasure -- Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: "The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone."
Not in Money -- Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth."
Not in Position and Fame -- Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: "Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret."
Not in Military Glory -- Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, before he said, "There are no more worlds to conquer." Where then is real joy found? -- The answer is simple, in Christ alone.
The dejected disciples when they saw the risen Lord they were filled with Joy. We all know life can be hard and overwhelming at times isn’t it? When we face such situations we wonder whether God has abandoned us. Have you felt that way before? I’ve been in such situations several times. All I needed then was a word from the Lord and he graciously had spoken what I needed over and over again. No matter what tough situation you might be going through, Jesus can walk right into it and say to you “Peace be with you.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ secures for us new birth and the hope that we too will be resurrected one day to put on a glorified body just as he did. The Good News of the gospel is that you can completely put your trust in Christ whose death has made you right with God. Even if the whole world turns an accusing finger at you saying that you don’t match up, God is for you and not against you. On this Easter Sunday morning though you have not seen Him you love him and even though you do not see him now you believe in him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Amen