Good morning, Friends! Happy Easter!
We’ve already had a really full morning. Some of us were here really early today, getting Easter breakfast ready. Thank you so much for bringing this special part of our community life back to Springfield again.
Thank you all for coming today. This is the most people we’ve had since Christmas Eve. And that was the most people we’ve had here for two years. It really is good to see you all here!
We’ve had Easter eggs. We’ve had great music. We’ve had the Flowering Cross. It’s been a big day already!
I know a lot of you are looking forward to family gatherings and a big Easter dinner, later today. I hope you all have a wonderful time!
But we still need to hear the story that’s the reason for it all. We need to listen to the Easter story. Here it is:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.
Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” the angel said. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.Mark 16:1-8
That first Easter morning was nothing like what we had today. They were grieving. They knew good and well that Jesus was dead.
The market was closed the day before, because of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Passover ended on Saturday evening at sundown. So, as soon as the holiday was over, the women who loved Jesus went to the market, and they bought the necessary spices to anoint Jesus, who had been wrapped up and laid in the tomb.
It was a gesture of love, and it was a gesture of honor. It was the last thing they could do, for the Lord they loved so much, who had done so much for them.
They got up early, early on Sunday morning – way earlier than any of us got up today. It was still dark out. But the darkness in the sky wasn’t as dark as the grief they felt in their hearts.
Jesus was dead. They’d all watched him die, in a terrible, torturous, public execution. He’d been stripped, mocked, beaten, and killed, and they could do nothing to stop it.
So, they knew what they were going to find that morning. They felt they had to do it. Nobody else would. But they weren’t looking forward to Easter morning, at all, at all.
The first thing they had to do, was get the grave opened up again. A great, big stone had been rolled across the opening – probably hundreds and hundreds of pounds. It was way beyond their strength to move.
The stone across the grave might have blocked them from doing anything that day. They might just as well have had to give it up, and go home.
But that was the first discovery they made, on Easter morning. The stone was already rolled away.
Sometime in the night, in the darkness, with nobody there, it happened. We don’t know just how it happened, even today. But the stone was gone. And the grave was empty!
It says they met an angel. And the angel said the very last thing they ever expected.
“You’re looking for Jesus. He was crucified. But he’s not here. He’s risen. Go ahead and look – the grave is empty! Go tell the others that he’s going on ahead of you. You will meet him!”
That’s the Easter story. That’s what we know.
A handful of women, grieving and without hope, early in the morning, by an open grave, hearing something they never, even in their wildest imagination, ever thought could be true.
“He’s not here. He’s risen. He’s alive. Go tell the others. . .”
And you know what? It says they were terrified and bewildered. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
But then – people started meeting Jesus. Mary Magdalene met him. She went and told some of the other women. But they didn’t believe her.
Then Jesus met two of the disciples, as they were out walking down the road out in the country. They went back and told the rest, but people didn’t believe them, either.
Then Jesus showed up at supper time, when the remainder of the innermost circle of Jesus friends were sitting down. Jesus told them, “You need more faith!” And he asked why they hadn’t believed.
This went on and on. Jesus kept showing up, sometimes where he was least expected. A lot of people saw him. They went and told everybody else.
Al they really had was just a few facts, and a lot of rumors. There were a few eyewitnesses, and a lot of people who really had to stretch in order to believe.
But you know – they went on doing the things that Jesus had told them to do. Just like Jesus, they prayed a lot. They visited people who were sick, and many of them were healed. They shared whatever they had, and they became known for their astounding generosity.
They got together as often as possible, to eat together and pray, and to remember all the things that Jesus did and said.
The little group started growing. The people who’d been so afraid, found some courage.
The people who’d really messed up badly, like Peter, who denied even knowing Jesus, met Jesus, and he forgave them. That’s grace, and mercy!
There were plenty of people with doubts and questions. People who doubted the whole thing, like Thomas, met Jesus, and Thomas knelt down in front of him.
But eventually, first one by one, then two by two, then a dozen at a time, then a few hundred at a time, people came together. They said, “This is more than just a rumor. We’ve seen him, too! He’s alive!”
And they told other people. And they kept on doing all the things that Jesus did. They kept on praying. They kept on getting together to worship and sing and break bread. They remembered Jesus’ words. They continued Jesus’ actions.
We are all descended from those people of faith, those witnesses, those Easter Christians.
We’re afraid. They were afraid. We have questions. They had questions.
People didn’t believe them. They went ahead, anyway. They told the story. They showed people the power of prayer. They were steadfast, and they helped each other, because sometimes it’s hard to be strong.
Jesus told them, “Bear each others’ burdens. Love one another. Forgive each other, from your hearts, just like God forgave you. Welcome each other.”
“When you go into somebody’s home, bless everyone there. Pray for peace to be there in that house.”
“Feed the hungry. Give a drink to whoever’s thirsty. Clothe people who are naked. Care for people who are sick. Visit people who are in prison.”
“You believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms – there’s room for everyone!”
“I’m going to prepare a place for you. I’ll come back, and you’ll be with me.”
“Don’t worry about what to say when you’re in trouble. The Holy Spirit will give you the right words at the right time. The Holy Spirit will help you to remember, everything I taught you.”
“Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world!”
Those are just some of the things they remembered and passed along. They took them to heart, and tried to live them.
But the thing they remembered most, was what happened on Easter morning.
“He’s not in the grave. He’s risen! He’s alive! Go and tell the others. He’s going on ahead of you. You’ll meet him, wherever you go.”