It’s so wonderful to celebrate Easter in our beautiful church facilities with dear friends and precious family. Often Easter Sunday worship is one of the highlight services of the year. But such surroundings also make it easy to forget the context of the first Easter morning. As the women approached the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, life was filled with despair and chaos. Jesus’ followers feared reprisal from the rulers. They had lost their purpose and power. They were confused about their future, uncertain about how to make sense of Jesus. Rome was still in power; their Messiah hadn’t delivered. Their greatest hope, their faith in Jesus, had led to embarrassing, humiliating defeat. The world and their lives seemed out of control. What hope did they have? All seemed lost. They wondered if following Jesus would make a difference.
We are familiar with the chaos and despair of life. Death and defeat are more evident every day. Financial ruin and hardship increase in frequency, broken relationships are in the rise, acts of terror and murder fill the headlines. There are more unexplained illnesses and uncontrolled diseases than ever before. There’s more bullying, more hatred, more broken relationships. Morality and behavioral standards are on a fast, seemingly unstoppable decline. There are more raging wars, famines, natural disasters, nuclear threats, unjust rulers, and horrific persecutions. We look at our current political landscape and wonder if there is anyone worthy of office. It’s easy to throw up our hands in despair – feeling powerless to do anything. We consign ourselves to thinking the end is near, there’s nothing we can do. It all directs our attention to a world seemingly out of control. Is following Jesus possible? If so will it make a difference? We understand the despair of the disciples.
But for the disciples then came the morning. Jesus was alive. Evil had not triumphed. The darkness of night did not last forever. Rome had not won. Hope was not lost. Jesus had won – He would soon ascend to Heaven to take up His power and reign forever. Ephesians 4:7 reminds us “When he ascended on high, he took many captives… (Col. 2:15 GNT) “And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession.”
Even when we cannot see the evidence around us, JESUS REIGNS – FOREVER AND EVER. He is on the throne and He will have His way. He rules the world with ultimate power and a just, loving heart. Everything is on a path to bring about one final morning when every knee shall bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. On that morning there will be a new heaven and a new earth and a new day. (Is. 2:4 & 11:6-8) “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore…The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea… (Rev. 21:3-4) “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
The morning makes all the difference. Because of Easter morning, we live with “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1 RSV)
Carol was a church organist. One Easter morning her alarm didn’t go off and she didn’t show up for the Easter sunrise service. The next year, at 4:00 A.M. on Easter Sunday, the pastor called Carol. As she sleepily picked up the phone, he said, “Carol, it’s Easter Sunday morning. The Lord has risen, and I suggest you do the same.” Easter morning is our wake-up call!
As Paul firmly challenges us (1 Cor. 15:58 MSG): “With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” No matter who you are or where you’ve come from or what you’ve done or not done, right now you can begin a new life; your future is glorious. It’s morning. I challenge you to wake up and live!