Easter Sunday, A New Hope
EASTER: A NEW HOPE
Let me greet you with the greeting that is going around the planet this morning, where Christians meet online, in virtual churches and gatherings, and within families in Christian homes –
“He has risen! He has risen indeed!”
Take a moment to share that with one another right now, or with someone you meet today.
The Resurrection of Jesus is the center point of our faith. Let me share the lyrics of this song of praise by Ron Kenoly. The song is ‘Jesus is Alive’.
Jesus is alive
Death has lost its vict’ry
And the grave has been denied
Jesus lives forever
He’s alive He’s alive
Alpha and Omega
The first and last is He
The curse of sin is broken
And we have perfect liberty
The Lamb of God has risen
He’s alive He’s alive
Hallelujah Jesus is alive
Scripture: John 20: 1-18
The Empty Tomb
20 Very early Sunday morning,[a] before sunrise, Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb. And when she arrived she discovered that the stone that sealed the entrance to the tomb was moved away! 2 So she went running as fast as she could to go tell Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved.[b] She told them, “They’ve taken the Lord’s body from the tomb, and we don’t know where he is!”
3 Then Peter and the other disciple jumped up and ran to the tomb to go see for themselves. 4 They started out together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.[c] 5 He didn’t enter the tomb, but peeked in, and saw only the linen cloths lying there. 6 Then Peter came behind him and went right into the tomb. He too noticed the linen cloths lying there, 7 but the burial cloth that had been on Jesus’ head had been rolled up and placed separate from the other cloths.
8 Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first went in, and after one look, he believed![d] 9 For until then they hadn’t understood the Scriptures that prophesied[e] that he was destined to rise from the dead.[f] 10 Puzzled, Peter and the other disciple then left and went back to their homes.
11 Mary arrived back at the tomb, broken and sobbing. She stooped to peer inside, and through her tears 12 she saw two angels in dazzling white robes, sitting where Jesus’ body had been laid—one at the head and one at the feet![g]
13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” they asked.
Mary answered, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve laid him.”
14 Then she turned around to leave, and there was Jesus standing in front of her, but she didn’t realize that it was him!
15 He said to her, “Dear woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Mary answered, thinking he was only the gardener, “Sir, if you have taken his body somewhere else, tell me, and I will go and . . .”
16 “Mary,” Jesus interrupted her.
Turning to face him, she said, “Rabboni!” (Aramaic for “my teacher”)
17 Jesus cautioned her, “Mary, don’t hold on to me now, for I haven’t yet ascended to God, my Father. And he’s not only my Father and God, but now he’s your Father and your God! Now go to my brothers[h] and tell them what I’ve told you, that I am ascending to my Father—and your Father, to my God—and your God!”
18 Then Mary Magdalene left to inform the disciples of her encounter with Jesus. “I have seen the Lord!” she told them. And she gave them his message
On this Easter morning, I want to bring you a simple message of HOPE. For that is indeed what the death and resurrection of Jesus has established for us, today and for all eternity.
One time, sailing with my older brother, we ran into some trouble near a rocky shore. The steering chain broke (my bad), and the sail caught on a cross beam and so we couldn’t bring it in, … and in a rather steady wind, we found ourselves drifting dangerously to some pretty nasty rocks. BIG rocks. We threw the anchor out there and hoped it would snag onto something solid. Those rocks and destruction were coming fast. We were hoping that there was something down in the water big enough to stop his boat from crashing into the rocks and sinking in the lake. We were hoping, but I wasn’t sure.
Got me thinking about the word HOPE.
How do most of us consider that word … Hope?
Use it in a sentence.
I hope I get that promotion. I hope they like me. I hope I make enough money. I hope … that what I desire … comes true.
Here the word ‘hope’ is a verb. An action.
And here, ‘hope’ is connected to a sense of uncertainty. Kind of like wishing on a star. Some people even look at prayer that way. They really shouldn’t. (But that will be a different talk)
I was thinking about the first ‘Star Wars’ movie – Episode IV – called “A New Hope”. The rebels are facing great uncertainty – and the about to be captured princess puts the ‘all important’ plans of the Death Star into a little droid, and records a simple message … “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” That’s the end to the message. And then, she’s captured.
In this case, Hope is a noun. She is saying Obi-Wan is her only Hope. He is a Jedi, but he is older. And at this point, he seems to be the last of the Jedi’s, because the evil Empire had destroyed all the rest.(See the prequels) He may or may not be successful. So her ‘only Hope’ may be more of a last chance, rather than a certainty. (Of course, this is a grand romantic story, so naturally, it all works out. Thank goodness.)
Still, Hope (as both a verb and a noun) in both these examples, seems like a pretty weak word, when looked at these ways. Kind of like my brother and I throwing our anchor into the lake. We hoped it would find a rock big enough to do the job, … and hoped that the rock would truly do the job. We were wishing with a degree of uncertainty. Some would call that faith. I call that worrying at the least, and more in the realm of fear, rather than faith.
Sometimes in life, we do throw our anchor lines out and put our hope in things that seem pretty solid. Pretty sure. Pretty stable. And so we feel safe and secure for a while. But then some bigger waves or storms come along, … and as we are all finding out these days, nothing of this world is as solid or eternally reliable as we thought. Things destabilize, and the anchor slips. Not a good feeling.
We see many examples of this throughout scripture.
The Israelites, after leaving Egypt, put their hope in a Golden calf.
Samson at one point thought that his hope was in his hair!
King Saul put his hope in a witch.
Countless Kings, including David, put their hope in their title, their power, their position.
There are many stories and warnings about idol worship, and hanging onto false idols, and how this false hope had dire consequences.
Indeed, none of these situations turned out well. Bigger storms arose.
A whole generation of Israelites die in the wilderness, and never enter the promised land.
Samson is captured and blinded by the Philistines, and dies pulling down a building upon his captors and himself.
Saul dies on a hillside upon his own sword.
David is caught in his own shame, and loses a son.
Northern Israel is scattered, and Judah taken into exile.
In all these cases and cases like them, the message is clear.
Our Hope needs to be elsewhere. And of a different nature.
In our lives, we do indeed place our hope in many things we shouldn’t. We cast our anchor in the wrong waters. We place hope in other people, in our reputations, in our jobs, in our possessions, in ‘the strength of horses’, in our government, in human nature, … in our selves.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he warns against putting our hope in our wealth, our acquired security in things of this world. He says in 1Timothy 6:17 – Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, …
And then he finishes with the overriding message of all scriptures in regard to Hope,
… but [ fix our hope] on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
A few years back, I was in El Salvador on a Mission trip. Very early one morning, before it was light, there was a small earthquake. The cement building we were in shook for a few moments, and I started worrying about if the roof would cave in on us. 5 minutes earlier, I was safe and secure – and now – … more than a little concerned. … Suddenly, even solid ground seemed unstable. I had never experienced anything like that. It was pretty unsettling.
If anything in this world is sure , it is that nothing of this world is sure. Everything breaks down.
And that truly sounds hopeless.
Billy Graham once said “ Perhaps the greatest psychological, spiritual, and medical need that all people have is the need for hope.” (Graham, Billy. God’s Passion for You. Countryman, 2004.)
Not wish upon a star stuff – but real hope. Something you can absolutely count on.
And that is Jesus Christ, and Christ alone.
This has been Holy Week in the Christian calendar, and this weekend began with Good Friday. A seemingly strange name for the day that Jesus was crucified.
Imagine the thoughts of the disciples on the day Jesus was crucified. In less than 1 week, they went from hearing crowds shouting ‘Hosanna!’ to hearing ‘ Crucify Him!’ In less than 24 hrs, they went from a Passover meal to seeing Jesus beaten and mercilessly crucified. And now he was dead. Dead on a cross.
Do you think they felt hopeless? They were counting on this man Jesus to be the messiah, and despite all he had taught them, … at this moment, they were frightened, they were confused … they felt hopeless.
But then on Sunday morning … Easter Morning – there was a real New Hope. Jesus was alive! Death could not hold Him. Resurrection was a reality! Jesus is truly God!
And all He says and promises is true. He is the resurrection and the life, and those who believe in Him, even though they die – shall live, in a new resurrected body, in His presence – forever!
That all became a reality on that resurrection morning!
And that is when they transferred their thoughts of Hope from things of this world to Jesus, and Jesus alone.
They came to see that what seemed so hopeless at Calvary was actually Jesus becoming our true ONLY HOPE – the lamb of God who takes the sins of the world away. Our savior. Our redeemer. The one who changes us from the inside out and secures our lives and our eternity in Him. And that is why we call it Good Friday.
And they knew that He would never change – that He was truly God – ROCK SOLID HOPE. All He had told them was true. And all His promises … were certain. And with the Holy Spirit within them giving them assurance of this HOPE, they had the desire and courage to continue on serving Jesus through many uncertain days, not to mention persecutions and even death! Through circumstances that would appear to others as hopeless, they advanced in HOPE. Trusting Jesus wasn’t wishing on a star – it was Hope cemented in certainty.
We all need hope, don’t we? We need to have a HOPE that is certain. Every day, yes. And especially in times of trial.
We have a sure HOPE.
Hebrews 6:19-20, talking about Jesus says – “19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,”
And we know that in the tabernacle, behind the curtain of the inner sanctuary was the presence of God.
When Jesus died upon the cross, the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the temple was torn in two, symbolizing that we are invited into the presence of God as His children, as those who believe in Him.
The writer of Hebrews is telling us as Christians, that we need to stop putting our hope into things of this world. We need to anchor into Jesus. We need to anchor into His presence. We need Jesus to BE our anchor.
We need to seek His face daily and thank him through the day for His abiding presence in our lives. I know He promises to be with us always, but we need to be present with Him. To have our anchor in Him.
In Hebrews 10:19, we read, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.”
Jesus is alive, and by His blood, we
can and must enter into His presence.
Because of the Resurrection, He is the Rock you and I need to anchor into. And he’ll never let us go. In fact – scripture actually says that He is holding onto you.
That’s comforting. He’s holding your hand. Why not hold His back?
When we hope in Him, we are not wishing on a star, or wondering if our thoughts are going to get to God. We are assured that He hears us, he receives our prayers, our praises, our petitions. We are assured that He receives us. He promises in His word. And He assures us, in Romans 8, that His purposes for us are good.
1 Peter 3:12 states, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
And Jesus is HOPE. In Him, there is life. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is our savior. He is our redeemer. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And His Spirit within us is the assurance that we are His. GUARANTEED. Rock solid. HOPE.
Our FAITH is the certainty that He is our HOPE, and He is our HOPE because of His great LOVE, demonstrated so powerfully at the cross, and fulfilled forevermore through the resurrection.
In this Easter season – despite this pandemic and all its’ difficult, sad and tragic consequences – things should not be seen as hopeless. There is HOPE! Cast your anchor upon Jesus. He will hear your prayers and answer you.
1 John 5: 14-15 states “14 Since we have this confidence, we can also have great boldness before him, for if we present any request agreeable to his will, he will hear us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we also know that we have obtained the requests we ask of him.”
Jesus loves you. He will draw near to you, receive you, strengthen you, and bless you – just as you are. That is His desire for you today. He loves you – and is for you. He has you and your loved ones in His hands. He wants you to place your hope in Him, so that you may know and trust and live in the power and the peace of His presence.
Psalm 55:22 says: Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
He is our HOPE. The anchor for our lives.
And never forget this promise. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
He is the Rock of our salvation. He is our living HOPE!
Praise His name!
Oh yeah. … On the lake that day, our anchor snagged a rock big enough to stop us from crashing our boat. Phew!
And for my life, I’m anchored into the Rock that will not move.
How about you?
Have a Happy, Hope Full Easter.
Lord Jesus. We praise you this morning. You are our risen Savior, bless your name. I pray Lord, that your Spirit this morning brings each of us fresh revelation of the Hope we have in you, as you are truly our Hope. Help us this day to anchor into you, and to abide in your presence, in your safe harbor. Circumstances are very difficult these days, and for some, they are going through deep waters. We pray for those struggling with illness and loss at this time. We pray for healing, yes, but we pray that by your Spirit you will draw all men and women unto yourself, that they may find their hope in you.
We bless your name this day, and we pray in the power of your name.
Lord, pour out your blessing upon your people this morning.
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord [a]lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” ’
Have a Blessed Easter.