The Resurrection of Jesus
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
In 1985, chaos reigned for 79 days.
On April 23, 2985, the Coca Cola Company introduced New Coke. Their market share had been slipping for 15 years, and so they decided to reinvigorate the brand by toying with the original formula that had been in use for 99 years.
The outcry that followed was unexpected.
Their consumer hotline had previously received approximately 400 phone calls a day. Now, they were receiving 1,500 calls a day. People were hoarding old Coke like it was gold, and any Coca-Cola employee was a target of harassment. Protest groups sprang up around the country, songs were written in protest and an event was held in downtown Atlanta in hopes of swaying Coca-Cola to change their minds.
After 79 days, good sense prevailed and Coca-Cola Classic was restored. Almost 32,000 people called the company in response.
It was decided, universally, that the old was good. The new was not desired. Change was not welcome.
We do this all the time—we look at the new and decide that we're more comfortable with the old. Often, this is a wise decision. Just because something is new doesn't mean that it's better. It just means that it's newer. Even if new is better, change is hard. All sorts of factors come into play, including our sentimental attachment to the old. The Coca-Cola company had done rigorous taste tests of over 200,000 people to ensure that New Coke would be a success. What they hadn't counted on was people's emotional attachments to Coca-Cola Classic.
So we have to be careful when we think about new. It's appealing, but it can be difficult.
But let's take a moment and think about life as we know it. How are things going in the world at large? I started reading a book about raising positive kids in a negative world—it was going on and on about all of the problems in the world, from drugs to violence to television, and just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I realized the book was published almost 30 years ago. The world isn't doing so hot right now.
Think about it for a moment. Think globally. Europe is in the midst of a massive recession where unemployment numbers are too high to contemplate. We are in the midst of a war in Afghanistan that has been dragging on for over a decade. Syria is in the midst of civil war. Uncertainty looms all around the globe. Then bring it a little closer to home. America has unemployment problems of our own. We have inequality in this country, with the gap between rich and poor growing daily. Prices of everything, particularly gas, keep rising while wages remain stagnant. Nothing productive ever seems to come out of Washington, D.C. Now bring it all the way home—think about your own life. We all have struggles of our own. Some of us struggle with illness or loneliness or doubt or despair. Some of us wrestle with demons buried deep within us, and others have current difficulties that sit heavily upon our souls. We all have struggles.
Life is tough. The world as we know it could use a hand, right?
I have great news for you.
Listen again to Matthew 28:1: After the sabbath, as the 1st day of the week was dawning...
On that first Easter morning, a new week was dawning. The old week had passed away, and in its place something new was being born, and this wasn't just a repetition of the old. Things would not just continue in the way they always had. No, on this first day of the new week, as the sun peeked over the horizon, something cosmic was happening, something new, and the old would be gone.
God was doing a new thing. God was building a new kingdom here on earth, one that would replace the old kingdom. God was starting something new.
The old kingdom was ruled by sin, death and decay. The old kingdom, the one that began at the moment of the first sin, the initial betrayal, has been reigning here on earth ever since. Every death, every disease, every instance of brokenness between two people is a reminder of the old kingdom.
The good news is that the old kingdom's days are numbered. God has been building his new kingdom, and in his kingdom there is no room for death. There is no place for disease. Sin and pain and suffering and anger and betrayal won't be able to break into the new kingdom. The new kingdom is marked by life and love and wonder and worship.
God is building a new kingdom, and he is doing it here on earth, in the midst of the old kingdom. All the wonderful things in our lives, from the beauty of a daffodil in the spring to the sound of a child's laugh, are signs of God's kingdom, reminders that God is at work here in the world.
What's even more amazing than the fact that God is brazenly building this kingdom here while the old one still stands is that he is using men and women like you and I to do so. God is at work, and he wants to use us. He wants to use your life, for you to join him in the effort. He wants your time and your energy to be dedicated to building his kingdom, and he promises that there is a place for you in this kingdom. Rather than serve the old kingdom and watch it decay, God calls you to join into this new kingdom work and watch it grow, and you will grow along with it.
This is God's new kingdom work. And it begins here, in Matthew 28, that first Easter morning.
The women had gone to the tomb, ready to anoint Jesus' body, ready to say their final goodbyes. In the old kingdom, there are lots of goodbyes to be said, because death runs rampant, like an unleashed German Shepherd in a spring meadow.
The women went to meet death, but instead saw the beginning of something new, the first building block being set in place as they found life where death once reigned. In the garden, they had thought they would find a dead body in a dark tomb, but instead they found angels in clothes like lightning that proclaimed that Christ was risen, that Christ had conquered death and risen from the grave to prove that men and women might no longer die, to initiate a new kingdom, a new way of life, a new beginning. Christ has conquered death, and the women were the first witnesses, hearing the message from the angels that the old has gone, the new has begun, and that Jesus has gone ahead to lead the way.
Jesus leads the way. He shows us how we are called to live, and then he demonstrates that we are not called to die, that we are a people over whom death has no power. We are a resurrection people, citizens of the eternal kingdom of the reigning and sovereign God, and he leads us forward. The angels tell the women that Jesus has gone ahead of the disciples, and he is ahead of us, too.
He leads us forward. He leads you forward, into a future that is filled with grace and peace and mercy and love. He promises you that your future will not hold death, but rather life. He does not say it will be easy. He does not promise that the road will be smooth.
What he promises is that the new kingdom will prevail, and if you place your trust in him as Lord and Savior, there is a place in it for you.
So let us stop clinging to the old, to the ways of sin and death, to the idea that we have to prevail over our neighbor, to the idea that it's all about us, to the idea that life is about money and success and power. Let's give up those old idols and worship Christ in his glory, join with God's grand effort in building his kingdom. Let's worship Christ with all of our lives and let ourselves be caught up in God's glorious kingdom, devoting our lives and our eternities to his glory.
Let us pray