I've Got This One
Old Testament Reading- Psalm 118:14-24
New Testament Reading- 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Gospel of Matthew 28:1-10
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -April 17, 2022 Easter Sunday
What a week, this last one. The busyness of spring, the up and down weather, that’s typical of Erie, Pa in April, and to top it all off, Holy Week, which for a pastor is Christmas times three, but it’s all good and here we all are today to celebrate why we are really Christians, the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If this week was busy to us imagine how He must have felt.
Jesus started the week with the joy and excitement of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where the people shouted ‘Hosanna’ and ‘Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.’ He experienced cheers and jeers daily while He was teaching in and around the temple. There was a noticeable heaviness in the air though whenever the Jewish hierarchy was around. It has always been present with them, you could always feel their jealousy, their envy, and their worry that Jesus was becoming more and more a figure to be reckoned with, but this last week was different in that you could feel the hatred and the contempt that they had for Jesus as they plotted to end His life. Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead and that, for them, was it, the last straw. In the Sanhedrin’s eyes, Jesus was dangerous to their power and way of life even if they didn’t believe He had really raised someone from the dead. The people believed it, and that was all it took, if they believed, then Jesus was a threat and He had to die.
I mentioned in the Good Friday sermon that Holy week is very much like a three-act play. The first act is Palm Sunday, the joyous event, where everyone is happy. It is the feel-good part of the play, when you think that everything is great, when it all seems to be going as planned. Here was Jesus, riding into Jerusalem, of all cities, as the rightful King.
The second act is not the same at all as the first act. It is the part of the play where everything falls apart. It is the downer, when all feels lost, and everyone starts to question how they felt in the first act. The betrayal, the beating, the journey to the cross, the crucifixion, and the death of Jesus is like the second act. The disciples were scattered and terrified, wondering if they were next. They were not filled with the Holy Spirit yet and were not as brave and bold as they would become after Pentecost. The Jewish leaders were happy about Jesus’ death, but still concerned because there had already been talk of a resurrection. This idea would have to be squashed right away, they even placed palace guards at the tomb, just in case some of the followers might steal the body and make it look like He had risen. But, in truth, they were spooked. They could not shake the happenings of Friday while Jesus was on the cross. The sky had darkened in the afternoon, then an earthquake shook the area violently, and the heavy curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn in two. All this happened right at the end of Jesus’ life, and many were witness to it, both believers and non-believers. The Jewish leaders must have wondered, “Have we really killed the Son of God?” Imagine that feeling. The followers of Jesus are lost, in their mood and in their thoughts. Could they have been so wrong about Jesus? How could He have died? What about all the miracles? The disciples had heard Jesus’ fatalistic stories and they hadn’t believed what they heard, but soon they would start piecing it all together.
Jesus was dead, He was pronounced dead by the Roman soldiers, who were professional executioners. They knew when someone was dead or not, they had ways of knowing or doing things to make sure. When they suspected Jesus of being dead, they checked by thrusting a spear into His ribcage, with no response other than a discharge of blood and water, He was definitely gone. He was anointed with oil, wrapped in burial cloths, and placed in a tomb. Pilate allowed the temple guards to be placed at the tomb and no one had any other reason to think that Jesus was anything now but a problem in the past.
Friday evening goes by, then Saturday, then on the third day since Jesus’ death, Sunday, the first day of their week, the women returned to the tomb to finish what they hadn’t had time to do with the body at the time of burial. When they got to the tomb though they were struck by the fact that the large stone that covered the tomb was rolled away, and the tomb was open. This worried the women immensely, has someone desecrated the body of their Lord? When they got closer, they saw that the body was gone and all that was left was the burial cloths. Then angels told the women that Jesus had risen as He had said, and to go tell the disciples. They ran back and told the disciples who didn’t believe them, but Peter and John ran to the tomb only to find it empty as well. Later on, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and to His disciples, alive and well, but still bearing the marks of His crucifixion. Jesus performed many miracles and appeared to many people before He was taken back up into Heaven where He goes to prepare a place for all of us who believe in Him.
"Jesus told many what would take place, they still didn’t get it. Don’t be too hard on the disciples though, we wouldn’t have been any different." ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
How’s that for a third act? No one saw that coming, even though it was prophesied, and Jesus told many what would take place, they still didn’t get it. Don’t be too hard on the disciples though, we wouldn’t have been any different. I mean think about it, would you have believed all that? Many still don’t believe. But what about you? Do you believe? Are you here because it is a family tradition, or do you really believe that Jesus died on that cross for you, and that God raised Him from death? I do! I could tell you I have all the answers to why I believe, but that wouldn’t be true. Some things are just not explainable, but does that make it any less true? There are many things in this world that I cannot explain but are no less real.
I was in a bad accident 11 years ago and should by all accounts, have died, but I didn’t. The doctors didn’t have answers on why I hadn’t died, they told me as much. My family and friends didn’t know why either, but they prayed that I would live, and God answered their prayers and here I am today telling you that God saved me, and even though I can’t prove it, I know it’s true. I know it is because I can feel it. I can’t prove to you that my wife loves me, and only God knows why she does sometimes, but I know she does because I can feel it. Every fiber of my being tells me that it is true, and I trust that feeling. It is the same with my belief in God and Jesus being God’s true Son. No, it’s not just blind faith, I have searched for answers and searched for God and after I searched long enough, God revealed Himself to me. That’s the only way I can explain it.
God revealed Himself to me through His Word, the Bible. I read it, and then I read it again, and then I read it some more until suddenly it just made sense. It was like the disciples, Jesus explains things to them, but they are not picking it up, then after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit comes to them, they are enlightened. Every year when this week comes, I remember reading for the first time, what Jesus did for me by going to the cross. He died for me, one that is not worthy of an audience with God, I am a sinner, but Jesus went to the cross and died for me anyway. He paid the penalty for my sins.
When I stand in front of God to be judged, Jesus will place His arm in front of me and slide His body in my place and tell
God, “I’ve got this one, he’s one of mine, He’s one of the ones who believes in what I did for Him. He is covered. You can pass over Him. Jesus does that not because I am perfect or because I am without sin, but because He loves me, and He knows I love Him.
It can’t be proven, but we both know it. Those who don’t know God yet need proof or they think that God will not forgive them of their sins, but that is applying human traits to God. We all make the mistake of putting God on the same playing field as human beings, it’s a common mistake and one I wish that we would correct. God is not us; He is all powerful and all knowing. He cannot be placed in a box and kept there so that we feel in control.
God achieved, through Jesus, what all the prophets could not do, He defeated death once and for all. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” What wonderful words, the words that come to have a whole new meaning after Good Friday, and the triumph of the resurrection. We do not serve a God of the dead, but of the living. Jesus is our risen Savior who has passed through death to life again. Jesus is the only begotten Son of God that is more than happy to take your place in the judgement line too. Today, we who love Him, honor His death, and rejoice in His resurrection, content to wait, but knowing that in the end we will meet on the other side in the Kingdom of God. Praise and honor to Jesus who is Christ the Lord. Thanks be to Almighty God. Amen.