Easter Year A 4/9/2023
Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18
Rev. Mark A. Lafler
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead…
we live it…
we share the good news!
The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus has made a way for us to be free from the penalty of sin…
And ultimately paving the way for us to have eternal life.
The cross and resurrection are the culmination of the story of our universe… the story of all of creation.
The climax of history.
The most important events to ever take place.
This changes everything!
It changed the lives of the disciples…
The greater community of the first centuries…
And the history and future of humankind.
And when we encounter the narrative of the resurrection of Jesus…
What is our response?
Is it excitement?
Is it skepticism?
Is it challenging?
Perhaps all three?
I recently read about a clothing store in Hollywood, California.
They feature used clothing worn by the stars… the rich and famous.
In the window of the store read a sign before Easter a few years back:
Get a Secondhand Hat for a Firsthand Easter!
The person who wrote the article took the opportunity to talk to the owner inside about what a firsthand Easter can be.
You know, our Gospel reading today is a firsthand account of Easter.
It is St. John’s account…
And he places himself within the story.
It was early on a Sunday morning…
while it was still dark…
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb…
Now the religious and political authorities had placed a large stone in front of the entrance to the tomb so that now one could steal the body.
But when Mary got there, she saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, (that would be John – the one writing the Gospel account)
And Mary said to them:
They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,
and we do not know where they have laid him.
Mary probably thought that the authorities had moved the body of Jesus to another location.
Of course, this stirred the curiosity of Peter and John…
And you can feel the excitement in the narrative as they ran to the tomb…
John got there first.
But he did not go in.
Peter came and went in the tomb.
The linen wrappings were lying there.
Then John went in.
And the scripture says that he saw and believed.
This was the firsthand account of St. John…
When he encountered the tomb.
When he first believed.
He saw and believed.
And this is what we all need.
A firsthand Easter!
Not a secondhand conviction of others…
Not just an inspiration of Easter…
Where the services temporarily inspire us with glorious music and the message of hope.
The flowers and the beauty…
An authentic Easter is one in which we meet the risen Christ personally.
Where we believe that the cross of Jesus gives us forgiveness of our sins.
Where we truly surrender ourselves to Christ Jesus.
When we encounter the risen Lord Jesus Christ…
Who is alive today…
And wants to personally be in us by the power of His Spirit.
This is the heart of the gospel.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
You see the whole Gospel…
The good news comes down to belief.
Salvation comes down to faith by God’s grace.
As the scripture says:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
not by works…
We all fall short of God’s glory…
We call this sin.
We choose to do things our way instead of God’s way…
Fooling ourselves thinking we know more than God.
And we on our own can’t get rid of this sin problem.
We cannot do enough good things to get rid of sin.
We cannot earn enough credit to get rid of sin.
We need someone to do it for us.
And being that we all have the same problem…
We need someone who is not under the curse of sin to fix the problem.
And that person is Jesus Christ.
Who died for our sins and rose again on that resurrection morning.
And what must we do to be saved from our sin?
We must declare with our mouths, “Jesus is Lord,”
and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead,
and we will be saved.
We don’t have to understand everything…
But through belief we begin to understand the things of God.
We were reminded in the talk that Mary Ann Revell gave on Good Friday on the Seven Last Words of Jesus…
She quoted St. Augustine… from the 4th century.
Understanding is the reward of faith.
Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe,
rather believe that you may understand.
You see in the things of God…
Belief so often comes before understanding.
One of the best books that I have read in recent years is the classic Richard Adams book, Watership Down.
It is a wonderful story of adventure and brotherhood.
It tells the story of a group of rabbits who left their burrow to seek a new life miles away from the only land they had ever known.
They leave because of a certain rabbit…
The runt of the group…
Who had a vision of coming destruction to the land that contained their burrow.
The band of rabbits that followed Fiver left believing that it was the best decision…
Despite the hardships and difficulties, it may cost them.
It was their belief that brought them to a new place and saved them.
It’s just one of the many themes in the story.
But I like how this belief, this faith…
Drove them in their journey…
Driving them toward their hopes and dreams.
It is belief in God…
It is faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior…
That sheds light on the activity of God in this world.
Another one of my favorite authors C. S. Lewis wrote in his book, Mere Christianity… He said:
I believe in Christianity
as I believe that the Sun has risen
not only because I see it
but because by it I see everything else.
Belief in Our Lord Jesus is like this.
Which is Lewis’s point…
Belief in Jesus Christ shapes the way we see everything else.
In fact, our calling is to believe in Jesus.
St John wrote in his Gospel:
Then they asked Jesus,
“What must we do to do the works God requires?”
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
So, I ask you today…
What do you believe?
What do you believe about Jesus Christ?
How you answer that question is of the upmost importance.
I pray that you have a child-like faith…
Trusting in God…
Believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.
May we run to the tomb…
Just like Peter and John…
For that firsthand encounter.
Even if we run with our doubts,
Our questions, …
May we run toward the tomb.
Because by the light of Christ we see light.
As the Psalmist David said:
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
And in the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart.
May we believe this day!
Alleluia! Jesus is risen.
He is risen indeed!
 Lloyd John Ogilvie, Silent Strength (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 1990), 103.