Sermon for Sunday, November 1st, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Dan 12:1-4 ESV] 1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
New Testament reading:
[1Pe 1:3-9 ESV] 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
[Jhn 20:1-18 ESV] 1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”–and that he had said these things to her.
Americans had long been taught that Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot in this continent.
But some had speculated that perhaps the Norse Vikings had made it here centuries before Columbus. This was largely based upon the evidence of two stories—the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red—which tell of voyages to the New World and which are preserved in a 14th century Icelandic manuscript.
It was easy to dismiss these sagas as legendary. The stories were from many years ago. And no Viking presence had ever been found in America. There was no known evidence of them even visiting.
In 1960 two archaeologists from Norway started to investigate some ruins on the northern tip of the Island of Newfoundland in Canada. There at a place called L’Anse Aux Meadows, which locals had called “an old Indian camp,” the archeologists found the remains of eight buildings which they later identified as the living quarters and ship repairing workshops of 11th century Norsemen. Common everyday items used by the Norse Vikings—and not used by Native Americans—were discovered there including a stone oil lamp, a whetstone, and a bronze fastening pin. This discovery changed everything – the Vikings had outpaced Columbus by 500 years.
Only on rare occasions in any field of study does something occur which changes everything. There was finding of the Rosetta Stone (which was the key to reading Egyptian hieroglyphics), the invention of the printing press, and the discovery of penicillin. (Which I’m actually allergic to)
For those who are not archaeologists or historians, we might use this phrase when our first child is born – “this changes everything.” The focus of our life changes. There is less “me” and more “baby.”
But of all the momentous changes that have occured in this world there has been none more significant than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You can imagine the disciples—seeing the empty tomb and then seeing the resurrected Christ—you can imagine them saying “This changes everything.”
And indeed, it does change everything.
Almost 2000 years later and we are still talking about it.
Jesus is not dead, He is ALIVE!
And His teachings are not dead, barren, nor empty, but they are backed up by his coming back to life.
The promises of God are proven true.
Thus we know that Jesus is not merely a teacher of morality, He is the Son of God!
This changes everything! And it changes lives.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed the lives of the disciples and it changes lives today.
I. The Resurrection Changed the Lives of the Disciples
It’s not just Simon Peter who we find bumbling, stumbling, and fumbling around in the Gospels. The disciples as a group are regularly presented there as rather clueless. They simply did not have things all figured out. Even though they walked with Jesus they still had their doubts and would waver in their belief. But the Resurrection changes everything.
The Resurrection proved true all that Jesus Is and all that He had taught.
Following the resurrection, the Lord brought to the disciples remembrance of the things that Jesus had formerly said. And they realized it was all true.
Previously they had been fisherman, tax collectors and simple people. But the Lord had chosen them to be His witnesses of the resurrection; to proclaim the Gospel in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.
Had the resurrection not occurred, the disciples would in time likely have dispersed back to their homes and regular jobs. But with the resurrection all had changed.
Consider the account in Luke’s Gospel of the resurrected Jesus meeting with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples, whose “eyes were kept from recognizing Jesus” said “we HAD hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” In the past tense – we HAD hoped. With Jesus’ death their hope was gone! And it may have been a misplaced hope in an earthly kingdom. But then “their eyes were opened” and they recognized Jesus. Jesus then “vanished from their sight” but they found the other disciples and said to them “The Lord has risen Indeed.” This changed everything for the disciples. The hope was no longer past, the hope was now and future. And it was a great hope because it was evidenced by the resurrection.
In our text we see the change of Mary Magdalene. She goes from weeping to joy. Mary “stood weeping outside the tomb.” But when Jesus said to here “Mary” she turned and said to him in Aramaic “Rabboni!” (which means teacher.) And she clung to him. It is a profound event that changes a consoling person into a joyous one. We need time—months even—to process the death of a loved one. Mary Magdalene’s change was instant—she had seen the risen Jesus!
What a joy it is to think that we will one day see the risen Jesus. And the risen believers of all times and places.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ did not only change the people in the time of the New Testament it continues to change lives today.
II. The Resurrection Changes Lives Today
Each Sunday we come to church to worship the Lord. The reason we do so is because, as our text says, Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, Sunday. The resurrection changed the ancient practice of a 7th day Sabbath and replaced it with a Sunday sabbath. This is to be the highlight of the week for us, as it is also the highlight of the church calendar – not Christmas but Easter. The resurrection of Christ has always been the highest point of observance for the church because it changed everything.
It changes our lives not only in the day of the week in which we worship, but gives us a new identity. We are united with Christ.
Our old self is put away and we put on our new identity in Christ.
Paul says in Romans,
[Rom 6:9-11 ESV] 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
The resurrection also gives us hope in the promise of Jesus Christ. That we too shall be resurrected. United with Him through faith, we have the promise that as he was brought back to life, so we shall also have eternal life.
The resurrection gives us hope, an assured confidence, not merely wishful thinking.
With this assurance, we live in a very different way. We do not seek to appease God, but we know that our salvation is already secured in Jesus Christ. Thus what we do in this life is done out of thankfulness to the Lord. We can live lives of joy assured of God’s love for us! This is worth repeating: we are to live lives of joy, assured of God’s love for us.
Because of the resurrection, Paul says,
[1Co 15:58 ESV] 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
The resurrection changes who we are, and it changes hope that we have. It truly changes everything for those who believe in Jesus Christ.
Speaking personally, I do not know how unbelievers get on in the world. Whenever I’m at my lowest lows I take comfort in the promises of Jesus Christ. I know of no other hope than in the resurrection.
In fact, it is the resurrection that Peter is primarily referring to when he says “always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have.” We have hope because He is Risen!
The resurrection is one of the historical features of Christianity that grounds its truth claims and shows it superiority to other religions. The stories of the polytheistic Greeks were just stories, not tied in to the reality of this word. Their events did not happen in time and space. But in the Bible we have an actual event – the resurrection of Christ – declaring the truth about who God is and what He has done. The Bible is not speculation about God — like that of the Hindus — but it is knowledge of God who truly, literally, and historically sent His son Jesus Christ to die and be born again. Our faith rests not on fables but on the fact of the resurrection.
When people learn of the fact of the resurrection and are giving faith by the Holy Spirit their lives change forever. They have a new identity and they live no longer for themselves but for the Lord.
Jesus Christ is risen!
Buddha is dead. Confucius is dead. Mohammed is dead. Joseph Smith is dead. Karl Marx is dead. But Jesus is alive.
Jesus Christ is risen today. He is risen indeed. Amen.