The Glorious Interruption!
Topic: Easter Passage: Matthew 27:57–27:61, Matthew 28:1
Grace Community Church
April 21, 2019
The Road to the Resurrection: The Glorious Interruption!
Please turn in your bibles with me to Matt. 27. According to tests I’ve taken, on the introvert/extrovert scale I lean more towards extrovert but when I was younger I would occasionally have “introverted” days when I would find it difficult to interact with people and I just wanted to be alone or at most with a couple close friends.
One night, I was maybe 21 or 22 years old, I was in one of those introverted moods and all I wanted was to be alone but to my surprise my friend Phil knocked on my door and said he wanted to treat me to dinner to celebrate my recent birthday. Phil was a good friend so I was up for that and we had a nice time. After dinner he said he needed to stop by his church to give his fiancé Karen something real quick. Not a problem. So we walk into the church and there are about 150 people – most of whom I don’t know – and they’re yelling happy birthday and clapping and cheering for me! Karen had taken a young adults meeting and turned it into a belated birthday party for me. But it got worse…just as I was hoping I could slink into the shadows, Karen is calling me up front where they’ve got a microphone and a guitar and a spotlight and she’s insisting I sing a couple songs. It was painful!
There was a film called Girl, Interrupted. This was a case of introversion, interrupted. My quiet night was interrupted by a loud night. My night alone was interrupted by a noisy crowd. My night of “I don’t feel like I have the emotional reserves to talk to anyone” was interrupted by a “come on up front in the spotlight and sing and share with everyone.” It was rough. But it wasn’t all bad. There was one positive way that night was an interruption that has stayed in my memory more than any other way. It was my loneliness interrupted by two dear friends who wanted to express their love and friendship. Karen has since gone on to be with the Lord and so the night they interrupted my introversion has become a sweet memory to me. Interruptions – even unwelcome ones – can be good.
This morning as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, I think it’s safe to say that first Easter Sunday is one of the biggest and best interruptions in human history. Let’s pick up the story in Matt. 27:57 and I’ll explain what I mean. We pick it up, Jesus has died on the cross and his body is being taken down.
57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Matt. 27:57-61, 28:1
We’re talking about Easter being one of the biggest and best interruptions in history and we see here that…
- Easter is grief interrupted by joy
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are the last ones to leave the tomb after Jesus was laid in it Friday, and the first ones to go to it early Sunday morning. It’s clear what they have in mind: they are there to grieve. They bring spices so they can finish anointing Jesus’ body for proper burial. They are there to say their final goodbyes to the Teacher they have grown to love so much. They’re prepared to have a good, long cry as they grieve their loss. That’s the plan. But their grief is interrupted...
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
This is not at all what Mary and Mary expected. Talk about an emotional adjustment. The first thing the angel says is “don’t be afraid for I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.” I know you came to cry your eyes out ladies, but there’s been a serious change of plans. We’re interrupting your regularly scheduled funeral to bring you this important message: Jesus isn’t here, he has risen from the dead!
It’s like the angel knows these women need a little time to emotionally process so he tells them, go ahead and see for yourselves where Jesus was laid. Confirm with your own eyes that his body isn’t there. Check every corner of the grave so you know it’s empty. Jesus really isn’t here – he has risen from the dead!
Verse 8 tells us: So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy. I think that’s the best kind of joy. They’re not terrified, it’s not that kind of fear. You can’t experience joy and terror at the same time. It’s a kind of mixture of fear and joy that’s happy but also full of awe and wonder. “What did we just see? Was that an angel? Why were all those soldiers lying still on the ground? What is going on here? How can this be? How could Jesus have died and now be alive?” We were emotionally ready to cry and grieve and now we’re like giddy with excitement and joy!
Death brings grief like nothing else can. A couple of weeks ago we went to the Corning High School presentation of the play Our Town. And the third scene shows a number of the characters we’ve gotten to know are now dead, the graveyard represented by their sitting stock still on chairs. And a young woman, newly married, joins them having died in child birth. And she asks her mother in law, “can’t I go back and relive any day I want?” She’s told that she can, but warned that it won’t be what she expects. She enthusiastically says she’s going to pick one of the most special days of her life to relive. Her mother in law wisely warns her, if you need to do it, choose an ordinary day… it will be special enough. And so this young girl goes back to an ordinary day when she was 12 years old, but as she relives it she’s so aware of how fleeting life is and so frustrated that everyone is so busy with their lives that they never really look at each other. She wants her mom to see her, to treasure the moment, but her mom and dad are so distracted by the mundane events of the day they never slow down to treasure the moments and the people in their lives. She returns to the graveyard somberly realizing there’s no going back. I found myself fighting back tears cause it’s true – death brings grief, the grief of a loved one’s life interrupted, seemingly forever, by death.
But just as these two women would find their grief interrupted by joy, the Bible tells us that weeping may tarry for the night but joy comes in the morning. Jesus’ resurrection promises us that there will be a morning. There will be a new day. Grief will be interrupted by joy and God Himself will wipe away every tear.
When we lose a loved one we grieve. Tears came to my eyes as I thought about my friend Karen. We miss loved ones who have passed on and we grieve their loss, but not in the same way that those who have no hope grieve. We grieve with the hope that one day our grief will be interrupted by joy!! Easter is grief interrupted by joy!
- Easter is death interrupted by resurrection life
A new medical study suggests that when we die we know we are dead because our brains keep working. Time of death is determined by when the heart stops beating but studies indicate that the person remains conscious after the heart stops beating. Sam Parnia is a doctor who has studied cases around the world of cardiac arrests where the patient continues to have consciousness after dying. He says “they’ll describe watching doctors and nurses working, they’ll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them.”
Throughout history there are cases of people dying for a short time and coming back. There is a movie in the theaters right now about the true story of a young man named John Smith who fell through the ice and was under water for 15 minutes and dead for an hour and came back to life. Lazarus was dead for four days and Jesus brought him back to life. I have a pastor friend who died briefly on the operating table, could see everything that was happening, but came back.
For them death is interrupted temporarily but it gets them in the end. Lazarus died (again). John Smith will die eventually as do all who have died and come back. Resurrection life is different than that. Jesus interrupted death forever at the resurrection. Death wanted to keep holding him, wanted to keep Jesus in the grave but Jesus overcame death with the power of resurrection life. Jesus rose not only to never die again, his resurrection body had no death in it. None. Our bodies are dying a little bit every day. We lose thousands of brain cells per hour. Some of us didn’t start out with that many to begin with! But not one cell of Jesus’ resurrection body ever dies; it’s total, constant, perpetual life. Resurrection life. Nothing can kill, hurt, injure or end Jesus. When Jesus rose from the dead resurrection life interrupted death forever.
But here’s the awesome part: he didn’t die and rise again for his own sake – he did it for us! He did it to share his resurrection life with all of us! Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. John 11:25-26
Jesus didn’t say “I give the resurrection and the life.” He said “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus is resurrection! Jesus is life! If we have Jesus, we have life! If we have Jesus, we have resurrection! Jesus is the resurrection and the life!
I was walking and praying in Painted Post the other day and I walked by a small cemetery. And I stopped and leaned on the fence looking in for a few minutes. And the thought came to me, we think of death as such a final and permanent state. When someone dies we put them in caskets that don’t have release latches on the inside. We bury them under six feet of ground. We etch their name and years of life on granite that will stand the test of time. All of this says, we don’t expect anything to change in their status. Once a person dies, they stay dead.
Jesus’ resurrection tells us that death isn’t permanent, it’s temporary. It seems permanent cause it’s all we’ve known, but death’s days are numbered. That cemetery I was looking at will give up all the dead in it one day. The day is coming when all those who believed in Jesus Christ will hear his voice calling them, just like Lazarus heard Jesus call him, and we will be raised up in resurrection power just as Jesus was. Jesus said, if you believe in me, death may interrupt your life for a brief time, but resurrection life will interrupt your death forever. You will never, ever, ever die again. Easter is death interrupted by life.
- Easter is the weakness of the flesh interrupted by power of the resurrection
Romans 5:6 says, For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. We were powerless to fight sin, powerless to fight death, powerless to fight the dark powers of evil. We were powerless. We were weak. Weak to the point of helpless, there was nothing we could do to save ourselves.
That’s why Jesus came. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price our sins deserved and to satisfy God’s justice so we can be forgiven. Following Jesus means we can live in freedom from guilt and in the power of the resurrection.
Paul writes to the Philippians and says I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. One day the power of the resurrection will raise us from the dead never to die again, but Paul isn’t just talking about something that comes after we die. He’s talking about living in the power of resurrection life right here and right now. Living victorious over sin. Seeing the power and presence of God at work in our lives each and every day. Seeing God use us to make an eternal difference for others. Seeing answers to prayer, souls saved, the sick healed, the backslider return to Christ, the timid do bold things for Christ.
Are we living in Christ’s resurrection power? Do we believe that it’s possible? Listen, if the Apostle Paul can say, “I’m not where I want to be, I want to know the power of his resurrection more than I do now” then I can too. You can too. If you struggle with faith to see God do greater things in and through you, join the crowd. But God doesn’t want us to stay there.
If you belong to Christ, his power belongs to you. If Christ is in you, his power is in you – resurrection power! Let’s close this Easter morning by asking God to stir the embers of our faith – for some maybe those embers are barely glowing, barely warm – so we can believe God for greater things and step out to serve God in greater ways.
More in The Road to the Ressurection
April 14, 2019The Coming of the King
April 7, 2019The Road to the Resurrection: Jesus’ Life and Ministry