It was a sad day in America and all over the world when the news finally spread. The rumors were true. There was no denying it – Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll, was dead. Yet it is interesting how many people claimed to have witnessed seeing the king alive, even when the reports were confirmed of his death. No matter how great someone is, at some point we will all face death. The saddest part of all is when we continue to look for something when in fact, the search is over.
There has only been one who was able to conquer death. Jesus of Nazareth, God on earth, defied all odds and broke through the bonds of death, hell and the grave to once again walk on earth – alive and well. The documented evidence was irrefutable – Jesus who was crucified was now alive. Jesus, who was cruelly beaten and battered, nailed to a cross and pierced for good measure. Jesus who was taken down from the torture devise of the Romans and laid in a borrowed tomb, signed, sealed and delivered would not be restrained by the grave. Jesus was among the living, later to appear to numerous witnesses who attested to the account that in fact Jesus the Christ did return from the dead. Folks, this is a day to celebrate! This is a day to rejoice! We remember this day as if it has just happened – the power of Jesus Christ lives and reigns again. Hallelujah!
This is another of those sermons I should preach with a disclaimer – this is exciting stuff! The light of the world has come to redeem the lost – we no longer have to remain prisoners to our sin. Jesus sacrificed himself to ensure that we could have life, and have it more abundantly. Instead of a funeral, we are in the presence of a renewal – Jesus Christ is alive!
So why on earth are we looking for him among the dead? Luke 24:5-8 says, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be
delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.” This must have be the AHAH moment of the century! Jesus wasn’t kidding! He wasn’t speaking in parables or circles – Jesus meant what he said – he was going to die and after three days he would rise again. They do say hind sight vision is 20/20! Suddenly all of Jesus’ teachings were starting to make sense.
Resurrection is an interesting thing. From a medical perspective, people are resurrected/resuscitated every day. We hear the accounts of those whose hearts have stopped beating and are zapped back to life. But there is only so much medical science can do. When someone is dead more than a certain number of minutes – not days – there is no hope. They cannot be resuscitated. They simply pass from this life to the next. But Jesus was not the result of a brilliant breakthrough in medical science. Jesus, the son of God, would not be contained by death. Jesus, the Messiah, would not be constrained by grave clothes. Jesus, our Redeemer, would not be held back by a tombstone. Jesus was alive – not as a corpse or a resuscitated ghost but once again as both fully human and fully divine.
Yet the disciples were stilled stunned by devastation. The disciples were in hiding fearing the Roman soldiers would come for them next. The women who followed Jesus were present at Jesus’ hasty burial, and therefore returned the tomb to complete the painful but necessary burial process. The Romans still thought they had taken care of another nuisance. Everyone was looking for Jesus among the dead.
How about us? Are we still trying to bring Jesus in the midst of the dead? There were several court cases involving various colleges across the nation, where instructors were challenging students who believe in God. The movie “God’s Not Dead” follows an encounter by a philosophy instructor and a freshman class in which only one student refused to sign his mandatory affidavit stating that “God is dead.” In this story, a freshman spends the semester convincing his classmates of the existence of a higher being – God. In the end, several students stand and affirm, “God is not dead.”
So what about us? Are we still searching for meaning in our lives? Are we still searching in vain to appease our innate restlessness when all the time we can finally find rest in the risen savior? Perhaps we are wrestling with indifference. It really doesn’t matter whether God is alive or dead. It doesn’t matter whether Jesus rose from the dead or whether this was just a cleverly crafted myth – it simply doesn’t matter. Perhaps we are hesitant to believe in anything but ourselves. Yet this would lead to a life of existence – one lacking hope for a blessed life now and a promise of eternal life.
Are we expecting life or existence? Do we want to dare to believe in a loving God who walks with us during times of trial and difficulty? Do we have the courage to stand against the hateful, harmful actions of others and promote a life of peace and love? God is in our midst today. Christ is risen and the grave is missing one more inhabitant. We remember these events as the pinnacle of our Christian year. Christ is here with us, and Christ does not dwell among the dead. Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, yet is still in our midst lighting a spark of excitement and hope and courage. Do you dare to believe?
Spring is an exciting time. We survived the time change so it is on to having the sun set later in the day, spring sports and events, special programs at school, and all the signs of life that are around us. There is a story of a Sunday school teacher who gave her students an assignment one Easter morning. They were to take small boxes outside and they were to gather small items from around the church that represent Easter. All the children were excited and proceeded outside to find their treasures.
One child was a little uncertain yet eager to complete the task. He was a special needs child, but he had a big heart and an intense love for Jesus. He too went on his quest and returned with the other children. The teacher had each child present their findings. One child had some fresh grass, indicating new life after a time of winter. One had a few twigs from a bird’s nest, indicating the birth of new birds and a sign of Spring. Another child brought a flower that had just bloomed. The young boy also presented his findings – he presented an empty box. The other children were quick to criticize – “He didn’t do the assignment right!” “I did so,” said the boy. “The tomb is empty.” There is no better declaration than when the disciples finally came to the realization that Jesus was no longer among the dead. There is no better declaration for us as well. Jesus is among the living – the tomb is empty!
We are among the living, amen? We are Easter people – we live in the promise and hope of a kingdom of God here on earth and in heaven. Perhaps it’s time to realize just how much we are loved. Perhaps it is time for us to embrace the fact that we do not have to carry our burdens alone anymore. Perhaps it is time for us to accept the fact that God is crazy about us, so much so that God sent God’s son to pave the way for us to experience life, and experience it more abundantly.
So where do we go from here? We know the story and we acknowledge the presence and life of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Does the story end here or is it just the beginning? Perhaps we are at a crossroads – what path is God asking us to follow? This is where we can seek God and find direction for our faith community. This is where we will find the answers for the cares and concerns of our lives – at the foot of an empty cross.
Our world is a little scary right now. It is no secret that our nation is in a bit of turmoil as we see the results of hatred and racism seeping into our lives, particularly in light of our current political climate. Against the backdrop of evil we find the source of love itself. We find a peacemaker among the warriors. We find a gentle spirit among those who cry for signs of force.
The fact that Jesus is among the living gives us the opportunity to follow his guidance and example. Jesus boldly extended the arms of hospitality to everyone – this is our model to follow. Can we welcome all both inside and outside these walls? Can we extend a hand of hospitality that includes God’s grace, offered without price? Can we take this Easter excitement and extend fellowship to one another as we share God’s love with our neighbors?
This is where we can be the real presence of God in our community. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Let us not look for Jesus among the dead but among the living. We are alive and well at Mayo and Christ is in our midst. Let us take the light of Christ with us and share it with all who desire a relationship with God. The tomb is empty! The search is over! Christ is risen – He is risen indeed! Amen.
March 27, 2016 – The Search Is Over!