Do these words sound like what many folks are feeling today? Might they even describe our own thoughts as we face the isolation and fear associated with this virus? Has not being able to join together to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus brought on even greater feelings of isolation and perhaps even resentment? I know that I deeply miss being gathered with you all. I know that I am weary of this isolation and this constant vigilance against this foe. I know that I long to share communion with you all and will miss it deeply on this day. But…
That is not what I am really talking about in this sermon title, at least not the way you may think I am. You see we are not the first to feel this way, and in fact the resurrection story begins exactly this way:
Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled. (Mark 14:44-50)
Jesus had even warned them beforehand what was going to happen and how they would respond. First he taught them how to reflect and bind ourselves together with the Ordinance we call Communion or the Lords Supper:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29)
And then he quoted Zechariah 13:7 warning them all that they would be scattered when he was taken by the Pharisees.
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ (Matthew 26:30-31)
Have you ever REALLY thought about what it was like for the eleven? The one who they had absolutely put all their faith and trust in was seemingly gone forever. Three years of their life seemed to be washed away in a moment. There seemed to be no hope, no purpose and they were in hiding just awaiting the next shoe to drop. They were “Scattered” and did not even have each other to cry and complain and be afraid with. Even though Jesus had told them what was to happen, they were adrift in a sea of loneliness and despair.
Have you ever felt that way? Do you feel that way now? I assure you the eleven understood it better than we ourselves do in this challenging time. And they did not yet realize the TRUTH that Thomas Fuller the English theologian and historian said: “It is always darkest just before the day dawneth.” You see they were about to be reminded, just as we need to be, that Jesus has overcome the world, sin and death itself.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “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 over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'” Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:1-8)
You see Easter Sunday is not about us. It is not about our feelings of isolation, it is not about our feelings of fear, it is not about being together to celebrate. It is about the LIVING SAVIOR who died but rose again and freed us from the bondage of our sin. It is about the Grandest Miracle to ever happen. It is about finding ourselves in His sacrifice. You see it is all about Jesus.
So let us all put aside our fears, our boredom, our isolation and especially our resentments. Let us not think about what we do not have today. Instead I am asking of myself and of all of you to turn your thoughts to the only thing that really matters. Our Risen Savior and His Love for us. Let us turn to the One that knows the future and has promised that “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Let us understand that in all His works He is ever moving His people in a way that helps us. That even now as we look around we see those around us that are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their technological gadgets and are longing to have face to face interaction with other people. Sometimes we never really appreciate what we have until it is taken away from us. Let us send letters, call each other and look forward to the time Paul told us about:
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)