A man was blissfully driving along the highway, when he saw the Easter Bunny hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the Bunny, but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of his car and was hit. (Don’t worry, kids, the story has a happy ending.) The basket of eggs went flying all over the place. Candy, too. The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to see what had become of the Bunny carrying the basket. Much to his dismay, the colorful Bunny was dead, and the driver began to cry.
A woman driving down the same highway saw the man crying on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong. ”I feel terrible,” he explained, ”I accidentally hit the Easter Bunny and killed it. There may not be an Easter because me. What should I do? ”The woman told the man not to worry. She knew exactly what to do.
She went to her car trunk, and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the limp, lifeless Bunny, and sprayed the entire contents of the can onto the little furry animal. Miraculously, the Easter Bunny came to back life, jumped up, picked up the spilled eggs and candy, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped on down the road.
50 yards away the Easter Bunny stopped, turned around, waved and hopped on down the road another 50 yards, turned, waved hopped another 50 yards and waved again! The man was astonished. He couldn’t figure out what could possibly be in that woman’s spray can! He said to the woman, ”What in the world is in your spray can?”
The woman replied, ”It is hare spray. Restores life to dead hair, and adds permanent wave.”
At least the joke had a Ressurection theme, right? 😉 Here is what I know about great victory and what I know about victory of the Resurrection for sure: Often the highest celebration comes on the heels of the greatest pain. Resurrection teaches us that we are never without hope, that there are no dead-ends when we walk with Jesus, and that our worst enemy is no match for the love and power of God. God is never out of options. He is never without power to impact any situation He chooses to impact, and because Jesus lives and has returned to Heaven and has sent the Holy Spirit in His place to occupy our hearts and lives, the same confidence Jesus lived with can be our confidence, the same power Jesus had can be our power, and the same victory Jesus experienced can be our victory—not just when we take our last breath here, but every day of our lives.
Easter can be an every day event, an every day experience for those who put their trust in Jesus. Because the tomb is empty, we can live filled each and every day.
But we know not every person “gets there.” We know not every person makes the choice to encounter God in a personal way. We know there are obstacles that keep people from having an Easter experience as part of their daily life. This morning I want to identify four things that keep people from having an Easter experience, from having a Resurrection, hope-filled, powerful, life-changing experience each day of their lives.
Matthew 27:1-5 1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. 2 They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor. 3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” 5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
This is a tough passage to read on a happy and joyous day like today. It probably isn’t the text most pastors are leading with as they are preaching this morning, but it happened. It is part of the passion story. This tragic event shows us the destructive power of regret. Judas had messed up big. Greed had gotten the best of him. He wound up taking his own life.
Let me remind you that Judas wasn’t the only betrayer of Jesus. Peter had vowed to stand by Jesus forever, even to lay his life down for Jesus if needed. Jesus even warned Peter that his words would be put to the test and that before the rooster would crow three times, he would deny he even knew Jesus. Peter’s bold words were tested, and in just a few hours, Peter turned his back on Jesus and denied being one of His followers. Who was it that challenged Peter’s affiliation with Jesus? Was it a large army with swords drawn ready to pounce on him unless He would recant his faith in Christ? Was it a government official threatening him with treason and imprisonment unless he would forsake Christ? No. It was a servant girl who saw him in a courtyard and asked him a few questions. He was intimidated by a young servant girl. His courage had faded with his words.
Both Judas and Peter had an opportunity to repent. Both could have sought forgiveness. Only Peter did, and he went on to be a powerhouse preacher and force for the Kingdom of God. Jesus reinstated Peter, recommissioning him to the mission of being a fisher of men. Judas, however, let regret rob him of the Easter experience. Judas let regret rob him of Resurrection. Judas let regret get in the way of his discipleship and call to follow Jesus. Here is what I think:
Remorse that leads to regret produces death.
Remorse that leads to repentance produces Resurrection.
Scripture tells us Judas faced destruction and that it would have been better for him never to have been born because of the consequences he would endure. He had the same opportunity as Peter, but didn’t seize it. Instead, he was seized be remorse and literally had the life choked out of him.
The Bible teaches that remorse that leads us to repent, to seek forgiveness, to seek to change, can bring about a resurrection experience in our lives. We see it in the life of Peter. His calling was resurrected, and he was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do more than he had ever dreamed for the Lord.
II Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”What is worldly sorrow? It can simply be regret that we got caught, rather than be regret that we have done something wrong. It can be regret that causes us to feel unworthy or disqualified from the love of God. Let me tell you something about the cross in light of the resurrection: The blood of Jesus shed on the Cross has prequalified all of us for the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness of God. Tell your neighbor, “I have been prequalified!”
Don’t let regret keep you from experiencing Easter.
I don’t know what you regret this morning. I don’t know what you have done and wish you could do over. I don’t know what is part of your story, part of your past or even part of your present that has made you feel disqualified from God’s love or the power of the Resurrection, but God has sent me to tell you today that you don’t have to live with the shame and guilt of remorse. You can live in the freedom and power of the Resurrection if you will come to Jesus.
Mark 16:1-8 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb? The question was a legitimate one. When you synthesize the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection, it isn’t clear exactly how many women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, but it obviously was too few to be able to accomplish the task of rolling the stone away from the entrance to the tomb or they wouldn’t have asked the question. No matter the number of women who were making that trip, they didn’t have the strength or the know-how to do it. What they were basically asking was, “Who will make an impossible task possible?” They were asking how a miracle would occur in the midst of a situation that would take one if they were going to accomplish what they had set out to do.
It is natural to have questions when it comes to experiencing God. If we are really pursuing a relationship with God, we will likely have more questions about God, the Bible, faith, and what God’s will means for us personally than the questions we have in most any other area of our lives. Our questions come from the fact that we are limited. We are limited in our ability to understand some things. We are limited to time and space while God stands outside of those realities. We are limited by our location, our circumstances, our desires, our feelings and perceptions, and even by our life experiences as they all set perimeters and contexts for us which can become hard to get past, and that inability to know it all and explain it all puts us in an uncomfortable place.
What if the women started talking about the impossible feat of moving that stone and concluded there was no need to make the trip since they wouldn’t be able to move the it? They would have missed that announcement of the Resurrection entirely. Are you allowing your questions about faith, the Bible, Jesus, Heaven, and more keep you from encountering the Risen Christ? Lots of people, you see, think they have to have all of the answers, that they have to have everything figured out in order to take the plunge and follow Jesus. It doesn’t work like that. If it did, there would be no reason for faith. It is faith that pleases God. It is faith that moves us from our strength and self-effort to God’s power and grace.
We need to become comfortable without having all of the answers rather than allowing our questions to cause us to stop short of experiencing Easter. We cannot allow our questions to keep us from seeing Jesus in His power and glory. Ask your questions, but apply faith to your questions when you do. You see, faith becomes a bridge between our questions and God. Answering questions isn’t how you get to Jesus. Faith is how you get to Him. Faith says, “I don’t know how the stone will be removed, but if God desires for me to get to my destination, He has a plan, and He will take care of the miracle needed to move every obstacle out of my way.”Faith isn’t the absence of questions. It is merely the presence of unwavering trust even when the answers aren’t obvious to us or don’t make sense to us.
I am concerned that there are people in my hearing this morning who haven’t accepted Christ because they are waiting on specific answers. If you wait on specific answers you may never receive them, and you could miss having the Easter experience forever. Don’t let reason and the need for answers stand in the way of Resurrection! Don’t let questions keep you from experiencing Easter.
Mark 16:4-8 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'”
PLEASE MAKE SURE VERSE 8 IS ON A SLIDE BY ITSELF. THANK YOU.
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
We often talk about Mary Magdalene who had the face-to-face encounter with Jesus after the Resurrection, the one where He spoke her name, and she saw Him for who He was, the Risen Lord. It is in John 20. She then ran to tell the other disciples the Good News that Jesus had risen from the dead. For her, it was a glorious Resurrection morning!
We don’t often talk about the women Mark recorded who missed the Easter experience that first Resurrection morning because of fear. Re-read verse 8: “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” Isn’t that sad? Instead of rejoicing, instead of shouting with great delight, instead of instantly exhaling the sorrow and grief that had cloaked them, these ladies added fear to their already-overloaded emotional experiences. This should have been Good News, Great News, Exhilerating News! This news should have changed everything for them for the better. In an instant, EVERY FEAR should have been gone, but it wasn’t.
Something completely new, something unexpected, something miraculous actually caused them to be afraid. They had been in control of the plans of the day. They had an agenda. They were executing their plans. They were taking spices to anoint Jesus’ dead body. They weren’t open to the possibility that He wouldn’t even be there or that this could be an angel who was addressing them, and now, their plans were disrupted. They allowed what they couldn’t instantly understand to cause them to fear. When God doesn’t move according to our expectations, that is not the time to give in to fear. It is the time to stand in faith in the power of the Resurrection.
These women didn’t do that. They couldn’t hear the Good News; at least it didn’t seem they could take it in. And they told no one.
God is always at work and whenever He works, it is a miracle! I think many times we allow fear to keep us from looking into that empty tomb for ourselves, into that God-moment for ourselves. You know that thing we dismiss or call a coincidence, the one that is really God inviting us to take a look at His Resurrection power; those strange and hard-to-explain happenings that we keep to ourselves and say nothing about because we are afraid of the change that might result? What are we missing? What could have happened if those women had taken a closer look or stayed a little longer? What could have been their experience if they hadn’t run away? Are you running away from the Easter experience out of fear of how Jesus might want to change your life and plans?
Don’t let fear keep you from experiencing Easter.
John 20:19-29 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas often gets a bad rap, right? Scripture doesn’t call him a “Doubting Thomas.” That is simply the nickname others have given him as they have judged his actions. Thomas wasn’t so much a doubter as he just wanted the same experience the other disciples had enjoyed. They had gotten to see the Resurrected Jesus and they told Thomas all about it. For some reason, Thomas wasn’t there. Can you imagine how he would have been kicking himself for missing that incredible experience?
Maybe the alarm on his cell phone hadn’t gone off that day. 😉 Maybe he had to help someone out that day. Perhaps in the wake of Jesus’ death, he started a new business so he could get his mind off of his grief or so that he could start making a living again. Who knows the reason? But he was diverted or distracted by some facet of life, and he had missed it. However, the need to see Jesus as the others had doesn’t necessarily make him a doubter of Jesus. It made him a doubter of the disciples’ words. Though skeptical, he was open to seeing Jesus for himself. Had he been there when Jesus had appeared to the others, we wouldn’t be reading that he needed to see Jesus in order to believe. The others likely believed because they saw as well. Thomas was just admitting he needed the same experience.
When he missed Jesus’ appearance, he missed a whole lot. He missed the presence of the Lord, obviously. He missed seeing Jesus’ body miraculously pass through a door or a wall, whichever He came through. He missed receiving the peace that always accompanies Resurrection experiences. He missed out on receiving the breath of the Lord which was a foreshadowing of the Pentecost power they would all later receive. He missed the commissioning moment as Jesus was sending the disciples forth. He missed a whole lot of Resurrection benefits because instead of being where he should have been with the other disciples, he was distracted and diverted by some other facet of life.
We’ve all been there, right? We get busy, distracted and our attention gets diverted to everything we have to “do.” Time gets away from us. It becomes a few weeks that we miss church or miss time in the Word or in prayer, and before you know it, several months go by. Others are growing and encountering Jesus in new ways, and we are missing it.
Don’t let life’s distractions keep you from experiencing Easter.
Seeing the Resurrected Christ has to be more than a desire. We have to be present in our daily lives and pursuing that fellowship with Him.
Are you enjoying the Easter experience or are you allowing regret, questions, fear or the distractions of life keeping you from seeing and experiencing Jesus and His power every day?Don’t keep missing out. Don’t keep having to hear what Jesus is doing for others without enjoying what He can and wants to do for you.