John 20: 1-18
Christ our Lord is Risen Today! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Think of it - what a
day this day is!
Jesus - whom his friends, his family, and indeed all of Jerusalem, thought dead,
was raised to life on this day some nineteen hundred and seventy odd years ago.
Not only was he raised to life - but he appeared to people. He presented himself
to Peter who denied him; to Thomas who doubted him; to Mary who wept for him;
He visited with his friends, he ate with his disciples, He talked with his
The first Easter was an incredible day that started with disbelief, with fear and
trembling and bewilderment beside an empty tomb. Yet they were filled with awe as the
first evidence of the resurrection Began to set in.
We, as human beings, whoever we are and whatever station in life we are in, all
stand on common ground when we stand at the gate of a tomb.
There before us stands a mystery to the great beyond. For unbelievers it is the
end. To Christians, it is a new beginning, A time of transformation, A work of God yet to
For those of us who have experienced the transformational power of the
resurrection, Well, we another name for this event, we call it Easter.
Now there are many who still demand proof and documentation. What kind of proof do
they need? There is more documented evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead than
there is that Julius Caesar ever lived.
There is more evidence of the resurrection than there is that Alexander the Great
died at age 33. I have always found it interesting that some will accept thousands of
facts for which there are only slight shreds of evidence, but in the face of overwhelming
evidence of the resurrection they cast a skeptical doubt, because it is so unique a claim.
In the early nineties the ABC news show 20/20 had a segment on the shroud of
Turin. If you have not heard of the shroud of Turin, it is thought to be the cloth that
Jesus was buried in. And on this cloth is burned imprint of a man Thought to be the person
It is now housed in a cathedral in Turin, Italy. Several years ago an
international team of scientists, consisting of Christians, Jews, Moslems, and hardened
atheists, set about to prove or disprove the story behind this ancient cloth.
The results of their findings were published in an issue of National Geographic
20/20 conducted an interview with one of the scientists, an Air Force colonel who
was a specialist in laser technology.
He openly admitted that he began the project not only as a non-Christian, but as a
person who was openly anti-religious.
I relished this opportunity, he said, to debunk what I considered a childish
He spent four years working on debunking this cloth with every Kind of laser and
radiological exam that they could find.
In an interview, Geraldo Rivera asked him: Now that you have spent four years on
this project what is your response. His response not only shocking, but it was shocking
that 20/20 even allowed it to go on the air.
He said: After four years on this project, I now fall upon my knees and
worship a resurrected Christ.
Imagine the glory of the resurrection! Gods glory so revealed in the person
of Jesus Christ that it burned His image right into the burial cloth that held him.
It was such an extraordinary and transformational event that even Christs
burial shroud still has the power to transform even the most Hardened atheist into a
The story is so incredible. Who can believe such a thing?
The disciples didnt. Who could believe after watching their friend, their
leader, their God Be murdered in front of them, that there was any hope of redeeming such
a miserable death?
Despite all the disciples had seen Jesus do, from healing the sick to calming the
storms, and despite all the disciples had heard Jesus say about how he would be killed and
on the third day be raised,
not one of them expected - after the cross was raised, not one of them hoped -
after he was laid in the grave, to ever see Jesus again.
No one stood watch near the tomb, No one waited to see if he would rise. When
Jesus died their hopes died, their convictions died, their faith died.
And they huddled in the upper room where they had celebrated the Passover hiding
there in fear that the authorities would treat them just as they had treated Jesus.
And that first Easter day when the resurrection was first discovered It was not by
Peter upon whom the church is founded, but by two women And folks, these women did
not go the tomb to see if their Lord is risen,
but rather they went to finish the job of burying him. No one expected the
resurrection. Despite what they had seen. Despite what they had heard. Despite what they
But, it did happen! Jesus was bodily resurrected from the tomb. It happened
because God made it happen. And then God went on and raised the faith of the disciples, he
brought to life again their dead convictions and restored the hopes that they had lost.
And it is because of the resurrection that we are here today. If it had not
happened the disciples would never have gone on, they would never have had the courage,
the audacity, the nerve, or the temerity to say another word about Jesus in public, let
alone to claim that He rose and Jesus is King and Lord of the living as well as King and
Lord of the dead.
Without the resurrection, How could the disciples hope proclaim him king and build
his kingdom? What sign of Kingship had the Lord Jesus established?
Kings wear crowns as the sign of authority and rulership Charlemagne, whom
historians say should deserve to be called "great" above all others, wore an
Each of the eight sides was a plaque of gold, and each plaque was studded with
emeralds, sapphires, and pearls. The cost was the price of a king's ransom.
Richard the Lion Heart had a crown so heavy that two earls had to stand, one on
either side, to hold his head. The crown that Queen Elizabeth wears is worth over $20
Edward II once owned nine crowns, something of a record. Put them all together,
from all of Europe and from the archives of the East, all of them are but trinkets
compared to Christ's crown.
Revelation 19 says he had many diadems. He wears a crown of righteousness. He
wears a crown of glory. He wears a crown of life. He wears a crown of peace and power.
Among those crowns, one outshines the rest. It was not formed by the skilled
fingers of a silversmith, nor created by the genius of a finely skilled craftsman. It was
put together hurriedly by the rough hands of Roman soldiers.
It was not placed upon its wearer's head in pomp and ceremony, but in the hollow
mockery of ridicule and blasphemy. It was a crown of thorns.
So how does this make him our King? What about this makes him the Lord of the
Living and the Dead?
That crown he wore, it belonged to me. It belonged to you. It belonged to those
who pushed it upon his head, And then crucified him
And if that alone was not enough to make him Lord and King, He descended to the
dead for three days, And arose with the keys to death, hell, and the grave. And He did
this not for himself, But for you, for me, for anyone who would believe.
Do you have any doubt?
Hear again this morning the words of Paul the words of one who experienced the
presence of the risen Christ even as he travelled to Damascus to persecute and Christs
What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died
for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on
the third day also according to the Scriptures. This is what we preach and this is what
Brother and Sisters in faith The resurrection is the most important thing that we
believe in as Christians. The resurrection is the center of our faith, it is the
foundation of our Christian experience, and it is the goal towards which our lives move.
The resurrection is of first importance to us, not because it is a nice ending to
the story of Jesus, but because it is the beginning of our story, a story in which our
faith can triumph over death just as did the faith of Jesus.
As Christians we are urged over and over again to trust in and accept the reality
of the resurrection and to make it a part of our lives through faith in the one who rose
from the dead.
We are a people who are called to believe in the power and the love that it shows
to believe in the power and love of God to bring goodness out of evil; life out of death;
and hope out of despair.
And as Christians we are promised that when we trust and believe in this way, that
when we believe in the power and the love of God, a power and love that can raise the dead
to life, that our lives will be blest, and that we will be a blessing to others.
We are promised that what we believe will make a difference to us --- And indeed
it does.... Let me tell you a true story:
A few years ago a railway worker accidentally locked himself in a refrigerator
car. Unable to escape or to attract attention, he resigned himself to his fate.
As he felt his body becoming numb he took a pencil out of his pocket and recorded
the story of his approaching death. He scribbled on the walls of the car: " I am
becoming colder... still colder... I am slowly freezing... half asleep these may be my
When the car was opened the man was found dead, but the temperature of the car was
only about 56 degrees. Officials found that the freezer was out of order and that there
was plenty of fresh air available.
They found no physical reason for why the man had died. It was concluded that he
had died because he had believed that he would die.
People of God, what you believe to be true affects you to the core of your being,
it shapes you and makes you what you are, it either blesses you because it opens you up to
the power of God, or it afflicts you because it blinds you to what you could be and what
God is trying to do for you.
Think my friends of what happened to the disciples after the first Easter morning,
after they finally accepted and believed in the resurrection that Christ had told them
They came out of the upper room where they had huddled in fear, and they went to
the ends of the earth, and they created a mighty church despite the best efforts of
Emperors and Princes to stamp it and them out of existence.
And this resistance continues even in our day
Even with the fall of the
Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there are still many places in this
world where darkness, death, and defeatism still rule,
where the people are threatened to keep silent, and religion is squashed. But even
under this oppression, The message of Easter, the power of the resurrection, Will be made
On May Day, 1990, in Moscow's Red Square one such protest took place. "Is it
straight, Father?" one Orthodox priest asked another, shifting the heavy, eight-foot
crucifix on his shoulder. "Yes," said the other. "It is straight."
Together the two priests, along with a group of parishioners holding ropes that
steadied the beams of the huge cross, walked the parade route.
Before them passed the official might of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics:
The usual May Day procession of tanks, missiles, troops, and salutes to the Communist
Behind the tanks surged a giant crowd of protesters, shouting up at Mikhail
And, as the throng passed directly in front of the Soviet leader standing in his
place of honor, the priests hoisted their heavy burden toward the sky.
The cross emerged from the crowd. And as it did, the figure of Jesus Christ
obscured the giant poster faces of Karl Marx, and Vladimir Lenin that provided the
backdrop for Gorbachev's reviewing stand.
"Mikhail Gorbachev!" one of the priests shouted, his deep voice directed
straight toward the Soviet leader. Mikhail Gorbachev! Christ is risen!"
These priests joined with the early disciples that day.
They went from being people afraid of dying, to being people who offered their
very lives to help others come to the faith, and hope, and joy that they had.
Like Paul - and others who have since believed they were transformed and changed
because of the resurrection and their conviction that it was for them that Christ died and
The disciples were changed by their faith in the resurrection and in the God who
brought it about: they were given power to heal and to help others.
They were given power to conquer their own fear and despair and power to defeat
the fear and despair that afflicts others.
This is what the resurrection is about, what our faith is about. God brings back
to life that which has died, God brings good out of evil, love out of hate, and hope out
This is what we believe; and what we believe can change the world, one transformed
and resurrected soul at a time.
Praise be to God our Father who raises the dead to life, Praise be to Jesus the
Son who shares his life with the faithful, and Praise be to the Spirit who makes one with