The Earthquake of Easter

217145_10150232330060239_828142_nScripture:  Matthew 28:1-10

How many of us have ever flown in a commercial airliner?  Several of us have, and I would daresay several of us have flown often.  One of things that we experience on a commercial flight is the “safety lecture.”  The stewardess will stand in the front of the passengers, hold a fake seatbelt, and explain how it works.  Then she will hold the card that gives details of the emergency exits, oxygen masks, and flotation devices.  She’ll finally instruct everyone to locate the emergency exit nearest them.  The very first time I flew, I listened intently to what she said.  I could just envision the plane going down and everyone having to scramble.  The next time I flew, I still listened to what she said, and noticed the story was pretty much the same.  The next time I flew, I knew what she was going to say, so I only partially paid attention.  Now when I fly, I can almost recite the thing with her, and often read a book or talk to Jeannie while she is fulfilling the obligation the FAA has placed upon her.  So it’s easy when she begins talking at that particular time of the flight to tune it out, for to me it is the same old thing – I know the drill.  When it comes to the message of Easter, it is tempting for us to do the same thing.  We’re here on Easter Sunday morning, many of us have been coming to church for years, and we know the drill.  We know what the congregation is going to sing, we know what the pastor is going to say, so we are just eager to have it all finished and move forward with the “flight” of our day.  The truth is however, the message of Easter is far greater than an airline safety lecture.  This message is filled with power, and if we listen not only with our physical ears, but with the ears of our heart, we’ll experience life and power each time it is shared.  So today, to shake things a bit, I want us to go back and think of the first Easter morning.  Not just to think of the narrative, but to think of the impact.  Listen to verses 1-3 of our passage again, “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.”  Yes pastor, I know the story.  No wait, there was an earthquake!  There was also an earthquake on Good Friday when Jesus died on the cross.  The earth shook in the Old Testament when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses.  Throughout the Bible often when God is doing some really big, something huge, the earth shakes.  Now we see when these women go to Jesus’ tomb early on that first Easter Sunday morning, the earth quakes.  Friends, as we celebrate this Easter, as we focus on our Risen Lord and submit our lives to Him, it doesn’t just enlighten our mind or warm our heart – it rocks our world.  We don’t serve just a plastic Jesus or just a stained glass Jesus or a Jesus who is just the central character in a popular program on the History channel.  We serve a Jesus that is so full of life and energy and transformation that when we draw close to Him, He rocks our world!  When we come to Jesus, when we surrender to this living Lord, everything in our lives is changed from the inside out.  We are shaken to the core in a good way.  He turns our world upside down.  Actually, He flips it right side up.  There are at least three ways this message of Easter rocks your world.

 First of all, the earthquake of Easter is that Jesus is risen.  Jesus Christ is risen!  Don’t let those words be water off a duck’s back.  Don’t say, “Yeah, yeah, I know.”  Let the truth and the power of that message resonate in your heart – Jesus Christ is risen today!  On this first Easter morning, as these two women were approaching the tomb, they weren’t going to see how empty it was.  They weren’t going to see an angel or to begin a celebration.  They were on their way to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus.  Their minds were still foggy with grief, because there was no way they could possibly roll back the stone and get to his body.  They wanted to do something – they probably hadn’t slept, their hearts were broken, they still loved their Lord and wanted to care for his body.  They just didn’t know what God was doing – they had no clue.  Often in our lives today, there is so much that we do not know.  These women also didn’t realize that guards had placed around the tomb and that a Roman seal was attached to the stone.  We go about our routines, we get consumed with day-to-day activities, and what God is doing goes right past us.  When the resurrection of Jesus was revealed to them, it rocked their world.  The stone that covered the tomb of our Lord was not rolled away to allow Him out – He was already alive  – a mere stone could not contain him.  The stone was rolled away to allow the women, and others, inside the tomb to see He wasn’t there.  Now the resurrection of Jesus is an established historical fact – its very tough to go against all the evidence supporting it.  If you go to Israel today, you won’t find the remains of Jesus.  After he rose from the dead, 500 eyewitnesses saw him.  When Matthew was written, many of them were still alive and could be consulted to confirm the story.  If we would go into a court of law today with 500 eyewitnesses confirming the same story, the case would be a slam dunk win.  Then disciples ate with him, He told them to touch Him, and to see that He wasn’t a ghost or a figment of their imagination.  The disciples are transformed from a group of scared, broken men huddled together to bold, powerful witnesses speaking to the leaders of the Temple and of Rome about the resurrection of Jesus.  Someone changed them – they could not have mustered this kind of about-face on their own.  The same Peter who had denied he ever knew Jesus a few weeks later stood before a large crowd and spoke about how Jesus was sent from God, and was living never to die again.  Something earthshaking was happening here – Peter just didn’t turn over a new leaf.  Then later the followers of Jesus were persecuted by the Jews and by the Romans, and many of them gave their lives for this cause – who would want to die for a lie?  Peter himself was later crucified upside down, because he would not deny that Jesus is God’s Son.  The earthquake of Easter is that Jesus is alive – He is risen.  This reality rocks their world back then, and rocks our world today.  Think about it – Abraham, the father of the Jewish religion, is dead.  Mohammed, the prophet at the center of the Islamic religion, is dead.  Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is dead.  Joseph Smith, the key figure in the Mormon religion, is dead.  Jesus Christ however, is alive.  Christianity is not just a religion – true Christianity is a relationship with the living Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ.  The same Jesus who was beside God the Father when He created the universe, the same Jesus who walked upon the earth, taught God’s truth and did such miracles, the same Jesus who had nails driven through his hands and feet because of His love for you and me, that same Jesus is alive today!  Jesus Christ is risen!  It rocks your world.

Then, the earthquake of Easter is that you can be forgiven.  Listen to Luke 24:26-27, He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  The word forgiveness is a legal term – it means dismissed or pardoned.  It means that as a defendant, you would stand before a judge and he would say to you, “You have been found guilty, but you have been pardoned.  Your case is now dismissed.  You are free to go.”  When we couple Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we experience forgiveness of sins.  No sin is too great for God to forgive.  No sin is too frequent for God to forgive.  Someone may say, “Well, pastor that’s great, but I’ve been forgiven of my sins, and been saved, but now I have drifted.  I just have so many things in my life that I need to get straight before I can come back to God.”  Friend, forgiveness of sin isn’t about you and your conduct, it is about God and His power through the resurrected Lord.  If you feel you have drifted into a lifeless existence and are now far from God, it is God who will breathe new life into you.  Some of you who are old like me will remember the old Nestea Ice Tea commercials.  The person would be all hot and sweaty, then a sip of cold ice tea would be taken.  Immediately the person would fall backwards into crystal clear pool of cool water.  It was a refreshing thing for them.  Well, falling back into the arms of your living Savior is even more refreshing – you don’t “do” anything – you just fall back into Him.  No matter what you’ve done, no matter how far you’ve drifted, the forgiveness that Jesus offers will rock your world.

Then, the earthquake of Easter is that you can be transformed.  Everybody wants to be transformed in one way or another.  If we go into a bookstore nowadays, the self-help section is huge.  If we’re overweight we want to be trim.  If we’re agitated we want to be peaceful.  If we’re sloppy we want to be neat.  If we’re introverted we want to be extroverted.  If we’re bad we want to be good.  If we’re depressed we want to be happy.  Everyone is looking for change for the better.  If we’re hooked on pornography or alcohol or drugs, we want to be free.  The problem is that we try to experience transformation on our own, through the latest book or fad or whatever, and it doesn’t happen.  We may change our behavior for a short time, but it doesn’t stick.  The harsh truth of the matter is that we want our world to be rocked, we want our lives to be changed, but we keep going to the wrong people and things.  There is only one source for life change, there is only one person who can provide deep, lasting transformation of character, and that person is Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.  Now if all you want today is a nice, sentimental religion that You can put in a picture frame on a wall or place on a bookmark in your Bible, then don’t follow Jesus.  If all you want is something you can turn on and off at will, then giving your life to Jesus is not a wise choice for you.  If you want to keep living as you’re living, same old thing, same old habits, same old character and routine, then for goodness sake don’t follow Jesus.  If you want mediocrity and to be just average, then don’t follow Him.  When you follow the risen Lord, when you give Your life to Him fully and completely, it will rock your world – you will never, ever be the same.  The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Early in Paul’s life, he was a mean, hateful person.  He was very religious, but he had no relationship with Jesus.  Then he met Jesus, and everything changed.  He gave up an old way of living, he died to it, so speak, and he received a new way of living from God.  In other words, the risen Jesus rocked his world.

This morning, what does this Easter holiday really mean to you?  It can mean a lot of things, but you won’t experience the power of Easter until you grasp that Jesus is alive and that He forgives your sin.  Then He will transform your life, and you’ll experience, just as the women approaching the tomb experienced, the earthquake of Easter.  Jesus will rock your world – will you invite Him to do?

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