April 21, 2019
Hallelujah! The tomb is empty!
Today, God willing, I will sing it again! Not alone but with many others who are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. My favorite Easter hymn, the one with these thrilling words composed by Robert Lowry:
Up from the grave he arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And he lives forever with his saints to reign,
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Yes, hallelujah! No word better expresses the emotion Easter evokes in my heart. Christ is risen! He is alive! The tomb is empty! Not merely Good News but the Best News ever – news that became the linchpin of a new faith, the Christian faith.
While some doubted then, as many still doubt, the women to whom the risen Jesus appeared believed. They ran to share the good news with the disciples. Seeing the “great joy” of the women, the disciples believed. They began sharing this good news and thus began the spreading of the gospel “into all the world.”
Imagine how you would have felt had you been present on that historic first day of the week. If you had been with the women walking to the tomb, you would have been sorrowful, your eyes reddened by crying. Suddenly, the earth beneath your feet is shaking. The massive stone is rolled back, opening the door to the tomb.
Your sadness is overwhelmed by the radiance of the angel who, having rolled the stone away, now sits upon it. You are trembling, but not quite as much as the Roman guards. They were so frightened they fainted and now look like dead men.
What you hear next is the calm, reassuring voice of the angel who says, “Don’t be afraid. I know why you are here; you are looking for Jesus.” Then you hear the stunning words: “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
You realize now that the tomb was not opened so Jesus could get out, but so you could get in – to see for yourself that the tomb is empty. Now, still shaking, you hear the angel charge you to announce the resurrection of the Lord. As you depart, the risen Lord Jesus appears to you and the others. You recognize him; it is really Jesus.
The Christ, the Messiah, is standing before you. You want to worship him but you are afraid. Jesus recognizes your fear and tells you not to be afraid. Instantly, you remember how many times you heard him say, “Fear not.” He tells you to go tell “the brethren” that he is alive.
What an assignment! Go tell fearful men that they can come out of hiding now because Jesus is alive!
Now, two thousand years later, that is still your assignment, and mine – tell fearful people they can come alive by getting connected to the living Christ. People are still afraid of death and “the dark domain.” But that fear can be overcome by faith in the One who arose “up from the grave,” the One who died so their sins could be forgiven, the One who offers them the free gift of eternal life. The doorway out of darkness is now open!
The Church was born not because Jesus was raised from the dead, but because his disciples shared the good news that he was alive. The early disciples took seriously the commission of Jesus to go and make disciples. The Church grew because people like Peter and Paul preached the resurrection of Jesus. They believed it. They preached it. They taught it. They wrote letters about it. So the faith spread to the far corners of the earth.
The future of the faith depends upon your willingness, and mine, to share the good news, to tell others we know he is alive because he lives within our hearts. But for this to happen we must resist the temptation to remain silent and wallow in complacency. We dare not allow ourselves to become “the Tame Geese” of the story told by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegarrd.
Imagine, Kierkegarrd suggests, that these geese could, like us, talk and think and do the kinds of things we do. The geese in the story went to church every week. There they were inspired by the powerful sermon of the high goose. The high goose would tell the listening geese of their high destiny and the high goal the Creator had for the geese if they would only use the wings they had been given.
As the high goose spoke passionately, the geese would honk and squawk their approval. The geese curtsied and the ganders bowed their heads in honor of the great words spoken by the high goose. With their wings, the high goose told them, they could fly anywhere they wanted around the world. They were pleased to hear this. And each week after church, as they dispersed, the geese waddled home from church.
Why didn’t the geese fly? After a powerful message about the opportunities available to them, they ignored it. They didn’t fly home. They did not even try to fly. The message of the high goose made no change in their lives. They continued to do what they had always done; they waddled home.
So here is the question for this Easter Day: will you spread your wings and go and tell the good news to others or will waddle on like Kierkegarrd’s tame geese?
Hear my plea: Waddle no longer! Shout Hallelujah and tell someone that the One who rose up from the grave is the Lord of your life! Tell somebody what the living Christ has done for you. Tell somebody he has forgiven your sins. Tell somebody about the peace Christ has put in your heart. Tell somebody what the joy of your salvation means to you. Invite somebody to join you in life’s greatest adventure – serving the living Lord Jesus Christ!