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Apr 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Easter 2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  Grace and Peace to you, friends, and welcome!

Do you ever wake up with a song running through your head?  I wonder what is going on in our dream state, or in our inner person, that it’s right there, already being sung.  I’ve been waking up with the same song every day this week:  How deep the Father’s love for us, (do you know it?)  The lyrics:

How deep the Father’s love for us.

How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

It’s a mystery to us that searing loss which mar the Chosen One can be on the same plane as deep love and bringing glory.  If you’ve been to Israel, you will remember the proximity of the place of Jesus’s death—the cross–to the garden tomb.  I believe this is symbolic of the deep spiritual reality that is entwined in the Christian experience. Death and resurrection are never far apart.  And the one thing you remember when you visit the Garden Tomb: it is empty.  Jesus died; Jesus rose. 

And I think that’s what’s important for us too.  Sometimes a life going well experiences a loss that plunges us into a dark grief. Or, one who has suffered greatly has been changed by their experience to become a witness and a beacon of hope.  We begin to realize that no matter how good things are for us, our lives are never completely free of the cross; and no matter how hard life is, resurrection is still in progress. We live with suffering, and we trust, and we hope in our resurrection. 

Jesus declared to Martha in John 11:25: I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,  and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

That’s why we can have our cross, an instrument of torture, covered with flowers.  Today we remember that we are people of the Resurrection.

Our prayer this morning is from A Guide for All God’s People.  Will you join me?Lord Jesus, you alone are the resurrection and the life; those who believe in you will never die.  Come to us and speak new life upon all our dyings.  Look upon us as we stand at the thresholds of our entombing experiences, unable to see or move because of the grave clothes which bind us.  Set us free (to hope, to love, and to believe in You).  In your name we pray.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the bomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and the rest. . . . [and] to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
Luke 23:54 -24:1-9, 11

Intro: They came on the first day of week, first thing in morning

They knew what spices and ointments to bring,
– and knew what they were doing – they had done this before
• what they did not know, was that overnight their world had changed
• so what they found at the tomb was not what they expected
– I love the lines:
Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen
• they had come to the wrong place, looking for wrong thing
◦ they came to a cemetery looking for a dead body
◦ but Jesus wasn’t there – and he wasn’t a corpse
• they were wrong that morning – but not they were not the only ones who were wrong
◦ the apostles were wrong to not believe them
◦ the two on the road to Emmaus were wrong when they said, “We had hoped” – using the past tense
(Jesus still was “the one to redeem Israel”; v. 21)
◦ the disciples were wrong when Jesus appeared to them and they mistook him for a ghost
But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit (Lk. 24:37)

When we come to this day of resurrection we can be wrong too

For instance, one way that we tend to go wrong,
– is to fixate on secondary statements and miss the primary message
• we read the envelope and throw away the letter
• that’s what Jesus meant when he told the Pharisees
you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. . . .You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Mt. 23:23-24)
◦ Paul told Timothy to tell other believers
not to quarrel about words, which does no good (1 Tim. 2:14)
◦ too often that is precisely is our mistake — we make too big a deal about specific words
– some very pious people will scold you if you say “Happy Easter”
• they’ll tell you Easter is a pagan celebration named for a pagan goddess
(the truth is, origin of “Easter” is uncertain, but let’s say they’re right)
◦ what is the reason we must be informed of this pagan background?
Because we did not know about it
◦ for most of us, Easter has always been the day of Jesus’ resurrection
• the meaning of many words change over time
◦ Easter is one of those words!
◦ if to us, if Easter refers to “resurrection Sunday,” then that is its meaning for us
◦ the talk about paganism is irrelevant
• now if you’re not going to say Easter because it supposedly has a pagan origin,
◦ what words will you use for the seven days of the week?
◦ they’re named after Roman and Norse deities

Whether we say Easter or Resurrection Day is not the main point
– what matters is, He is not here [in the tomb], but has risen
• what we call it doesn’t change anything
• but what happened that morning changes everything

As people gradually recognized Jesus, it was an eye-opening experience

Luke tells us, when Jesus first joined the two on the road to Emmaus,
their eyes were kept from recognizing him (v. 16)
– and as we read before, when he appeared to the others, they thought he was a ghost
• this has been a problem for the disciples all along in Luke’s gospel
• they did not have eyes to see or ears to hear what Jesus meant when he predicted his crucifixion
But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying (Lk. 9:45)
But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said (Lk. 18:34)
– something happens in this chapter that changes them
• first, the two on the road
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight (vv. 30-31)
• as for the others
Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (vv. 44-45)

So this eye-opening did not happen during their discipleship, but after Jesus’ resurrection
– as Jesus spent time with them, their eyes were opened

The day after Easter in 2004, God spoke to me

“Don’t cross Easter off your calendar and move on.
Keep Easter in your heart”
– that week was the first time I visited the hermitage up north
• I returned a few weeks later and noticed in their liturgy, they were still focused on Easter
• I mentioned it to my mentor-friend who lived there
◦ “Oh, yes,” he said, “and we will continue with Easter until Pentecost”
◦ that’s when I learned that for them, Easter is a season
– we have this Easter season to ask Jesus to open our eyes and allow him to do it
when he opens our eyes to himself:
◦ we find him near everywhere
When we’re together, we have all kinds of conversations about Jesus
We read about him, we discuss his teaching, we tell our own “Jesus stories”
Not always, but sometimes, we discern his presence with us
I ask myself, “Why not always?”
He assured us that he would be with us
Am I too spiritually insensitive? Too asleep?
Am I being prevented from discerning his presence?
Is it a process?
Is it a growth factor, so it’s hit or miss?
I suggest that in our prayers we practice looking and listening,
so that by Pentecost we have received an eye-opening encounter with Jesus
when he opens our eyes to himself, simultaneously our eyes are open to ourselves
In Peter’s first encounter with Jesus, he was so moved at the wonder of him that he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8)
The two disciples walking with him to Emmaus later said: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened our eyes to the Scriptures?” (v. 32)
◦ they discovered something new stirring within them
◦ with open eyes we see our need for him, and we see how he meets that need
then, on another level, when he opens our eyes we begin to see through his eyes
◦ when that happens, we feel what he feels in his heart
◦ there is no judgment, no condemnation — there is love and compassion and mercy

Conclusion: He has risen

Jesus is risen from the dead
He is also risen from these pages that tell us about him
he’s not trapped in the printed words of an ancient past
He has risen from history into today

Jesus is risen here and now

I would like you to pray with me:

Lord Jesus, we ask You
to give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know you
Enlighten the eyes of our heart

This week,
let us enjoy an extraordinary encounter with You
If we have a moment of free time,
and we’re not amusing ourselves with some distraction,
grab our arm and pull us outside to take a walk with you

But if our encounter is not that obvious or experiential,
train our faith to embrace the fullness of the revelation of You that we already have
and in that richness, enable us to discern Your presence

This we ask through
the goodness of our heavenly Father
the love of our Lord Jesus
and the grace of the Holy Spirit

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