Sermon on Luke 24:1-12, Easter Sunday
The Wonder of the Easter
Text: Luke 24:1-12
I wonder. I wonder if you have ever seen anything so amazing before. It would have taken a forklift to pick my jaw back off the ground. I was so filled with wonder and awe that I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to go. I just stood there, filled with wonder.
Have you had that feeling before? Maybe you stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon looking at the bottom a mile and a half below and at the other edge 15 miles away. Wow! Maybe you stood at the foot of the Rocky Mountains looking at a peak 14,000 feet above you. Wow! Maybe you get that feeling every time you stand on the beach and watch the mighty waves come crashing down on your feet. Wow! Maybe it was watching the miracle of childbirth. Wow! I’m sure that at some point in your life you have been filled with jaw-dropping wonder and amazement.
Yet I’m not sure you could comprehend the wonder I saw. In fact, when I was first told about it I didn’t even believe it. It sounded too good to be true. Some friends told me that they had seen it with their own eyes. That still didn’t convince me it was possible. After all, it was a group of ladies that told me what they had seen. And you know how women can be. Once they start talking, then they start getting excited, then they start exaggerating a little bit. My ears heard what they were saying, but my mind didn’t understand it and my heart didn’t believe it. I had to see it with my own eyes.
You have no idea what I had been through leading up to that point. A few years before I had switched careers. I decided to drop everything I was doing and to enter the ministry. I used to be a pretty ho-hum simple-Simon, so to speak. I enjoyed the more relaxing things of life, like fishing. But everything changed the day I decided to enter the public ministry. I wouldn’t even know where to start in describing the things I have seen and heard. Those first few years were years of ministry were years of great joy but also years of great stress and trouble.
Finally, it all culminated in one incredulous week. It seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I felt like my faith was so weak. I wanted to be stronger for the Lord. I wanted to do what he says and follow his ways. I wanted to show my love for him. But every time I took two spiritual steps forward I felt like I took three spiritual steps backward. I was reluctant to pray. I was unsure of my beliefs. In my weakness I even did some things that I would have never thought I would do.
That was only the beginning of it. I lost one of my friends that week, too. My closest and dearest friend died. He was my mentor and my spiritual advisor. He was my everything. But just like that he was gone. As if that week wasn’t hard enough for me! I felt like I spent three straight days just sobbing. I felt scared, alone, depressed, disheartened.
Have you had days or weeks like that? Have you lost a loved one before, a dear friend or family member? Did you feel sad and depressed and all alone? Have you had times when you have faltered in your faith? You aren’t sure what to believe. You feel like you are stuck in a rut and you can’t get out. You feel burdened by a guilty conscience because of the things you have done. If you have ever had days, or weeks, or months like that, then you know exactly what I was going through that week.
After all that stress and trouble and sorrow, that’s when these ladies came and told me what they had seen. I couldn’t believe it. “How could this be?” I wondered. Some of my other friends even thought these women were speaking nonsense. But I’m a man of action, and I had to see for myself.
I leapt up from my chair. I bolted out the door. Now I wasn’t exactly in my athletic prime any more, but I sprinted faster than I had in over 10 years! One of my buddies named John ran with me. He was a little more spry than I and he beat me there. But eventually I caught up.
We were at a cemetery. We made our way past gravesite after gravesite after gravesite. Finally we found the tomb. It was open. What was going on here? Why was it open? Why was the stone rolled away, and who was strong enough to move it? But then we went inside. That’s when the jaw hit the floor. The women were right. He was gone! All that was left were strips of linen lying by themselves. I had to touch the linen just to make sure my eyes weren’t fooling me. They weren’t. He was really gone. But what had happened? Was this a joke? Did someone steal his body? What if he actually did what he said he was going to do? And so I went away, wondering to myself what had happened.
I left utterly befuddled and bewildered. Those women were right. The tomb was empty. I was filled with wonder and amazement, yet I could only wonder what had happened. I began to make my way back to see the others. It was going to be a long and lonely walk. My mind was swirling in circles.
But then suddenly I heard someone say, “Peter.” I turned and looked and there he was—standing right in front of me. Again, my jaw dropped to the ground. Again, I was filled with wonder. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. So he pulled back his sleeves and pulled up his robe. He showed me the holes in his hands and feet. I touched them. I touched him. It was true. He was dead but now he was alive.
Now I wondered some more. I wondered why he did that. Why did he do that for me? I wondered how he could have showed such love for me-after all that I had done! For weeks he had been talking about his death and how he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. But I tried to prevent him and stop him! I was so ignorant! I had studied with him for three years but I still didn’t understand why he had come. Then when he was going through real heartache and agony he asked me to watch and pray with him for a while. But I fell asleep—three times! Then in a burst of rage and adrenaline I even took out my sword and cut off someone’s ear. I’m not a violent person. I don’t know why I did that. But I did it.
Then, oh then. I did the unthinkable. While he was on trial and being falsely accused and being beaten I stood nearby in the outer courtyard. But when they asked me if I had been with him, I denied it. I denied being with him. I denied being his follower. I called down curses on myself and denied that I even knew him! I denied knowing Jesus—again, three times! When the rooster crowed I remembered what he had said. I ran out sobbing, wondering how I could have done such a thing.
Have you ever done something like that—something so bad that you just became overwhelmed with guilt and sorrow? Have you ever denied Jesus before? Maybe you call yourself a Christian, but you have trouble acting like one around others. Maybe you are a Christian, but you are too afraid to ever talk to anyone about it—especially when you know you really should say something. Maybe you are a Christian, but you never go to church. Maybe you are a Christian, but you struggle with doing and obeying all the things God says. Those are all forms of denial—denial of the one whose name you bear.
Whatever the wrongs you have done in life, and over a lifetime we do a lot of wrongs, you probably know how I felt. I wondered how I could be loved. I wondered how I could be forgiven. I wondered how I could be considered a child of God. But then I saw. I saw the empty tomb. I saw the holes in his hands and feet. I saw him alive.
You see this is why he came. He came for sinners like you and like me. He came to carry our sins on the cross. He came to suffer the punishment of hell on the cross. He came to shed his blood as the payment for our wrongs. He came to die—even for a denying sinner like me and even for a sinner like you. He gave his life for all to save us from our sins. But the real Wonder of Easter is that he didn’t stay dead. To prove that he is the Son of God, to prove that he had conquered death, to prove that our salvation is complete, to prove that he opened the doors to eternal life, he rose from the dead and was alive again. Now that he lives we also will live.
My life was never the same after that wonder I saw. Just 50 days later I stood up as the vocal leader of all the disciples and of all the Christian church. Imagine that! I, Peter, who used my lips to deny knowing Christ, was now using those same lips to preach the risen Christ! Seeing Jesus alive completely changed my life. Knowing that he died for me and that I would live forever in heaven gave me a whole new outlook on life. It gave me peace, comfort, and joy. It filled my heart with love for God and love for others. It gave me strength. It gave me courage. In fact, I was so moved by Christ’s love that about 30 years later I received a similar sentence. Because I would not stop preaching about my Savior and because I would no longer deny him, I sentence to die by crucifixion—just like him. Yet as I met my death I only asked that they crucify me upside down, for I was not worthy to die in the same way as my Savior.
Jesus has changed your life too. See him. See him with your eyes of faith through the pages of Holy Scripture. See him alive. See the holes in his hands and feet. See the scars from which he shed his blood to pay for your sins. See the empty tomb which proves he conquered death and hell. You now have peace, comfort and joy. You have strength. You have courage. Do not wonder. Do not doubt. Jesus is alive! And because he lives, you also will live. You’ll live with Abraham and Moses and David and Elijah and Isaiah, with me, Peter, and with James and John and Titus and Timothy and with all other believers. Because he lives, you’ll live with him forever. The empty tomb proves it. That is the real Wonder of Easter.
To view a copy of this sermon to print or to share, click here.