April 4, 2021
I recently listened to a podcast that was interviewing a guy by the name of Sam Chan. Sam is a Christian evangelist who was born in Hong Kong and then raised in Australia, which together makes for just an absolutely fantastic accent, but yet that’s not why I tell you about Sam.
Rather, as a Christian and as an evangelist, one of Sam’s convictions is that you and I as followers of Jesus, in order to reach the world around us, need to relearn how to tell a better story. In other words, you and I need to relearn and reclaim the truly good news that we have and how it’s good news for our world today.
So, for instance, when Sam has conversations with people in Australia, he says he often hears a common narrative, where the person will say something like, “I grew up in the Catholic faith and I don’t believe anymore. Now for me it’s all about spirituality and I go to mass once or twice a year, just to keep my parents happy.” And Sam asks them, “Well, what’s it like when you go to Catholic mass with your parents? And he says, 99% of the time the person will say, “Ah, it’s so dry, it’s just a ritual, I can’t find any meaning in it.”
And Sam’s response is, “Well, yeah, that’s because when you go to your church, you’ve got a dead body on the cross. You see, you guys might as well be running a funeral. That’s why it feels so much like a funeral.” He says, “Come to one of our services, the cross is empty, the tomb is empty, Jesus … he’s not dead, he’s alive!”
Woah, how’s that for a response? Now, I really don’t think Sam means to be rude or disrespectful when he says that. Blunt, yes, but insensitive, I don’t think so. Remember, he’s speaking to people who have for the most part walked away from the Christian faith, people who don’t see it as good news. And I think he’s simply trying to tell them a better story, or at least the whole story, that though yes, Jesus himself was crucified on a cross on that Good Friday long ago and necessarily so for our salvation, that he also three days later rose from the grave.
Friends, if we’re going reclaim this better story, both for sake of the world and for our own hearts and souls, then we have to remember the story from that very first Easter.
The story of good news that the angels shared with the women on that Sunday morning long ago, when they announced, “He is not here, he is risen!” He’s alive!
The women who went to tomb that morning weren’t expecting a better story. In fact it says,
24 … on the first day of the week … they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.
Those spices were burial spices, likely a gesture and act of love on behalf of the women, as those spices would help to reduce the stench of a decomposing body. You see, they went to the tomb that morning assuming to find Jesus still dead. And can you blame them?
Throughout the years many religious leaders had died for their faith and that was that - that was where their religion ended. And though even though Jesus had told them to expect otherwise, these women had seen this story before.
But yet, to their incredible surprise, the actual story, the Easter story is far, far better. They see that the stone has been rolled away from the tomb, Jesus’s body is nowhere to be found. And shortly thereafter, the angels appear and explain what all has happened, saying these life changing, earth shattering, words:
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.
He is not here, but has risen.
Jesus’s resurrection is the better story. It’s the story our world desperately needs and the story we desperately need too. This morning, I want to share with you two reasons in particular why it’s the story we need, and to do so, I want to borrow a couple phrases from Pastor Tim Keller, who says that the resurrection gives us hope in two different ways:
Hope from the future
Hope for the future
Hope from the future
That’s a weird phrase, I know. Hope from the future … it sounds like something Doc Brown or Marty McFly might have said in the movie “Back to the Future.”
But yes, you heard that right, the resurrection brings us hope from the future.
And here’s what’s meant by that. Here’s what Keller is getting at when he describes the resurrection as hope from the future. He says,
“… we should not see [the resurrection] as a suspension of the natural order of the world. Rather it was the beginning of the restoration of the world, the world as God intended it to be … the Bible’s startling message is that when Jesus rose, he brought the future kingdom of God into the present.
Yes, yes, and yes. The resurrection is not some kind of one off magic trick, but rather it is the beginning of the restoration of the world as God intended it to be.
You see, the bible refers to Jesus’s resurrection as the “firstfruits” of what’s to come, which means that Jesus’s resurrection is the first sign of God’s promise to make all things new and to bring life where there is death. Jesus’s resurrection is the first glimpse, the first sign of God bringing the future and weaving it into the present.
And for you and I as followers of Jesus, this truth ought to empower us with incredible significance and purpose in our lives today. Because it means that we are now called to partner with Jesus in bringing heaven down to earth, in giving people a glimpse of our glorious future right here in this present moment.
Together this means that what you do here on this earth matters - when you teach kids how to read, when you help families break generational cycles of poverty, when you care for the widows, when you give people meaningful and dignified work, when comfort someone with the truths and promises of scripture, when families sacrificially serve one another, you are helping bring a glimpse of the future into the present, you are bringing heaven down to earth, you are helping bring resurrection power and life to those around you.
When you plant gardens, make beautiful art, make delicious meals where family and friends can gather around the table, you are partnering with Jesus in bringing heaven down to earth, the future into the present, helping to bring what will be into the here and now.
And if people were to say to us, “C’mon, this is too good to be true,” we can say, “Actually, this is what will be true someday. Here is just a glimpse. ”
The resurrection is about the renewal of all things, about the future glory and our future reality invading our present. It’s about showing people what Kingdom life, Resurrection life is like. and that is very good news.
The resurrection is a hope from the future.
And yet, in addition, the resurrection gives us hope for the future
For all those who are in Christ, all those who are followers of Jesus, will one day, someday rise from the grave too. One day, when Jesus returns to fully make all things new, we’ll live in a renewed world, with renewed bodies, renewed and restored relationships, no more sickness, no more death.
And so Jesus’s resurrection provides immense comfort in midst of suffering, it means that we can be people who look forward in anticipation, who are filled with hope that one day our suffering will be no more.
A woman by the name of Joni Eareckson Tada was in an accident when she was seventeen and ever since has been a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. Once she was at a convention in which the speaker asked everyone to get on their knees and pray. Except, of course, for Joni. She was stuck in her wheelchair. And Joni began to cry, but yet not for the reasons you’d think.
As she writes, she was crying because she was reminded that in heaven she will be able to jump, dance, kick and walk. And one of the first things she says she’ll do in heaven is with resurrected legs drop on grateful, glorified knees at the feet of Jesus.
She adds: I, with shriveled, bent fingers, atrophied muscles, gnarled knees, and no feeling from the shoulder down, will one day have a new body, light, bright and clothed in righteousness – powerful and dazzling, “Can you imagine the hope that the resurrection gives someone like me?”
Beautiful, right? That is what you call a hope for the future. And because Jesus rose from the dead, all those who are in Christ can live with hope knowing one day we will rise too.
So friends, where are you or the loved ones around you facing suffering? Maybe you’re battling chronic pain, facing an addiction or making visit after visit after visit to the doctor’s office, with no hope in sight. Friends, the resurrection is hope for the future, providing incredible comfort in our suffering. Maybe you’re struggling in your marriage, or with your kids, or in your work, or in your finances, with no hope in sight. Friends, the resurrection is hope for the future, providing incredible comfort in our suffering.
The resurrection brings us hope – hope from the future and hope for the future. It’s the story we need to remember and the story the world needs to hear.
As we reflect back on that first Easter so many years ago, I find myself drawn towards Peter.
You can imagine the scene, the women return from the tomb, and they find the disciples, they tell them what happened, the empty tomb, their encounter with the angels, and yet the disciples think it’s some kind of fairy tale.
Sadly, it’s not the last time that men have failed to listen to the women around them … we’re still working on this one aren’t we guys?
But yet, consider Peter. We’re told,
12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb …
When all the other disciples were saying to themselves, “This is too good to be true,” it seems as though Peter thought to himself, “Yeah, but what if? What if it’s true? What if they’re right? Isn’t it at least worth exploring?
To me it’s kind of like those direct mailers or random emails we occasionally get that are promising things that seem too good to be true, things like, “Congratulations, you’ve just won $50,000” or “Press 2 to receive a free cruise for you and your family” or “Learn more about how you can lose 20 pounds overnight.” And you think to yourself, c’mon this is nonsense, forget it. But yet, have you ever thought to yourself, “Yeah, but what if?”
When I shared this example with Callie, she said, “Wait, so are you comparing the resurrection to a scam? No!! (Although I can see how I created the comparison) What I’m saying is that the resurrection, though it may at first seem like one of those “too good to be true” promises, is simply too good, is simply too incredible, is simply too life changing and earth shaking to dismiss it right away. Even if you’re skeptical, the stakes are simply too high, the implications are simply too great to not look into it more.
In your bulletin, we’ve included an insert describing some of the reasons and evidence for Jesus’s resurrection, and how it’s not something that’s too good to be true, but rather how it’s so good and also so very true. I would encourage you to take a look at that resource, or maybe investigate further by reading the gospel of Luke, or maybe talk to myself or someone else here in our church about how they decided to put their faith in Christ themselves.
In the end, may we too be like Peter, who found himself amazed and overjoyed by the truth and power and hope of the resurrection, who, when, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
I’ll finish with this:
It goes without saying that this past year has been a tough one. In fact, even though it’s now April, I still occasionally write 2020 as the year, rather than 2021, which tells me either there’s something wrong with me or maybe it goes to show just how long 2020 truly felt.
Nevertheless, as an exercise in optimism and hope, my newsletter article this month is about some of the good things, some of the takeaways and lessons learned from this past year. And in it I shared a few lighter things as well as some deeper things, and I’ll share a couple with you now.
On the lighter end, this past year many of us were reminded to never again take for granted the joy of watching live sporting events and for everyone over the age of 30, we were all vindicated through the ESPN documentary, The Last Dance, that no matter what the kids these days might tell you, Michael Jordan was and still is the greatest basketball player of all time.
More importantly, this past year has reminded us of the importance and gift of in-person everything. And I hope and pray that we would forever cherish each other’s presence, whether through a simple hello, a moment of laughter, a hug or a wave. And I hope we will forever find endless joy in our weekly rhythm of gathering together as God’s people for worship.
Finally, and most importantly, I hope and pray that this year has been a galvanizing moment in our lives that strengthens our faith and hope in Jesus Christ. After all, we are a hope hungry people. You and I need hope like a fish needs water. And in a season where everything seemed to turn upside down, I hope and pray that this past year has drawn us closer and closer to Christ and to a resurrection hope that we can hold fast to no matter what comes our way.
You see, the resurrection gives us a better story, by providing a hope from the future and a hope for the future. Giving us both meaning and purpose in this present moment as we partner with Jesus in making all things new, and in giving us comfort in the midst of suffering, as we await and hope for that day when once and for all everything will restored and made new.
Some may say it’s too good to be true. But no way, friends. Don’t let the cynic within you or the cynics around you tell you otherwise. It can be both, it is both. It’s both so good and so true.