Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Happy Easter everybody. Boy Easter came early this year didn’t it. In fact, I learned that you would have to be 95 years old to have ever seen an Easter earlier than this one. And the next time Easter will be on March 23 is the year 2228. In fact it is only possible for Easter to be one day earlier – March 22. The last time that happened was 1818. So this is a very special Easter morning.
Boys and girls, the other day I heard a story about a Sunday School teacher who wanted to share with her first grade class how special Easter day is. She wanted her students to understand the excitement of the resurrection and the surprise of Easter morning. So she told them how Jesus had been crucified on Good Friday and placed in a tomb with a big stone blocking off the only way in or out. Then wanting her students to imagine how wonderful that first Easter morning was she asked them, “And what do you think were Jesus’ first words when he came bursting out of that tomb alive?”
A hand shot up in the back of the classroom. One little girl was jumping up and down waving her arm, “I know, I know, I know,” she said. “Good,” said the teacher, “tells us, what did Jesus say when he came out of the tomb alive?”
“Extending her arms wide she said, “TA-DA!”
Of course, that’s not what Jesus really said when he rose from the dead, but it does hint at how amazing and miraculous, and magical this day is. Because on this day something took place that has never happened before. God brought Jesus back from the dead. This wonderful man who healed the sick, taught and preached, and who tried to tell us about God’s love, was put to death by the Romans because they were scared of him. But because Jesus was God’s son, God would not let his death be the end. And so God raised Jesus from the dead, God gave him life and God promised that all of us who have faith in Jesus, who try and live like Jesus, will rise too.
The wonderful good news of today is that you and I and all those we love don’t just disappear when we die, we don’t just end. Because Jesus rose from the dead, when we die we too will live with God forever.
What does that mean? Well that means we don’t have to be afraid of dying, we don’t have to be afraid when someone we love dies. Easter morning teaches us that God loves us too much to ever let us go.
I remember when I was a little kid and just learning how to swim that I wanted to jump off the side of the pool into the deep end but I was too scared. I used to watch all the older kids do it and it looked like so much fun, but it also looked really scary. I remember my Dad used to stand in the pool a little way out in the water and try to encourage me. Jump Randy, he’d say. It’s o.k., I will catch you, you don’t have to be afraid. I remember standing there wanting to jump, but I just couldn’t get up the courage. For about a week my Dad would try to convince me that he would catch me, but everyday I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Finally one Saturday we were at the pool and I was standing by the side and he said, “O.K., you can do it this time. I love you and I am not going to let anything happen to you. Trust me you can do this.” He had a big smile on his face and his arms were wide open – so I just jumped. It was amazing, he was right, he was right there to catch me, I had nothing to worry about, in fact it jumping off the side into the deep end was a lot of fun.
Today is the day when Jesus stands on the other side of death and tells us that we don’t have to be afraid either. We can jump into life and live with joy. We can spend our time loving other people, trying to make this world a better place. We can give it all we’ve got because God won’t let us go. We don’t have to be afraid because death can’t hurt us. Christ is risen death is defeated, we are safe, we are saved, we are an Easter people. Amen.