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Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Sunrise - 2016

We Need God Alive (Luke 24:1-12)

Easter Sunday, Sunrise Service, March 27, 2016

            “At early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking spices that they had prepared.” 

            On Friday, Jesus died.  Luke tells us, “When all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”
            Then a righteous man, a priest and council member who disagreed with the decision made by others in the establishment to have Jesus executed, Joseph of Arimathea, honored Jesus with a proper burial.  Luke says, “The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.  On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
            These women were the ones to make their way to the tomb in the pre-dawn Sunday darkness.  Who were these women?  They have lived in the center of Luke’s story throughout.  They were healed by Jesus (ch. 8).  He cured their diseases and drove demons of them.  They followed him and support him and the disciples with their resources.
            One was married to someone in Herod’s court.  
Another was Magdalene, a woman of questionable repute. 
The sisters, Mary and Martha inhabited Jesus’ circle. 
His mother and another Mary were in his orbit. 
Poor, rich, diseased, healthy, socially connected, social rejects – each one of these women needed Jesus and each recognized that they needed Jesus.
            Who gets up before sunrise on a Sunday morning?  Here we are.  We are people with broken hearts and failing bodies, we are people who struggle to pay the bills and have plenty to pay the bills.  We have shared many Good Fridays.  We’ve been to the cross together.  We have traveled all the way from Galilee together.  We are here and have only just met for the first time this morning. 
            Luke shows us these women by telling us what they did.  I’ve mentioned that they received – they received healing from Jesus.  And they gave – their money, their allegiance.  They also opened their homes.  Jesus and his disciples ate with Martha and Mary.  They followed from Galilee and when Jesus was flogged and then humiliatingly paraded through Jerusalem as a bloody spectacle, the women trailed along, stepping in pools of his blood, weeping for him.  When the crowds headed for home after being sickened by another Roman crucifixion, the women lingered and watched and planned.  Jesus was taken from them, but they would not stop loving him. 
            Nor would they stop needing him.  Jesus filled holes in their lives.  Only Jesus could complete them.  These women loved their own parents.  They loved their husbands.  They loved their children.  But they carried brokenness and their families could not patch what was torn or fill what was empty.  Only Jesus enabled these wounded souls to be the women God created them to be.  He died on the cross, but their need for him lingered and so they lingered.
            Disciples follow Jesus.  The women followers continued following even after he was dead.  Laid in the tomb to rest forever, yet they came because they needed to and they recognized their need.  They came to the tomb, they entered the tomb, and there they discovered more than they expected. 
            Decades, centuries, millennia do not change the story.  Week after week, year after year, – continue to need Jesus.  Easter morning after Easter morning we continue to return here because we know we need Him.  Everyone needs Jesus.  It’s a universal human condition. 
Not everyone recognizes the need.  People try to fill the holes. Maybe success will do it for me.  Will a marriage will make me happy?   A baby? Years ago, I talked with a man who had just gone through a divorce.  He discovered 20 years of marriage was not the answer.  Adjusting to his new life as a divorced man, he said some nights he was so directionless, he just went and walked the aisles at Walmart.  Our conversation waned.  He concluded, “At least now I’m happy.” 
Las Vegas, the Bahamas – escape doesn’t work.  The bottle or pills – numbing the pain doesn’t work. 
Only Jesus can offer hope.  Only He can fix what’s broken, fill the emptiness, and helps us be the men and women God made us to be.
He was dead, but they still needed Him. So they went to the tomb.  This story is 2000 years old, but we still need Him.  So we come. 
When we come, what happened with the women happens with us.  They entered the empty tomb where angels greeted them with the news that He is alive.  Jesus – the one they so desperately need – is alive. 
Immediately the women told the disciples who just as quickly dismissed the silly, dreaming woman-talk.  Has any dismissal ever rung so hollow?  Though they would not admit it, the disciples needed Jesus as much as they women did.  There’s Peter inching toward the door, “Yeah, guys, I agree.  These women are batty.”  And he’s off, running fast enough to kick up a dust storm.  Why run after the words of crazy women?  He needs Jesus.  He knows Jesus has died, but he needs Jesus alive. 
He only finds an empty tomb, but he is amazed. 
Are we?  Caught between an old story and our hope that the story will continue when Jesus returns and our hope that he will return, and driven by our need for Him, are we amazed on Easter Sunday?  I am.
Like the faithful women who followed Jesus and like Peter with his doubts, his failings, and his desperation, I know I need Jesus and I think you do too.  We believe He rose.  We believe the resurrection as a fact of history.  We believe He sits at the right hand of the father, and we believe His Holy Spirit is in all places and is with us in this place, helping us, speaking to us, and encouraging us right now. 
The women told their story and we continue to tell it.  We need Jesus alive and He is alive.  And so, Easter is complete joy and it is also real hope that the brokenness will be fixed and is being fixed.  The emptiness will be filled and is being filled.  Just as we are connected to these women through human need, we are connected through the satisfaction we have in Jesus.  He is alive, our needs are met, and we have a story to tell.  As we tell it, those who hear and also recognize their need will, like Peter, be amazed.  And we will live in that amazement with them.


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