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SEEING & BELIEVING – THE EASTER CHALLENGE

By Rev. Andrew Leach

 

At this year’s Cheltenham Festival, there were strange scenes in the St. James’ Foxhunter Chase when all eyes were on the horse that finished fifth!

The jockey was two-time Olympic cyclist, Victoria Pendleton who had only ridden a horse for 12 months.

The bookies were taking bets on whether she would complete the jumps but she amazed all the cynics when she finished strongly in fifth place.

Trainer Paul Nicholls told the BBC, “Victoria has ridden a winner in everyone’s eyes”

The winner was the favourite, “On the fringe” (13/8) ridden by Nina Carberry, for the record

The Easter story has many “runners and riders”. There is so much going on. We are in danger of focussing on a fifth place runner rather than the winner if we don’t take care.

 

Mark’s gospel records how the women saw the stone had been rolled away (16.4) and a young man dressed in white (v5) but only as they went to Galilee would they see the one they were looking for, Jesus.

 

There is so much to see – evidence of the resurrection – but it’s what or who we don’t see that is what really matters.

 

“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay…” (28.6)

 

What is there to see…?

 

  1. NOTHING

 

“He is not here…”

 

Where is he?

Mary feared his body had been taken away.

The Romans feared his body may be removed, hence a guard was placed.

He appeared to Mary in the garden, before “returning to the Father”, preaching in Hades, before then appearing to the disciples in Galilee.

He is everywhere but in that tomb!

 

“He was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay” (Acts 2.31b)

“It was impossible for death to keep its hold upon him…” (2.24b)

 

The wages of sin is death. Death’s hold is broken when sin’s hold is broken. Jesus died once and for all for sin. Having paid the price, sin’s hold was broken, death is vanquished!

 

He is not here, because “here” is where death holds its captors but he has no sin to be held captive by!

(Through faith in Jesus – neither shall we on that final day!)

 

The tomb of course was not empty.

There was no body but there were evidences of the clothing of that body…

 

  1. FOLDED CLOTHES

 

“He has risen…”

 

“John…bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there” (John 20.5)

“Peter…saw the strips of linen…as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus head. The cloth had been folded up…” (John 20.6-7)

 

Grave robbers would have been sure to take these – though how they would have overcome the guards and opened the tomb to gain access is another matter!

 

The resurrection was an orderly affair.

There was great power…

 

The power of God raised Jesus from the dead, Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter 1, a power that is at work in us – the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

There was great precision…

The grave clothes were folded – as Jesus made his exit.

 

We are all used to seeing action adventure films were the hero just about makes it, through perilous scenarios – warn-out and crawling to safety he manages to overcome and survive.

 

Don’t think of the resurrection this way. There are earthquakes and angels to let the visitors in but Jesus rises in power and in full control folds the obsolete grave clothes.

 

Lazarus’ when raised received help to free himself but Jesus needed no help.

 

“He has risen” – never to die again.

“He has risen” in mighty power

Death has been put in its place – the folded grave clothes testify to that!

 

See…no body; see…grave clothes…

Look closely and see…

 

  1. PROMISES FULFILLED

 

“Just as he said…”

 

John gives a very frank and honest appraisal:

“They still did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead” (John 20.9)

 

He had told them what lay ahead.

Did they think he was exaggerating?

Did they think he was speaking figuratively?

 

When you look at the place where he lay you – by the Holy Spirit’s help can see:

–         God’s love

What lengths of love God has gone to, to rescue us?

Here laid his only begotten son – slain for us – God made flesh and blood, pierced and bruised.

–         God’s power

The power that brought the universe into being brought Jesus to life – and all who die “in Christ”

What hope we have as we look at the place where he laid?

–         God’s salvation

He went to Calvary – for you and me

He was laid here in the tomb – for you and me

He has dealt with sin and death – for you and me

 

He has done what he said – “Just as he said”

He hasn’t exaggerated, making claims he couldn’t carry through

What he came to do – he has done!

 

We have the witness of the Angel

We have the very words of Jesus

Why were the women (Peter & John) given this glimpse of where Jesus had been?

 

 

  1. A MEMORY TO FUEL FAITH

 

At this time of Easter:

“Come and see the place where he lay…”

 

What do you see?

 

What does this sight mean to you – today?

 

What does this sight mean to you – in dark days?

There is hope. God’s power raised Jesus from the dead.

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

 

What does this sight mean to you – in death?

Death is not the end.

 

What does this sight mean for all your tomorrows?

“I am with you always” – death cannot divide Jesus from his followers

 

Amen.

 

You would be very welcome to join us this Easter Day at 11am or 6.30pm to hear more

 

 

You would be very welcome to join us at any of our Worship Services:

Rochford Congregational Church, North Street

Sundays 11am & 6.30pm

Canewdon Congregational Church, High Street

Sundays 9am

Paglesham Congregational Church, East End

3pm (2nd and 4th Sundays)

 

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