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Worship Series: Undefeated - Our Journey to the Empty Tomb
Worship Theme: Undefeated by the Grave
First Lesson: Jonah 2:2-9 (EHV)
Easter Gospel & Sermon Text: Matthew 28:1–10 (NIV)
Hymns & Songs: CW157 Jesus Christ Is Risen Today, Christ Is Risen, From All that Dwell Below the Skies, I Will Rise, Aaron’s Blessing (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: Undefeated by the Grave
As she lay there dying, I thought to myself, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.” I had to watch weeks of pain as her illness took over. We all knew she was getting steadily worse and there was nothing anyone could do about it. The long drawn out process was excruciating. As time passed, she spent less and less time in the realm of consciousness. We never quite knew when the last moment would be to say goodbye. The minutes and seconds slipped away, a reminder of the time we would never get back. Eventually, her life passed, snuffed out in an instant like a candle. It seemed such an unceremonious way to go. One moment here. Gone the next...never to hear her laugh, never to see her smile, nothing from her, ever again.
These words may remind you of a time you’ve had to watch someone pass away. It can be such a helpless and hopeless feeling, almost as if someone has slid a knife between your ribs and just keeps twisting it. There is no feeling like it, and I hope none of you ever has to experience anything like it. Some of you already have. I don’t mean to bring it up to pain you, but I do want you to try and understand how the two women in our text were feeling as they traveled to the see Jesus’ tomb. It was the dawn of Sunday morning. The sky was just starting to show light, but was still vastly overcast with the darkness that reflected the weight in the two women’s hearts. Jesus was gone. Utterly gone. Defeated. They watched him suffer and then observed as his life was snuffed out in an instant. A man who had changed both of their lives was gone forever. Now, they drearily dragged themselves to look at the tomb of the man who embodied kindness and love.
As they were walking, suddenly an earthquake happened. The last earthquake they had experienced was during Jesus’ crucifixion. However, this one was much more violent. It was almost as if the two were connected. Like they were bookends to some important event. After the earthquake, the two Mary’s spent a moment or two collecting themselves. Then they continued on their original path to visit Jesus’ tomb. When they arrived at Jesus’ tomb they did not see what they expected to see. They saw an angel, absolutely radiant in nature, sitting on the stone.
It seems that during the earthquake, God was bringing about something important. The stone was rolled out of the way and the guards were so terrified they either fell to the ground paralyzed with fear or fled for their lives. Remember, they were there to dispel followers of Jesus from stealing his body and making it look like he rose from the dead. Now, imagine their surprise as they found out, it was no ruse. Jesus was indeed raised from the dead and he didn’t need the help of his followers or anyone else to do it.
The women flinched with fear when they saw the angel (you’d be scared too). Immediately, the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. He has risen, just as he said (Matthew 16:21). Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” The women inched closer, hardly daring to believe it. Could it be? Could he really be alive? I imagine it was at this point that the sun stretched its tendrils of light across the sky and the darkness evaporated. Warm rays gently touched the women’s skin. Jesus did say he would rise again. It must be. It must be true! As if to confirm their thoughts, the angel continued, “Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead! And look, he is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him. See, I have told you!”
Now, their doubts fading away like the darkness in the sky, they ran from the tomb, leaving with a very different purpose than when they arrived. They had arrived to mourn a dead man. Now, they ran to tell others he was alive. Their emotions were swirling within them, fearful, yet joyful at the news. This was a day full of surprises and yet another one was about to intrude on their expectations. As they were running, Jesus himself met them and said, “Greetings.” He was just using the common way to say hello back then. It would be as if someone said, “Hey” to us today.
In wonder and amazement, the two women fell to Jesus’ feet to worship. Then they grabbed his feet, affirming the fact that this is not some sort of ghost, but the risen Lord with the same body as before he died. Jesus, with the kindness in his face and eyes that only he can possess, comforted them further. He said. “Stop being afraid.” Why can the Mary’s stop being afraid? Because a promise has been kept, against all their expectations. No one was waiting for all of Jesus’ plan and all of his promise to be kept. And yet, here he was, completing it before their very eyes, undefeated by the grave. But there was still work to be done. Jesus encouraged them, “Get going, announce to my brothers that they should depart into Galilee, and so there they will see me.” (Just as he had promised them before he died - Matthew 26:32)
Jesus has risen! (He has risen indeed!) Has he? Are you sure? Do you doubt like the two women did before they saw his empty tomb? Are you more like the disciples, who still doubted after they saw the empty tomb? Does your inevitable meeting with the grave make you uncomfortable? Is there any uncertainty in your destination after death? Does the thought of being 6 feet under chill you to your bones? Are you afraid, afraid you aren’t enough, afraid Jesus doesn’t care, afraid he won’t keep his promises? What about all the projects you will have to leave behind? What about all the comforts you’ve stored up for yourself? What about leaving behind all your loved ones, your friends, your kids? Will the grave be cold? Will you feel pain? Will you have to wait? What if something goes wrong? The angel in our text has a message for you. “Do not be afraid.” You see, Jesus has undeniably risen from the dead. That is a fact. A fact that no critical thinking, no media message, no false information can change. Jesus has risen from the dead and it has changed absolutely everything. The grave has no power over you.
Bursting through all the doubts and fears is a Savior named Jesus, greeting you and assuring you everything will be better than ok. He gave up his life so it all would be. He was victorious over the grave so you could be victorious over the grave. The moment he rose from the dead, it was a guarantee of his power over death, including yours. His victory means your victory and because of that after death is when the real party starts for us. When we get to celebrate in heaven the glorious victory Christ has given us. We remain undefeated, even over the grave. This news is incredible! Do you know what this means! After death, we will live again in the presence of our Lord. Everything will be wonderful and perfect. There will be no more tears, no more pain, as we rejoice in everlasting merriment. This is the best information ever!!!
But at what cost? Nothing is free in this world, is it? I had to pay $150 even for a dumb VCR in middle school and look how useful that is today. Surely, this wonderful news comes at a cost. It did, but you didn’t have to pay it. Christ did, so your salvation is a free gift. The news of a Savior who died for the sins of the world is free, placed in our very hands. As long as we don’t throw it away, it is ours to keep forever and ever. There is no catch that comes with. There is, however, a request.
God doesn’t want us to keep this incredible news to ourselves. He tells us, just like the two Marys, to go and tell this marvelous news. Christ lives and so will you. He says to go and make disciples of all people in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). This is what the two Marys’ did. And they didn’t just walk. They ran because they were so excited. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell that one guy you can’t remember the name of. The news is so great we should be telling everyone so they can hear it too. You and everyone you know can live after death with Jesus in paradise.
Do you remember the sad story I started to tell you at the beginning of the service? You know, the woman who passed away slowly. The end of the story is not sad at all. You see, Betty was her name, she knew the glorious news of Jesus. She trusted her Savior died for her. She understood and believed the Messiah rose again as proof over the power of sin, death, and the devil and she held on to those promises with a vice-grip like faith. The last time I visited her, she was in a coma. I didn’t think she could hear anything, but who am I to judge the extent of power in God’s Word? I started reading her some Scripture. At the end I told her the clear simple gospel truth. Jesus died for her sins and she would have eternal peace with him in heaven. She smiled and let out a deep breath like all the tension had left her. I think I was the last one to see her before she passed because the next morning she was gone. The end was not easy for her, but then again, her death wasn’t the end of her living. Just like our Savior rose from the dead, she rose to join him in the eternal paradise we call heaven. That is the power of the news we share! Easter is the day we see the Gospel most clearly. This good news is for you. The Lord has died for your sins and risen again. Trust in him, you will surely rise from death to see him too. You are undefeated by the grave.