Happy V-Day

Matthew 28:1-10

Happy V-Day! I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day. I’m not talking about Victory Day as we remember it with World War II. Today I am talking about Easter. Easter is our V-Day. Easter is not about bunnies or bonnets or bonbons. Easter is about victory. It is when Jesus rose victoriously over the power of death.

Christ has risen! He is risen indeed! He was dead. I mean really dead! He was crucified on a cross and suffered a horrible, excruciating death. He was stabbed with a spear to make certain He was dead and laid in a rich man’s tomb. Still, death could not hold Him, for three days later He showed up alive. Matthew lays out the evidence in our Easter reading for today.

First, there are the women who were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Women in those days counted for very little in Roman, Jewish, and Greek circles. They couldn’t testify in a court of law; they were more considered to be goods and possessions. They were discounted people of society. If the story of the resurrection were to be fabricated, women would be good witnesses. But this is how convinced Matthew was of the truth of the resurrection. He didn’t change a detail. It’s just like God to have two women be the first witnesses of His Son’s resurrection.

God is consistent. Jesus was born in an obscure province in a stable, raised in a town people made fun of. “What good can come out of Nazareth?” they’d say. He worked as a carpenter. He died on a cross – a place associated with God’s curse. And now this? Of course! Only God could have dreamed up something so remarkable.

We have the evidence of the empty tomb. Despite the guards and the huge stone covering the tomb, it was open and empty. The body was gone. No questions concerning Jesus as to the emptiness of the tomb.

Then there is His appearance. The disciples saw Jesus on the way back to town. They touched Him and heard His voice.

We also have the evidence of transformed lives. The disciples’ perspectives were totally changed. They moved from mourning and fear to joy and confidence.

We have the fulfilled predictions. Jesus predicted His death and resurrection three times, like the angel reminded the women at the tomb. “He is raised, just as He said.”

There is the commissioning. The women were told to go and tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee. By the end of the book of Matthew, the disciples were commissioned to go and tell the world and make disciples of all nations.

This is not something the disciples came up with on their own. This event began a worldwide movement for which they actually laid down their lives. Would you lay down your life for an untruth?

The Good News of Jesus spread. Here we are today, two thousand years later. How could it be if it were not true?

For me, the case is closed. I hope it is with you, too. Christ is risen! He defeated death. As Paul says, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. ‘Where death is your victory, where oh death is your sting?’ Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:15-57). The cheerleaders’ chant from my old athletic days is ours today: V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. Victory, Victory that’s our cry!

V-Day could also stand for Vindication Day, for Jesus was vindicated on Easter. His resounding message to His opponents, His disciples, and the world that didn’t understand Him was, God is strong! When the stone was rolled away and the risen Lord stepped back into the world from the tomb, God said to us, Jesus is the Savior of the world. He’s My Son. He’s the One you want to be trusting.

Now, let’s get personal. Jesus is the Savior you and I really need. Looking back at Scripture, we find we have a severe problem called sin. It carries terrible consequences. Our sinfulness, our rebellion against God, leads to a physical and spiritual death, for the wages of sin is death.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1 that we are dead in our sins. It all began in a garden with the disobedience of a couple who wanted to run their own lives and be their own gods. Sin spread throughout the world to everybody. Because of sin and its consequences, we all need a Savior. Jesus entered our world and lived a life of perfect obedience to His heavenly Father. He lived the life you and I couldn’t live, which made Him the perfect sacrifice for humanity’s sinfulness. Ultimately, He went to the cross and suffered the punishment we were to receive, so everything could be made right. As He breathed His last, He cried out, “It is finished!” which means literally, Paid in full. Payment for sin was made at the cross.

How do we know it worked? The resurrection! The resurrection is God’s “Yes.” It is the vindication of His Son and what His Son has done. And so, because Christ lives, forgiveness is ours. A restored relationship with our heavenly Father is ours as we place our trust in Christ. Eternal life is ours as well. Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection. We share in His victory. Death is no longer a wall for us but a door. It’s not a period but a comma.

In my congregation we talk about death as graduation time. We go to be with Jesus. I have had some tough funerals since last Easter. Thank God for Jesus. I have sat in nursing homes and at hospital bedsides as dying people testify to me, minister to me by saying things like I’m really not afraid. I’m going home now to be with Jesus, just as He promised. Just as He promised.

God’s Easter message not only gives us Jesus as Savior, but it also means Jesus is Lord! He lives and rules eternally. He is the Lord of Lords. All authority in this world has been given to Him. The earliest Christian creed was, Jesus is Lord.

What does it mean to say Jesus is Lord? Well, in the early Christian church, it was a way of saying Jesus is God. In I Corinthians 16:22, Paul shares a prayer that was common in the earliest Christian church just a few years after the resurrection of Jesus. The words were, Maranatha – Lord, come again. It wasn’t written in Greek by the way, but in Aramaic, which means it is a very early prayer. The earliest Church figured out Jesus had to have been God. Jewish folks only prayed to God before this, and now they are praying to Jesus.

In Philippians 2:1-11, Paul quotes an early Christian hymn, which was written before he came along telling us that Jesus is Lord God. He is in charge of the world, yet He stepped down, emptied Himself and humbled Himself at the cross. But God exalted Him at the resurrection and gave Him the name that is above every name. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess this truth that Jesus is Lord.

This conclusion the the earliest Christians made about Jesus being Lord God didn’t just come out of the blue, by the way. They remembered things He had said about Himself, which now made sense. Things like “I am the good Shepherd”; “I am the resurrection and the life”; “Before Moses was, I am.” I am meant God in the Old Testament. When people asked where He got the right to claim authority to forgive sins, He responded, “I and the Father are one. When you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Easter verified these claims, and so they came to the conclusion that Jesus is Lord.

If, then, Jesus is raised and God has exalted Him as Savior and Lord of the world, then it brings us to this point: What have you done with Jesus in your life? You do have a choice, you know. Some choose to ignore Him; some reject Him; some underrate Him simply as a good teacher; others keep Him on the sidelines of their lives. Some believe in a general way – like, I believe in mom, apple pie, and Chevrolet – but they have no relationship with Him. People can say all the right things and yet not be connected to Him.

What about you? Here is what He wants you to do: Trust Him as your Savior for your salvation, for your eternal life. Put your faith in His saving work. A person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Place your trust in Jesus and bet your life on what He has done for you. Lean on Him heavily for your salvation. Put your whole weight upon Him.

Trust Jesus with every area of your daily life, not just your salvation. Don’t leave Him on a shelf only to be taken down for emergencies. He is here with you. “Lo, I am with you always.” Talk to Him in prayer and seek His guidance in the Scriptures as you open the Bible and read the Gospels, where He teaches you about kingdom life.

Live a life of gratitude for the great rescue He has done in your life. Someone once remarked, “After I met Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, the rest of my days have been a PS. Thank you, Lord.

Thank Him not only with words and songs, but with your actions. Become a living sacrifice of thankfulness for Jesus. A friend of mine for instance recently laid his father to rest. He was a great saint. This man had such enthusiasm for telling other people about Jesus and what He had done, all of it motivated by gratitude. Jesus saved his life in a remarkable way years earlier, and he was overflowing with gratitude for what Jesus had done for him. He couldn’t seem to help himself; he wanted everyone to know and trust Jesus. His motivation wasn’t out of obligation, but pure gratitude. “What Jesus has done for me, He can do for you” he’d say.

A friend of mine in the church retired recently from the corporate world. I probably shouldn’t even call it a retirement though, because he is working full-time for Jesus. He travels with our young people on mission trips. He attends their get-togethers on Wednesday evenings. He tirelessly works in an inner-city ministry reaching lost people during the week, and one evening a week he’s at the state prison hosting a Bible study. Early Friday mornings, he hosts another Bible study.

He could be taking it easy and spending all his time entertaining himself. However, he is so filled with gratitude for what Christ has done for him that he and his wife insist on serving Christ as long as their health allows them. Wow! That is a living sacrifice of thankfulness!

Jesus wants you to serve Him as your Lord. If Jesus is Lord, then we are His servants, and we owe Him unhesitating dedication and uncompromising obedience. It means we commit ourselves to doing life His way and doing His will with our lives.

One of the greatest Christian leaders of the last century was John Stott. He was director of All Souls Langham Place in London – a wonderful preacher, Bible teacher, author, global leader to many. An article written by Os Guinness states, “I knew him (John Stott) over many decades, but I will never forget my last visit to his bedside three weeks before he died. After an unforgettable hour and more of sharing memories over the years, I asked him how he would like me to pray for him. Lying weekly on his back and barely able to speak, he answered in a hoarse whisper, ‘Pray that I will be faithful to Jesus until my last breath.’ Would that such a prayer be the passion of our generation too.”

And if Jesus is Lord, then worship Him. Bend your knee to Him. Bow down and worship Him as God. Give Him His worth – not just on the weekends. Be a living sacrifice of worship to Him every day. Focus on Him in worship. Worship is all about Him. It’s not about you; it’s about Him. Give Him your all when you’re at worship in your church.

So happy V-Day! God has spoken. You have a Savior and a Lord. His name is Jesus Christ. What are you going to do with Him? God is calling you today, this V-Day, to trust Him, thank Him, praise Him, serve Him, and obey Him the rest of your days. Amen.

Rev. Steve Kramer