The disciples had endured a very difficult week. They had seen one of their own betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The spokesman of the clan denied Jesus at his most critical hour, and a chief politician bowed to the demands of a cruel mob and had Jesus crucified. How could all of this have occurred in only a few hours?
The frowns on the disciples’ faces gave evidence to the fact that they were an unhappy group.
Early on Sunday morning, women who had been close to Jesus went to the tomb to anoint his body. When they arrived, the stone was rolled away and they discovered the body was gone. Now their frowns turned to scowls, and they were angered in their soul. “Could we not have his dead body?” they asked. “Why did they have to take it away from us?”
As they stood there puzzled, two men in bright clothing stood by them. Out of fear, the women bowed down to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has been raised!” Then the women recalled what Jesus had said and returned to tell the disciples about it.
I believe that, on the way from the tomb to the headquarters of the disciples, the women’s frowns had begun to turn to smiles. They had hope that he had been raised from the dead. I personally also believe, from personal experience that when we know and believe that Jesus lives and he lives in us, our frowns are changed to smiles.
Our facial expressions often reveal what is going on inside of us. We can fake a smile, and it’s good for a little while, but then it goes away. What’s behind the frown? In some cases, it’s defeat.
Take, for example, a basketball team that came in second at the state tournament. This happened to one of our hometown’s teams. After the game was over, I spoke to some of the boys who belonged to our church. I remember one young man saying, “Thank you pastor for coming! It was a great experience!” He tried to be upbeat as long as he could.
Finally I said to him, “How do you feel inside?”
He answered, “I feel defeated. I am a senior and will never be on a team that wins the state tournament.” His smile was superficial, and it soon turned back to a frown.
Frowns can give evidence that something is not right between us and God. Frowns can also be evidence of a disappointment. The thought of Jesus hanging on the cross is not very uplifting. Yet he has not been defeated, for he lives.
One day, not very long ago, I had a cup of coffee with a man who belonged to our congregation many years ago, but moved to another town to work in the construction business. However, business was not going so well there, and he was laid off his job. So he and his family returned to our area. The loss of his job was difficult news to receive, yet he had a smile on his face.
When I asked him how he felt about losing the situation, he said, “It was tough. We liked where we were living. I enjoyed my job, and my supervisors liked my work, but they just had no business.” I asked how he could smile at a time like this, and he looked straight at me and said, “I am a Christian. Jesus Christ is alive; He will direct me, help me, and strengthen me. Everything will be alright.”
That is how a frown is turned to a smile Ð only through Jesus Christ. Even when you lose your job and don’t know what you are going to do next, you can still smile. It is not a fake smile, it is a smile put there by Jesus Christ.
Many years ago, a man who ran a grocery store died suddenly. He and his wife had a large family, and she was left wondering how to provide for her family without him. When she moved to Cedar Falls, I called on her on behalf of our church.
As I visited with this lady, it was easy to see the frown on her face. She was lost and disappointed. “I don’t know what I am going to do,” she said. “But this I do know: God will guide me. He will direct me. And we’re going to make it with his help.” This lady wore a frown because she faced some extreme difficulties and real challenges. However, down deep, she smiled because she knew Jesus Christ lived.
How do we put a smile on our faces during difficult times? It is an important question for us to ask.
During tough times, we may feel the need to get away for a new, refreshing look at life, so we spend a lot of time and money on a trip somewhere. Vacations give us a new look at life, and we all need one from time to time. Others decide they need to change their surroundings, so they sell their old house and buy a new one. Or perhaps they buy a new automobile in the hopes that it will give them a lift.
These are all good things, however we cannot find lasting peace in giving ourselves gifts. Only the Easter message Ð Christ has been raised. He lives! Ð can put a lasting smile on our faces.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a physical, historical event. It is the center of our Christian faith. Remember what Jesus said after hearing Lazarus was dead: “Lazarus will live again.” Then Jesus raised him from the dead.
When Jesus Christ is the living Lord in our lives, we can walk away from the cemetery knowing that, because he trusted in Christ, the loved one we just laid to rest is now with the risen Lord. We also know that Jesus walks with us every day.
While Jesus walked on this earth, he taught his disciples that if they confessed their sins and believed in him, they would be forgiven. However, this was a bit too much for Peter to understand, and so after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter felt quite guilty for denying the Lord. But one day Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” After Peter replied that he did, Jesus said to him, “Then feed my sheep.”
Jesus’ response was an absolute. He forgave Peter, and at the same time, the Holy Spirit fed Peter’s soul.
Easter Sunday is a glorious day! We sing joyous hymns and spend time with family. We hear Jesus’ words: “I am with you. I will comfort you. And when you die, I will take you home to heaven.” That message put a smile on the faces of those disciples, and it has put a smile on the faces of many evangelical believers who trust Christ and allow him to live in their hearts.
I can’t help but believe that Luther and Calvin had a smile on their faces, even in the midst of the Reformation as the church was being torn apart, for they saw the Gospel was there. It would build the church, and the gates of hell could not prevail against it because Jesus Christ was alive. He was with them, and all was well.
It is the same smile you and I wear. We will have some frowns, some days of disappointment when we won’t know which way to turn. But if we live with Jesus in his Word (that is the secret), the living Christ will speak. Jesus Christ is our comfort and our strength.
May you have a good Easter. While I often center my thoughts on the suffering and death of Jesus, I am really glad when we have come to this glorious Sunday Ð Easter Sunday Ð and we can say, Jesus is alive! May he bless you this day and all your days. He will, if you will let him into your heart.