Many years ago I worshiped at a large Methodist church in Houston, Texas on a Palm Sunday morning. The preacher was the well-known minister by the name of Charles Allen. He began his sermon by saying to the congregation, “I live for Easter. I live for Easter so much that this year I am going to preach two Easter sermons. The first one comes today, palm Sunday. I will preach the second one next Sunday when it is Easter. I share Pastor Allen’s feelings, and so today I am going to preach my second Easter sermon.
Imagine you are seventy years old. You have just had your dinner, and your grandchildren say, “Grandpa (Grandma), tell us the Easter story.”
What an opportunity! So you begin by telling the grandchildren that many years ago the story of Jesus’ resurrection was told to you by your parents. What you received from you parents, you now pass on to them.
Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus died for the sins of the world. After His death, he was buried in a rich man’s tomb. The man’s name was Joseph. The crucifixion of Jesus took place on Friday. Nothing could be done on Saturday, because that was the Sabbath. However, on Sunday some women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body.
On the way, these women wondered who would roll away the stone from the entrance. When they arrived at the burial place, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. He said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ÔHe is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'”
The women ran to tell the disciples that Jesus had been raised, but none of them believed the announcement. However, Peter and John decided to check out the story, so they ran to the tomb. To their surprise they too witnessed that the body was not there, and they pondered what could have happened to His body. But then things began to change. Jesus made several appearances to the disciples, convincing them that He had been raised.
But that is not the entire story. During the next forty days Jesus appeared to many people. St. Paul tells us that He appeared to Peter, then to more than five hundred people, to James, and to all of the apostles. Then Jesus left this world and ascended into heaven.
Many months later, Jesus appeared to one of His worst enemies, Saul of Tarsus. Saul, who later was named Paul, had one goal in life: to destroy Christ’s Church by persecuting all of the people who were followers of Jesus. It was to this man that Jesus appeared one day on a highway right outside the city of Damascus.
After Paul met Jesus, his life was changed. Eventually Paul became the greatest apostle, working harder than any of the others. That is what can happen when Jesus meets you and you know that your Savior is very much alive.
By this time, one of the grandchildren asks, “Is that all, Grandpa?”
You reply, “No, you see the Easter story never ends. Through the centuries Christ continues to appear to people through His Word. Each person is important, but let me just mention a few people who have met the Lord and made great changes in the history of the world. There was the old church father, Augustine. He was an unbeliever for years. Then Christ appeared to Augustine, and his teachings are still influencing people in our day.
“Martin Luther met the Lord in a very special way as he studied the Scriptures. Through his ministry millions have come to understand that our salvation is by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone.
“John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, met the Lord while studying Luther’s commentary on the book of Galatians, and he became a powerful witness for Jesus.
“C. S. Lewis is another great scholar. When this professor from Oxford University met the Lord, he became a great witness for Christ in the academic community.
“Today we thank God for Billy Graham, who has preached the Gospel to millions of people. Chuck Colson met the living Lord, and he has done more than any other person in bringing the message of Christ to our prisons. So the list goes on.”
“Has he appeared to you, Grandpa?” one of the children asks.
“He sure has. He comes to me every day.” Let me give you just a couple of experiences that I have had. When I was a baby, Christ made me His in Holy Baptism. There had to come a time when I received Him as my Savior. I had always been a Christian, but one day, as I was reading His Word, the Jesus spoke to me through this verse: ÔI am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit for apart from me you can do nothing.’ He said very clearly: ÔWithout me you can do nothing. But with me you can bear many fruits.’ That was the day that I committed my life to Him. He speaks to me daily as I read His Word.
“When our children were born, Grandma and I knew that we had been given a big responsibility. We could feed and clothe our children, take them on vacations, and see to it that they received a good education. However, we knew there was more to raising children than doing these things. It was through His Word that the living Lord gave us much help. We read, ÔTrain up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.’
“To raise our children according to God’s Word was our primary goal. We did not always succeed. Sometimes we would not act lovingly to one another. Sometimes God was pushed into the background. Yet each day we learned from Jesus that we could be forgiven. As God forgave us, we learned that we had to forgive one another. When we did not do that, our living Lord reminded us of our sin.
“We really enjoyed living so much that the thought of dying was frightening. What would it be like to live on this earth without this relative or friend? We knew that death was a part of living, and frequently death dipped into our family and took one of our relatives. Then a friend would die. Sometimes these people were young and left behind little children. Dealing it with was difficult. Then Jesus, the living Lord, would give us a word like this: ÔI am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.’ Another passage written by St. Paul went as far as to say, ÔFor me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’
“A word from the Living Lord did not keep us from feeling sad when a loved one died, but it gave us comfort to know that if that person died believing in Jesus, he or she was alive and lived with Christ in heaven. Now we are getting old, and we know that one day our bodies will wear out, and we will go to be with the Lord. We know that because of Easter. When Jesus rose from the grave, He defeated death. Death is our enemy, because it separates us from loved ones. However, it is a conquered enemy. That is because of Easter.
“Is that all, Grandpa?” they ask.
“Well, my little ones, it is as far as I can take you, however it is not all. My prayer is that He will appear to you and live in your hearts. When He does, I pray that you will listen to Him as he speaks, and that you will walk through this life with the Living Lord Jesus by your side. If you walk with Him, you will always have strength for whatever comes your way.”
With this, the children left the dinner table, some of them smiling and others with puzzled expressions on their faces.
Today those children range in ages from fourteen to twenty-nine. They are facing many temptations, and without a doubt they have had their spiritual struggles as they sought to make this message theirs in a personal way. If some of them are still struggling, God has not left them. He continues to knock at their heart’s door. As parents and grandparents, we have to let them go as they become adults. Yet how good it is to know they do not walk alone. Jesus, the Risen Lord, walks with them seeking to get their attention and give to them an abundant life before He takes them to heaven.
All of this because of the Easter story. Does this message not bear repeating?
Yes sir, Pastor Allen. I, too, live for Easter.