Easter's Surprises
Mark 16:1-8

To the world Easter means money, because the world turns everything into a selling point. To the world Easter is about commercial gain, when you walk into the store around Easter the whole stock changes. Everything in the store has the look of spring, beautiful spring colors, Rabbits, and Easter eggs and baskets, and beautiful flowers, and candy and colorful spring time clothes.

Then, Easter is a time for family, a time for get-togethers and pick-nicks. It's a time to go somewhere and just enjoy the beautiful outdoors, and look at the new life that is springing up everywhere.

But what does Easter mean to the believer? To the believer Easter doesn't have anything to do with Rabbits, or Easter eggs, or pick-nicks. To the Christians Easter symbolizes our spiritual birthday. Now let me explain that, because most Believers would say... I thought it was about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And to that I would say... You're exactly right; but also Jesus was my substitution. It was by what Jesus did that I had a spiritual birthday. That makes it really personal to me and not just some past event. 

And if it’s personal to you I want you to listen: ’What do you hear? Listen to the sounds of the music, the piano, what do you hear? Listen, God’s voice is speaking to you this morning, what do you hear? Listen, what do you hear this Easter morning?

What you hear in all the sounds of this Easter Day is the sounds of the Resurrection, the sounds of new life, the sounds of freedom and release, the sounds of wholeness, the sounds of grace and love, the sounds of forgiveness and worship, the sounds of joy and celebration.

I hear, I feel the power of the Resurrection. I hear, I feel new life, I know that my Redeemer lives. I feel, I hear, I am in contact with the new life that He has brought upon my life. I see that life, that newness as I watched the darkness, the emptiness, the coldness of my old life change into the brightness, the newness, the beauty, the joy of this Easter morning.

I hear the sounds of the resurrection in the sounds of worship, in the hymns of praise and in the piano music and the excitement of praise to God, the experience of a new life, a redeemed life, a changed life. I see, I feel the power of the Resurrection as I look over your faces, smiling, and happy full of good cheer for our Lord has risen.

We bring the sounds of our questions of why, our doubts of faith. We bring our hesitant love of God, 
our sounds of wanting to love God, but our unwillingness to surrender our selves, our control of life into His hands. We bring our sounds of traditions and rituals which stifle our joy of worship, which turns our worship into a duty instead of joy, excitement and celebration.

We bring into the power of the resurrection all of the sounds of the past where we have felt, heard and experienced our separation, our rebellion, our sinfulness in the eyes of God. We bring all of that into the redeeming power of the Resurrection so that those sounds may experience new life, so that those old sounds may be changed into new sounds of joy, hopefulness, strength and courage as we live now in the power of the greatness and goodness of the freedom of the Resurrection.

We are free and forgiven people. We can hear the Easter message. Go, tell His disciples and fill in your name. You and I have been given that special message, too. We are now Easter people, Forgiven people, Christ’s people, God’s children.

There are moments in time when all of a sudden something happens and everything changes. I'm 
here to tell you the empty tomb of Jesus changes everything. The fact that that tomb is empty changes everything. Not only for us as individuals but for who we are, how we live, and why we live the way that we live. 

Jesus, the Pharisees, and the chief priests had issues. Jesus was offensive to the chief priests and Pharisees because He undermined their authority. He was subversive to their power. Everything about His ministry bothered them. The fact that the disliked tax collectors, the immoral harlots, and the uneducated common people all flocked to Jesus really bothered the religious people. They were blemishes to them. They wanted this whole Jesus thing to be over. They remember when He said He was going to be resurrected from the grave.

I think it's important that we remember that we can't stop the work of God because I think if we're all honest we all try in some ways. There are things going on, circumstances in our lives, situations where God wants to bear fruit in our lives, and we're in the way, putting our foot down. No way, Lord. You are not going to do that. 

That's why one of the most common ideas in the Bible is the idea of surrender or trust. Many of us know what it's like to resist what God is doing. Just like the Pharisees and the chief priests we say, "God, this is unacceptable in my plans." For the Pharisees and the chief priests, Jesus was unacceptable to their plans. So they were trying every which way to stop what God was doing.

Today, there are a lot of people who think I just don't believe that Jesus was resurrected from the grave. Who can really believe that Jesus was dead and He came back to life again?  

I want to make sure that we all realize that Christianity would never have gotten off the ground two thousand years ago if they just produced Jesus’ body. All they had to do was say, "No, no. His body is right here. Look. Here He is." This thing would have never gotten anywhere. But they weren't able to produce the body, because He wasn't there. He was risen just like He said.

Now what happens next is exciting, because the angel says to Mary and the other Mary. "Come and see." Then the angel says, "Go and tell." I think this is an important reality for us— all of us need to come and see, and then we need to go and tell.

Reading about a company called “Whitelight” which specializes in customized funerals. You can get an “art casket” for those who want to be caught dead in something unique.

The idea is that you get your choice of a mural by a famous artist. Golfers can choose the “Fairway to Heaven” model. Others choose a beach scene or a view of the New York skyline. They even have a model which says in bold red letters: “Return to Sender.” It is all about having a personalized funeral which makes a “final statement.”

The tomb of Jesus also told a story. But it was not what was inside His tomb that told the story; it was what was NOT in His tomb. There was nothing there. The tomb is empty — and that tells it all.

The angel said to the women at the tomb, He is not there. He has risen — just as He said. The bones of the Buddha are on display. The tombs of world leaders are full of the remains of death. But the tomb of Jesus is empty.

On a dreary little patch of land called Judea, God appeared. He lived and taught and loved, and died. It was the worst kind of death ever devised by the human mind. Before they hung Him on the cross, they beat Him and stripped the flesh from His back with glass and metal embedded whips. Bludgeoned and bleeding He hung on the cross in terrifying pain. But through it all He thought of His mother, His disciples — and He even thought of you and I.

I believe that during that time Jesus did something that only God could do. I believe our name crossed His mind in those moments. Our faces flashed before His eyes. Our sins were washed away as He said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). And then it happened. With an agonizing scream He gave up His spirit and died.

After His lifeless form hung there for a time they took Him down and put Him into a borrowed tomb. Friday passed. Saturday passed. And when Sunday morning came, His disciples arrived to find an empty tomb. The stone was rolled away. It was not rolled away to let Jesus out the stone was rolled away to let the disciples in. They had to see; God had to show them something that would change them forever and tell them something that would change the world forever.

I believe Easter tells us many things, first it tells us that what God does is eternal.

A lot of theories about life and death floated about in those days. Some believed that when a person died that was it. Life was over and everything ended. Soon even the memory of the person would be gone. Some today believe the same thing.

Others believed in a sort of shadowy underworld where spirits drifted about. Many others believed that those who died came back as an animal or another person. But what the resurrection of Jesus was saying to the people of the world was that life is eternal and we were meant to live forever in a glorified existence that is beyond anything we could imagine.

Jesus stepped into time and opened eternity for us. He came to the world and offered us heaven. He came in a human body and rose as a spiritual body. Jesus said to His disciples: “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). This is the incredible message of Easter.

What this means is that our lives have significance. We are important to God. Our lives are not lived merely strutting across the stage of life — we live eternally. Our lives have meaning and purpose. God has a plan for our lives and calls us to live out that plan. Our lives mean something. We will not be “wiped out”; we will be raised up!

Winston Churchill planned his funeral to take place in Saint Paul’s Cathedral; he wanted to have the 
great hymns of the church and the elegant Anglican liturgy for the service. But one of his requests was very untraditional. He asked that a bugler be positioned high in the dome of Saint Paul’s, and after the benediction the sound of “Taps,” be played, which is the universal trumpet call indicating that day is over.

But then a dramatic twist. As soon as “Taps” was finished, another bugler placed on the other side of the great dome, played “Reveille” — “It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up in the morning.” The great message of Easter is that at the end of history, the last note will not be “Taps,” it will be “Reveille.”

God will say, as the trumpets sound, “It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up. It’ time to get up in the morning.” The Bible says, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). What better news could there be? What could give our lives more significance?

In our culture we are so attached to this world, with all of its good things that we think very little of eternity and value it even less. But eternity was very important in the mind of Jesus. It was so important that He said, “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter eternal life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire” (Matthew 18:8). Jesus taught us that eternity is everything.

Whenever God does something, it lasts forever. The life He gives is eternal life. Be sure not to miss it, the Bible says, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

Paul wrote to the people of his day and said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

This is the promise of Jesus Himself, who said, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

This not only gives us hope, it gives us significance because it means we matter to God.

Let me share with you some experiences in my life. Many deaths have happened within my family; both my parents, all my aunts and uncles, four nieces, my youngest brother, five of my children and a wife. 

These are some of the worst things that could possibly happen in the life of the ones left living.

But do you know what was amazing? My thoughts would immediately go to the resurrection. I’d picture Job, who went through all that terrible stuff and asked questions of God, but then God turned the tables and asked him a few questions. I knew if God were to come to me during any one of those times, I’d ask only one question: “Lord, why?” And I think God would respond by asking gently, “Terry, did I raise my Son from the dead?” I’d say, of course He was raised from the dead. But I want to know about these!” I think He’d keep coming back to the same question — “Did I raise my Son from the dead?” — until I got His point. Past students and friends would call and say, “At a time like this, aren’t you glad about the Resurrection?

The Resurrection says that if Jesus was raised 2,000 years ago, there’s an answer to death today. And If the Resurrection would get me through those, it can get me through anything. It was good for A.D. 30, and it’s good for today, and it’s good beyond that; I believe that with all my heart. If there’s a resurrection, there’s a heaven. If Jesus was raised, all His kids will be raised also; which means someday, I will be too.

The second thing that Easter tells us is: What God does is impossible — We are surprised by power. We serve an all-powerful God for whom it is no problem to do what we consider impossible. He created the universe with one word. He holds it all together by His omnipotent hand. He gives everything and everyone life. He is a God of miracles. His supernatural power is displayed in every area of the world.

The Bible says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth....” (Acts 17:24). He lives beyond time and space and yet He visits us in time and enters our space.

Raising someone from the dead is no more difficult than creating that life in the first place. If He can speak the world into existence, He can certainly say, “Arise! It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up in the morning.”

If He can create something out of nothing, then He can transform someone’s life. Jesus said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

God is always doing what we think is impossible. When God shows up, a crowd of five thousand is fed with a small boy’s lunch. A widow’s small coin becomes the greatest gift in the temple treasury. The smallest seed becomes the biggest tree. The kingdom of God is like a seed hidden in the ground or leaven hidden in the dough. What appears to be is not always what is.

The ones who are first will be last and the last will be first. The one who serves is the one who leads. The greatest among us is the least among us. A crown of thorns becomes a crown of glory. The dead live. 

Easter tells us that what God does is eternal, and we are surprised that our lives have significance. It tells us that God does the impossible, and we are surprised by His power. But, finally, Easter tells us What God does is unexpected — We are surprised by joy.

When the kings of Israel tried to build a temple for God to live in, He said: “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?’ says the Lord. ‘Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?’” (Acts 7:49-50).

Just when you think you have God dead and buried, He is going to rise up out of the box you put Him in and look you right in the eye. He always does the unexpected, and when He does, we are surprised by joy.

God comes into our monotony, into our despair and hopelessness, and changes everything. Just when we think that nothing new will ever happen — God shows up. And when He does He brings His joy with Him.

Bruce Larson said, “The events of Easter cannot be reduced to a creed or philosophy. We are not asked to believe the doctrine of the resurrection. We are asked to meet this person raised from the dead. In faith, we move from belief in a doctrine to a knowledge of a person. Ultimate truth is a person. Meet Him. He is alive-“ 

May the great surprise of Easter overtake us as well and fill us with joy.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen!


 When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible on-line, please click here and may you be blessed by the song, "Christ Arose."