Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easter Message

Easter Sunday 2012
April 8, 2012
Fr. Philip Eberhart


The Last & The First Question of All


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Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!


Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!


Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!


The Lord is Risen INDEED. Alleluia!! INDEED.

The Apostle Paul tells us over and over and over in many different settings, sermons and teachings that this affirmation we have just made is the central affirmation of the Christian life and doctrine. Without it there is no faith, - no way, no truth, no life – no “Behold, I am with you even to the end of the age!”

I’ve titled this Easter message: “The Last and The First Question of All” because I believe, as Paul seemed to, that the FACT of the Resurrection is a first order fact that must be settled in our hearts and minds before anything else can be settled.

You’ve heard of the First Order Questions of Life. Right? Who am I? What am I doing here? Why me? These are all questions that we have rolling around in our hearts and minds about life and specifically, about our life… about MY LIFE!

But what I want to share this morning is that this First Order Question needs to come first, before all the rest! And this First First-Order Question is quite simple but profoundly important for our understanding of the rest of the First Order questions!!

Want to know what the question is? Okay. Here it is…      WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BODY?

You have to decide in your heart and in your mind the answer to this question-
What happened to the body of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

The facts are all in.

The eyewitness accounts from several different perspectives; the stories made up to explain this thing away; the skeptics reports and explanations. The decision we have to make is where do the facts take us?

FACT: There was no body in the tomb of Jesus, the Nazarene, on the first day of the week. Now if you don’t think that this is a fact, then you need to do some homework and find out for yourself.

Look at it through the Gospels’ lenses – 4 different men, writing to 4 different audiences, yet so much is the same, with each man, adding parts of the story – different glimpses from each perspective.

There are “historical” references to Jesus and to His death. In both the Jewish and the Roman histories of the time in which Jesus lived and died, you can see the fact of this Man; you can see the facts of the kind of death he was put to; you can see the vehemence of His enemies. But the FACT that is most telling here is that the Gospels themselves are probably the best HISTORY books in the world!

The real question is “What do YOU do with the FACT of Jesus death, burial and resurrection.”

Have you taken it BLINDLY to be true, because it is what you have been taught all your life? Perhaps its time to investigate and see what the best History Book in the world has to say!

There is no getting around this Last and First Question of All!!

What became of the body of Jesus?

There are only a few possible answers.

I. Someone stole it!

Two possible suspects: His friends or His enemies
The difficulty here is that there was a detail of Roman guards placed at the tomb of Jesus, specifically to counteract such a plot.

Matthew tells us that the guards themselves testified to the resurrection since the body was gone, but they had not fallen asleep – for to do so, on their part was an automatic death sentence!

Very unlikely that they fell asleep,,, sooo ? What happened to the body of Jesus?

Did the Jewish Rulers get it and move it? No they didn’t! How do we know. Because when the disciples began to testify to a living Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem, all they would have had to do is to go and get the body of Jesus and put it on display again for all to see! Dead messiah = dead movement!! But they could not… apparently.

And what about the disciples? What is the chance that this rag tag bunch of fishermen, tax collectors and zealots hatching a plot to steal Jesus body and make up the rest? You know that is what some people think happened!! That’s crazy! Literally - its psychologically impossible.

You know that all, save one, of the original Apostles, died a martyr’s death for this “made up” fairytale. And the one is the Apostle John, who survived being boiled in oil, and lived to die a natural death, exiled in his old age.

Just a word, a single word, would have released any one of them from the tortures of the kinds of deaths they went through. Why didn’t a one of them crack ??? Why???

Because its ALL TRUE!

Jesus didn’t faint on the cross, revive in the tomb, push his way out from behind a two ton rock, AND overpower the roman soldiers – the very soldiers, most likely, who had a hand in his “near” death. I assure you they would not have failed a second time!! Such a scenario is preposterous – it stretches logic to the point of breaking!

Neither did Jesus, just “appear” to have been resurrected. His appearances happened over a 40 day span of time, in a multitude of places, with a multitude of people, most of whom were pretty “down to earth” people, not high strung or given to visions and apparitions. Have you ever met a professional fisherman? How about an IRS officer – a professional bean-counter! These men are not given to illusion or mass hysteria to say the very least!

Jesus appearance in the Upper Room a week after the resurrection, actually turned a skeptic into a firm believer – Thomas later died for the witness of his faith, after founding the Mar Thoma Church in India. Thomas was no longer Doubting Thomas! He was believing and worship Thomas! Why??

Because its all TRUE!!

And if it was true for them, then its TRUE for us!!

Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Alleluia. We sing it and say it, but do we believe it?
The reason that the question of Jesus physical body is the last and first of the First Order Questions, is that it has to be dealt with and dealt with honestly.

What is the ramification of this FACT though, for us today – for you and for me when we leave this service?

CS Lewis once said that either the Resurrection of Christ is of no importance of all because we believe it a fabrication of deluded minds

OR

It is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE because it is a FACT. IT”S ALL TRUE!!

And if it’s all true, then it is of utmost importance, especially when considered in the array of First Order questions.

What this cannot be, is true and MILDLY important!!

Jesus never intended to leave us that option!

Easter is not simply an excuse for brunch after church. Easter is the pinnacle of history! It is the Mount Everest of the story of God’s dealing with humanity and it bears on every facet of our life. That’s why this question is the last and the first that must be dealt with.

What happened to the body?

The Lord is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed!! Alleluia.

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