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Worship Message - From Sadness to Joy

From Sadness to Joy

Every Easter, I know there is great joy. The kind of joy expressed in songs of the day -

songs like Christ Arose, Christ the Lord is Risen Today, For God So Loved the World.

Such joy is most definitely called for because on the very first Easter morning, the one

who came from Heaven - the one who had been born to be the Savior - the one who died

so He could become the Savior - that one, on the third day after His death, was once

again alive. What joy that fact should bring to all of us.

But every Easter, I am struck by how much sadness there was before Jesus’ resurrection

was seen and reported.

Sadness that is certainly understandable. I mean, Jesus had been a very important

person to His disciples and to others who had followed Him. He had been important to

them for three years. But suddenly, He was gone.

Gone as the result of horrible things that happened to Him.

On the Thursday night before Easter, Jesus had been betrayed by one of His disciples,

after which He was arrested.

Between His arrest and early on Friday, Jesus had been the defendant in three trials.

The result of the trials being Him sentenced to death. Death on a cross.

For a while after the sentencing, Jesus had been whipped and mocked and mistreated in

other ways. Still on Friday, He had then been forced to carry His cross part of the way to

the place of His crucifixion. Along the way, He had been mocked.

At the place of His crucifixion, Jesus had been nailed to the cross. The cross had been

lifted up. For a few hours, He had experienced excruciating pain physically. He had also

felt emotional pain as the mocking continued.

Jesus was on the cross until He had died, after which He had been buried. That had

happened late Friday afternoon.

At least some of Jesus’ followers had seen most if not all of what Jesus had experienced.

How shocking it all was. And again, it had happened to someone they had been close to

for three years.

Then had come Saturday. Jesus was dead and buried. But the hatred that had led to

Jesus’ crucifixion could still be felt all around His followers.

And then came Sunday morning. I wonder if the disciples, when they had gone to sleep

Saturday night, had hoped that when they awoke, things would be different. That all

they had seen was just some horrible nightmare. That everything would be better in the

morning.

How unnerving it must have been when they awoke on the first Easter and discovered

the new day was just as depressing and scary as the day before. Jesus was still gone. The

hatred was still felt. The memories of what Jesus had suffered were still in their minds.

They could not get rid of the images.

What sadness there was early on the first Easter Sunday. But you know what? The

sadness was about to change to joy. For that, I invite you to join me in the 24th chapter

of the Gospel of Luke. Some information from the other Gospels will be brought in from

time to time, but Luke 24 will be the Easter account that will be highlighted.

Luke 24, beginning with verse 1. On the first day of the week - on Sunday - on what we

know as the first Easter Sunday - at early dawn, they went to the tomb.

Who were they? John, in his Gospel, lists one woman - Mary Magdalene. Mark lists

those two women, plus another, that one named Salome. Luke, a bit later, names the

two Marys, along with Joanna, plus some other women - unnamed women - with them.

But on the first day of the week, some women - women who had been followers of Jesus

before His death and burial - went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried, taking with

them spices they had prepared, which means their intent was to anoint Jesus’ body.

That seems a bit strange because late Friday afternoon, the body had already been

anointed. Two men - Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus - had done that before they

had placed Him in the tomb.

But perhaps the women wanted to make sure the men had done the anointing correctly.

Or maybe they just wanted to pay their respects to Jesus.

They went to Jesus’ tomb, taking spices which they had prepared. Which leads to

another strange thing about what they intended to do.

You see, the tomb had, on Friday afternoon, right after Jesus had been placed in it, been

closed. A stone had been rolled in place to cover the tomb’s entrance. It was a big stone,

held in place by it sitting in a v-shaped groove. The women were not strong enough to

move the stone by themselves.

Plus, the Roman government, at the request of the Jewish religious leaders, had sealed

the tomb, meaning official government tape-type stuff had been placed from one side of

the rock to the other. That is important because no one but a fool would ever break such

a government seal. To do so was a very serious violation of the law.

The women were not physically strong enough to move the stone. They were not

politically strong enough to break the seal. So how they expected to get to Jesus to do

the anointing they wanted to do, I do not know. I am sure they did not know either.

Nonetheless, they went with their spices toward Jesus’ tomb.

Imagine their surprise when, as they neared the tomb, they found the stone rolled away.

Imagine their greater surprise when they went into the tomb and did not find Jesus’

body.

I wonder if the surprise at not finding the body just added, at least at that moment, to

the sadness of that day.

I wonder if the first thought of the women was that the government had broken its own

seal and stolen the body. Or maybe the Jewish leaders - those who had been so opposed

to Jesus for three years - had taken the risk of breaking in and stealing the body. Or

maybe grave robbers had taken Jesus. The spices that had been used Friday afternoon

had amounted to one hundred pounds, which would have been worth a lot of money.

Maybe grave robbers had stolen Jesus’ body.

However it had happened, Jesus’ body was gone. With it gone, how would they be able

to pay their respects that day or any time in the future?

The sadness for those women must have increased. At the least, they were, it is worded,

perplexed. Which also increased when suddenly, two men appeared beside the women.

Two men who were dazzling. As reported by Matthew in his Gospel, their appearance

was like lightning. Their raiment - their apparel - was white as snow.

Two men suddenly appeared with the women,which frightened them. But then the men

talked to the women, saying, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

Huh? What was that supposed to mean? Jesus had died. They had seen it. He had been

buried, right where they were. Where else were they supposed to look?

The men continued. “Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the

Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the

third day rise?”

Upon hearing that, the women did remember that part of what they had heard Jesus say

And though still confused, I think there began just a little bit of a change in mood - from

the sadness with which the day had started to what would turn out to be great joy.

“That’s right,” the women might have said to one another. Jesus had talked about being

delivered to sinners. That had happened. He had been crucified. They had seen that.

This was the start of the third day. He had said He would rise on the third day.

“Could it be,” the women asked, “that He is gone, not because of being stolen, but

because He had risen?” Which would mean He was no longer dead, but alive. “Could it

be?”

The women were probably not sure about what they had seen, not seen, heard, and

thought about. But they were interested enough in the men’s message to leave the tomb.

And hey, they might as well have left. What they had intended to do was certainly not

going to happen.

They left the tomb and went to where the disciples of Jesus were, along with other

followers. To them, the women told what they had seen - that the stone that had closed

Jesus’ tomb had been moved away. What they had not seen - that they had not seen

Jesus’ body. And what they had heard - that Jesus had risen from the dead.

In verse 11, there is an interesting reaction. The words of the women seemed to the

others an idle tale. As the rantings of some women overcome by emotion, maybe a bit of

wishful thinking thrown in. Those who heard the women did not believe them.

However, one of the disciples was at least curious enough to check things out. That one

was Peter, who must have been very interested in the possibility Jesus had risen. Peter is

the one who, when Jesus had been on trial, had denied Him, doing so three times. Peter,

more than any of the others, really wanted another chance.

Peter - according to the Gospel of John, John joined him - so with John, Peter ran to the

tomb. The running indicates how curious they were. Peter and John also went into the

tomb. They, too, discovered it to be empty. According to John, they also discovered a

couple other things.

First, they saw that the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus was laying in the

tomb empty. Being empty was proof Jesus was no longer in the tomb, but there was

more to it. The empty cloth was also proof the body had not been stolen by grave

robbers. Robbers would have taken the cloth for whatever spices would still be on it.

They then saw what had covered Jesus’ head. They saw it was not with the cloth, but was

off by itself. And it had not just been thrown to where it was, which would have

happened had either government or religious authorities had taken Jesus’ body. They

would have been in too much of a hurry to roll it up. Peter and John saw that the head

piece was rolled up neatly.

With that, a bit of the sadness Peter and John felt was chipped away. A bit of joy began.

According to the Gospel of John, John suddenly believed what the women had said

about the men at the tomb reporting Jesus had risen.

Peter? He did not fully understand. Luke, in his Gospel, reports Peter went home

wondering. But hey. At least he was wondering, which means he was getting closer to

understanding.

And then this. Later that day, two men who had been followers of Jesus - they are not

identified as disciples, but they had been followers of Jesus - were on their way from

Jerusalem to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. As

they walked, they talked with each other about all the things that had happened.

The sense I get is that they, too, were sad. They may not have been with Jesus for three

years, but they had followed Him for a time. They, too, must have witnessed at least

some of the torture Jesus had endured. They, too, had at least heard about Jesus being

buried, thinking that was the end of Him.

Interestingly, those men had heard that morning about the tomb being empty, but I am

guessing it did not make any sense to them either. If that is correct, they, too, must have

felt a great sadness as they walked.

Sadness that continued as they were suddenly joined by someone else - another man -

who came up to them and started to walk with them.

We know, because the Bible tells us so, that the one who joined the two men was Jesus,

but the two did not recognize Him. They continued to not recognize Him, even as He

explained Scriptures to them. Scriptures that explained everything about Him.

By the way, His explanation followed what must have been kind of a comical exchange.

Luke reports that Jesus, when He joined the men, asked them what they were talking

about. With that question, the two men actually stopped walking for a moment. That is

how shocked they were with the question.

“What?” one of them had said. “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know

the things that have happened there in these days?”

When Jesus had asked, “What things?” they had said to Him, “Concerning Jesus of

Nazareth. Duh. We are talking about what everyone else is talking about. About Jesus,

who was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. About how

our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified

Him. About the hope we had that He was the one to redeem Israel. But He died three

days ago. And yes, some women amazed us this morning by saying they had gone to the

tomb and found it empty. The women supposedly saw some angels, who supposedly said

Jesus was alive. That is what - who - we are talking about. The same thing everyone

everywhere is talking about.”

Jesus then shared with them - He reminded them - what Scripture say about that one.

About Him. Including that He had to suffer what He had suffered before He would enter

into His glory.

When Jesus finished, it was toward evening. They had reached the destination of the

two men, which was Emmaus, which means they were ready to stop.

Being evening, when it appeared their traveling companion intended to continue down

the road, the men invited Him to stay with them. That was the polite thing to do. It was

the safe thing for them to suggest. Traveling at night was dangerous.

Jesus agreed. And soon it was time for the evening meal, to which Jesus was also

invited. At the meal, Jesus took the bread and blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them.

“Wait,” the men said. “We know someone else who did that. It was Jesus who did that.

Wait. Are You Jesus? Yes, You are. You are the one we have talked about as we walked!”

At that very moment, Jesus vanished out of the sight of the two men. But with

excitement, the men said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on

the road? While He opened to us the Scriptures?”

Suddenly, the great sadness the two men had felt as they had been on the road was gone.

It was completely replaced by joy. So much joy, the men rose, doing so that same hour -

and returned to Jerusalem.

Remember the comment about it not being safe to travel at night? That danger did not

phase them at all.

Remember they had just walked seven miles, that coming after some very emotional

days? The men had to have been physically exhausted, but neither did that phase them.

They immediately returned to Jerusalem. And hey. Maybe in their excitement they

moved so fast no thieves could have caught them, which would have eliminated the

danger. But the men returned to Jerusalem, going right to where the disciples and other

followers of Jesus were still gathered together.

The intent of the men was to report what had happened. What they had heard. Who they

had seen. But before they could share their news, the others who were gathered could

not keep silent about what they knew, which was that the Lord had risen. Which they

knew because He had appeared to Simon - to Peter, the one who had denied Jesus, but

who had apparently been forgiven.

It was then the two men from Emmaus got to share their news, which confirmed what

all His followers were beginning to realize. Jesus had risen! He was alive!

Then - get this - Jesus Himself appeared in that room. He just appeared. He suddenly

was among them, standing in front of them.

Can we even begin to imagine the completeness of the change from sadness to joy. The

change had started when the women had heard of Jesus’ resurrection. Then Peter saw

Him. Then the men from Emmaus saw Him. Now all who were gathered saw Him.

He talked to them and ate with them.

At first, what He said was a bit of scolding for them being troubled. But then He showed

them His hands and His feet - His nail-pierced hands and feet - which proved it was

Him.

The eating, which was a piece of broiled fish, proved He was alive. That He was not

some kind of mirage.

He then spoke to them some more as He explained to them that all that had happened

to Him had been foretold. That those things happening had been proofs He is the

Savior. Things they were, as soon as they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit, going

to be responsible for sharing with others.

Which indeed they did go on to do, which was certainly not easy for them. All but one of

them died violently, suffering that way because they preached Jesus. But they were

willing to suffer because the sadness that was felt early Easter morning was changed

completely to great joy. Joy that the one who had promised to be the Savior was the

Savior .

That one - Jesus - still is the Savior. So let me ask. What is your mood?

And yes, there are plenty of reasons to be sad. There have been so many in this

congregation who have been affected by deaths of loved ones recently. There are so

many who have faced or are facing a wide variety of medical problems, personally or

with loved ones. A lot of people experience financial difficulties. Maybe you are

experiencing a problem in a relationship. And hey, there are lots of international

problems that can grab our attention, including wars and natural disasters.

Without a Savior, any and all of our problems could be overwhelming. As overwhelming

as the followers of Jesus had to have felt early on the first Easter morning when they

thought they were all alone. But Jesus did rise. That miracle was heard about. The result

of it was then seen.

The Risen One still is risen. Jesus still is alive. And just as He was able to change the

mood from sadness to joy 2000 years ago, so He wants to do today. For you and for me

and for everyone else.

The next to the last verse of Luke 24 reports that the followers of Jesus, after seeing Him

and hearing Him, were filled with great joy. Will we allow ourselves to feel joy as well?

Let’s do that by accepting Jesus as the Savior He is.

If you have not accepted Him, will you do so? Even now? That is the only way you can

feel the spiritual joy that should be felt this day. Then may we all express our joy as we

sing today’s closing song, which is He Lives!

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;

I know that He is living, whatever foes my say;

I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,

And just the time I need Him He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing

Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!

The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find,

None other is so loving, so good and kind.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart.

Sadness? No. Joy? Yes. That is the message of Easter. Joy because Jesus, who died as

the perfect sacrifice for our sins, rose from the grave, a victor over sin and death.

A message we, like the followers of Jesus 2000 years ago, have the responsibility - nay,

the privilege - of sharing with others.

As we leave the sanctuary this morning, may we feel the same joy that was felt by the

end of the first Easter. As we leave, let’s be determined to do what Jesus’ followers were

told to do back then. In fact, let’s be excited to share Jesus with others

How good it will be to know that by next Easter, our Jesus-powered sharing can result in

even more people celebrating the Risen One. Amen.

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