DO YOU BELIEVE IN EASTER?
Devotional for Easter Sunday 2018 based upon John 20-21
Do you believe in Easter? I would like to talk about three people in the Bible who believed in Easter and who found out what believing in Easter and in the Jesus of Easter could do for them.
First, MARY MAGDALENE, who learned that believing in Easter and in the Jesus of Easter BRINGS HOPE TO THOSE LIVING IN DESPAIR.
Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene. Imagine what life must have been like for her before she met Jesus. It must have been a living hell. But then she met Jesus. Not only were the demons gone, she was cleansed. Her sins were forgiven. With a grateful heart, she became a follower of Jesus. Which brought great hope into her life.
How thrilled and proud she must have felt when she saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem, accompanied by the shouts of pilgrims. But how devastated she must have felt when she heard crowds cry, “Crucify him!” After Jesus was buried, she sat opposite the tomb – numb with grief. The person she loved more than anyone else had died a horrible death before her very eyes. It was the darkest day of her life.
And maybe today you relate to Mary Magdalene. Your hopes and dreams have been shattered, just as her hopes and dreams were shattered. If that is you, then I say to you that the resurrection of Jesus means that there is hope in life and hope beyond this life. If you turn to Jesus, who rose from the dead, He will forgive your sins, just as He did for Mary Magdalene. He will deliver you from whatever it is that is holding you in bondage and despair. Yes, believing in Easter and in the Jesus of Easter brings HOPE TO THOSE LIVING IN DESPAIR.
And then, second, I want to talk about THOMAS, who learned that believing in Easter and in the Jesus of Easter brings FAITH TO THOSE LIVING IN DOUBT.
On that first Easter Sunday evening, ten of the eleven remaining disciples were in hiding. They did not know what to do, and they were afraid that they might be arrested and executed, when suddenly Jesus came and stood among them. One moment they were hovering in fear. The next moment Jesus was there. He calmed them by saying, “Peace be with you.”
But one of them, Thomas, was not with them, so he missed seeing Jesus. Imagine his surprise when he returned to their hiding place only to hear the others say, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas could not believe their story. It was just too good to be true. And so he said, “Unless you can prove it, I cannot believe it.”
A week later they were together again. This time Thomas was with them. Suddenly Jesus appeared and, looking straight at Thomas, said, “Reach out your finger and look at my hands; reach out your hand and put it in my side.” Thomas fell to his knees and exclaimed though his tears, “My Lord and my God!”
And maybe today you relate to Thomas. You would like to believe in Easter, but you are not able to. It is just too good to be true. If that is you, then do not be like another Thomas. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote his own version of the Bible, from which he excluded all miracles. Thomas Jefferson’s version of the Easter story ends with, “And so they buried Jesus, rolled a great stone in front of the tomb, and then they departed.”
Do not let the story of your life end with, “And so they buried you, filled the hole with dirt, and then they departed.” Believe in Easter and in the Jesus of Easter who brings FAITH TO THOSE LIVING IN DOUBT.
And then third, I want to talk about PETER, who learned that believing in Easter and in the Jesus of Easter brings GRACE TO THOSE LIVING WITH DEFEAT.
After seeing Jesus in that room in Jerusalem, the disciples went back up north to Galilee. Peter said, “I am going fishing.” Not knowing what else to do, he went back to doing what he had been doing before he met Jesus. He went back to fishing. He and his companions fished all night but caught nothing. Like the results of so many of our best efforts. We fish all night but catch nothing.
When the sun rose, they could see someone on the shore. They did not realize it was Jesus. He told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. When they did, they caught a whole boat load full of fish. Another disciple, John, looked at Peter and said, “It is the Lord!” Peter could not wait. He plunged into the sea and swam as quickly as he could to the shore. By the time the other disciples had brought in the boat full of fish, Jesus had breakfast prepared for them.
Peter had denied that he knew Jesus three times. So it is not coincidental that Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved Jesus as Lord. Peter found grace, forgiveness, and restoration in Jesus.
And perhaps today you relate to Peter. You have stumbled and fallen. Your sins and failures are overwhelming. Do not ignore them, hide them, excuse them, or try to minimize them. Rather admit them. The resurrection of Jesus means that Jesus is offering you grace, forgiveness, and eternal life.
The Bible tells us how we can receive that grace. We must confess and believe. Confess means that we agree with God about our sins. We repent of them and want to turn away from them. We must confess. And then we must also believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. We cannot be right with God without accepting the resurrection by faith. Which means committing ourselves to living the rest of our lives in view of the resurrection.
And so, this coming Sunday, on the day we celebrate Easter, you can believe in Easter and in the Jesus of Easter, who brings HOPE to those living in DESPAIR, FAITH to those living in DOUBT, and GRACE to those living with DEFEAT. Do you believe in Easter? Today could be the first day of your life that you believe in Easter.
Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE