Cross of Grace

A community of grace sharing God's love with no strings attached.

Summer Sunday Worship:
8:30 am & 10 am

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

"The Whole Truth of Easter"

Matthew 28:1-10

After the Sabbath, when the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake because an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone from the entrance of the tomb and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him, the guards shook and became like dead men.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He’s not here, he has been raised, as he said. Come and see the place where he lay, then go and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead and he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

So the women left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy to tell his disciples. On the way, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings.” They came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then he said to them, “Do not be afraid, but go and tell my disciples to go to Galilee. There they will see me.”

It’s always good to smile on Easter, so I thought we should start with something worth a laugh that the kids might get a kick out of, too. This little video is a portion of something that YouTube calls “Incredible Moments When Dads Save the Day.”  (We didn't watch the whole thing Sunday morning, but...)

You can tell they are dads, mostly by the mothers gasping and laughing in the background. And in one of the clips I edited out for the sake of time, the dad had my dad’s uniform on – white socks and sandals. But none of that is really the point.

Seeing that little video of “incredible moments when Dads saved the day” made me realize how we can sometimes simplify the Good News of Easter to such a degree that we may only be hearing and sharing a portion of what Easter’s good news is really all about; we may only be getting “half” of the Truth, if you will, which wasn’t part of my plan, but fits pretty well with the “Half-Truths” sermon series we spent so much time with during Lent around here the last few weeks.

What I mean is, we focus a lot – if not all – of our time and energy and Easter theology on the notion that, in Jesus Christ, God the Father, saves us, like some kind of Super Dad, from the death and damnation that our sins would otherwise demand. One of my favorite hymns of all sings, “my sin, not in part, but the whole was nailed to his cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul.”

So don’t get me wrong – that is the Gospel’s good news and it is True with a capital T. But it is also only part of what makes Good Friday’s sadness and Easter’s joy True, with a capital T.

What I mean is, Jesus didn’t die on the cross just so we wouldn’t have to. We’re all going to die after all, and for many of us, it may not include a cross, but it still won’t be pretty or painless. And Jesus didn’t die on the cross just because God knew the likes of you and I wouldn’t have the faith or the courage to climb up there, ourselves.

And Jesus didn’t die on the cross because, in the cosmic math of how much suffering had to be endured in order to atone for the sins of all humanity, Jesus’ death – by way of whips and thorns and spit and nails – was the only thing that would measure up. Jesus’ dying wasn’t just a tit-for-tat kind of transaction that would balance the scales of our sinfulness.

Yes, the Lamb of God in Jesus Christ takes away the sin of the world. But there’s more. And the more comes on Easter morning. On Easter we get the rest of the story; the Full Monty; the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth.

Jesus didn’t just come to die to save us from our sins. Jesus was raised, too, to show us what real living looks like. Jesus didn’t just die to save us. Jesus lived to show us a better way. God, in Jesus Christ showed up to let the world see that the ways of God – peace, humility, sacrifice, generosity, obedience, grace, mercy, love – always, always, always win.

And that’s the kind of Easter news we need as much as ever in the world these days…

Whether there was good reason or need for it, or not, our country just dropped what is celebrated as the Mother Of All Bombs – the largest non-nuclear weapon ever engaged in the history of wars. Three days after Good Friday, on the other side of the empty tomb, we are reminded – in spite of ourselves – that violence is not the way to God’s kind of victory in this world.

We live in a world that convinces us we need to have more and get more and keep more – that more money and things and stuff are the way to greater security; that our identity is wrapped up in the value of what we have. Three days after Good Friday, on the other side of the empty tomb, we are reminded that Judas and his 30 pieces of silver lost it all in the end.

We live in a culture that glorifies independence and self-reliance and the virtue of “picking yourself up by your own bootstraps” to such a degree that we pretend we’ve earned or deserve all that is ours. Even more, we’ve convinced ourselves and others that if you have less than you are less and that you just don’t deserve it until you’ve earned it. Three days after Good Friday, on the other side of the empty tomb, we are reminded that humbled by God’s grace and that humility trumps pride, every time.

God’s Church in the world still fights and bickers and pretends it can draw lines around and put up barriers against and administrate who’s “in” and whose “out” as far God’s children are concerned. Three days after Good Friday, on the other side of the empty tomb, we are reminded that God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the WORLD – the whole wide world and all that is in it – would be saved through him.

We have had our share of dying already this year around here – at Cross of Grace and in our community – and it saddens me to imagine that the year’s not over. But three days after Good Friday, on the other side of the empty tomb, we are reminded that the ways of life as believers – things like faith, hope, and love, I mean – have sustained us in the face of it, and will continue to in the days to come.

Jesus’ resurrection is a slap in the face to the ways of sin and darkness; it’s a reality check about what matters and what works and what wins as far as our God is concerned. Jesus was raised so we would know what real humility, true strength, legitimate power, and amazing grace look like – and that they triumph over the ways of sin, death, greed, fear and despair whenever we have courage, faith and love enough to put them to work in our lives, for the sake of the world.

So I like the Dad videos, because what parent doesn’t want to put on a cape and save their kids from a scraped knee or a broken bone or from even more if/when we might have to? But the other side of parenthood – the harder work of loving children – the faithful work of loving one another like God does – is the daily, obedient willingness to love one another in spite of what’s broken; to sacrifice when we’re not sure we have any more to give; to bear burdens that seem like more than we can carry on our own; to offer comfort, hope and peace in the face of so much to the contrary. In other words, to follow in the ways of Jesus and to do it trusting that the ways of God will win the day every time.

And that’s the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth of Easter’s good news. Forgiveness of sins yes. But even more: amazing love, so great it conquers even sin and death, and inspires us to live and to love differently and in bold, surprising, hopeful ways, ourselves – like Jesus did – for us and for the sake of the world.

Amen. Alleluia. Happy Easter.

All Rights Reserved. Background image by Aaron Stamper. © Cross of Grace Lutheran Church.