And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
Graveyards are not usually associated with joy and hope. In the old cemetery at Provencal, La., I have many members of my family buried there. There’s Dad, Mom, a brother and others that are there. I have never visited those grave sites that it brought joy nor happiness to me, but rather sadness, gloominess and sorrow. My visits there have brought to mind many memories, of my dads life as I knew him, of mama and what sweet memories they are.
If you are depressed and feeling bad, one of the least likely places in which you would consider finding relief and release, from those feelings, is a graveyard.
The great scientific discoveries that have done so much to revolutionize our daily living have been made in all kinds of places and under all kinds of circumstances. Nothing of scientific significance, however, has ever been discovered in a graveyard.
The greatest battles of history have been fought in all kinds of places, on land and on sea, in the air and on the plains, on mountains and in the valleys, in great cities and humble villages. However, no great battles have been fought in graveyards.
With the possible exception of the Gettysbury Address, no great speeches or pronouncements from leading orators, ministers, poets, or rulers have ever been made in graveyards.
If you ever want to see something of significance or hear something good, the last place you would consider looking is a graveyard. Graveyards, after all, are for dead people, and as we all know, dead people don’t move nor speak.
Yet, I want you to know, if Easter is about anything, it is about the Good News that come out of a graveyard. Easter, one of the biggest and one of the most significant (if not the biggest and the most significant) observances of the Christian faith comes out of a borrowed tomb, of all places. Easter, with all the joy and hope it brings, had its beginning in a graveyard.
It didn’t occur at the banks of the Jordan River with the heavens opening up and the Spirit of God descending like a dove and the voice of God thundering forth, but in, of all places, a lonely graveyard. It didn’t take place on the Mount of Transfiguration nor in the busy streets of Jerusalem amidst the cheering crowds of Palm Sunday but in a lonely graveyard.
If Easter is about anything, it is the announcement and celebration of the Good News that love conquers hate, the Good News that right vanquishes wrong, the Good News that nonviolence eventually defeats violence. It is the message that good, though seemingly always on the run and on the ropes, can still overpower evil, and that holiness, without compromising itself or stooping to use methods of the opponent, can still debacle sin.
If the fact that all this Good News coming out of a graveyard seems strange to you, let me remind you that Christianity is a strange faith.
To begin with, its premise or basis is the strange assertion that a God whose greatness and magnitude is beyond comprehension, is concerned about, cares for, and loves puny, insignificant human beings so much that, to save us, this great God became one with us, one of us, and one for us.
And if that sounds strange, listen to this! Christianity would have you believe not only that God became a man but also that God became a poor man. He was born in a barn to poor parents and an oppressed people in one of the smallest countries of the world. When He was born, angels sang, not to Kings of great nations, not to the rich and mighty, but they sang to the working class, to shepherds that kept their flocks in the fields.
And if that sounds strange, listen to this! Christianity would have you believe that this God, being born a man, associated with fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and all kinds of what we would call “lower class, common people,” and “sinners.” He visited the sick too.
And if that sounds strange, listen to this! Christianity would have you believe that when Jesus, the God-man, rode into Jerusalem as a king, he rode not in a chariot pulled by fine white steeds bedecked with dazzling decorated leathers, but on a donkey. And that he was greeted not with the blaring of trumpets but with lowly people crying praises. His army consisted not of well trained soldiers with shining swords but of ordinary poor men and women, girls and boys. Whoever heard of a king riding a donkey, without armed soldiers, without royal robes, without blasting trumpets?
And if that sounds strange, listen to this! Christianity would have you believe that even though He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free, Jesus allowed himself to be beaten and bruised and judged in the kangaroo courts of ancient Palestine and then to be crucified between two thieves, like one of the worst criminals.
And if that sounds strange, listen to this! This same Jesus, who opened blind eyes and cut loose the stammering tongues, who healed the sick and raised the dead, and who calmed raging seas, claimed that it would be Calvary, with all of its pain and shame, that would glorify and exalt Him. It was this same Jesus who said, (John 12:32) “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” So then, when one considers how strange and different the Christian faith is anyway, it’s not so strange after all that the Good News it has for all of humankind comes from a graveyard.
I. WHAT IS THIS GOOD NEWS THAT COMES FROM A GRAVEYARD?
The very first thing the angel told the women at the tomb was “Fear not.”
We have become very fearful these days. We lock ourselves in our homes behind four and five locks, wrought-iron gates, and barred windows. Not only are we prisoners in our own homes but the fear of the violence of the streets holds us captive. We are afraid of each other, we are threatened by our employers, skeptical of our associates and colleagues, afraid to trust our friends and sometimes afraid of our own family members. We have forgotten that God’s Word tells us to “fear not!” God lives and this God still watches over His own. And if God be for us, who can be against us? Therefore we need fear no power, we need fear no force, we need fear no opposition, we need fear no sickness, we need fear no circumstance or condition, no person (male or female), no angel, no demon or principality; no height and no depth; nothing present and nothing to come. FEAR NOT. We are more than, MORE THAN, conquerors through Christ Jesus who loves us. FEAR NOT. “For he whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” FEAR NOT.
In every condition, in sickness, in health:
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth
At home and abroad; on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.
Ps 118:6 “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”
II. THE SECOND STATEMENT MADE BY THE ANGEL WAS “HE IS NOT
HERE; FOR HE IS RISEN.”
And that’s certainly good news. Jesus was lied about, but lies couldn’t hold him down. He was hated, but hate couldn’t hold him down. The roman soldiers put a stone over the tomb, but soldiers nor a stone couldn’t hold our Lord down. HE IS RISEN! His opponents were jealous of him, but jealousy couldn’t hold him down. HE IS RISEN! Jesus was persecuted, but persecution couldn’t hold him down. HE IS RISEN! He was slandered, but slander couldn’t hold him down. HE IS RISEN! In the end , he was killed, but not even death, the grave, and all the diabolical powers of hell and all the evil forces of darkness could hold him down. HE IS RISEN!
Because he lives, truth lives, hope endures, love triumphs, and virtue is justified, and righteousness is vindicated. Because he lives, integrity is legitimized, honesty has overcome, righteousness is proven, sanctification is empowered. Because he lives, holiness is real, salvation has come, grace is all sufficient, and mercy is invincible. Most of all, because he lives, we live also. (John 14:19) “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”
III. THE THIRD THING WAS “AS HE SAID:”
“As he said ‘ everything happened and happens. It did then, it does now, and it will happen for forevermore “as he said.”
Sickness is healed, “as he said,”
Sinners are freed “as he said,”
Winds are stopped “as he said,”
Storms are clamed “as he said,”
Eyes are opened “as he said,”
Church is built “as he said,”
Hell shall prevail “as he said,”
Nothing shall be impossible “as he said,”
He’ll go with us always “as he said,”
He will give power “as he said,”
He’s preparing a place “as he said,”
He will return for the church “as he said,”
IV. THE FOURTH THING “HE GOETH BEFORE YOU INTO GALILEE.”
That’s why we can walk by faith rather than by sight. We know not only that our Lord walks with us but that he also goes before us.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a witness that if you trust his promises, the Lord will go before you to straighten out situations, calm anxieties, allay perplexities before you get to them. He will go before you into a meeting, and by the time you get there, he will have smoothed out the ruffled waters. I know that it gets rough sometimes, but that same Jesus who sends you into the storm is also able to go before and smooth the rough, make straight the crooked, exalt the valleys, and level of the high mountains.
You may say that nothing of significance ever happened in a graveyard. But I say unto you that humankind’s greatest discovery occurred not when the atom was split nor when we learned to harness and channel the power of electricity. Neither did it take place in a school or laboratory. But our greatest discovery occurred when a few women went to a graveyard looking to anoint the dead body of a good man only to discover a living Lord with a glorified body. The greatest battle that humankind ever fought was not at Waterloo, Gettysburg, or Hiroshima. The greatest of all battles was fought in a lonely graveyard when Jesus Christ took on death, hell, and the grave, and came forth with the keys in his hand. Jesus Christ went to hell and done enough damage there that I don’t have to go there if I don’t want to.
The Good News that I announce to you is that Jesus won! He is the victor, the winner henceforth, and the champion forevermore. He is Kings of Kings, and he is Lords of lords, and he is the Great I Am, and he in the Risen One.
The greatest pronouncement that was ever made came not from the United Nations, the Oval Office, or the Kremlin. But came, rather, from a graveyard when the angel of the Lord spoke to a few women and said, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.”
So then it was not only in the deed of the cross but also in all that came out of a graveyard that first Easter morning that shows once again that (1 Cor 1:27-28) “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:”
And so from a lonely graveyard comes a message that still gladdens the hearts of people everywhere who hear it.
C O yes He’s risen here today, He’s no longer where He lay,
He has risen for I feel him in my soul,
When His work on earth had ended, on to glory he Ascended
He has risen for I feel Him in my soul.