Randall Caselman

Bella Vista Church of Christ

04/01/2018 A.M.

 

Resurrection – A New Day –

Fresh Start – New Beginning

John 19.38-42 & Luke 24.1-6a

 

Finishing Heart Surgeries Friday Afternoon... I drove to Fayetteville’s Fairview Cemetery. As I arrived, three or four people were placing flowers on the grave of their loved ones... Otherwise the Cemetery was deserted.

 

It’s a quiet place. You feel alone even though cars are whizzing by on Hwy 45’s Mission Boulevard. The sun was shining... A semi-warm day after last week’s rain. A good afternoon for... Walking... Looking.... Thinking... Reminiscing...Thanking the Lord for those gone before us... I do this every-so-often. 

 

Even though I only walked through a few rows of markers on what must be 20 to 30 acres... I was not looking for anyone particular... Just whomever the Lord brought to mind. I recognized dozens of names... Some who meant a lot in my life... Several funerals I had done... Some buried there have impacted this congregation...

 

• Joe Banks... My mentor who spent twenty years preaching in Fayetteville... He was the first preacher here in Bella Vista...

 

• Billy T. Randolph... Father of our Tim Randolph...Who supervised the construction of this Auditorium...

 

• Rip Lindsey & Ed Gideon... My bosses in the broadcast business for thirty years...

 

• Charlie & Fay Swift... Owners of the Jewelry Store where Georgia worked...

 

• Charles & Daisy Stump... Who owned the Furniture Store where Georgia & I bought some of our first furniture...

 

• O.L Daily... Claude Fritz... Buster Brantly... An Elder & Deacons from the Center Street congregation.

 

• Roy & Gladys Cole... Church Members and Neighbors across the street from where I was raised...

 

• Maggie & Donald Wayne Watts... An Aunt to Emma May & I... It was Donald Wayne who sparked my interest in Electronics and Electrical Engineering...

 

• Rex & Mildred George... Friends of mom & dad... Working companion to Lonnie Farrar.

 

• Hoover Evans... Sherwood Charlton... Bartley Higgs... Friends from High School Days...

 

• P. L. Hathcock... The first Doctor I can remember.

 

I could go on... But my hour or so was up... I thanked the Lord for the memories and left. Back in the car... I thought about lines on the markers... “Rest in Peace”... “Beloved Mother”... “Faithful Father”... “Asleep in Jesus.”

 

For married couples... It was “Together for Eternity”... or “We parted in sorrow...We shall meet in Joy.”

 

Of course on every marker was that dash between the birthdates and death date. It speaks of the life they lived.  To me personally... The memories were bound up in that dash. I found myself thinking... What will my dash look like… What will it say… To those who walk past my marker?

 

Last Sunday... We spent time at the cross... Starting with Jesus’ Garden Arrest between midnight and one-thirty Friday morning...

Until His dying breath at three in the afternoon...

At that exact time the Ram’s horn sounded on the Temple Grounds

telling all Jerusalem that the Passover Lamb had been slain...

Immediately the unexplained three hour darkness disappeared...

And the Temple Curtain was torn from top to bottom... Making the presence of God accessible to every... Man... Woman... and Child.

This morning... We pick up somewhere between

three and six PM Friday afternoon...

We too are in a Cemetery... Just outside Jerusalem...

 

It was much like any other cemetery... Quiet and peaceful... A garden cemetery... A small collection of tombs dug out of solid rock... Where rich Jewish families buried their dead... Awaiting a better day... The Resurrection!

 

This particular tomb belongs to a man named Joseph from the city of Arimathea.  He was a prominent figure in society. Besides being rich...He was also a member of the Sanhedrin. He must have been a courageous man... He walked into Pilate’s residence... Asking for the body of Jesus.

 

At this point in time... Everybody is in a hurry...  You see... Jesus dies at three PM... This Passover Sabbath begins in just three hours.

 

• So... The Crucifixion Team had to clean up this mess and get back to their Peace-Keeping Duties in less than three hours.

• Old Testament Scripture forbid touching a dead body on the Sabbath... So Joseph and Nicodemas were hurried... Or they wouldn’t be able to celebrate Passover.

 

The Crucifixion Team... Intends to break the legs of the three victims... Doing so hastens death because they can’t any longer push up on the nails in their feet to release the chest muscles... So the victim suffocates.

 

But...When they come to the center cross... Jesus is already dead... So... In what appears to be...

• Out of defiance...

• In apparent aggravation...

Because they could not cause His death... A soldier pushes a spear into His side... Prompting a gush of water and blood mixed... Another proof of His being already dead.

 

As Joseph and Nicodemus took Jesus from the cross... His body was in bad shape...It was sticky with... Sweat... Blood... Spit... and Dirt. It bore the marks of abuse He had suffered...

• A hole in His side...

• Skin from his back hung in bloody ribbons...

• Face bloody and disfigured as they removed the crown of thorns.

 

They wrapped the body in strips of linen cloth.

As they did so... They sprinkled about 80 pounds of spices throughout the linen strips.

• Part of this was a kind of ground powder.

• The other part was a gummy substance.

They combined causing the linen strips to stick together and form... A tight wrap...A cocoon... Around the body... No flesh was showing except the face... Over which a napkin was laid.

 

Joseph and Nicodemus carried the embalmed body of Jesus. With wrapping and spices it may have weighed 200 plus pounds.  With much effort... Jesus’ body is finally deposited in the garden tomb. Scripture tells us they rolled a large stone over the opening.

 

As the sun slowly sinks across the western horizon... Shadows fall across the olive trees. Joseph... Nicodemus... Mary the mother of Jesus... Mary Magdalene... And others walk quietly through the dusk... No one says a word...Only an occasional sob could be heard.

 

So...We leave the Friday of Jesus’ Death and Burial.

 

I think it remarkable that the Bible says very little about Saturday.

• We know about Friday...

• We know about Sunday...

But of the in between Saturday... We know almost nothing. What we do know is that... between Friday and Saturday... The Romans came and placed a seal on the stone over the opening to keep people away from the gravesite

 

Luke says of the disciples… on the Sabbath they rested.

 

But of Sunday... The Bible is clear.

All four of the Gospels indicate that... On the first day of the week... At early dawn...  The women came to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus.

 

They weren’t expecting a Resurrection... I gotta tell you... It was the farthest thing from their minds. But to their... Shock... Surprise... Utter Confusion...

• The seal was broken...

• The stone was rolled away…

• The tomb was open...

• Jesus was gone...

• The tomb was empty.

 

An angel spoke some of the of the most powerful sentences in all the Bible…

• Why do you seek the living among the dead?

• He is not here... He is risen... Just as he said.

 

Mary ran and found Peter and John.

No one could believe it... It was too much to take in... To some it still is today!

 

As Peter and John arrive at the tomb... The Bible has strange words to describe what they found... It says they found the linen cloth lying there... And the face napkin was folded up by itself.

 

The linen strips were only... a cocoon... An empty shell... But no Jesus!!

 

It was as if whoever had been inside had simply passed right through them...Miraculously Materialized... And then walked away.

• Mary met Jesus… Alive from the dead!!

• Disciples on the road to Emmaus met Jesus... Alive!!

• On two consecutive Sundays... The Apostles met Jesus…Very much Alive!!

• Thomas met Jesus… With proof He was... RIsen!!

• Then 500 people at one time met Jesus… Witnesses of His resurrection!!

• Paul meets Jesus on the Damascus road...Convincingly Alive!!

• John on Patmos… Sees Jesus Alive and Reigning!

The message rings out even this morning to the world... He is risen... He is alive.

 

Ancient legend tells us that... In the early church... Believers frequently greeted one another with the words... He is risen!... He is alive!

 

Scripture tells us that... for Forty Days... The resurrected Jesus...

• Gave His disciples convincing Proof that He was alive...

• Instructing them through the Holy Spirit..

• Proving His being the Messiah using the Old Testament Scriptures...

• He reminded them of His teachings during the past three plus years.

 

Then Fifty Days after His resurrection... Peter stood to preach Jesus in Jerusalem. He spoke to the very people who had crucified Jesus... Reminding them that His blood was on their hands.

 

In that sermon he said these words… “Jesus of Nazareth… Whom you nailed to a cross And put to death. But God raised him from the Dead. Freeing him from the agony of death. For it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”

 

Death cannot keep its prey... Jesus my Savior.

He tore the bars away... Jesus my Lord.

Up from the grave He arose

With a mighty triumph o’er His foes.

He arose a victor o’er the dark domain.

He lives forever with His saints to reign.

He arose... He arose... Hallelujah! Christ arose.

 

As a Hospice Chaplain... I’ve witnessed a lot of deaths... Held a lot of hands in the last moments... But I’ve never witnessed a resurrection... Nor have I known anyone who has... But I believe!!

 

That’s really what this morning is about… Isn’t it... People who believe in the resurrection meeting together to... Celebrate... Honor... And Worship... The Risen Savior and Lord?

 

It’s not important that we witness... But that we believe!!...

 

Paul tells us that we are children of God by Faith...

 

It’s always been that way... hasn’t it... Faith has been demanded by God... from Adam until today? The Hebrews’ Writer tells us that without this faith we cannot be pleasing to God.  The question becomes... Do we believe in the resurrection this morning?

 

Do we believe in it enough to be obedient to The Resurrection Message? For as many as have been baptized into Christ... Have put on Christ... Have been clothed with Christ.

 

Well... I think we would do well here to examine...

the Benefits of the Resurrection.

It was Paul who said... I want to know the power of His Resurrection...

I want to experience the benefits of His resurrection...

What are they?...

 

First... The fact that Jesus is alive... makes possible our child of God status.

Paul contends that… If the Spirit of him WHO RAISED JESUS FROM THE DEAD IS LIVING IN YOU... He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, WHO LIVES IN YOU... Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are SONS OF GOD. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the SPIRIT OF SONSHIP. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are GOD’S CHILDREN. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.

 

His resurrection power forgives our sins.

First Corinthians 15.16 & 17... If Christ has NOT been raised... Our faith is futile... AND WE ARE STILL IN OUR SINS.

 

Hear Paul from Romans chapter six... Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his DEATH? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that... JUST AS CHRIST WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD through the glory of the Father... WE TOO ARE RAISED TO LIVE A NEW LIFE.

 

Ephesians 1.7... In him we have redemption through his blood... Even THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS... In accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

 

Church...If the tomb is occupied... We’re still in our sins... If it is empty... We’re forgiven... There’s NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

Jesus’ living status guarantees our personal victory over death...

John 11.25 & 26 has Jesus saying... I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Believe this!… BELIEVE THIS!

 

Our promise comes from Romans six... Now if we died with Christ... We will also live with Him. The DEATH he died… He died to sin once for all… THAT INCLUDES US… But the LIFE HE LIVES… He lives to God. LISTEN NOW... IN THE SAME WAY… COUNT YOURSELVES DEAD TO SIN BUT ALIVE TO GOD IN CHRIST JESUS.

 

His resurrection is our hope...

Peter tells us that our hope of Heaven is based upon THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS... Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us NEW BIRTH INTO A LIVING HOPE THROUGH THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you...

 

Here it is church...

IF the tomb is empty... HEAVEN IS REAL...

IF the tomb is occupied... WE HAVE NO HOPE OF Forgiveness... Salvation... or Heaven.

 

Finally... The resurrection EMPOWERS US TO LIVE LIFE AS IT SHOULD BE LIVED.

The Hebrews’ Writer ends his letter by saying... May the God of peace... Who brought our Lord Jesus back from the dead... EQUIP YOU WITH EVERYTHING GOOD FOR DOING HIS WILL.

 

Well... Let’s go back to the dash...

What does our dash look like this morning?

Does it include a faith and obedience to Jesus?

Can others see Jesus in our dash?

 

Listen... If you’re looking for Jesus this morning... He is not to be found in a cemetery... But in this assembly... Alive in those who believe and are obedient to Him by Faith... Repentance... and the New Birth.

 

Perhaps... Today... As the world focuses on the resurrection... WE need to rededicate our lives to living out the kind of dash that God desires.

 

Why not experience... A new day... A fresh start... A new beginning...

By giving your life to Jesus as we stand and sing together.