The Joy of Easter

*This is the devotion I wrote for our Easter Sunrise Service, April 5, 2015*

I’ve been looking forward to today more than I have ever looked forward to an Easter, at least that I can remember.  Last year may have been close, because Kelley and I were volunteers at our church in TN.  They were doing three services for the first time ever, with the thought they could break 1,000 in attendance for the first time.  There was a lot of excitement leading up to this, and the 1,000 in attendance mark was broken.  But this is my first Easter being here with you all.  And it’s my first Easter getting to preach.  Kelley and I love this congregation so much, so it is an honor to get to share this Easter celebration with you this morning.

As I said, this Easter is one that I have been excited about, longing for, and anticipating for a while.  I’ve had today circled on my calendar since about the time we moved here, but this current sermon series we will be concluding in our regular service later today, I have been gathering ideas for for around three years.  But I have a confession to make today as well.  Over the last couple of weeks, that excitement seemed to not be there completely.  At first, I tried to rationalize it.  “It’s just the stress of this time of year”, or “it’s hard to stay that excited about something for so long”, or “I’m just really tired”.  Those were all things I just kept telling myself when I would realize that we were only a few weeks from today, but I just wasn’t feeling the excitement that I knew should be there.

And I really thought that’s all it was.  But this past Monday night/Tuesday morning, when I couldn’t sleep for whatever reason, it finally dawned on me.  I had been lying to myself.  I had lost some of the excitement because I had lost my focus, which is something I do all to often anyway.  I let some things that maybe aren’t perfect in my life make me start worrying about a lot of different things.  In other words, I had let Satan steal my focus.  I was more concerned about things going on around me, that I may or may not have any control over, instead of remaining “Crosseyed” like Hebrews 12 tells us to.

When this all dawned on me, it made me start thinking, which led to even more of a sleepless night, but I was able to work through a bunch of stuff.  It all started making sense, and I don’t think it is just something that I am going through.  When things are good, and we are excited about things and where they are going, it’s easy to lose that focus.  And as we approached this Easter season, Satan used that lack of focus in my life to cause some great havoc. 

When this realization hit, all I had to do was refocus, and you know what, my excitement for Easter returned.  Think about it this way.  In a lot of the same ways, the disciples experienced this almost 2,000 years ago didn’t they?  They were in Jerusalem for the Passover, one of the greatest celebrations for the Jewish people.  Yet they watched their Rabbi be betrayed by one of their own.  They watched Him beaten and crucified.  They watched Him laid in a borrowed tomb.

Their world fell apart when they were supposed to be a part of a huge celebration.  One of my favorite professors from school, when talking about the anguish of watching Jesus go to the cross, would always describe it this way.  He would say, “It’s Friday…But Sunday’s coming!”  In other words, the world around you may be falling apart, but the greatest news in the history of the world is just around the corner.  Jesus not only was crucified and laid in a borrowed tomb, three days later HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD!

That’s all we need to know about why this is an exciting day.  Timothy Keller, a well know minister, wrote this earlier this week on his Facebook page;

If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said?  The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.

In John 11, right before Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, He claims;

I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?

It comes down to this, and this alone this morning.  Do you want the excitement of the resurrection, or do you want to let Satan steal your joy?  Just the chapter before, Jesus tells us in John 10:10;

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Let me ask you this morning, as we wrap up, just one question.  John 10:10 again tells us;

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

And John 11:25-26 tells us;

I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?

DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?

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