by Roger McCay
12 April 2020
Sermon Passage: Mark 15:42-16:8
Link to Audio Version
In three days, everything changed for everybody—despair was transformed into joy.
Every year, on the Friday before Easter we have Good Friday services, worshipping the Lord, remembering what Jesus did on the cross for us—his death and burial—his sacrifice, as the perfect lamb of God. He did this so that we might be forgiven, so that we might have life—eternal, abundant, joyful life. He did it to secure God’s people to himself, with the Lord as our God. The Lord Jesus died in our place, suffered so that we do not have to spend an eternity in hell. He took God’s wrath upon himself on that cross for our sins, even though he had never sinned. And in his death, we were redeemed, set free, in Christ—washed clean by the blood of the Lamb.
This year, however, we did not gather for worship on Friday evening, due to current events with this whole coronavirus thing, with the social distancing, and so forth. Nevertheless, that does not change one-bit what Jesus did on the cross for you.
Every year we also celebrate Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on the third day. In the normal (the regular gatherings and same-ole, same-ole), traditions of Easter may have gotten rather humdrum for some people; having become something taken for granted; a time to wear new clothes, get family pictures taken, come to church and sing of the resurrection, and hear a sermon on whatever resurrection passage the pastor chose for that year. It’s Routine. A comfortable routine. While routine can be very good and is a very human need, if we are not careful, routine can put us in a mindset of taking the extraordinary and wonderful for granted, when it has become the same-ole-same-ole.
But our routine has been changed these days, has it not?
We had originally hoped that we’d be gathered back together, not virtually, but together in person for worship this Easter. But that is not the case. We had, perhaps, romanticized this idea of coming out of our homes, like bursting from the grave, and gathering together at church, celebrating the resurrection as if we were being resurrected, too. So much for that.
In a way, it’s like we’ve been put on an extended fast from the ordinary things of our ordinary lives. Yet fasting is a regular spiritual discipline of God’s people. We do it for a reason—like we did this last week as a congregation. Fasting has a way of making us appreciate what we deny ourselves during the fast, when we can finally partake once again. Fasting also, in the depriving of the physical, focuses us on the spiritual disciplines, such as prayer.
In the extended, involuntary fast we are currently under (with most of us holed up at home; with only periodic excursions out for food or some such; or maybe just going for a walk since the gyms are closed) … in our extended fast, perhaps things (like gathering for worship on Sunday mornings, going to Sunday school and the evening service, meeting for Bible study, having our fellowship meals, and so forth), do not seem so routine and ordinary anymore. Perhaps, in this fast, Easter has become a little more special for us. I hope and pray that it has.
Still, in the normal (the non-coronavirus pandemic lockdown times) … in the normal, Jesus’ resurrection, due to our yearly Easter celebrations and hearing about it over and over through the year in one form or another, had, perhaps for some, taken on a sense of just being ordinary, like the script of a routine. “Okay, we got it, we hear this every year. Get on with it, pastor.”
But there is nothing normal about Easter Sunday this year. We have stepped outside the normal. Yet, the Lord tends to use the non-normal (even extreme trials of the soul), to get our hearts and minds in the right place to perceive, receive, and participate in his mighty works. Think on that.
The iconic pattern for such phenomena is seen in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In three days, everything changed for everybody—despair was transformed to joy. Let us refresh our minds on what happened.
At 3 PM, the Friday he was crucified, Jesus died, finishing his work before the Sabbath began. Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, and a respected member of the Sanhedrin, who was, like Nicodemus, secretly a disciple of Christ, saw the urgency of needing to get Jesus buried in the next three hours. The Sabbath began at 6 PM, and it was a violation of the Law of Moses to bury someone on the Sabbath. So, if nothing was arranged, the Romans would throw Jesus in a common grave with the criminals. Joseph, a true believer, knew the Lord’s body must be treated with dignity and respect. Hence, he petitioned Pilate for Jesus’ body.