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Early Riser - By Pastor Thomas Engel


When Jesus was before Pilate at his trial, we have to remember that not everyone in the crowd was shouting, “Crucify him!”

There were followers of Jesus who saw the sinister plot unfold to kill him, and with their seeing, they grieved his suffering and death on that first Good Friday.

After Jesus was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb, these followers returned to their lives.

Scripture tells us that the disciples went to a room to hide out in fear of the Jews.

Also, we are told that some followers went from Jerusalem back to Emmaus, their hometown.

It’s pointed out that some of these followers were women.

It could be argued that these women were the most committed followers of Jesus.

We have the names of some of these women.

They are known as the Marys. One of the Marys, Mary Magdalene, had been possessed by demons, and as one of his miracles, Jesus cast the demons out of her. Another Mary was the sister of Jesus’ mother. And the other Mary was Jesus’ mother.

It was not unusual back then to have the same names in a family.

So, we can see how these women, who were so close to Jesus, can be easily seen as the most committed followers of Jesus.

Here it is dawn on that first Easter morning. These women are going to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body as with keeping with the custom.

We know the story. The women come to the tomb and see that the stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty, and an angel speaks to them.

This angel says that Jesus is not here, for he has risen from the dead.

But, he also says, “Have in mind what he said to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, The Son of man will be given up into the hands of evil-doers, and be put to death on the cross, and on the third day he will come back to life.”

Let’s talk for a moment the heartache that we cause ourselves.

When we are having a problem, here are a few questions to consider answering:

How is it possible that we have made something out worse than it actually is?

How is it possible that we are trying to fix something that we can’t do anything about?

How is it possible that we blame others for something that we should be taking responsibility for?

The list of questions can go on, but with these few questions, I’m at least trying to get us to get a more opened perspective about problems when they come our way. How is it possible that our problems might not always be as they seem at first?

Going back to that first Easter morning, those women going to Jesus’ tomb have a problem.

The tomb has a big stone in front of it, so they will not be able to get into the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body.

Who will roll the stone away? Maybe they can get the soldiers who are guarding the tomb to do it.

But, they didn’t really have a problem. Did they?

What happened when they got to the tomb? The women found that the stone was rolled away.

They could get inside the tomb, but they had another problem. Jesus was gone. Did someone steal his body?

But, the guards were there. What happened?

How does this part of the story end? The women do see their risen Lord.

Problem solved.

As I hear myself talk about that first Easter morning, I went through the events that had happened from Friday to Easter morning rather quickly.

In my quick summary and little analysis, I’m trying to make the point how the women could have saved themselves a lot of heartache if they just remembered what Jesus had told them.

He told them many times how he was going to rise from the dead on the third day.

So, no problems. No worries. Why the tears? Why so sad? Nothing to grieve. All is good.

Christ is risen and all is good. Right?

Joy! Peace! Comfort! Power and Glory!

I could end the sermon here because that is all true.

We all go on with our lives as people of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

So true but so hard. Isn’t it?

So much easier said than done. Isn’t it? How is it possible to think all is more than okay all the time?

Wait, you haven’t heard my problems, yet.

I’ve got a list. Maybe you do, too.

We all know that the world has a list of not just problems, but tragedies, crises, and harsh living conditions for many people.

Not to minimize any problems. We are never to do that. We take all problems as they are. We see all things at face value.

With that in mind, let’s keep talking about that first Good Friday and Easter morning.

Jesus had explained, taught, forewarned, and demonstrated how he was the one who was going to take away the sins of the world by his death and resurrection.

How come no one got it?

I mean when Jesus taught it, they all shook there heads up and down that they understood what Jesus was saying, but when it came to applying it, they missed it.

Well, I think we need to imagine ourselves there with those followers of Jesus.

I know I’m taking us down a sad road, but I promise that it will take us to a good ending.

Let’s say Jesus’ followers did have in the front of their minds throughout Jesus’ suffering and death what he had been saying to them for his years that he had been with them.

Even before Jesus’ coming, they knew what the prophesies had told about the coming of a Savior.

And, in those years that Jesus was with them, they had grown to be totally convinced that Jesus was the fulfillment of those prophesies.

Mary, Jesus’ mother, knew from a visit from an angel that she was to give birth, although she was a virgin, to a son, who was to be the Christ.

With all of this assurance, why did everyone grieve as they did?

I think we can understand as we think of our own lives. In thinking about ourselves and our own life events, I think we can emphasize with the followers of Jesus and with the Marys.

We can say that when Jesus’ followers and the Marys saw Jesus’ suffering from the whips, the pounding of the nails into his hands and feet, and him hanging on a cross for hours to die, their thoughts were far from what he had told them about his rising on the third day.

Life events can be so “bad” that they overwhelm us, even consume us.

The prophecies were all about telling of Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection.

They all knew about it.

Again, I want to go through a little bit more how much the followers and the Marys were prepared for Jesus’ suffering and death.

We know at Christmas, when the shepherds came to worship the baby, Jesus, in the stable, how Mary pondered all these things.

We know how the disciples walked with Jesus for three years and how they heard his teaching about the kingdom of God as one who had authority, and how they saw him perform miracles, calming storms, making the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, and the dead come alive again.

Mary Magdalene knew Jesus because she once was possessed by demons, and Jesus had cast them out of her.

She was free from what wanted to harm her. She was able to go back to living her life as she now wanted as a follower of her Lord and Savior.

We have to say that we don’t know what each person on that first Good Friday was specifically thinking and feeling, but we know enough that all the followers of Jesus were in deep grief.

It seems that all the prophesies and what Jesus had told them how he came to be the Christ was still in their minds.

All that wasn’t lost forever, but what they had been seeing Jesus go through in his suffering pushed those thoughts way back.

If we see these followers and the Marys as fellow humans, we get it.

These people saw a dear beloved one suffering and dying right before their eyes.

Who can blame them for their deep grief that blocked out everything else?

The disciples saw their friend die. Mary Magdalene saw the one who gave her life back die. Mary saw her son die.

We get it. Don’t we?

A mother should never see her own child die.

It’s the worst kind of grief.

I saw this kind of grief in my family when my brother died.

I admit I have a problem with that. I will never understand why some things happen as they do.

So, with what I’ve seen, and if you don’t mind me saying, for we have all lived long enough, with what you have seen, we get how the followers of Jesus were so full of grief when they were seeing Jesus suffer and die as he did on that first Good Friday.

Even if the followers of Jesus kept in front of their minds all that Jesus had said about rising on the third day, we can think that the followers of Jesus would have still felt “bad” seeing Jesus suffer and die.

For a time, they lost all that Jesus had told them.

The women rose early on that first Easter morning as if they were going to a funeral.

All of Jesus’ followers should have been camping out at the tomb waiting for Jesus to come out that first Easter morning.

A huge crowd of followers should have there at the tomb all of Saturday and Saturday night. But, they weren’t.

The women needed to be reminded by the angel what Jesus had told him about his rising on the third day.

Now, not to talk myself out of a job here, but you all know the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

This is not your first Easter.

You could come up here and preach it with no preparation and tell quite well the story of our salvation, the forgiveness of sins, the power and glory that we have because of Jesus’ victory over sin, Satan, and eternal death.

This morning, you came here not like you were going to a funeral but to sing with all joy in your hearts and minds, “Christ is risen, Alleluia!”

We have to like that the women went to the tomb early that morning. They were bold to go to the tomb. As followers of Jesus, they were at risk at suffering persecution, too, but they went anyway, so early, too, at dawn.

Although, we have to see that Jesus was even more of an early riser.

Jesus was so much earlier than anyone else on that first Easter Morning.

This early rising won a victory over all that wants to harm us just as he said it would, and just as the angel had a message for the Marys, it is for us this morning, too.

With no doubt, we know the message of our risen Lord and Savior, but do we apply it all the time to our problems?

With no doubt, our lives have problems, with no doubt, our world has it’s problems.

With knowing Jesus’ victory on this day that we especially celebrate his resurrection, with this faith that we no doubt have in how Jesus’ rising from the dead defeated sin, Satan, and eternal death, how is it possible that we do not let the problems of our lives and the problems of the world overwhelm us, even not to consume us?

I have to say I will try that they do not, and I’m sure you are trying that they will not, either.

But, we have to admit that like the followers of Jesus and the Marys problems do seem to overwhelm us, even consume us.

Two words that we have to look at are “seem” and “faith.”

This is all about getting get our problems into perspective. They are real, and never to minimize them, but, as real as they are, Jesus recreates our realities.

Jesus has come to make everything “right” again, make all things new again, and make us strong again by his victory of all that tries to cause us harm.

Our faith looks at the problems and sees how Jesus has got them under his control as our Lord and Savior.

Our faith says that Jesus is the earliest of all risers.

Jesus is out there before the problems. He’s got it all worked out from beginning to to middle to end.

I’m not sure what time you get up each day, but Jesus is up so much earlier working out every thing for you.

So, you can wake up every day and say, “Christ is risen. Alleluia!”

And by faith live that day come what may knowing Jesus has got all things worked out that makes everything new and full of the joy, love, and peace that he has come to give.