An Easter to Remember
April 17, 2022 – Rev. Drew Stockstill
On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had
prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find
the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.
Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
What were they expecting?
What were you expecting?
What were you expecting when you woke up this morning? How did you expect the day to go? I know I woke up expecting a couple very excited girls to be wide awake before dawn, Easter basket grass to be all over the house within seconds, a strong cup of coffee, and a great Easter breakfast, and boy were my expectations exceeded. Expectations, they have a strong impact on how we experience life. Like, you could expect a pretty good day and likely, you’ll have a pretty good day. You ever have one of those days when you’re just expecting disappointment? Like, you expect your body to hurt, you expect to be tired, you expect for that person at work to be a bummer, you expect lunch to be a letdown? You know what I mean? Do you ever have those days where the whole world is just set up to disappoint?
I was having one of those days not long ago. I just woke up expecting to be frustrated: and the day did not disappoint. It really should have been a rainy day, but of course the sun was shining and the birds were chirping sooo much. Like, we get it, birds, it’s spring. And the construction on the road outside my house, ugh, I just knew it was going to mess up traffic and stir up dust. The coffee wasn’t strong or hot enough. Outside it was too cold for the windows down, but too hot for no airflow. My pants didn’t fit as well as last week and the dogs were always in the way and none of the radio stations were playing good music and all the politicians on the news were saying the wrong things. We had plans for dinner and I went into the restaurant just knowing the food was going to be unimpressive, and it was. The waiter was too attentive and the food too fancy and everyone was smiling too much. My kids wanted me to give them two hugs and kisses before bed – so greedy – and my wife couldn’t read my mind and guess which one movie on our 1,000 steaming platforms I was interested in watching and of course picked the worst one. I was deeply committed to my strongly held expectations and only a miracle could dislodge me from my decision to be disappointed and frustrated. Some call it waking up on the wrong side of the bed. I called it reasonable expectations for misery.
We’ve all encountered people in the middle of a day like that, maybe in the middle of life like that. Good luck with those folks. Their expectations are to be disappointed and you’d have to walk on water to prove them otherwise. Jesus actually did that and still it wasn’t enough for some people. Those folks are more than happy to give you their list of complaints, but never have lists of appreciations.
And expectations can go the other way; they can be too high and then you’re bound to be disappointed. I have high expectations for a relaxing vacation. But vacations with small children, well, it’s just not a reasonable expectation. Prior to the very first Easter, people had a lot of expectations for Jesus: conquering Jerusalem, saving them from oppression, winning the day. Dying a gruesome death on the cross, was not one of their expectations.
We need reasonable expectations. The women that Easter morning, well, I think they had reasonable expectations. They had seen Jesus die, after all. They were prepared that Sunday morning, when they went to the tomb where they saw the body of Jesus placed on Friday evening, they were prepared for a dead body in a grave and their expectations were reasonable. The women never abandoned Jesus on his slow march to death. They stuck close to him as he carried his cross to Calvary. He heard their cries, he felt their love. Among his last words before he was crucified was to those women. “Daughters of Jerusalem,” he said, “do not weep for me,” which was not a reasonable expectation of the women who followed him and fed him and believed in him and loved him and knew his love.
These women, they saw the way the crowd mocked their Lord; they heard him, from the cross, comfort the criminal dying beside him. They saw the sun’s light fail as they saw the light in him go out and he breathed his last. “The women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things,” (Luke 23:49). As they were faithful Jewish women and he died on the Sabbath they waited for the work of preparing his body for burial until dawn on Sunday and they went to his grave prepared, with the spices and ointments for a newly deceased body. Prepared with the expectations they had prepared; for the duty for which they were prepared.
But, beloved, they were not prepared. They were not prepared for resurrection. Loved ones, today I want to remind you that Easter is about preparing for God to exceed all your expectations. Why not decide this morning that every morning from now on you will wake up with an expectation for God to exceed all your reasonable expectations with a hope that surpasses all understanding? Rather than looking for and finding all the disappointments, look for resurrection every day.
That very first Easter morning the women came to Jesus’ grave prepared for everything but their wildest dreams. They came prepared for death but not for hope. When you wake up and open the newspaper, or look at your phone, or turn on the TV you will find the bad news you were expecting, but with God you can expect that whatever evil, whatever war, violence, death, God will take it and bring something we could never guess out of what we find there, and that is Easter. If we say, as you all said, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” then let us set as our expectation that God will continue to rise. And if we say, as many have said, that through the resurrection of Jesus, we too though we face our hardships, our trials, our suffering, our disappointments, even our death, we too will rise, then why not begin each day with that expectation? And let God show you throughout your day and life the power he has to bring life out of death, light out of the darkness, new life out of the tomb, new community, friendships, family out of a simple gathering of people for church?
I’m not talking about being naïve, I’m talking about hope. I’m not being Pollyanna, I’m being a follower of Jesus who though he was dead rose again, not for his sake but for mine, and yours and
the whole world, that we might be able to live life with those kinds of hopes and expectations even
if, even when, life throws you its worst. I’m following that Jesus. Not the one who only died on the cross; I’m following the Jesus who rose from the grave and asked me to follow him out of my own. Will you join me? Will you follow that resurrected Jesus? Because life threw its very worst at him: heartbreak, betrayal, torture, death. Being the son of God did not make Jesus immune from the harshness of life, but his expectations of God keeping his promises made him immune from ever giving up. That’s who I’m following. One who never gives up, on me, on you, on the opportunity for all of us to experience new life and life eternal.
We live with the reasonable expectations of the world but the hope in the unreasonable promises of God and that enables us to live with joy regardless of the situation you may be facing.
It is a reasonable expectation that people will let you down, but it is a resurrection expectation that God will never let you down.
It is a reasonable expectation that you will make mistakes in life, even big ones that make it hard for someone to forgive you, or hard to forgive yourself. But it is a resurrection expectation that you ARE forgiven by God.
It is a reasonable expectation that violence will tear nations, neighborhoods, families apart. But it is a resurrection expectation that people will show up as healers, peace makers, lovers, and set tables of compassion amidst the despair, and that God will turn weapons into garden tools in good time.
It is a reasonable expectation that loved ones will die, and we ourselves will die. But it is a resurrection expectation that there is more to life than the fear of death, and God will roll away every stone from every tomb.
The women came to the tomb of Jesus prepared for death, when Jesus had spent his life preparing them to live with a hope beyond reason, a hope beyond death, a hope in life, a hope that has the power to transform the world and even this block of Allison Hill, Harrisburg.
Even when our expectations are reasonable, what if we, as Christians, were preparing for hope? What if our expectations were resurrection? What could the world throw at you that you could not endure if your expectations were always that God is serious about resurrection? If God keeps that promise, if God can get us through death, then God can and will get you through whatever you are facing right now.
In spite of all he’s told us in his word, in spite of all the goodness in the world that all testifies to God alive and at work, in spite of gathering here to receive the assurance of forgiveness, to share in his holy meal, in spite of Easter morning, how easy it is to forget, to forget hope, to forget resurrection. Even those closest to Jesus, who followed him every day, hung on his every word, even they forgot that he said over and over that though he would suffer and die, after three days he would rise again. Not a one of them truly expected that, their reasonable expectations won their hearts. How can that be? How can his disciples, believers, did not believe that what he told them repeatedly would happen would actually happen? Well, it was unreasonable and when they saw him die, so did their hope in what is completely unbelievable, the hope in the resurrection. Without him to remind us, without his community, the church to remind us, how easy it is to forget hope, and take up the reasonable expectations of a broken world. And that is why we celebrate Easter this morning, and every Sunday morning, that we may be reminded again and again to hold on to our hope in the power of the resurrection. To be an Easter people. A people known by our hope.
It’s true, and Christians live by this hope. Live by this hope.
Christians give up the ways of the world to follow Jesus. Follow Jesus.
Follow him out of the despair of the world into expectations of resurrection.
Follow him out of pessimism and into unreasonable hope.
Follow him out of whatever tomb you may find yourself in today, out of whatever is robbing you of life, and follow him into new life today.
Follow him as a person committed to remember each day that this is a day where resurrection is already unfolding, and be a person to reminds others.
Follow him as a person who does not let the doubt of others deny the truth you know. Remember what he told you: you are a child of God and nothing will ever change that. Remember that and prepare to be amazed.