HOPE IN THE MIDST OF HOPELESSNESS
By Rev. Elmer L. Saa, Acting Senior Minister, Silliman University Church
(Sermon delivered during the Easter Sunrise Service on 27 March 2016 at the Amphitheater.)
Text: John 20:1-18
On Friday Jesus’ disciples witnessed the crucifixion of their Master. They watched their best friend and teacher being nailed to a cross. They witnessed His pain as He cried out, "I thirst!" and "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" They listened as finally he bowed His head and said, "It is finished!" and "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." They watched as His body was taken from the cross and buried. All their hopes and dreams were buried with Him.
As the sun set on the Friday of the execution, Jesus appeared to be a failure. His promises about the Kingdom of God were little more than provocative but powerless oratory. The disciples of Jesus were grieving and it seems they were living in the midst of hopelessness.
However, their sorrow was brief. The power of darkness could not keep Jesus, the light of the world inside the tomb forever. The Light had conquered the power of death and darkness. Apostle Paul said, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory. Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
The Gospel tells us that on "the first day of the week, early in the morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb but when she arrived, she found that the stone had been removed from the entrance. Then she ran to Peter and John and told them that the stone was rolled away. When the two disciples arrived they went inside the tomb but it was empty. Then the disciples went home and left Mary Magdalene outside the tomb crying.
As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.”
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? Mary thinking that he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Then, Jesus said to her, “Mary.” And as soon as Jesus called her name, she knew that it was Him!
Peter, John and Mary Magdalene were looking Jesus in the wrong place. They were looking him among the dead. Jesus is not dead. He is alive. He is risen! That is what we celebrate this morning. When all the evidence is in we're convinced that Jesus is alive. He is risen from the dead, and what a difference His resurrection has made!
Have you ever thought of what would have happened to Jesus followers if he was not risen. Well, certainly, without the resurrection, it is virtually impossible to imagine that the Jesus movement would have continued! And yet, here we are, over 2,000 years later, we are declaring with faith and boldness: “Christ, our Savior is Risen from the dead!”… “Hallelujah! Jesus lives!”
Many, if not most of us here this morning, base our entire lives on this fact!!! The resurrection of Jesus brings to the people and to us today the message that there is hope for those who have lost all grounds of hope. It is the reason we do not fear death. It is the reason that so many of us have put our whole trust, our whole lives into the hands of Jesus. It is the reason that so many of our lives have been changed so radically and continue to change, as we deny ourselves each day, take up our cross and follow Christ! It is the reason that Jesus’ believers around the world are able to face this terribly difficult life with courage, hope, faithfulness, and thanksgiving!
I am certain that you will agree with me that the resurrection of Jesus has changed us, strengthen and gives us hope. In our journey of life there are times when we feel that we are living in the midst of hopelessness but the risen Christ has given us hope to move on.
Some of you may have sat down at the clinic of the doctor and you hear the doctor say, “I am sorry to tell you that the result of the test is not good.” There are times in our lives when we feel the loss of power because we have been exhausted facing crisis in life – children and parents are estranged and cannot find the way back to harmony, husbands and wives could not work out a better relationship, friendships lie shattered because of misunderstandings and betrayals.
Then, we are faced with that fearsome valley of the uncertain future. If you listen to presidential candidates as they talk, it would seem that there is hope in our country if he or she will win. Our situation seems to be in turmoil because of social problems – poverty, unemployment, corruption, drug addictions, criminality, global warming and terrorism.
Last Tuesday, terrorists attacked Brussels, Belgium through suicide bombers hitting the airport and a metro train killing at least 31 people and wounding some 270 people. The Islamic State militant group, which claimed responsibility for the bombing, also took credit for coordinated attacks in Paris in November that killed 130 people at cafes, a sport stadium and concert hall. With these local and global situations it seems that our dreams are shattered and we wonder what lies for us in the future. And if anyone would ask if there is any hope for us, we can only say, “God only knows!”
Yes, in times when we feel hopeless, we can appreciate the message of Jesus’ resurrection. It speaks to us of a God who can achieve the impossible. There are no limits of what God can do. When days are dark, God cannot keep from telling us that there is hope. We may be sinful, we may be lost, but God is going to give us life if we just come to him. This is the message of the resurrection.
Sometimes we maybe like Mary outside the tomb crying. How many of us have found ourselves standing outside the tomb of our lives…crying... feeling all alone… betrayed by the world…with no hope? Sometimes like Mary, we may only see a gardener. However, we are assured that even when we do not see the risen Christ, Christ is still there walking with us.
Has your life been filled with nothing but sunsets, when all you ever wanted was a little bit of sunrise? I wonder if I am speaking to someone today who is travelling in a long and lonely road. Perhaps for whatever reason you are in darkness right now: family concerns, problems at work, anxiety about your health and your future and the loss of someone you love. The story of Jesus’ resurrection promises us that in the midst of our deepest darkness Jesus Christ rises to overwhelm the darkness forever.
Do not despair. God is alive and God loves you more than you could even love yourself!!! If you feel bogged down in sin…If you are loaded with the weight of guilt, you have a God who forgives you and then forgets, and sends you forward trusting you with His Gospel; with His work, with His love! Just look at what Jesus did for Peter, after Peter had denied and betrayed Christ! He forgave him, and then He entrusted the care of His people to him.
The message of Easter is this: the resurrection of Jesus makes the difference. Before, things seemed so important. But now they have become pretty insignificant. Before, life was filled with despair. But now it has purpose and direction and meaning. Before, death was the end. But now it is the beginning. Before we are helpless and hopeless, but now there is hope for a bright future.
On this Easter Sunday, the Risen Lord is still speaking and calling your name and mine. He is calling us personally and telling us that he has conquered death and that he wants to share with each one of us personally the joy of new life of Easter, a life of new beginnings. Jesus’ resurrection is God's answer for all our questions, fears, and doubts. It is the assurance of all our hopes, dreams, and desires. When our lives are bogged down in sorrow and anguish, when it seems to be going nowhere and nothing good is happening, the resurrection of Jesus gives us hope. My friends believe the good news of Easter, in Jesus and through Jesus there is hope in the midst of hopelessness. Amen.