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Sermon by Rev. Mark Covington, Pastor
First United Methodist Church
Quitman, Mississippi
April 8, 2012
(Easter Sunday)

Topic: The Gifts of Easter

Scripture Reading: Mark 16:1-8 (NRS Version)

1. When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
2. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
3. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”
4. When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
5. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
6. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.
7. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
8. So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Easter is not about Jesus!

The crowds shouted with a certain amount of glee, “You saved others…save yourself!”; and, “Come on down from that cross if you are the Messiah!”

What they had yet to understand was that it was not that Jesus COULD NOT save himself. It is that he WOULD NOT save himself.

By not saving himself he saved all of us who cannot save ourselves. That is the point of all of this. The crucifixion took place for others… for you and for me.

For the first 6 hours he hangs on the cross watching the scenes as they unfold around him. Probably soon after the erection of the cross he says: “Father, forgive them.” Jesus prays and asks forgiveness for those who have done this thing to him.

And shortly thereafter, one of the criminals confesses Him [and He says]:
Today you will be with me in paradise.

And after a little while, Jesus commends his mother to John:
Dear woman, here is your son.” “Here is your mother.

From around noon until three in the afternoon there is darkness, and at some point Jesus cries:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Around three in the afternoon Jesus says:
I am thirsty.

Jesus is offered wine mixed with gall. He refuses it.

Shortly thereafter He says:
It is finished.

And He says:
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

His body is taken down from the cross, Since the next day is the Sabbath, (Jewish Sabbath is Saturday) the body is very hastily prepared for burial and placed in a borrowed tomb. They [the disciples] are thinking that they will come back after the Sabbath and give his body a proper preparation and burial.

That was a difficult Sabbath for them. This God-Man Jesus, their friend, their confidant, their teacher, was dead. This Sabbath seemed pointless.

The Sabbath passes slowly but finally it is the dawn of the next day. It is today.

With reluctance the women start toward the tomb to better prepare the body for burial. They discuss how they will roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb but as they approach it they find that it is already open.

An angel appears to them and says: “Do not be amazed, you came looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is not here, HE IS RISEN; see the place where they laid him.”

What they thought was the end was not the end at all but the beginning. That empty tomb means more than that he was alive. It means that he IS alive.

That empty tomb is cause for our celebration today. It means that the grave could not keep him. We are here to celebrate not the death, but the continued life of a living Savior.

Easter, like Christmas, has its gifts. The gifts of Easter are not gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. There are no angelic choirs singing, but there are angels quietly announcing an empty tomb.

Down through time that empty tomb has transformed people. And it is those transformed people that carry the Good News that he is not dead but alive forward into future generations.

The gifts of Easter are freedom from the guilt of our denials and betrayals, from our selfishness and self-centeredness. Do you, like Peter, know here and now that you are forgiven and that the past is over? Easter leads you to that place. Will you accept its gift of freedom?

The gift of Easter is a Messiah that WOULD NOT save himself.

By not saving himself he saved all of us who cannot save ourselves. That is the point of all of this. The crucifixion took place for others… for you and for me.

The gift of Easter is about what he did for you. He hung there on that cross, experiencing great agony, for you.

The gift of Easter is a gift that is empty, not full. It is an empty tomb, a tomb that could not hold the Glory of the Son of God nor keep His body for eternity. This gift of Easter is about the provision of God so that even though the grave may keep our bodies for eternity our souls will be eternally with the Father in Heaven.

The gifts of Easter are freedom, and forgiveness, and emptiness . . . emptiness that brings fullness to life.

Easter is not about Jesus or even about God. Easter is not about Peter, or the disciple whom Jesus loved, or Mary his mother. Easter is about you and me. Had no one ever accepted the gift of Easter in the roughly 2000 years since he was on that cross and you came along and accepted it then Jesus would not have changed anything, he still would have hung there for you.

Easter is not about Jesus. It is about you and I. It is about Jesus doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is about the gift of freedom, the gift of salvation, and the gift of eternal life.

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