Another Nice Holiday

There’s only one place, or Person, where you can find it.

A few years ago the American Red Cross was seeking donations to help a group of suffering people in Africa. A box came with a note which said, “We have been converted, and as a result we want to help. We won’t ever need these again. Can you use them for something?” Inside were Ku Klux Klan sheets, which the Red Cross tore into strips and used to bandage the wounds of black people. Because the risen Christ gives peace.

Yesterday morning Jesus reminded me that he is my only peace. When I have doubts and questions, I can draw near to him and he will be my peace. When the future looks bleak and discouraging, he is our peace. The world is still in his hands.

Do you need peace today? Peace for your doubts, your fears? Only the risen Christ can give you the peace your heart longs to find, and only because of Easter. Only because this isn’t another nice holiday. On this Easter morning, why not ask him for the peace he alone can give?

The risen Christ gives power

And this morning, I need power, help, strength. It’s been a long week, and I know what is waiting for me tomorrow. The phone calls I didn’t have time to return, the e-mails, the stacks of papers and journals, the office work to organize, the meetings to attend, the sermons to write. Right now, it looks pretty daunting. I need the power to fulfill his purpose for my life, and to live in his peace. Don’t you need his power, his help, this week?

Again, we’re not the first. James was Jesus’ half-brother, and one of his most vocal critics. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, James was convinced he was insane. Once he even tried to get him to come home with him, to save the family further embarrassment.

But then the risen Christ “appeared to James” (v. 7). And the man was never the same. Everything changed. He became the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Christian movement; he wrote the book of James, and he was widely considered the holiest man on earth.

His nickname was “camel knees,” since his knees were so callused from hours on them in prayer. He was given Jesus’ purpose, and peace, and power, to serve his brother who was now his Lord.

Consider another example. Saul of Tarsus hated the followers of Jesus. He was the Slobodan Milosovic of his day, bent on an “ethnic cleansing” of Christians everywhere.

But then, Paul says, “he appeared to me also” (v. 8). And the result? “I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect” (vs. 9-10).

And God made this murderer into the greatest apostle, missionary, and theologian the world has ever known. The risen Christ empowered him to fulfill his purpose and to know his peace.

The risen Christ still has the power to change people today. Hyun Hee Kim blew up the Korean Air Lines plane in 1983. In jail she became a Christian, and now tells anyone who will listen how the risen Christ has changed her life.

Manuel Noriega was saved in a Miami prison cell, and has been writing letters back to his former drug cartel partners in Panama, telling them of his salvation and urging them to receive Christ.

Lee Atwater was the most hated man in politics. Before he died of brain cancer, he met the risen Christ personally. He wrote to all his political enemies, asked their forgiveness, and explained the gospel to them.

Yesterday morning, as I tried to rewrite this sermon, I felt tired, even exhausted. As I thought about the week to come, I felt even more so. But then I realized that the risen Christ gives me all the power I need to fulfill his purpose for my life. And he did, and he will.

Are you suffering from a power outage, a need for strength and help? Only the risen Christ can give you the power you long for, and only because of Easter. On this Easter morning, why not ask him?

Conclusion

And one day we’ll have his purpose, and peace, and power forever. Not just for Easter, but for every day. We need him every day. And we can have him, every day.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who lives and believes in me will never die.” Never. If Jesus is in charge of your life, your future is secure. When you close your eyes for the last time here, you open them for the first time there. You step out of the car, into the house. And we are with God forever. A thousand years from now, you’ll be with him, and ten thousand years, and a billion years. But only because of Easter.

What a day that will be, when every day is Easter day.

R. G. Lee was, in my opinion, the most eloquent preacher Southern Baptists have ever known. In 1965 in Fort Worth, he concluded his sermon with these words:”One day as a young child, I asked my mother, ‘What was the happiest day of your life?’ I thought she might say something about the day one of her children was born, or the day my father asked her to marry him, or perhaps her wedding day. For a long moment she sat there and then looked across the room as if she could see for a great distance. And then she spoke.

“‘It was during the war between the North and South. The men were all away. My mother, your grandmother, had to do the work of a man in the fields. She eked out a living for us from the farm. One day a letter came saying that my father, your grandfather, Bennett, had been killed. That letter contained a great many kind words about his bravery and sacrifice. Mother did not cry much that day, but at night we could hear her sob in the dark of our small house.