Happy Easter! Christ is Victorious! Below you’ll find Drew’s Easter Sermon. Here is St. John Chrysostom’s Famous Paschal Homily, from which we read during the service. The text for the Easter Sermon was Luke 24:1-12.

Ignoring the Message

            If you hear bad news often enough, you’re liable to get used to it. And the longer you’ve been used to hearing bad news, the more likely you are to come to expect it. Whether it’s bouncing from doctor to doctor, trying to get an answer, or from bank to bank, trying to get a loan, or losing a friend, a mother, a child. One bad thing leads to another, and another, and another. The rain doesn’t come. Budget cutbacks. The bad news wears you down until you aren’t even sure what good news looks like. That’s what was happening to Jairus. His daughter had been sick. Now she was dying.

            When it first happened he was expecting it to turn around at any moment. She’ll get better the next day, or the next, he thought. But days stretch into weeks, and longer. And the more bad news he got, the more normal it became. His mind became filled with the dreams that would no longer come true, and the child who once caused his eyes to well up with joy now brought him to weep with despair.

            Which is why he wasn’t surprised when on his way to her with the healer, Jesus, a messenger came and told him she was dead. Bad news didn’t surprised him anymore. What did surprise him was Jesus. Jesus had obviously heard the conversation, but kept on walking anyway, as if the message didn’t matter. When Jairus caught up to him, he opened his mouth to tell Jesus he could go home, there was no need to bother him any further. But Jesus turned, and put his hand on his shoulder, and said to him “Do not fear, just believe.”

            When they arrived at the house they told him once again that the girl was dead. And once again Jesus ignored the message. He told the mourners that she was only asleep. He said the same thing when Lazarus died. The disciples would only later understand what he meant. The Lord has power over death such that to him death is no more permanent than sleep is permanent.[1] The weepers laughed that he would say such a thing. He sent them away, and it was only the parents, a few disciples, and a lifeless little girl. And he took her hand and said, “Little girl, get up.” And she did.

            We live in a world filled with messages of death. It’s been two thousand years, and what happened that Easter morning is still unbelievable. Easter represents the triumph of hope over despair. But too often despair is the message we receive.

            “God is dead,” the world tells us. Not always as succinctly as Nietzsche did, but over and over the world proclaims this to us. Religion is no longer necessary in the modern world. Church stuff is fine on Sunday morning, but it doesn’t mean anything in the real world. Prayer is nothing more than wishful thinking.

            That nothing we can do will matter. Can’t. Won’t. Never. Impossible. These are the messages of death that surround us. The child is dead, Jairus, there’s no need to bother the teacher any longer.

            When Jesus was confronted with a message of death and despair, he ignored the message. He brought Jairus along with him, and told him, “Do not fear, just believe.” He continued in the trust that the God who has power over all things, even death, would be with him. He refused to believe the message of despair, because he knew that God would have the final word. And because of that, he was not afraid.

            When it came to Jesus’ own death, the disciples would have done well to remember that day. When word came to them that Jesus has died (none of the twelve were brave enough to go out with Mary and the other women to see), they hid themselves in fear. They thought to themselves, this is it. It’s over. Some even went back to fishing, as if the last three years could be forgotten. But perhaps they wouldn’t have been so afraid had they remembered Jairus and his little girl. Perhaps they wouldn’t have been so quick to believe the message of death if they remembered how Jesus ignored the message and spoke words of life.

            Or perhaps they did remember, but simply couldn’t imagine that it could happen for them. Nevertheless, the first morning following the Sabbath, the third day after his death, some women went to his tomb with spices so that they might bury his body properly. They came expecting death. And they were confronted with life.

            The stone had been rolled away. Two men were there in dazzling robes. One of them said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Jesus had shown that God has power even over the grave. The Resurrection is God’s victory over sin and death. Easter is our celebration of the triumph of hope over despair.

            The challenge for us is to remember Easter morning in our Good Friday world. The challenge for us is to put our trust in God and ignore the messages that tell us there is no hope. When we are surrounded by bad news, and it threatens to overwhelm us, the challenge for us is to ignore the message and keep on going. Because if we keep on going, whether it is to Jairus’ house or the tomb or down into the valley of the shadow of death, we know that there is resurrection to come.

            Because Christ is risen, we can ignore the messages of death and despair. Because Christ is risen, we no longer have to dwell in sin, but can be born again to eternal life. Because Christ is risen, we can have hope in times of darkness. Because Christ is risen we know that death does not have the final word, but the final word is God’s and it is a word of life. And so we can ignore the message of death and listen for the words of life.

            “Little girl, get up.” he said. The tomb is empty. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”

[1] Buechner, Frederick. Whistling in the Dark; A Doubter’s Dictionary. San Francisco: HarpersSanFrancisco, 1988, p. 55.


About Drew

I'm the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Pitman, NJ. I love camping, rhetorical criticism, and classic movies. I'm passionate about God's love, and the messy, beautiful ways it shows itself in our communities every day.
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