Turn to Jesus for Life!

April 22, 2017

Pastor Gunnar Ledermann

Brenda loves life. She has a great job, is married and has three children. She has two boys and a girl. Her youngest is a smart, hardworking high school student athlete. He isn’t sure what he wants to do when he graduates, but he loves basketball. Her middle child is in college and following in her mom’s footsteps. Brenda’s daughter wants to go into the medical field and pursue pediatric neurology. Her oldest was a smart, athletic and adventurous boy. He was all of those things until he crashed his snowmobile two winters ago and died.

Brenda loves life, but she hates death. When she got the news that her son was gone, it changed her life. Someone she loved was gone and she would never see him again. The weight of that loss and separation stuck with her. I first met Brenda nine months after her son had died. Her emotions were still raw when she spoke about him and her job as a nurse in the ICU wasn’t helping. She was constantly reminded by the death of her son as the critically injured were wheeled in and when they could not save them, she felt the loss as if she were losing her son over and over again.

The women in our gospel lesson from Luke 24 knew what it felt like to lose someone they love over and over again. These women were the ones who had followed Jesus throughout his ministry. They cared for his needs and listened to his teachings. All of their hope for forgiveness and peace in this world was wrapped up in Jesus. They had left everything to follow him, but when he was arrested, they lost him. When Jesus was put on trial and sentenced to death, they lost him. When Jesus died on the cross, they lost him. Finally, they hoped to have some closure from losing Jesus by going to the tomb to properly prepare his body with spices, but when they arrived his body was gone, they lost him again.

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. The two angels scared the women and they fell to their feet for fear of their lives. “but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?

You and I would have been looking for Jesus’ body in the tomb that day too. If even his most devout followers did not realize he was going to rise from the dead, then surely you and I would have gone to the tomb expecting to see Jesus’ lifeless. No one expected Jesus to survive what he had endured. No one could survive being beaten, crucified and buried.

But you already know the ending to this story, you and I know that Jesus was not in the tomb because he came back to life. You know that Easter is all about the resurrection, but what good is the resurrection to us? We are told that the same power that brought Jesus back from the dead, will also bring us back from the dead, but you and I aren’t dead, last I checked.

Jesus’ resurrection miracle is incredible, but I fail to see what good it is doing for me today. If I can’t be with Jesus until I die, then what good is the resurrection for the problems while I’m alive? Resurrection isn’t a cream I can put on my scraped knee, resurrection isn’t a bottle of something I can drink to help me get through my busy schedule, it isn’t a pill I can take to relieve my anxiety or depression and it isn’t a credit card I can use to pay my bills or take my family on a vacation.

If Jesus really cares about me he would have done something that actually helps me right now. As I search for something to help me solve the problems in my life, I am constantly bombarded with tweets, posts and pins attempting to make my life better, but most of them are useless. Most of the things I read on my phone or Facebook feed, don’t really solve our problems. “Mix these ingredients together and drink this shake each morning if you want to lose weight and live a healthier life. Go out and find what makes you happy. You don’t know how strong you are until you really have to push yourself. Your true friends will never let you down.”

Apparently, if I follow these steps everything will get better, but none of these really work. The reason we are constantly bombarded with all of these sayings is because we don’t have the answer and we aren’t satisfied with our lives. We are all looking for that magical fix that will finally solve all of our problems. Or maybe we have found something that works, but as time goes on it gets harder and harder to stick to that plan or mantra or quote.

When we are honest with ourselves we have to admit we just want something that works. We need something that goes beyond what we have any control over. We need something that doesn’t depend on us because we seem to fail at whatever we are supposed to be doing to makes life worth living. We need something that does more than just keeps us going until we die.

Jesus’ resurrection is what you are searching for, it will solve all of your problems because it goes beyond this life. Jesus resurrection is the impossible, a life that never ends. Jesus’ resurrection is a life that cannot be overcome, even by death. Jesus’ resurrection is the answer to Brenda’s hatred for death.

I saw Brenda again just a few weeks ago. She had moved from working in the ICU to another part of the hospital. She said, she wanted to keep working as a nurse, but couldn’t take being the ICU anymore. I could see why, when I first met Brenda, she had a cheerful glow about her, but now it was clear that the loss of her son had changed her. Two years had passed since she had seen her son face to face or held him in her arms. The wound to her heart wasn’t fresh, but the hole it left was clear and empty.

When the women went to Jesus’ tomb, their wounded hearts were still fresh. The loss of Jesus hung in the air around them. Nothing anyone could say, no man-made mantra or heart felt tweet would help them. Only seeing Jesus again would solve their problem and sooth their broken hearts.

Then the angel said to them,

“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.

Instantly, the resurrection had power in their lives. Now that they had experienced the death of someone they loved, they realized the impact of the resurrection. The women were speechless, but it wasn’t only the tremendous miracle of Jesus’ coming back to life. It was the fact that he told them this was going to happen. The fact that Jesus knew what was coming changes who he is. He was not simply a great teacher or philosopher.

If Jesus would have come into this world today, he would not be praised for his series of posts and pins. His enduring power is not that fact that he told people to be nice to one another. If the only impact Jesus had on this world was to motivate some people to be their best self, then he is no better than a thirteen-year-old with a cell phone reposting pictures of sunsets off google images with the words be true to yourself imposed on it.

Jesus’ resurrection is the answer for your life right now because his words are backed up by actions. When Jesus told his followers that “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” He didn’t say it because it sounded cool to talk about coming back from the dead. He said it because he was going to do it.

Jesus came to this world to suffer and die because that is what all of us do. All of us live in this world for a while, then we die. We die for the same reason we experience hardships in this world because of sin. Sin is evil, it is doing something that is bad. When someone does something bad, they deserve punishment. God tells us that the punishment he demands for sin is death. Death means separation from the living and death in sin means separation from God, but God doesn’t want us to be separated from him. God loves us, so he sent Jesus into this world to rescue us.

Jesus had to come into this world to suffer and die, but he didn’t do anything bad, he wasn’t sinful. Instead, he lived a perfect life, so he didn’t deserve to die. Because he didn’t deserve to die, he died as a sacrifice. He made a trade, one perfect life of the Son of God for all the sinful lives of mankind. That was the plan God revealed in his Word from the beginning and that is what Jesus did. God said that he would punish Jesus for our sins, then treat us as if we had lived Jesus’ perfect life. Credited with Jesus’ perfect life, we now appear good before God and look forward to resurrection and life.

Brenda needs to hear this message. This is the only message that is stronger than the pain that death causes. Jesus’ resurrection stopped the tears of the women. He showed them that they hadn’t lost him, but he had won them the victory over death. Jesus’ resurrection meant that those women would someday be resurrected and reunited to live with Jesus forever in heaven.

We cannot live in this world without Jesus. We cannot live without him in our lives or we are merely surviving until we die. When we remain connected to God’s Word, then we see what Jesus’ resurrection has done for us. Jesus has freed us from finding our only hope for life in this world. Jesus frees us from our sins and death so that we can live in this world at peace knowing that when we face death, it is not the end. Jesus told us that he would rise from the dead and so will you. This Easter we have joy as we Turn to Jesus for Resurrection and Life. Amen.

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