Welcome to the sunrise service! You are the chosen frozen few, and we’re glad to see you all here.
As I was preparing for today, I did a little research into where sunrise services started. I figured they started from Jesus’ day, but found that modern Sunrise Services started only 300 years ago or so, by a group of Moravians – that’s a Church denomination, by the way, not a country.
The story goes that a small group of young people decided amongst themselves to wake up early for Easter Sunday and go and worship God together before the sun rose. They met outside their Church and began to spend time singing worship songs, praying, and I presume they quoted Scripture rather than read it because they didn’t have cellphones to light their pages with back in those days.
The story goes on to say that they were profoundly moved when the sun began to rise. They were looking down into the valleys, and over at the hills across from them; and as the sun inched up they saw the light begin to chase the darkness away.
And that’s exactly what Jesus’ resurrection did. While Jesus was on the cross a profound darkness settled on the land, but even when the sun came out again and presumably was up the whole of Saturday, there was a great sense of darkness for mankind.
No-one sitting here today came here by accident, every one of you know what it is that we’re celebrating. The Bible tells us that Jesus, the Saviour of the World, was crucified – He was put to death – and buried. But on the first day of the week – that’s Sunday by the way – Jesus rose again from the dead and walked out of the tomb.
Early in the morning, while it was still dark, some of His disciples were coming to take care of His body because they hadn’t had time to do it when He was first buried. But by the time they got there, Jesus had already left the tomb. The stone that blocked the entrance to the grave had been rolled away, and the tomb was empty.
That’s why we celebrate Easter Sunday: We celebrate that our Saviour has risen from the dead, and risen to die no more. Lazarus rose and died again, but Jesus rose and is still alive today!
Now it’s important to remember why He was on this journey of death and resurrection. He died to take on Himself the punishment that by rights should have been mine.
Since the time of Adam, man was in utter sin-darkness. The only way to come into the light was through perfect sacrifices done with unblemished animals on the right days and in the right ways and not to be blemished yourself when you performed the duties. So there was no light. Hopeless – it was all hopeless.
The Bible describes us as sheep that have gone astray, each of us turning to our own way. And our own iniquity, our sin, has purchased for us death, righteous punishment.
But Jesus took that punishment, He stood in my place! He died the death I was supposed to die. But that’s not the end of the story.
I love what Peter says in Acts 3:15: “You killed the author of life, but [Praise God] God raised him from the dead.”
Yes, Jesus, the Saviour of the World didn’t stay dead. But early one morning he rose from the grave. I like to picture Jesus walking out of the grave with a triumphant grin on His face.
When the sun rose that first resurrection Sunday it was shining not only on a new world, but on a new reality. God had made a New Covenant with the children of Adam – that’s all of us – that if we would repent of our sins and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, we will not suffer the punishment that has been put on Jesus instead.
It’s a whole new ball-game, and it’s been being played since Jesus rose from the dead. It’s a game that’s in our favour, if we would just turn to Him and trust Him. So it’s something to celebrate! It’s something to get excited about!
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
Do you sense it this morning? This is a day of celebration. It’s a day of triumph; it doesn’t matter how you felt when you woke up this morning. This is a day of victory, a day of conquest.
This is a day that’s bigger than your birthday; it’s bigger than Christmas; it’s bigger than New Years. It’s a day worth really celebrating.
This is the day that marks the liberation of our souls from eternal torment. This day means freedom from slavery, it means forgiveness of sins, it means a welcome invitation into the loving arms of God forever. This is a day to get excited about!
Maybe you’ve grown accustomed to Easter weekends, maybe you’ve lost the plot along the way, maybe you’ve become overly familiar with the annual traditions. But now’s the time to break out of that mould. Now’s the time to open your eyes again, look around and see what today means.
What did Jesus’ resurrection accomplish for you and for me? There’s two things I want to highlight in this short message:
IT MEANS THAT WE CAN SPEAK TO GOD
God declared to Adam and Eve that the punishment of their sin would be death. Sure, physical death was a part of that, but death of relationship between God and humans was the real kicker! We were destined to be separated from His loving company for all eternity.
Then God chose a people for His own self, and if you read through the first five books of the Bible you’ll see a hierarchy begin to develop. God set it up this way. If a wife wanted to reach God, she would have to go to her husband. Her husband would have to go to a Levite. The Levite would go to a priest. The priest would go to the High-priest, and the high-priest would minister to God on their behalf.
This hierarchy was so important. During the days when they were in the desert they had a special camping pattern. In the centre would be the tent of meeting, the tabernacle. Around the tabernacle would camp the priests, who would protect the Levites from God’s wrath by their holy presence. Around the priests would camp the Levites, the tribe God chose to be helpers to the priests. They would be a further buffer, so that the anger of God wouldn’t overflow and kill the Israelites. And then the rest of the tribes would camp around the Levites, and they were God’s chosen people.
When they were to pack up the Tabernacle, the Levites (God’s chosen tribe) weren’t even allowed to touch the things inside the Tabernacle. The priest would go in, cover all the holy things with layers and layers of cloth, and then the Levites could go in and carry them.
Even in the priesthood, the chosen of the chosen of the chosen of the chosen people, even in the priesthood there was only one man – the high-priest – who could go into the Holy of holies, the most holy place that contained the Ark of the covenant behind the great veil within the Tabernacle, and then only once a year. You just couldn’t have a normal Israelite go in and speak to God. He would have died right there or been taken out and stoned!
But you know what happened when Jesus was crucified. The Bible tells us that that great veil that separated God’s wrath from people’s sin was torn in two to show that the relationship had been restored permanently. God’s wrath had been poured out on Jesus and in a very real sense God was inviting mankind to enter into personal relationship with Him again.
This is why the Bible says that we can enter in. Listen to Hebrews 10:19-22: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
So I want you to know that Jesus’ resurrection means that we can speak with God.
It gives us hope that we too will be raised
IT MEANS THAT WE CAN WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE.
One of my favourite verses about the resurrection of Jesus Christ comes from Romans 6. Paul has just said that the more we sin, the more God’s grace is poured out to cover that sin. Therefore, for God’s children, our sin can’t out-pace God’s grace.
But this leaves a nagging question for Paul’s listeners, and Paul answers it. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” That’s why I said on Friday that those who share His affliction will also share His satisfaction. Those who belong to Jesus have been baptized into his death. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
There was a marked difference between the Jesus that lay in the tomb and the Jesus that walked out of the tomb. Jesus’ body lay in the tomb for those days, and it just lay there dead. But when He was resurrected His new body was able to do things that normal bodies couldn’t: He was able to walk into locked rooms, appear out of nowhere, and ascend into heaven.
Having given our lives to Jesus, our lives are changed too. We’re able to do things that ‘normal people’ can’t. No, you can’t walk through walls as a Christian. Some of you may have walked into a glass door thinking you’d go right through into the garden but finding your way blocked by an invisible shield, and instead of getting into the garden you get a bloody nose. You can’t walk through walls, or teleport or fly; but that’s not the change I’m talking about.
Having come to Jesus, you’re able to do things that others can’t. You have the supernatural ability to love people that others can’t; you have the supernatural ability to commune with the God of the universe; you have the supernatural ability to experience the moving of the Holy Spirit; the supernatural ability to understand God’s Scriptures; the supernatural ability to forgive those who hurt you; the supernatural ability to put others ahead of yourself; the supernatural ability to wake up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning and come to Church.
Okay, not all of these are unique to those born again, but some of them are.
We’ve been given a new life to live. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” “Put off, therefore, your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22, 24).
I love this word to the Colossians: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Jesus].”
So you are no longer bound to obey your old sinful natures. Sure, you can choose to sin if you want, but you don’t have to and it’s much better for you if you don’t. You are no longer bound to obey your old sinful natures, you’re no longer bound to obey the devil. Before, when the devil barked you hopped to it; but now the devil can bark and scream and whine and gripe and command and beg all he likes but God has disarmed him and put him to open shame. Sure, you can choose to listen to him if you want, but you don’t have to and it’s much better for you if you don’t.
I love that God has given us newness of life to walk in. You’re free, amen? From this day forward, if you are a child of God, you are free to walk free, you are free to dance, you’re free to clap your hands and shout hallelujah. You’re free to do as your new heart desires!
These are the wonderful things the Lord Jesus has done for us – and I’ve highlighted just two! I really want to encourage you to press in to find out more of what the resurrection means for you and for all those who choose Him to be theirs. Jesus’ death and resurrection happened two thousand years ago, but it changes your eternity. And no-one can stop what He’s doing in your life.
Just to close, I love the quote by Dr S. M. Lockridge, looking at who Jesus is: “The Pharisees couldn’t stand him, but they found out they couldn’t stop him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in him; Herod couldn’t kill him; death couldn’t handle him; and the grave couldn’t hold him. That’s my king!” Is He your King? Then celebrate that with me today!