EASTER, A – April 20,2014

SCRIPTURES: Ex. 14:10– 15:2; Col. 3:1-4; Matt. 28:1-10

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are onearth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. WhenChrist who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col.3:2-4)

 There’s amovie in the theatres right now titled, “Heaven Is For Real.” It’s the story ofColton Burpo, who in 2003 at four years old underwent emergency surgery for aburst appendix and nearly died. Months later he told his parents that duringthe surgery he was taken to heaven. At first they thought that the things hetold them about heaven were just the product of a child’s imagination. But, hebegan telling them things he could not have known, such as that he had a sisterwho had died through miscarriage. His parents had never told him about this,but he knew it because he met her in heaven. He told them many amazing things,and they came to believe that he actually had been in heaven. It confirmed forthem that heaven is for real!

 PerhapsI’ve piqued your interest in reading Colton’s story or seeing the movie,“Heaven Is For Real.” I hope you’re even more interested in Jesus’ story. It isthe most amazing, and the most essential, one of all! It is not the story of anear-death experience for Jesus, but the account of His actual death on across, and then of His rising to life again three days later. It may seem lessamazing than Colton’s story because it does not focus upon people in heaven butpeople on earth. It’s also been told countless times over the centuries, and weourselves have heard it many times. Even so, it’s not only an amazing story oflife; it’s the amazing story of life, the story that brings us toheaven. Colton Burpo knows this. You see, Jesus was the first one Colton saw inheaven. Jesus was the entrance into heaven. All the amazing things Colton saw andexperienced came from Him.

 Amazingis Jesus, who He is and what He accomplished! I’m sure you would all agree. Whyis it, then, that we so easily lose our sense of amazement in Him and His story?How easily and quickly we are distracted – to our great loss!

 Sometimesthe day to day things of life distract us. We have our jobs to do, bills to pay,the laundry to wash and fold, and meals to prepare. Even on special days likethis we have other things that can distract us from focusing on Jesus: egghunts; family gatherings and preparations for them; etc. They are themselvesgood enough reasons for the admonition of Paul: “If you have been raised withChrist, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the righthand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are onearth.” (Col. 3) Set your minds on Jesus Christ crucified and risen for you, lest other things driveHim out and replace Him! They will, if you do not put Christ and His wordsforemost in your mind and heart.

 For,believe me, other things, far more serious things, will draw near one day andthreaten you: things like the approach of death. It may seem a distant foe, oneyou don’t need to think about for a long time. But it is coming for you, assurely and inexorably as Pharaoh’s army drew near to the people of Israel. Andthe problem is, you don’t know when. And even when we are given clear warnings– weaknesses and pains and sicknesses, and the death of friends our own age –we still tend to avoid it. After all, we are strong today! We have powerfulmedicines. We have doctors who can do amazing surgeries, even removing andreplacing diseased organs! Still, death will come to us all. And when it does,it will threaten to overwhelm your heart and mind with fear and worry andsadness.

Ø  Even Mary Magdalenand the other Mary, who had been with Jesus and heard Him say time and againthat He would be put to death but then would rise again, forgot this when facedwith His death. On that first Easter Sunday they went to the tomb expecting tosee Him in it, lying there dead and still. They went to anoint a dead body!

Thanks be to God, they did not find Himthere, for He had risen, as He said. His eternal life had swallowed up death.

 This iswhere Jesus and the story of His life differs so drastically from every otherstory. This is why He is unique, different from every other so-called god whois worshiped. Jesus didn’t simply talk about heaven and the life to come. He is them. They are found in Him. He hasgained eternal life in heaven for us by His death and resurrection, and to haveit you must have Him. The night before He died Jesus told His disciples thisvery plainly. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” He said. “Noone comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) But, they alsohad His promise, “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, thatwhoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John3:16) Anyone and everyone can go to the Father through Him! The apostle Paulput it this way: “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear withhim in glory.”

 Four yearold Colton Burpo knew this. He was so convinced by his experience that heavenwas not only real but was dependent upon Jesus, a gift from Him alone, that hemade life difficult for his father, who was a pastor. One day, when his fatherwas getting ready to enter the church to conduct a funeral Service for a man hedidn’t know very well, Colton began asking very loudly, “Did the man have Jesusin his heart? He had to know Jesus orhe can’t get into heaven!” His mother and sister ended up walking him home sothat he wouldn’t be a disruption. Jesus is disrupting!

 But, whata disruption! Will you hold onto Him and not only allow Him, but ask Him todisrupt your life? For you to live with Him and have eternal life in heaven, Hemust do so.

 First, Hemust make you a sinner. That is what His death on the cross reveals. Now,perhaps you will say, “Well of course I’m a sinner. It’s obvious that we all dothings that are wrong.” Yes, it is. But, do you realize what Christ’scrucifixion says? It says that your sins are so bad, so evil and hated by Godthat you can’t do anything about them. You can’t make up for them. You can’tovercome them and become the person God wants you to be. You can never be goodenough to get into heaven. If you could do any of this the Son of God would nothave had to take flesh, live in obedience to God’s commandments for you, andthen take your sins on Himself and bear their punishment for you. To gainforgiveness of your sins and life with God in heaven, you must do what Mosestold the people of Israel: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvationof the Lord. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”Stand silent before the cross. If you have anything to say, let it be simply,“Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

But, donot be silent before the empty tomb of Jesus! “Sing to the Lord, for He hastriumphed gloriously!” foryou! For, just as Christ’s death was not for Himself but for you, soalso was His resurrection for you. You have been raised with Christ! Your lifeis now hidden with Christ in God! That is what this day is all about. It is notjust about a future life in a heaven that is real. Easter is about life withGod now; life lived in Him and with His presence to help and save, and with Hislove to comfort.

“Youhave died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” — because Jesus diedand rose for you, and because by His Word and in your Baptism He has joined youto Himself. Focus on this amazing story. Set your minds upon it and upon youramazing Savior. For then, “When Christ who is your life appears, thenyou also will appear with him in glory.” In the great name of Jesus,our Savior! Amen.