Dear Immanuel Friends: Happy Easter!
Today, it is my joy to greet you on Easter! I offer you a unique Easter sermon, written with me and Father Andrew Canale, a Jesuit priest in the Roman Catholic Church. It is written from the view point of one who hung with Jesus on the Hill of Golgatha. Here it is for you to read and hopefully be inspired by the words!
- Rev. Jim
"An Eye Witness Account of the Resurrection of Jesus"
I am Dysmas, I am often called the ‘good thief’, who hung with Jesus on the cross on the hill called Calvary. I am paying for my crimes. He was innocent. He loved and did only good with His life. I robbed and stole my way through life.
Now I find myself in a dark cave; cold, musty, and threatening! I don’t know how I got here, except I remember hearing the jeers and laughter as I felt the pressure of my weight on my hands that hang above me. Jesus, who hung on the cross on my right, has spoken to me in His suffering and has said I am forgiven of my sins and I will be with Him in Paradise.
In the darkness, I could sense death and I was horrified to think that I remained conscious! Why was I here? I felt I was about to know more than I could bear! Had I died? Do I wait as did Lazarus, trapped in my death, longing for release, longing for an impossible rescue?
Of course I do! Please find me! Bring me to life! Resurrect me! My eyes begin to adjust to the dark. I see but I don’t want to see! I see on the slab dressed in funeral gown my battered, torn, dead Savior! There is no hope of salvation now! There is only complete death in this trapped eternity with my dead Savior! How can I ever survive this death, God? Why have You forsaken me?
I bend over my dead Savior. Dear brother, Jesus, what have they done to You? You are so torn, ripped, sore. And what have You had to bear, I cannot begin to bear for You!
Oh Jesus, forgive the Pharisee in me, the proud saint, the righteous man. Forgive the Sadducee in me, who now feels victorious in Your death and Your lack of resurrection. I am not he, I am not the Sadducee. But I cannot deny him.
Oh God, it is unfair that You have promised a Savior and then killed Him. I would spit at You for Your miserable humor! But I am afraid, God, too afraid, too alone to spit, for the spit lands hollow and echoes in this dark prison.
Oh, just let me die! Let my consciousness perish, and let all knowledge of this parish with me for I cannot stand this injustice, this death, this horror! Let all plans for me be forgotten, let me no longer exist. For I am not big enough to accept my Savior’s death. Creation has become a horrid joke!
Dear Jesus, dear brother, how I love You, though I am afraid! How I long for You to live! How I feel that I should die in Your place! Oh please, rise, rise, make the universe make sense! Oh Jesus! Forgive my taunts, my laughter at Your magic, my disdain for orthodoxy!
I am here where I don’t want to be…in the tomb of my Savior. Transform me so that I can see You live! I need You. I want You to live! Come alive as You are claimed to live! Come into my dead soul. Give it life and make it breathe again! Show it the possibility of glory! And accept my humble, feeble promise that I will be as open as I can, trying not to be possessed by the negative forces that tell me such a miracle cannot happen.
It is very quiet. I sit on the floor of the cave staring at Him. An eternity of death passes. Suddenly I am confronted with a Power I cannot explain! Suddenly there is an all-encompassing point of light which is everywhere and nowhere. Suddenly Jesus moves! I am totally, utterly afraid!
I want to flee, but I cannot. I pray, “God, Your will be done! Make Him rise! Let me die if it is Your will but grant me one glimpse of Him in His restored life so that I may die peacefully, so that in eternity I will have this experience and knowledge to sustain me!”
Suddenly there is a pulling upward, that pulls me out of myself and Jesus off the slab. He is filled with radiance and surrounded by light!
Jesus, I am here with You. I have witnessed that which I should not! Forgive my transgressing! I could not help it. And seeing You dead caused me to pray that You would die!
He stares at me, His eyes knowing me. I would run if there was a place to go. But such a resurrected person could always find me! He stands and He comes to me and He speaks, “Get up, my son. Accept what you have witnessed; the conquering of gravity.”
I am so afraid, my legs won’t hold me. I try to stand up but I cannot. His torn right hand reaches down to me. He grabs my shoulders and lifts me up, as easily as He would a baby. And then I am looking into His eyes. There is no judgement there, only love. He opens His arms to me and says, “Come, let me hold you.”
“How unworthy I am. I cannot let You hold me!”
“You are so like Peter. So set in your ways, but I love you both, you stubborn goats! He would not let me wash his feet. You know my answer. Come.”
He puts His arms around me and strokes my head, my hair, my back. I feel all my fears dissolving away. And then I put my arms around Him and the dam bursts and I weep into His chest. “Oh, I am so glad You live again, Jesus!”
“And I am glad you have faced resurrection. It happens once and forever in the hearts of those in pain who seek love. You have found me. I am here, alive in the center of your very being! I am with you always. There is no need for you to ever die again. You now have New Birth from above. This cave of my death is the cave of your second birth. I am here. You now begin again the journey of life but this time, not alone. Let us go forth!”
Together we pushed the enormous stone covering the entrance and beautiful sunlight rushes over us. There, outside the tomb, a crying woman looks at us and when she sees Jesus, she shrieks and falls to the ground. He pulls her to her feet as He did me, and holds her close. He speaks her name softly, “Mary”.
Then the three of us go arm in arm down the road to tell the others the good news!
CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
Enjoy Easter Sunday worship music by church organist David Rasmussen and church choir director Bill Horn.
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
The Strife is O'er - Pilgrim Hymnal 181 (NCH 242)
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today - Pilgrim Hymnal 182 (NCH 233)
Jesus Christ is Risen Today - Pilgrim Hymnal 187 (NCH 240)