Speaker: Rev. Doug de Graffenried
Scripture Passage: Matthew 28:1-10

Sermon Transcript

Our lesson this morning comes from the 28th chapter of Matthew’s gospel. Hear these words:

After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb and suddenly there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descending from heaven came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him, the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the woman, do not be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He’s not here. He’s been raised, as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples he has been raised from the dead. And indeed, he is going ahead of you to Galilee. And there you will see him. This is my message for you. So, they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell the disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. Greetings. And they came to him. Took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. And there they will see me.

Friends, this is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

By my estimation, this is the 1,994th Easter. Now, I can’t be precise because I was raised and taught math in the State of Alabama. In the state of Alabama, you’re good for the first ten, and after that you have to take shoes off to go higher than that. There are too many variables for me to give you the precise date Jesus was born between six and four B.C. His ministry began approximately when he was 30 years old. According to Matthew Mark and Luke, his ministry was as short as six months. It’s the Gospel of John that gives us the three-year public ministry of Jesus. So those of you who do differential equations or calculus, I just gave you multiple variables. And if you come up with a new date, I’m likely to accept it. And next year I will announce your date to the congregation. Otherwise, this is 1994 for Easters because the church began to acknowledge that annual celebration. The very next year. The first recorded Easter service is in the year 234.

By the time the Council of Nicaea, confirmands, by the time the Council of Nicaea came along, that council mandated that the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox would be Easter. The first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. So according to the Council of Nicaea, Easter can fall between March 22nd and April 25th. That’s what Easter is. I just given you a brief history of Easter. But it’s also a time of family and celebrations. And I dare say many of you today are waiting for the sermon to be gone and over with so you can go home because you either have a family Easter egg hunt planned or you have some sumptuous, fancy family meal plan.


And I am listening intensely to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and to your stomach growling to know when I should draw this sermon to conclusions so you can get home and be with your family. It’s part of Easter.

Easter celebrates the same message. The tomb was empty because he is risen. Paul Tillich, the great theologian, said that people still come to church asking that question, Is it still true? And it is true. The tomb is empty because Christ is risen. Now, I cannot prove to you philosophically the resurrection of Jesus. I cannot prove to you ontologically the resurrection of Jesus. But I can say that your presence here today is proof to me that Christ has raised. the existence of the church proves to me that Christ was raised. what else would turn that band of cowards into those bold apostles that would take on the Roman Empire, conquer the Roman Empire, and take the Gospel of Jesus Christ out into the world? Would they do that for a myth? No. Would they do that for an agreed upon lie? Doubtful. Jesus was dead on Good Friday. And the Easter message is that on Easter Sunday, the ladies went to the tomb. The tomb was empty because Christ was and is raised from the dead. That’s what Easter, theologically, means.

But what does it mean to you and me today? What is this resurrection and how is it pragmatic in my life? I want to say three things about the resurrection and what it means. First thing I believe is the resurrection means that my life is not futile. My life and your life is not futile. Our culture today has issued a wager with the church and with genteel society. And the wager is this: the culture bets that God is not necessary for life, for wisdom, and for meaning. And if God is not necessary, for life, for wisdom and meaning God’s agency is not necessary. Therefore, you just don’t need to worry about God. You don’t need to worry about the church. You don’t need to worry about the Bible. All that old fashion come and be happy. We have the keys to happiness at Amazon. We have the keys to happiness in with whatever you want to watch and whatever you need. We’ve got it. You don’t need that Jesus stuff. You don’t need that God stuff. And every day, in a thousand different ways, our culture chips away at your need for God. And if you give in to it, you find that living is a futile, meaningless activity.

There was another guy way back when. The writer of Ecclesiastes is Solomon the King. This is what Ecclesiastes said about living without God. I said to myself, come now. I’ll make a test of pleasure. Enjoy yourself. But again, this was also vanity. I said, of laughter, It’s mad and of pleasure. What use is it? I search with my mind how to cheer my body with wine. My mind still guiding me with wisdom and how to lead hold on folly until I might see what was good for mortals to do under heaven During the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses, planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks and planted them and all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools with which to water the forest of growing trees. I gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasures of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women and the delights of the flesh. But it was all vanity. It was all futile. The resurrection of Jesus Christ says that your life and my life is not futile. Jesus told a story. One day a man went out to sow seeds, and he was just broadcasting seed the way they did. And some of the seed fell on the shallow ground and it sprang up quickly. But because the ground was shallow, the sun beat down on it and the plant died. Some seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked the plant. Some seed fell on the hard path and the birds came and ate the seed. But Jesus said some seed fell in the deep, fertile ground and grew up and the seed brought forth fruit. Some tenfold, some 100-fold, some a thousand-fold. And we hear that parable, and we wonder what kind of dirt we are when in fact, what we need to hear is Jesus is calling us to scatter seeds. And part of our life is sowing seeds, sowing the seeds of love and compassion, sowing the seeds of mercy and grace, sowing the seeds of encouragement in other people’s lives. And some of us don’t live long enough to see all those seeds come to fruition. Some of the seeds we planted are going to take years beyond our lives till they grow in full fruit and full flower. You won’t see everything you’ve done in life come to fruition. But it doesn’t mean your life is futile. Keep sowing the seeds, Jesus said. Keep doing the things I’ve asked you to do. Live with grace and dignity and love and charity. Live With open hearts and open arms. Accepting the stranger. live with grace. And those seeds you’re planting and those prayers, you’re praying that look like they’re going unanswered. They’re not futile. God just might have a plan beyond your lifetime for them. Jesus said it a seed abides alone, but when it falls to the ground and dies, it bears much fruit. And that’s what he did in his life by giving his life to us. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s seal on the mission and Ministry of Christ. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God telling history and us that his words and his works were true. The resurrection of Jesus Christ says that your life is not futile. Your life is not futile.

It says that your failures are not fatal. Your failures are not fatal. So, it’s Easter Sunday, and I’m going to tell you something you may not know. It’s a good time to confess your sins on Easter Sunday. Are you ready? You may not know this about me, but I’m a sinner. Yes, I’m a sinner. Tony Compollo said it, and I quote Tony Compollo, if you knew what kind of sinner I was, you wouldn’t listen to me preach. And if I knew what kind of sinner you were, I wouldn’t preach to you. We’re sinners. I have failed.

my papa. My maternal grandfather was a policeman. My paternal grandfather was a fireman. They both had sirens on their vehicles. It was cool. I am eighteen months older than my brother, Bubba. Guess where my character Bubba comes from? Yes. My baby brother. And one of the gifts I developed early in the life, early in my life, was raiding the refrigerator. I became poor efficient at raiding the refrigerator. in the early 1960s. You would know this because some of you weren’t around then.


In the early 1960s, Schlitz beer came in a quart bottle. That’s one of the ways you could buy Schlitz. Beer And one Saturday morning, I woke up my baby brother Bubba. I said, come on, let’s go sit out on the front porch. I’ve got some my daddy’s beer. And I had to get a bottle opener to open the Schlitz beer. So, there we are. Picture this picture this sight. A three-year-old and an 18-month-old sitting on the front porch drinking a beer together. It was a manly adventure. Didn’t like beer then. Don’t like beer now. But we were working that beer over because that’s what Dad did. When along comes Papa in his police car. what a proud moment it must have been for my grandfather, the policeman. His two very young grandchildren on the front porch in front of God and the neighborhood drinking Schlitz beer. I don’t know what Papa said to my dad, but there never was beer in that house again. That’s been the trajectory of my life, y’all. I did that at Three. I can tell you what doesn’t work in life because I’ve tried it. I can tell you how sin diminishes you as a human being. How sin separate you from your relationship to God, how sin grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit. But my failures are not fatal.

Simon Peter is the story of that. We all love Simon Peter because he’s so much like us. Jesus is on his way to sensory of Philippi, and he turns and asks the disciples, who do people say that I am? And the disciples start giving him the Gallup opinions. Well, some say you’re Elijah, some say you’re John the Baptist. Some say you’re another one of the prophets resurrected. And Jesus said, but who do you say I am? And it’s Simon Peter that says, You’re the Christ the son of the living God. And Jesus said, Blessed are you. Simon Bar Jonah for flesh and blood is not revealed to Steve, but by Father in heaven. And I tell you, your Peter upon this rock, I’ll build my church. And Peter throws his chest out. I got that right. Look at me. I got the answer right. And Jesus goes on and says that the son of man is going to Jerusalem, and he’s going to suffer and die. And Simon, Peter’s so busy being right. He says, Wait a minute, that’s wrong. Jesus. And he pulls Jesus aside. The says Your theology is messed up, Lord. You may be the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. And Jesus says, What to Peter? get behind me, Satan. Simon Peter got it wrong. Or that night there on the Sea of Galilee, a storm comes up. Jesus comes walking to them on the water. And Simon, Peter, the fisherman, he’s terrified of the water and the waves Jesus, can I come to you? Come on, Simon. Come on and walk with me on the water. And Simon, Peter gets out of the boat. Don’t ever forget that. Simon Peter got out of that boat. The problem with the church is we never get out of the boat. We spend all our time in the boat watching the storm. Simon Peter got out of the boat, took a couple of steps turned back to see if the other apostles were looking at him at chest out. Look at me. I’m walking on the water, and he started seeing the wind and the waves. And he sank. Simon Peter telling Jesus. I will never deny you And Jesus telling him before the cock crows. You will deny me three times. And he did.

So, when you read the resurrection stories of Jesus and the Gospel, pay attention to Simon. Peter and how Peter is dealt with in the stories. Because it’s John that will have Peter after the resurrection say to the disciples, it’s time to go fishing. And they’ve fished all night and had a lousy catch. And the sun’s rising in the morning. And they look out on the bank, and they see a figure and he’s barbeque, and fish and they recognize him. It’s Jesus. And they flock to him. He’s alive. And Jesus feeds them, and they have this wonderful heavenly fellowship. And Simon Peter’s kind of hanging around the back because he knew he knew what he’d done. And finally, Jesus says to Simon, Let’s go for a walk. And so, Jesus and Simon Peter are walking down the beach alone. And Jesus turns to Simon and says, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter hangs his head, yes, Lord, you know I love you. Jesus says, Feed my sheep. They walk in silence A few more steps. Jesus said, Peter, do you love me? Yes, Lord. You know all things; you know I love you. Tend my little lambs. They walk further. One more time. The third time, Jesus asks Peter Simon, Peter. Do you really love me? Peter says, Lord, you know all things you know I love you. Tend my sheep. And Simon Peter becomes the leader of the Band of Apostles. And Simon Peter becomes the one that takes the gospel of Jesus Christ first to the Gentiles. It’s Simon Peter that leads the church in this new adventure that becomes what you and I know today as the church. Simon Peter teaches us that our failures are not fatal because the resurrection, our life is not futile. Our failures are not fatal. And our death is not final.

There was one that had failed. He was that thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus. Jesus hung between two malefactors, and this one thief looked at Jesus and said, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, today, you will be with me in paradise. There he is right now, an individual walking the streets of heaven who knows more about God’s grace and more about God’s love than you and I can even fathom and imagine. He was a man who in the end had nothing. nothing but a prayer. And a prayer was all it took. He couldn’t join the church. He couldn’t be baptized. He couldn’t fill out a commitment card for service in the church. He couldn’t do anything religious. He called on the name of Jesus, and Jesus gave him life and gave him life Eternal. And that’s all you and I have to do, is call on the name of Jesus. That’s what sustains us through this life. That’s what gets us into heaven. That’s what continues our journey into glorifying grace. It’s the name of Jesus that means our life isn’t futile. It’s the name of Jesus. It means our failures aren’t fatal and it’s the name of Jesus That means our death is not final.

You and I live in a good Friday world. We live in a tough place where it’s rough to live out there. There is death there is anger, there is craziness, there is insanity. There is wars and rumors of wars. There’s every horror you can imagine. It’s a good Friday world. But we have an Easter faith, that God has overcome the world. That in Christ there is victory in Christ, there is new life and in Christ because that tomb was empty.

He’s showing us what we can look for, our resurrection our resurrection where you and I are raised from the dead. where you and I go to physically live. where you and I get that new start and that new beginning in a place called Heaven. in a place called home.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ says life is futile, mistakes aren’t fatal, and death isn’t final. Thanks be to God. Would you stand and pray with me?


God help us to live as people who are already occupying eternity. As people who, although our address says we’re in a Good Friday world, we inhabit the halls of heaven. We thank you, God, for this Sunday, where we’re reminded that the tomb was empty because he was and is risen.