I love that little video we just played. And I love it because the music and the graphics in that little video get you excited about what happened on the first Easter Sunday. But before we can talk about what happened on the first Easter Sunday, we need to take a step back and talk about what happened on the day we, in the church, call Good Friday.
This is how the book of Mark, or Mark’s biography of Jesus, tells the story of Good Friday. Mark writes:
22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull...24 They crucified him. They divided up his clothes, drawing lots for them to determine who would take what. 25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The notice of the formal charge against him was written, “The king of the Jews.” 27 They crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left.
29 People walking by insulted him, shaking their heads and saying, “Ha! So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? 30 Save yourself and come down from that cross!”
31 In the same way, the chief priests were making fun of him among themselves, together with the legal experts. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross. Then we’ll see and believe.” Even those who had been crucified with Jesus insulted him.
33 From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. 34 At three, Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”
35 After hearing him, some standing there said, “Look! He’s calling Elijah!” 36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 But Jesus let out a loud cry and died.
Mark 15:22, 24-37 (Common English Bible)
These verses remind us of everything that happened on Good Friday. On that Friday, Jesus was betrayed when one of his own followers turned him over to the powers that be. On that Friday, Jesus stood alone before his accusers because all of his closest friends had run away. On that Friday, Jesus was rejected by the crowd that once cheered him. On that Friday, Jesus was tortured and humiliated. On that Friday, Jesus was forced to carry his cross through the city of Jerusalem while the people he passed mocked him and spit in his face. On that Friday, Jesus’ life was reduced to a pile of clothes that his guards gambled to obtain. On that Friday, Jesus hung on the cross and died.
And even though it’s been almost 2,000 years since that Friday, it often feels like the world hasn’t changed that much. It’s been almost 2,000 years since Judas turned his back on Jesus, but we still know what it’s like to be betrayed. It’s been almost 2,000 years since all of Jesus’s disciples fled, but we still know what it’s like to feel alone in this world. It’s been almost 2,000 years since a crowd called for Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus, but we still know what it’s like to be rejected. It’s been almost 2,000 years since Roman soldiers dressed Jesus up in a purple robe, but we still know what it’s like to be humiliated. It’s been almost 2,000 years since carried his cross as he walked past a hostile crowd, but we still know what it’s like to be mocked. It’s been almost 2,000 years since Jesus died on the cross, but we still know what it’s like to lose people that we love.
As we look back on Good Friday it’s not hard to see that everything that is wrong with our world has been wrong for a long, long time. But, in one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever heard a preacher tell, we’re reminded that all that is wrong with this world won't always be wrong with the world.
All that is wrong with this world won't always be wrong with the world.
So let me pause and share with you this story, told by Tony Campolo – a well-known preacher, teacher, and author – about what happened one Good Friday at his church. As Tony tells it:
One Good Friday there were seven of us preaching back to back.
That's right, seven pastors preaching back to back...and you think it's hard to make it through one of my sermons.
When it was my turn to preach, I rolled into high gear, and I want to tell you, I was good. The more I preached, the more the people in that congregation turned on, and the more they turned on, the better I got. I got better and better and better. I got so good that I wanted to take notes on me! At the end of my message, the congregation broke loose. I was absolutely thrilled to hear the hallelujahs and their cries of joy. I sat down next to my pastor and he looked at me with a smile. He reached down with his hand and squeezed my knee. “You did all right!” he said.
I turned to him and asked, “Pastor, are you going to be able to top that?”
The old man smiled at me and said, “Son, you just sit back, 'cause this old man is going to do you in!”
I didn't figure that anybody could have done me in that day. I had been so good. But the old guy got up, and I have to admit, he did me in – with one line. For an hour and a half, he preached one line over and over again. For an hour and a half, he stood that crowd on its ear with just one line: “It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!”
It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!
That statement may not blow you away, but you should have heard him do it. He started his sermon real softly by saying, “It was Friday; it was Friday and my Jesus was dead on the tree. But that was Friday, and Sunday's coming!”
One of the deacons yelled, “Preach, brother! Preach!” It was all the encouragement he needed. He came louder as he said, “It was Friday and Mary was cryin' her eyes out. The disciples were runnin' in every direction, like sheep without a shepherd. But that was Friday, and Sunday's coming!” People in the congregation were beginning to pick up the message. Women were waving their hands in the air and calling softly, “Well, well.” Some of the men were yelling, “Keep going! Keep going!”
The preacher kept going. He picked up the volume still more and shouted, “It was Friday. The cynics were lookin' at the world and sayin', 'As things have been so they shall be. You can't change anything in this world; you can't change anything.' But those cynics didn't know that it was only Friday. Sunday's coming!”
“It was Friday! And on Friday, those forces that oppress the poor and make the poor to suffer were in control. But that was Friday! Sunday's coming!
“It was Friday, and on Friday Pilate thought he had washed his hands of a lot of trouble. The Pharisees were struttin' around, laughin' and pokin' each other in the ribs. They thought they were back in charge of things, but they didn't know it was only Friday! Sunday's coming!”
He worked that one phrase for a half-hour, then an hour, then an hour and a quarter, then an hour and a half. Over and over he came at us, “It's Friday, but Sunday's coming! It's Friday, but Sunday's coming! It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!”
By the time he came to the end of the message, I was exhausted. He had me and everybody else so worked up that I don't think any of us could have stood it much longer. At the end of his message he just yelled at the top of his lungs, “It's Friday!” and all five hundred of us in that church yelled back with one accord, “But Sunday's coming!”
Just hearing that story’s enough to make your heart beat a little bit faster. It's enough to make your soul cry out that Sunday is coming, even if your lips don’t want to budge. It's enough to make you smile a little bigger and sit up a little taller in your seat. And all because this one little phrase, “But Sunday’s coming!” offers you something we all need on the Fridays of our lives; it offers you hope.
And when I say that the phrase “But Sunday’s coming!” offers you hope, I mean tht it offers you real hope. Because this phrase isn’t about pie-in-the-sky optimism, it’s not about pointing you to a future that will never exist, it’s not offering us some unseen hope. This little phrase offers us real hope that everything that is wrong with the world won’t always be wrong with the world because Sunday’s not just coming, Sunday came.
Sunday’s not just coming, Sunday came.
And this is what the book of John, our John’s biography of Jesus, tells us happened when Sunday came. In John 20 we’re told:
1 Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” 3 Peter and the other disciple left to go to the tomb. 4 They were running together, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and was the first to arrive at the tomb. 5 Bending down to take a look, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6 Following him, Simon Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. 7 He also saw the face cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. It wasn’t with the other clothes but was folded up in its own place. 8 Then the other disciple, the one who arrived at the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying.
11 Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.
John 20:1-18 (Common English Bible)
When Sunday came the tomb was found empty. When Sunday came Jesus conquered the grave. When Sunday came everything that is wrong with this world started to change.
Because on Friday Jesus was betrayed and abandoned, but when Sunday came he welcomed his disciples back with open arms. On Friday Jesus stood alone before his accusers, but when Sunday came Jesus brought us all together as his followers. On Friday Jesus was rejected by the crowd that once cheered him, but when Sunday came Jesus showed us that God accepts us all. On Friday Jesus was humiliated, but when Sunday came he was glorified. On Friday Jesus died on the cross, but when Sunday came Jesus was alive.
That’s why we’re here today. We’re here on Easter Sunday because Jesus is alive, and because Jesus is alive everything has changed. But this Easter Sunday will be over soon. Soon our service will come to an end, our live stream will stop and the lights in the sanctuary will be dimmed. Soon all of our Easter decorations will come down, and all of our fancy Easter clothes will be put up. And when that happens we'll all be left with one big question: What day are we living in?
What day are we living in?
Now, obviously, I don’t mean that in a literal sense. Jesus’s resurrection didn’t change our calendars, so when you wake up tomorrow it’s going to be Monday. But when you wake up tomorrow, you get to decide if you’re right back in a Friday world now that Sunday has come to an end. You get to decide if you’re going to return to a world of betrayal, isolation, suffering, and despair.
Or you can decide to live in a Sunday world. You can live in a world where you accept other people, where you live in community, where you help those who are hurting, and where you help people in despair find a reason to hope. You get to decide if every day is going to be a Sunday.
When Philip Yancey – the best-selling author of numerous Christian books – concluded his chapter on the resurrection in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, he wrote:
There are two ways to look at human history, I have concluded. One way is to focus on the wars and violence, the squalor, the pain and tragedy and death. From such a point of view, Easter seems like a fairy-tale exception, a stunning contradiction in the name of God. That gives some solace, although I confess that when my friends died, grief was so empowering that any hope in an after-life seemed somehow thin and insubstantial.
There is another way to look at the world. If I take Easter as the starting point, the one incontrovertible fact about how God treats those whom he loves, then human history becomes the contradiction and Easter a preview of ultimate reality. Hope then flows like lava beneath the crust of daily life.
Or to put it another way, you can see this world as a Friday world or a Sunday world.
You can see this world as a Friday world or a Sunday world.
But I hope we’ll all live in a Sunday world.