Do you know what movies I really like? I really like the movies that have a cool twist at the end, one you don’t even see coming. That’s why I went and saw 10 Cloverfield Lane. I wanted the twist at the end. It was a pretty good one. But I gotta admit. It couldn’t hold a candle to the ultimate movie twisted end.
That end scene I will never forget. Bruce Willis sees his back in the mirror, and then he gets it. But not only does he get it, we get it. Have you ever seen the movie, The Sixth Sense? If you haven’t, I’m not going to spoil it for you. But with that movie, you don’t really get it until you’ve seen how the movie ends. And when you see that ending, everything you’ve watched before makes sense in a way it didn’t before. After seeing that ending, you can never watch that movie in the same way again.
When it comes to Easter, it’s the same. You don’t get Easter fully, what it really means, until you’ve seen the end. And Easter is not the end, no, not at all. At Easter, you are still living in the middle of the story, granted the climax of the story, but still the middle. But if you want to understand the Jesus story, if you want to understand your story, if you want to understand the story of everything, then you’ve got to know the end to which Easter points. Only then will you get it, really get it.
And what will you get? You will get a power for living that nothing can shake. You will gain a hope in the future that enables you to live in peace right now. You will realize maybe for the first time, exactly what time it really is. How does that happen? In these next words, God shows the way. Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.
When the writers of the Bible talk about Jesus and his resurrection, do you know what they call the risen Jesus? They call him the first fruits. What does that mean? It means that the risen Jesus is only the beginning, the beginning of something so much bigger. For the last two thousand years, we’ve been moving toward that ending. And here in the words you just heard, God gives you a picture of it, of what is to come, of the glorious ending that awaits.
And when you grasp what God shows you here, it will change everything from how you view Christianity to how you view your future to how you view yourself.
Too many folks think the whole point of the Gospel is to get you up there, to get you to heaven. But do you see what God shows us here? Nobody is going up anywhere. No, instead God is coming down. A new heavens and a new earth are coming down. God is not leaving the world behind. God is restoring it, transforming it, healing it. When Jesus rose, he didn’t rise as some spirit floating through Galilee. He rose in flesh and blood. He even munched down on fish with his buddies.
When the end comes, do you think that you’ll be floating around on clouds playing harps? Forget that.
Have you ever had a memory of a place that you remembered as so amazing, so wonderful? Then you get there, and it just didn’t live up to the memory. It seemed so much better in your mind. Have you imagined what some new experience will be like, a meal at a certain place, a concert, a time with friends. Then, whatever it is, it just doesn’t meet the vision. It may come close, but something is missing. What are you longing for in those moments? You are longing for what will be, for what God is even now bringing, the new heavens and the new earth.
Think about the most joyous moments you’ve had in love. Think about a great party, an amazing meal, a piece of music that rocked your world, the joy you felt. Think about the wonder of a magnificent waterfall, or a mountain or the sea the joy it gave you. Where did that joy came from? The books or the music in which you thought the joy was located…it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through was a longing….They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower you have not found, the echo of a tune you have not heard, news from a country you have never yet visited. (C.S.Lewis, The Weight of Glory). As one writer put it, “All beauty in the world is either a memory of Paradise or a prophecy of the transfigured world,” (Nicholas Berdyaev) the new heavens and earth that Revelation proclaims. In that transfigured world, you will experience THE waterfalls of which all other waterfalls are just hints and echoes. You will experience THE party of all parties, THE song of all songs, THE family of all families, THE joy of all joys.
And when you realize that, it changes everything. It gives you a power right now to live your life that nothing can shake. What do I mean? Who was John writing these words to? He was writing to people who were facing a dangerous, even terrifyingly hostile world. The Roman Empire had begun to notice Christians, and they were not amused. Christians were dying. Leaders such as John, who wrote this letter, were being sent into exile. Over the next two centuries, the church would live at the mercy of an empire that would veer from bare toleration of their existence to campaigns to wipe them out completely. Yet in the midst of that, what happened? Followers of Jesus grew into the millions, until their presence dominated the empire. They changed a cruel and brutal culture, into one that began to care the most vulnerable. Where did hospitals and orphanages come from? Christians created them. Before Christianity, they didn’t exist. And what enabled the revolution to happen? The Christians had this. They knew the end of the story. And, knowing that future gave them the power to change their present.
Think about it. Knowing your future doesn’t simply affect you in the future, it affects you right now. Imagine, two people get a job, some mundane job like fitting widgets into wodgets. But one person gets told that in one year, he’ll get a raise from 20,000.00 a year to $25,000 a year, but the other gets told that in one year, he’ll get a raise from 20,000.00 a year to 20 million. Who do you think is going to come to work every day with more enthusiasm, the 25 grand guy or the 20 million one? But get this. They are both experiencing the same circumstances. But they are experiencing those circumstances in two very different ways. (Tim Keller) Why? Because, what both believe about their future is changing the way they live their lives right now.
Last week, we heard the African American spiritual, Soon I Will Be Done. Did you notice what that song was about? It sang about the future, a future where death is no more, where God brings freedom and peace. Most of the spirituals have that focus. Why? It was that future that helped them get through the horrendous years of slavery. As Howard Thurman, the great African American scholar put it, “This sung faith…. taught a people how to ride high in life and look squarely in the face those facts that most dramatically argue against all hope and to use those facts as raw material out of which they fashioned a hope that their environment with all its cruelty could not crush. This enabled them to reject annihilation and affirm a terrible right to live.” In the midst of a horrible situation, these slaves found dignity, strength, even power, in a vision of a future where God makes all things right. And their persecutors and owners could not touch it ever. Why? It lay in the future. But that future hope gave them power right in the present moment.
What sort of future do you believe in? Do you believe in One where God makes everything right, where all creation becomes what God intended it to be, that you become all that God intended you to be? Or do you believe when you die, that you push up the daisies, and that in a few billion years everything burns up, and therefore nothing really ultimately matters? What you believe about the future changes the life you live right now.
You will hopefully never face servitude or persecution, and thank God for that. But right now, you are facing challenges that make you anxious; possibilities that worry you (maybe the news from Brussels), problems that weigh you down, relationships that you fear won’t make it. But history shows us that people who carried this living hope triumphed over all that and far worse. Why? They knew the end of the story. God wins. Love wins. When you realize that the worst you can face cannot hold a candle to what God has in store for you, for this world, it changes you. It changes you right now. It gives you a hope, a power, a peace that nothing can defeat.
How do you get this hope, this power, this peace? How does it live in you? It lives in you when you believe the gospel; when you believe that Jesus did die for you; that he did defeat death for you. That’s the water of life, water that Jesus gives as a gift; water that meets your deepest needs, that gives you a strength that nothing can defeat. And for Jesus to give you this water, he gave up his life. He gave up everything. He lost heaven and earth so that you might receive it now and forever. He cried tears of blood so that he could wipe your tears away. He suffered unimaginable mourning and crying and pain so that you might one day suffer those things no more. He ended his life, so that you can have a new life, more wondrous and blessed than you could imagine. This life doesn’t begin out there somewhere, it begins right here, right now. It gives you a hope that nothing can defeat, not even death.
Many years ago, a pastor named Donald Barnhouse losthis wife. Their little girl, Margaret was only ten years old. Barnhouse yearned to help his little girl cope with this huge loss. One day, as they were getting ready to cross the street, a truck speeding by startled her, even scared her a bit. As he comforted her, Barnhouse had an idea. He said “You know Margaret how sad we are about mommy? And she said. ”Yes, we’re sad.” But let me ask you. “Did the truck hit you?” No. What hit you was just the shadow of the truck, and it scared you, but you’re ok. Well, death didn’t hit your mom. Only the shadow of death hit your mother. But death hit Jesus. And because death hit Jesus, and we believe in him, now the only thing that can ever hit us is the shadow of death, and the shadow of death is but our entrance into glory.
The resurrection doesn’t just give you hope for the future. It gives you hope right now, a power, a peace that nothing can defeat. Why? Because you realize the truth, the reality of what Jesus has given you, You get what time it really is. You get. It’s not give up on the world time. It’s God is bringing a new heaven and earth time. It’s not evil has the last word time. It’s always love has the last word time. It’s never give up hope time. It’s always live in hope time. It isn’t death time. It’s new life time. It isn’t crucifixion time. It’s resurrection time.
And when you know what time it is, it changes you. It changes how you see the future. It changes how you live right now. It opens you, by God’s grace and love, to becoming the person that God dreamed for you to be, a person who has a hope that nothing can defeat, not even death. Because you know, even when death comes, only its shadow touches you. Because you know it’s not give up time. It’s get up and live time. It’s never evil wins time. It’s always love has the last word time. It isn’t death time. It’s new life time. It isn’t crucifixion time. It’s resurrection time. And when you know that it changes everything, not just in the future. It changes it right now.