Sermon for Easter: No Fooling

No Fooling

The Resurrection of the Lord; April 1, 2018

John 20:1-18

Three folks were waiting for admission at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter welcomed them, but said they had to answer one question before they could enter. To the first, he said, "What is Easter?" And the first person said, "Well, this big guy in a red suit comes down the chimney and gives everyone presents; right?" Peter said no, that was not right. So he asked the second, "What is Easter?" And that one said, "Isn't that the day we give chocolates to our loved ones and send Valentines cards?" Wrong.

The third person was asked, "What is Easter?" "Well," the third answered, "It happened after Jesus was crucified. Jesus was hung on a cross and he died there for the sins of the world." Peter was beginning to get excited. "Then he was buried in a tomb. Some women went to the tomb on Sunday morning and they wondered how they were going to get in to care for the body of Jesus." "Yes, go on!" Peter said. "But when they arrived, they found the stone rolled away. And Jesus came out of the tomb, saw his shadow, and there were six more weeks of winter."

April Fools.

Many of you were here on Ash Wednesday and we paid attention to the fact that Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day coincided. I pointed out that whenever that happens, then Easter and April Fools Day also coincide.[1] So that gets me thinking about one of the ways our ancestors thought about Easter: as God's great practical joke on the devil.

Satan thought he had won. Death declared victory: even the so-called Son of God could not escape. Hung on a cross, beaten and bruised, the man called Christ died after only a few hours of struggle. After all his talk about light and goodness and peace and hope, he was dead. Death was victorious. Evil had won.

Or so they thought. But the power of God is not used to make evil go away; the power of God subverts evil, allows death to have its way and then redeems what is done. And so God overcame evil not by stopping Jesus' gruesome dying but by allowing him to die, to take sin with him into the tomb, and then to emerge victorious, leaving sin behind. While death and evil were still enduring the hangover from their victory party, Jesus turned the tables on them and came out of the grave. No fooling.

So the one point to take from this today is that Christ is and always will be victorious. I'm not going to say that death cannot touch us. I'm not going to say that those who trust in Christ will without fail overcome every obstacle. Sometimes we are defeated. But Christ is never defeated and Christ will redeem all of our defeats. If the power of God seems to be dead, it is dead for only as long as Christ lies in the tomb and then emerges victorious on the third day.

If you're stuck on Good Friday, while the power of God hangs on a Cross, dying, remember: Sunday is coming. If your life feels like a long Holy Saturday, that day of waiting, while the power of God is in the tomb and you do not know what to do, remember: Sunday is coming.[2]

Sunday is here. God has pulled a fast one on evil and death. Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb. No fooling.

Robert A. Keefer

Presbyterian Church of the Master

Omaha, Nebraska

[1] One astute member of the choir reminded me that if it happens to be a Leap Year, then this would not be the case.

[2] Thanks to Tony Campolo for this compelling way to look forward to Resurrection. 

Sermon from April 8: Great Power, Great Grace
Sermon for March 25: The Sword of the Spirit


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