Read John 20:1-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-58
It was time for the children’s sermon on Easter morning. One little boy was so excited about Easter that he couldn’t hold back. He interrupted the pastor’s talk and said, “Do you know the first words Jesus said on Easter morning?”
The pastor was curious what the boy would say. The pastor asked the boy, “What were Jesus’ first words on Easter morning”. The little boy got to his feet and with a big smile, arms outstretched, and in a loud voice, said, “Ta-da!”
The disciples and Jesus’ friends had placed Jesus’ lifeless body in the tomb. He was as dead as anyone could be. The cruel treatment by the authorities and then the hours he had spent on the cross had drained the life from him. They rolled a stone across the door of the tomb thinking that this was the end of Jesus. Jesus was gone. There was no future. Whatever future they had planned around Jesus and everything he had said about love and the Kingdom of God, well, all that was now as dead as Jesus himself.
Jesus may have been tempted to say on that first Easter morning, “Ta-da! Look! I’m alive!” just to show the disciples that they really hadn’t been paying attention when he said that he would rise again after three days, and when he had shown his power over death by raising Lazarus from the dead.
But Jesus was far more sensitive than to walk up behind Mary and say loudly, “Ta-da” just to get a reaction because he knew that would scare the living daylights out of her. The last thing they expected was to see Jesus alive. And so, Jesus says quietly, “Woman, why are your weeping? Whom are you looking for?” And then he says her name, “Mary!” And she recognizes him. Jesus is alive!
Even though “Ta-da” isn’t in the Easter story, it does express something of the importance, and joy of Easter.
“Ta-da” is an onomatopoeia, which means, it’s a word that imitates a sound. “Ta-da” is a fanfare – fanfares are performed by musical instruments to highlight an important occasion or event. When there is a royal wedding, a fanfare of trumpets announces the arrival of the bride. When I played trumpet in college, I took part in a trumpet fanfare at a Lutheran Church that preceded the reading of the gospel. I attended a madrigal dinner a few times at a college, a kind of dinner theater, where a trumpet fanfare accompanies the food. In the Bible, we are told that a trumpet fanfare will announce Jesus’ second coming.
Listen to this “ta-da” moment that Paul describes in our reading from First Corinthians, “We shall not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor 15:51-52). This will be a fanfare that will resound around the world, a “ta-da” that will announce Jesus’ return and the resurrection of the dead. Death will be no more. Jesus will take the stuff of our old bodies – bones, dust, ashes, whatever – and by his power transform it into a resurrection body. As our reading says, “We will be changed;” the new thing that Jesus’ resurrection has begun will be complete.
What a “ta-da” moment that will be.
Over the centuries on Easter morning, people have greeted one another with the words, “Christ is risen!” and how do we respond? That’s right, “He is risen indeed.” Try it one more time – Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!) That’s our “Ta-da.” That’s our fanfare. That’s our announcement of the resurrection good news. It means:
• “Ta-da” God has taken away sin’s power to condemn us;
• “Ta-da” God has freed us from death and its power over us;
• “Ta-da” God has given us new life, and eternal life.
Our reading from 1st Corinthians says it like this: “Death has been swallowed up in victory! … Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Cor 15:54, 57) The Easter resurrection offers us victory through our Lord Jesus!
The key to understanding Mary’s joy as she announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” and Paul’s shout, “Thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” is that this hope is real.
Let me ask you: those of you who’ve been through tough times, what stopped you from being squashed under the weight of your trouble? How did you get through it? What gives us hope? What keeps our heads up? Where does our joy come from? What enables us to conceive of the future in a way that we look forward to what’s ahead? Even when we face our death, how are we able to think of this as not “the end?”
It is the resurrection of Jesus.
The living Jesus is ready to show his love to us, to strengthen our weary spirits, to hold us up under the weight of difficult circumstances, to encourage us when we want to give up, to point us in the right direction when faced with tough decisions, to forgive us when we mess up.
For those who look to Jesus as their living Lord and Savior, he makes a world of difference to their lives. Let’s try this: If Jesus has ever made a difference in your life, say “Amen.” One more time: If Jesus has ever made a difference in your life, say “Amen.” The bible says we have “a cloud of witnesses” around us, to encourage us in faith and hope. There are people here this morning who can tell about a living Jesus giving them hope.
The greatest temptation we face today is the obsession to try and get everything out of this life to the point where we get run down, frustrated, and worn out and the life we are trying to make enjoyable by all our busy-ness becomes a living nightmare. We can forget the important things of this life – God’s love for us, and his gifts and his calling in our lives – and go for the things that are temporary. That’s not the kind of life that God wants for us.
Easter isn’t only about life after death, as important as that is for us. It about this God of ours who has demonstrated – ‘over and over’ again – that he is always there to help us pick up the pieces and start again, that he is always ready to give us a new beginning, and that he will give us strength to get through the struggles and the difficulties we face, and to have our joy restored.
We might say, “It can’t be! How can God who is so mighty and perfect in every way be so interested in the little things that make up my life? Why should God help me when I have been so absent-minded and neglectful when it comes to the important things of God?
Jesus said that he would defeat all things that would stand in our way of a life of faith, hope and love. We have a living Lord who is very real and very active in the happenings of every day. We have a living Lord to whom we can pour out our hearts in prayer. We have a living Lord who listens to our complaints and questions about our hurts and fears and doubts. We have a living Lord who promises that he will never leave us, and never give up on us. He will keep calling us to himself and to the purposes he has for us.
There is an old chorus that sums up this Easter message. You may recognize it. It goes like this:
Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because he lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know he holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because he lives.
There is only one thing that remains to be said today,
“Ta-da!” Jesus is alive!
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