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Looking At Life Through Easter Eyes

John 20:11-18

It’s all a matter of perspective. It’s all a matter of how you look at things.

You know the old saying that one person looks at a glass of water and sees it as being half empty. Another person looks at the same glass of water and sees it as being half full. It’s all a matter of perspective. It’s all a matter of how you look at things. One person sees the cross of Jesus Christ and sees it as a symbol of darkness and death. Another person looks at the cross of Jesus Christ and sees it as the symbol of life and victory. One person looks at the empty tomb and writes it off as a harmless hoax. Another person looks at the empty tomb and sees it as history’s most decisive event. It’s all a matter of perspective. It’s all a matter of how you look at things in life.

Whatever else may be said about Easter, let it be said once and for all and forever that Easter alters our perspective. Easter changes the way we look at things. It changes the way we look at life and at death and at life that is to come. When Mary Magdalene saw Jesus nailed to the cross, she saw life in that moment as being evil and horrible and devastating. But then when she saw on Easter Sunday morning that Jesus Christ had come off the cross and out of the tomb, her perspective on life was changed forever. From that point on, she looked at life through Easter eyes. And we now have the same opportunity—to look at life through Easter eyes.

A wonderful story emerged out of the Second World War concerning a squadron of young American marines whose ship had been sunk in battle. They floated for days in a life raft on the waters of the South Pacific. At last they spotted an island. They felt that now perhaps they might be saved. When at last they landed on the shores of that island, they kissed the ground and thanked God for saving them. But then they looked around and they spotted signs of life on that island. The island was clearly inhabited by other people. They did not know who those other people might be. They recognized that they had no weapons and no food, and they were going to be totally at the mercy of whoever was living on that island. So their fears returned. Were those people friends or were they foes? They did not know. It was at that point that one of the young marines clambered up the tall trunk of a palm tree in hopes of being able to scope out the area beyond the beach. From the top of the palm tree he called back to his buddies on the ground: “It’s okay fellows. It’s okay. We’re going to be all right. I see a steeple and it has a cross on the top of it.” Just the sight of the cross was enough. It changed their whole perspective. It changed the way they looked at their circumstances in that moment. They recognized that they were going to be saved. The cross does the same thing for us. It is the sign of the cross that forever alters our perspective in life. It is the sign of the cross that changes the way we view the things that happen in life about us. And oh what a powerful symbol it is! It is far beyond my ability to be able to describe it for you.

Someone once asked the great Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, what she meant by a particular dance she performed. “What message,” they asked, “are you trying to convey through that dance?” The great Anna Pavlova replied: “If it could be said in words there would be no need to dance it.” Precisely. There are some truths in life that are just too big for words. They have to be dramatized. They have to be acted out. And that’s exactly what the story of Easter is all about. On that old rugged cross on Good Friday, in that empty tomb on Easter morning, God was dramatizing His message. He was acting out the truth that was just too big to ever be captured in mere words. But it is when we come to grasp that truth so clearly displayed in Easter, that we begin to look at life from a whole new perspective. We begin to look at life through Easter eyes.

Easter eyes enable us to look at life with faith.

What does faith mean? Faith in its simplest form means trusting God. It means believing that in the end, and in His own good time, God will win. If we want to be winners, we best get on God’s team. That’s faith in its simplest form. And yet, sometimes, and dear God now is such a time, sometimes it seems that evil is winning, that evil is on top, that evil is in control. Sometimes it seems that trusting in God is an exercise in futility. And now is such a time, is it not?

Just days ago, the lovely peace of a post Easter week was shattered for all of us by a bomb blast in Oklahoma City. The reverberations of that blast rocked my own soul as I’m sure they rocked yours as well. In fact, when the news came that a child care center had been destroyed in the blast, I was so stunned that I got up from my desk and walked over to the Clayton Life Center. There I walked the halls of our own child care center looking in one door after another at those priceless children—nearly 200 of them, of every color of the rainbow. Their eyes so bright and full of life and all of them so secure in that great loving environment. As I walked from one door to another looking in at those wonderful children I felt the tears of hot anger running from my eyes and I found myself praying: “Dear God, please help us take care of these little ones. Please help us find a way to give them a better world in which to live.”

Let me say to you right now flat out—I don’t even want to be in the same neighborhood when those who set that bomb have to face our God, and they will have to face our God. No matter what happens to them or does not happen to them in this life, they will have to face our God. And God always balances His books. God always squares His accounts. I don’t want to be anywhere close when God squares this one. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord, “I will repay.” And therefore vengeful thinking and activity on our part is inappropriate and all it does is compound an already unspeakable disaster. “Vengeance is mine,” God says, “I will repay.” In this case, I think primarily because of those precious priceless children, the price God will exact from the perpetrators will be terribly high. Yet you know, as I walked those halls looking at those wonderful children with tears in my eyes, I found myself so grateful that the great message of Easter was still fresh in my mind. Because as I walked the halls I could say: “God will win. Yes, God will win.” And we can count on it.

In Gounoud’s great opera, “Faust”, there comes a point where the Satan character engages in a sword fight with the young man, Valentine. In the course of the fight, Satan breaks Valentine’s sword and then Satan prepares to run him through. In that moment young Valentine picks up the broken sword and holds it up, upside down so that it forms the sign of a cross. Satan is paralyzed by the sign of the cross. Against the cross of Jesus Christ, the evil one is powerless. The sign of the cross is the symbol of our faith for it reminds us that the victory belongs to God. That’s what enables us, even in a time of catastrophic tragedy, to move through each day with a sense of poise and serenity and confidence—with that blessed assurance Christians love to sing about.

Looking at life through Easter eyes means looking at life with faith. Faith means that no matter what happens and no matter what happens to us in life, we can still trust God.

Looking at life with Easter eyes enables us to look at life with hope. Listen carefully please, if you have some pain in your life which is so deep that you feel it will never go away, if you’re living under some cloud of depression so heavy that you feel it will never lift, if you are facing some complex challenging situation in your life which you feel has no possible solution, then now is the time to remember the cross and to remember the empty tomb and to remember what they teach us. Namely, that all trouble is temporary.

One of the most moving scenes in all of English literature comes at the close of Charles Dickens’s classic Tale of Two Cities. The horse drawn carts are moving through the streets of Paris carrying condemned men and women to the place of execution, to the guillotine. Where in the most cruel and ruthless circumstances imaginable, they will have their heads cut off in the presence of a curious sadistic crowd. In one of the carts, there rides a brave man—a man who, figuratively speaking, had lost his life and then found it again, but who now was, literally speaking, going to give that life away in place of a friend. Next to him is a young girl, they’re holding hands. Earlier in the prison, the young girl had seen the strength and the calmness in this man’s face. The young girl had said to him: “Sir, if I may ride with you, would you please hold my hand? I feel it would give me strength. I am so very small and it will give me courage.” So they ride on to die. This man holding her hand in his. In her eyes, there is no trace of fear. When they arrive at the place of execution, she looks up into the face of the brave man, that strong, strong face, and very calmly she says: “I think you were sent to me by Heaven.”

Dear friends, we are going to experience painful Good Fridays in life, yes we can count on that. But we can also count on the fact that those painful Good Fridays inevitably shall give way to the new life of Easter morning—yes, we can count on that too. That means that we can face anything that life sets before us without fear. Because we know that the strong risen Christ shall come to us and He shall hold our hand in His. He will never ever let us go. He is our greatest hope. He has been sent to us by Heaven.

Easter eyes enable us to look at life with love.

I think the best way for me to make the point is to try to tell you about a ten-year-old little boy named Johnny. One day, a beautiful day in Spring, Johnny was sitting on a park bench. He was watching some other kids play baseball in the park. An older man happened by, and he looked at Johnny. Then he looked at the bench, and he asked if he might share the bench with Johnny for a bit. Johnny said: “Sure.” So he sat down. They engaged in conversation. They told each other their names and then they talked about the beautiful spring weather. They talked about sports, especially baseball. They talked about their families. Then the older man turned, and he looked at the ten year old boy. He said: “Johnny, if I had it in my power to grant you three wishes, what would you wish for?” Johnny thought for a moment and then he said: “Well, I think maybe I’d wish that there could be peace and happiness in the world.” Then he said: “Next, I wish that everybody could know about Jesus. Then the third thing I would wish for, I would wish that Billy, my best friend, he has cancer, I would wish that he might get well.” The older man looked at the little boy in amazement. He was baffled by his answer, couldn’t believe what he had heard. He stood up and shaking his head in astonishment, he said good-bye to Johnny and walked away. Johnny couldn’t figure out why the man was so taken aback by his answer. He thought about it for a moment and just couldn’t figure it out. Then he picked up his crutches and hobbled home.

He just couldn’t figure it out. But you can figure it out, can’t you? You know where Johnny got that gracious loving spirit of his. He got it from Jesus. He got it from the one who died on the cross for you and for me. He got it from the one who came out of the tomb to deliver the message for all time that love, not hate, love is the most powerful thing in all the world. Looking at life through Easter eyes means knowing how much God loves us and how much God wants us to love one another.

Easter eyes enable us to look at life with faith, with hope, and with love.

A couple of years ago, Dr. Perry Biddle, a friend of mine preached in a little parish church in Scotland. He took as his text that Sunday, Revelations Chapter 19, Verse 6, “The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.” In the course of his sermon, he repeated the text a number of times. By the time he got to the end of the sermon he was fairly shouting it. After the service was over, Dr. Biddle went to the front door. One of the elders of the church stood by him to introduce him to the members of that congregation. Two older ladies approached. The elder leaned over to Perry Biddle and said: “Dr. Biddle, these two ladies are almost completely deaf.” So Perry Biddle extended his hand in greeting to the two ladies. One of them returned the gesture. As she did, she said: “I didn’t hear anything you said today, minister, except—’The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.’ But then that’s all that really matters isn’t it?”

She’s right. The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. That’s all that really matters, now isn’t it?

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