Pastor Craig Carter
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
I’ve now been in Lynn Haven for nine years and when I arrived I knew virtually no one. I had known your former pastor, Doug Pennington, for years, but he was leaving town as soon as I arrived … which makes sense, because his departure was the reason for my arrival. ☺ So being new in town, I was happy when I realized that my wife Lee and I would be greeted by a couple of familiar faces, Randy and Sheri Chow.
Randy and I first met when we were freshmen roommates at the Air Force Academy. We developed a close friendship and right after our graduation in 1980, I was a groomsman in their wedding. We stayed in limited contact for the next 33 years but were happy to be reunited in 2013 when Lee and I moved here.
It’s been fun being both pastor and friend to Randy and Sheri, getting to perform the wedding of their daughter, and baptizing two of their grandchildren. Believe me, neither Randy nor I saw that coming when we met as 18 year olds!
Before moving to Lynn Haven, I saw Randy on a few occasions over the three decades following our graduation. One of the times occurred when we were both young Air Force officers. I was assigned to Gunter AFS in Montgomery, AL and Randy came to nearby Maxwell AFB for squadron officers’ school. He had not yet met my wife, Lee, so we were excited to have him over for dinner.
Lee put together a great meal and I still remember the menu – homemade chicken cordon bleu, au gratin potatoes, and broccoli with cheese. Randy arrived at our apartment, we sat down at the table, and my beautiful new bride placed the food in front of us.
Randy looked at me and asked, “Don’t you remember?”
I replied, “Remember what?”
“That I don’t eat cheese!”
Then it all came back to me … I did distinctly recall that Randy often didn’t eat what was served at meal times in the dining hall and had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead (which was always on the table). That particular evening at our place, Randy had a PB&J sandwich, and he didn’t even get dessert since it was cheesecake! 🙁
Don’t you remember? Have you ever heard those words? What emotions do they evoke? Confusion? Panic? Embarrassment?
You get a call from your teenager stranded at school. “Don’t you remember you were supposed to pick me up?”
Your friend shows up at the door all dressed up and asks “Why aren’t you ready? Don’t you remember we’re going to the play tonight?”
Your teacher says, “Put up your books and take out a pencil,” and seeing the puzzled look on your face asks, “Don’t you remember we’re having a test today?”
Just last week, I got a text from my wife that we’d be eating at a certain time. I arrived home a few minutes early, saw the table set, with food ready on the stove, so I said, “Let me change real quick. I came back into the kitchen, nothing had changed so I asked, “What’s up?,” to which Lee replied, “Don’t you remember you said you’d grill out tonight?”
“Now that you mention it … yes, I do remember that!”
So how do you think the women who “went to Jesus’ tomb” on that first Easter morning felt when they heard a similar question asked of them? (see Luke 24:1-4 NLT)
They were already “puzzled” when “they found the stone rolled away from the entrance” and “didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus.”
Their confusion gave way to downright terror when “two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes” (i.e. heavenly messengers, angels). Then the men asked, “Why are you looking in a tomb for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Don’t you remember what he told you back in Galilee — that the Messiah must be betrayed into the power of evil men and be crucified and that he would rise again the third day?” (Luke 24:5-7 TLB)
Then they remembered… (Luke 24:8 TLB)
What had Jesus told them earlier? What were the words they had forgotten? We’ve been talking about them for the past six weeks during Lent, the 40 day period prior to Easter. It was Jesus’ prediction that He made on several occasions stated first in Luke chapter 9:
“The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of the religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” (Luke 9:22 NLT)
How could they have failed to remember such seemingly unforgettable words? Maybe it was because Jesus’ followers were convinced He was going to be installed as an earthly king, so they thought this prediction was to be taken figuratively, not literally. Or maybe, as was often the case, they just didn’t listen very intently and even when they did, they were unable to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words.
They didn’t understand. The significance of his words was hidden from them, and they failed to grasp what he was talking about. (Luke 18:34 NLT)
In any case, the angels’ question, “Don’t you remember?,” brought Christ’s words into focus and caused them to recall what Jesus had promised was going to happen. As a result, their sorrow turned into joy, their sense of despair gave way to unending hope, and their fear was replaced with a calm assurance that all was well.
Remembering that Jesus kept His word changed everything for His followers.
It seems to me that’s what Easter is all about – remembering. Every time we celebrate this holiday we are reminded of the grand truth that sits front and center of our Christian faith.
“Don’t you remember that Jesus conquered death and is alive? Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
But just as important is the fact that on this occasion we recall that Jesus always keeps His promises. Jesus proved He is the ultimate promise keeper by fulfilling His greatest promise. After all, a prediction to rise from the dead is pretty hard to top, isn’t it?
This involves the logical argument from the greater to the lesser. If Jesus could do what He said He would do concerning being raised from the dead, then surely He can do anything else He said He would do.
Jesus used this sort of reasoning Himself in an incident recorded in Luke 5. On that occasion, Christ forgave the sins of a paralyzed man. When questioned about His authority to do so, Jesus replied, “Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that [I have] the authority on earth to forgive sins … Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” (Luke 5:23-24 NLT)
The message was clear: Jesus had the power both to heal illnesses and to forgive sins. The visible proved the invisible; the greater proved the lesser.
Do you see why the resurrection is so critical to us as Christians? If Christ was not raised from the dead, Paul was right in saying, our “faith is useless and … we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Corinthians 15:19b NLT)
If the Resurrection wasn’t true, that would mean we’ve put our hope in One who apparently is nothing more than a pathological liar. Think about it, anyone who would make such a ridiculous claim and was unable to follow through on it is, at the least, dishonest, and at the worst, a raving lunatic. In either case, Jesus definitely could not and should not be trusted.
BUT … if Jesus was raised from the dead, it makes all the difference in the world. Anyone who could keep such a seemingly far-fetched promise is capable of doing anything and everything He claims He can do. That means Jesus was, is, and always be a Promise Keeper (with a capital P-K).
So Easter is a day to remember and our resurrection remembrance will sustain us, not just for one day out of the year, but on any and every occasion. Let me share a few examples of what I mean…
When we feel unworthy to receive God’s love and mercy because of our own sinfulness, Jesus says, “Don’t you remember? I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32 AMP)
When we are filled with fear, Jesus asks, “Don’t you remember? God does not forget a single [sparrow] … So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7 NLT)
When we’re worried about being able to make ends meet, Jesus reassures us saying, “Don’t you remember? Your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” (Luke 12:30-31 NLT)
When we feel like we’re in an impossible situation and facing insurmountable odds, Jesus boldly claims, “Don’t you remember? With God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26b NLT)
When we want to believe God for a miracle but our faith seems woefully inadequate, Jesus encourages us, “Don’t you remember? If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV)
When we wonder if we really matter and if our lives will count for something, Jesus reminds us, “Don’t you remember? Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit … lasting fruit.” (John 15:5, 16 NLT)
When we want to witness to someone but don’t know what to say, Jesus prompts us, “Don’t you remember? Don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.” (Matthew 10:19 NLT)
When we feel all alone, Jesus asks, “Don’t you remember? I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5 GNT)
When we have a burden that seems like more than we can bear, Jesus whispers, “Don’t you remember? If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 CEV)
When we’re grieving the loss of a loved one and we feel like our heart is breaking, Jesus comes alongside and says, “Don’t you remember? God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 NLT)
When we’re facing the fearsome prospect of death itself, Jesus proclaims, “Don’t you remember? I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” (John 11:25 NLT)
Are you beginning to see the significance of resurrection remembrance?
But it doesn’t stop with the promises of Christ. Most scholars agree there are at least 7,000 promises in the Bible. Some estimate as many as 30,000. According to Scripture itself … All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT)
When we feel unwanted or unloved, we remember, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8 NLT)
When we wonder what to do or which way to turn, we remember, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.” (James 1:5 NLT)
When we feel the burden and guilt of sin, we remember, “If we confess our sins to him, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9 NLT)
I dare you to find a problem or situation that is not addressed by one of God’s promises. And since Jesus, through His life, death, and resurrection, is the “Yes!” to all of them, you and I can live confidently and hopefully.
But in order for God’s promises to be fulfilled in our lives, several prerequisites have to be met.
First of all, we need a knowledge of God’s promises. We can’t trust God to do what He’s said unless we know what He’s said. The women at the tomb could not have remembered Jesus’ prediction about his suffering, death, and resurrection unless they’d heard it.
You and I come to know God’s promises in one primary way – the Bible. So it’s imperative that we READ and study it. Don’t forget, it’s His Word, so it’s true and can be trusted.
Second, those promises have to be REMEMBERed.
That’s a daunting prospect for many of us because we can’t even remember our own phone number anymore (and don’t have to). But never fear, help is near … Jesus left us His Holy Spirit as a Divine Helper.
“The Helper, the Holy Spirit … will teach you all things and remind you of everything that I have told you.” (John 14:26 ISV)
I like how author and pastor J.D. Walt describes this process; he calls it “rememberizing.” We remember important truths, including God’s promises, when we repeat them over and over in a variety of ways.
Memorizing something puts it in short-term memory where it is easily forgotten. Rememberizing something etches it on the cortex of our brain where it stands the test of time.
Third, we have to RESPOND and act on God’s promises for them to become real. Look at the women at the tomb. They heard the message, they remembered the promise, and they did something about it by rushing and telling others. As a result, a short time later, they and many others encountered the Risen Christ … and that’s what made all the difference and why we’re still talking about it today, more than 2,000 years later.
The empty tomb is significant but it’s not what makes Easter the most important event in human history. Instead, this day’s true significance is rooted, not in a place, but in a Person. Unless you and I encounter the Risen Lord Jesus we have nothing to celebrate.
According to this account, after the women told the disciples, most didn’t believe it, only Peter looked in the tomb for himself, and all went away “wondering what had happened” (Luke 24:12 NLT). The empty tomb only confused them.
But later, when they saw and spoke with the Risen Christ, they believed and they experienced the fulfillment of all of His promises – joy, peace, hope, power. The same is true for us as well. Easter becomes Easter only when we experience the power and presence of the Risen Lord for ourselves.
That happens when we respond to Christ in faith and say “yes” to Him. When we do, He becomes our “Yes!” that fulfills all of God’s promises.
Don’t you remember? Jesus did exactly what He said He would do – suffer, die, and be raised again.
Billy Graham was perhaps the greatest preacher of the past century. In his book, World Aflame, he tells the story of a visit he made to Russia. During that trip he went to a village where Christians told him about something that had happened many years before.
Shortly after the 1917 revolution, a Communist party leader came to their town to indoctrinate the residents about the virtues of Communism. With 2,000 people gathered in a large hall, he lectured for over two hours. He touted the tenets of Communism and belittled the Christian faith. When he finished speaking, he gave the local Russian Orthodox priest five minutes to reply and defend Christianity. The pastor said, “I don’t need five minutes, just five seconds.”
Then he went to the platform and declared, “Christ is risen!” The 2,000 residents stood and thundered back, “He is risen indeed!”
That says it all, folks, on Easter and every day. When we say, “indeed,” it’s a point of emphasis. He is risen for sure!
Don’t you remember? Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Because He lives … all of God’s promises are true. What a difference that makes.