Posted by: Johnold Strey | April 2, 2016

Easter Dawn Devotions (2016)

Easter Dawn — March 27, 2016 — Devotions begin at 12:15

Order of Service

FIRST LESSON: Matthew 28:1-7

The assurance that God keeps his promises. Strength and inspiration to live daily for God. The certain knowledge of our forgiveness. The hope and certainty that because Jesus lives, we too shall live. All of these truths, and many more, are intimately connected to the truth that we celebrate today, that Jesus rose from the dead.

All of those truths I mentioned would not be possible were it not for this one, key, fundamental fact of Easter: Jesus’ resurrection is not a fable, but it is a historical fact — a fact that we gather in these early Easter dawn hours to celebrate.

The first visitors to the tomb seemed to arrive with no sense of these facts. It was a fact that the women at the tomb thought that Jesus was still in the grave. The spices they carried with them tell us that they expected to find a dead body. But they would soon discover the joyous facts of Easter, that Christ has risen from the dead! And in the Word of God this morning, we rediscover those same facts, and all of the blessed truths that flow from them.

SECOND LESSON: John 20:2-8

Jesus’ disciples heard him predict multiple times that he would rise from the dead, but just like the women who first arrived at the tomb, they didn’t expect to discover a resurrection on the first Easter morning. When the women left the tomb after coming across the miraculous sight, they went and told Jesus’ disciples what the angel had told them, but they still did not believe until they saw this sight with their own eyes.

This morning, you and I are blessed to see the resurrection through the eyes of faith learning from the perfect and inspired record of Holy Scripture. Let us go with Peter and John to see the facts of the empty tomb and the truths of Jesus’ resurrection. 

THIRD LESSON: John 20:10-18

No doubt some of you here this morning have seen videos on social media of someone returning home from military service and surprising family members who were not expecting their return. The unexpected sight of that loved one and the unanticipated sound of their voice snaps those family members out of whatever mournful haze they were in. They are filled with joy to hear and see and embrace their loved one again.

If you can relate to that scene, then maybe we can sense one-tenth of one percent of the sudden joy and the complete emotional turn-around that Mary Magdalene experienced at Jesus’ Easter tomb. She saw him with her own eyes. She clasped him with her own arms, knowing for certain that this was not a delusional vision of grief but a physical and miraculous resurrection. She heard Jesus’ voice call out her name, and she listened as Jesus gave her a message for his apostles.

FOURTH LESSON: Luke 24:13-35

Jesus predicted his resurrection many times. So did the Old Testament. On Easter afternoon, we find two dejected followers of Jesus who may not have remembered or understood Jesus’ predictions, and who certainly did not understand that the Old Testament had predicted this all along.

New Testament Illustrations 034The risen Jesus catches up with these two disciples in this reading. But now that he has risen and taken back his full power as God, he disguises himself to them. He does this so that the Bible can do the talking. Perhaps he pointed them to the prediction of the Messiah’s resurrection in Psalm 16 or at the end of Isaiah 53.

Jesus let the Word do the teaching before he revealed himself to them. And Jesus lets the Word do the teaching this morning as we learn the glorious truth that these disciples on the way to Emmaus learned, that he is truly risen.

FIFTH LESSON: John 20:19-23

“Peace!” What a beautiful word for the disciples to hear when Jesus first appeared to them as a group on Easter evening. Yes, they had just heard from the Emmaus disciples. Yes, they were beginning to understand that Jesus had actually risen. The Bible tells us that Peter, at some point, had a personal encounter with Jesus that day, though we don’t know anything beyond that simple fact.

Perhaps they are still afraid. They had the door locked. If Jesus’ enemies did what they did to Jesus on Friday, who says that the disciples aren’t next! But Jesus comes among them and says, “Peace!”

That message of peace probably meant a little more to the disciples at that moment, because the last time they were with Jesus as a group, they all ditched out on him at his arrest. If Jesus appears among them, what he should say is, “Hell! — and you’re all going!” But instead he says, “Peace!” — because he went to hell and back for them and he went to hell and back for you! Peace — because he did that all on our behalf, and now through faith in his resurrection, the forgiveness that Jesus earned on the cross for the world became their personal possession, and their privilege to proclaim to others.

Because you believe in the risen Jesus, the peace he won for the world at the cross is also your personal possession. It is our privilege to sing out the Easter gospel today, to proclaim this good news to our fellow believers gathered in worship, and to proclaim that same message to the others God has placed into your life.

SIXTH LESSON: John 20:24-29

If I say, “doubting,” you say, “Thomas.” Thomas will never be able to disassociate himself from that nasty adjective.

Thomas wasn’t all bad! There was a moment earlier in Jesus’ ministry when Jesus explained his upcoming suffering and death in Jerusalem, and Thomas’ response to Jesus’ words was to tell the others, “Then let’s go with him and die with him!” He was fiercely loyal at that moment!

But he was also very logical. The last time he saw Jesus, Jesus was very, very dead. You do not survive a beating and crucifixion like that. So when Thomas heard all the reports that Jesus had risen, he did what many average people would have done. He rejected the idea. “Jesus can’t be alive again! There’s no way!” Never mind that Jesus is God Almighty. Never mind that Jesus predicted his resurrection earlier. Thomas said it as emphatically as anyone could. “I will not believe it!” And he didn’t.

Until a week later. Then he was confronted by the risen Jesus, who, as God, heard all along what Thomas had said. “Not sure about those nail scars? Here, check them out for yourself. Not sure about that spear wound? Put your hand here, Thomas.”

While a little part of Thomas may have wanted to shrink away, the Christian nature in Thomas that saw the risen Jesus before him and said, “My Lord and my God! — because, after all, only God could conquer death.

Today we see Jesus’ resurrection in the Scriptures, and we say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

SEVENTH LESSON: John 21:1-14

There was a time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension when life return to “normal” for the apostles. Jesus did tell them that they should go to Galilee, where they would see him, and in our final reading, that’s what happened.

Some of the disciples were out fishing one evening, going about their usual way of life, when they are blessed with a third “group appearance” from the risen Jesus to strengthen them, to assure them of his resurrection, and to equip them for the task they would have to proclaim his gospel after his ascension. This appearance does the same for us.

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