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Steve Mickel: Easter Sunday, Luke 24:1-12

April 10, 2023

Audio Recording

What sounded like nonsense was news too good to be ignored: The crucified Jesus was alive!

Encounters Along The Way
Encounters Along The Way
Steve Mickel: Easter Sunday, Luke 24:1-12

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:10 Well have Easter everyone. He is risen. So good to have you with us today and making this part of your Easter tradition. We have a lot of guests visiting our church, today, and we wanna warmly welcome all of our guests, those that are watching online as well. But especially we wanna welcome those of you who may not feel so comfortable in this religious setting. we recognize that you're here, and we want you to be at ease, and just feel comfortable. you know, when Philip, one of the very first followers of Jesus, was asked by a friend about this guy from Nazareth, he, this friend, said, how can anything good come from Nazareth? And Philip simply said to his friend, well, come and see. Come and see for yourself. And that's really all we're asking of you today, is to come and see for yourself who this Jesus person is and what Easter is all about.

00:58 And we're so happy that you chose Westside, to join us this Easter. my name is Steve Miel. If you don't know me, I'm one of the senior pastors. And, if you've been around for a while, you know this to be true, but if you haven't, you don't know this. I love the sci-fi and Fantasy Jonna a lot. I use Lord of the Rings references way too often in my messages, which I don't do it all today, except I just did, but I don't usually . But, I, I love the idea of what's out there that we don't know or can't see, or, you know, what exists that, that we're not, that's not evident, to us. So I kind of like this idea. And, and so, as I was thinking about this message, I came across of the electoral magnetics, scale.

01:38 You guys remember that from grade school. There's this, this small little portion that we can see. There's so many colors and infrared and sound waves and Bluetooth and wifi. I'm still trying to figure out how does that, how do you transfer information? I don't get it. But there's so much that we cannot see in this physical world. as, somebody's told me earlier this week when they heard I was gonna do this, they said, there's a, there's a shrimp, I don't know if you knew this. There's a shrimp that can see more of the electromagnetic medic spectrum than any other living creature on earth. It's called the Manta shrimp. Huh? There you go, . Good information to know. But I, I'm curious, like, wonder what the world looks like to that shrimp . I guess I'll never know. Anyways, I just, I I love this idea.

02:20 And so if it's true that our physical senses are limited, then isn't, might it not also be true that our spiritual senses are limited. That there, there, there are things that exist in the spiritual that we cannot see, I believe, strongly in thin places. thin places is the idea of where heaven and earth come together. Where the eternal and the, and the mortal kind of intersect. And I love the idea of this, where the, where the eternal is near to us. in religious traditions, temples were considered thin places, places that you could go, to experience, kind of something bigger than yourself, the eternal. And if you wanted to experience God's presence, you would go to a temple. And more often than not, you had to do something in that temple to appease the gods. and in the Jewish tradition, you needed to make a sacrifice to God, in order to be justified before him.

03:19 And then Jesus comes and he claimed that he was God in the flesh. Not only that, he, he, he was God. He said, I'm I am God. And it was like he embodied a thin place. Like in Jesus, he is a thin place. He is a place where eternity and the earthly kind of coexist in a person. That's fascinating to me. Like, like in Jesus, the, the two come together and, and then not then, then he sacrifices himself on a cross to appease God in a sense. So that you and I don't have to, when we come to a temple, when we come to a sacred space, when we come to a thin place, we don't have to make amends that it's already been done for us by what Christ did on the cross. And in doing this, he told us that heaven is at hand.

04:06 That the eternal is near to us. It's right there, you can touch it. It's among you, it's near to us. It's not some, some ethereal separate then, far distance away. It's near to us. It's right here and now. And sometimes, and sometimes we can see it when our eyes are open or when we come into a space and our hearts are open to it. But more often than not, like much of the physical world, we may not always see what's going on in the eternal. When Mary, the mother of Jesus and a few other women went to the tomb, that first Easter morning to, take care of the body of Jesus, they experienced something that they weren't anticipating. A thin place, a space where they were confronted with something. There's something more going on. Luke chapter 24. But very early on Sunday morning, the women went to the tomb taking the spices they had prepared.

05:05 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn't find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there, puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them clothed and dazzling robes. I I mean, imagine this, what was it like? These women had just seen Jesus die on a cross. Their, they're walking to the tomb to prepare his body for burial like forever burial. Like they did not expect Jesus to come back from the dead end. So they're walking in grief and turmoil and uncertainty, and they get to the tomb and they walk in and they see these angels talk about a thin place. The women were terrified. , cuz thin places can be terrifying sometimes when you see something that you weren't expecting that you know, know is not physical, that women were terrified and they bowed with their faces to the ground.

06:02 And then the men asked, why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn't here. He has risen from the dead. Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the son of man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day? . Then they remembered that he had said this, so they rushed back from the tomb to tell his 11 disciples and everyone else . Of course, what had happened, it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, the mother of Jesus, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men. So they didn't believe it. Have you ever heard somebody tell you a thin place story? Like I, I had this experience like with God and he was in the room and it was this amazing, you're kind of looking at them like going, you sure it wasn't the pizza last night? You know, it was hard to some, it, sometimes it's hard to believe, right? So they didn't believe it. However, I love this. Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look stooping. He peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings. And then he went home again wondering what had happened.

07:20 Jesus had died. And it was just unbelievable to the men when the women came back and said, he's risen to even think about that, to comprehend that, to like even wonder about that. But I love what Peter does. Peter jumps up and runs to the tomb to see for himself. Now, I, I grew up in the church. My dad was a pastor and missionary. And so I've been, I've heard this story a thousand times, and I have always thought that when Peter gets to the tomb and pierces in, that the angels had left, right? If you, if you, I mean, I, I I bet that, I bet there's hardly anyone, if anyone that have ever thought that they were still there and he just didn't see them.

08:06 So imagine that, imagine that Peter is coming to the tomb and he's so desperate. He runs there hoping that it might be true, but because maybe because of the shame that he felt from denying Jesus, maybe from, the sense of fear that maybe he would be arrested, and, and, and, and crucified like Jesus was, maybe because of the deep grief that he was feeling we're not, we're not sure, but something caused him to not be able to see into that thin place that the women had seen. Maybe his mind got in the way. Maybe he's just like, just didn't think it was possible that people could rise from the dead, right? I don't know. We don't know for sure, and we don't know if the angels were still there. But what we do know is that all of us come to this moment, the resurrection of Jesus in different ways.

08:59 Some of us come, like the women ready to experience a thin place. We're like hungry for it. We're like, and we're ready. Even though we're filled with grief or we're overwhelmed with sadness, they, there's something that they were ready, right? And, and then others of us, like Peter come to this moment a bit more skeptical, maybe a bit afraid or uncertain about the truth of this. And to be honest, at some level, I think if all of us were honest, we have difficulty believing in the resurrection of Jesus, it's so other, then it's so non-physical. It's so spiritual. It's so like, how could that be? And so we look, we look other places for the hope that the resurrection brings us. We look other places for that, for hope in this life to get us through. And, and what we find is that they only provide a glimpse of what we actually need.

09:58 My guess is that every one of us has a deep longing in our hearts for a thin place, for a place where the eternal beats us in the here and now, where the spiritual intersects the physical for the resurrection to be true. That we can actually experience connection with our maker, our creator, right here and right now. Right? It's why, it's one of the reasons why I gravitate towards sci-fi and fantasy towards the mysterious movies like The Matrix. I preached an entire message one time on the Matrix I did, or, or everything everywhere, all at once, which I still don't understand. I I I just don't get it. But, but we are, but we're hungry for the, for the things, the unknown, for the mysterious. And, and it calls to us in a sense. It calls to us and connects us with a longing in our hearts for a thin place.

11:01 When Jesus died on the cross, Luke wrote these words. He said that the light from the sun was gone. So, many, many people believe in eclipse happened when Jesus died on the cross. And then suddenly he records at the curtain, and the sanctuary of the temple was torn down the middle. Now, remember what I said about the temple is one of the traditionally one of those thin places. Well, in the temple in Jerusalem, there were two in primary spaces. One where you, you just, you came and you made sacrifices, and you gathered. And then a place called the Holy of Holies. And the Holy of Holies is where the Jewish people believed that God dwelled he lived there. It was his, it was in a sense a thin place. But interestingly, nobody could go into that place except a priest to represent the people.

11:46 And he could only go in once a year. So it was, it was unaccessible to the average person like you and me. And then when Jesus dies on the cross, the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from this regular gathering place was torn down the middle symbolically saying, there is now no separation between the eternal and the physical. They have come together in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. there forever exists a thin place that we have access to where heaven and earth meet the resurrection of Jesus enables us to see into this place, to live into it, to experience it, something that we could not otherwise. See. I've experienced a few thin places in my life, and occasionally, probably not as often as you might think, I've experienced them in church. it's not the primary place I've experienced thin places, but, but I have experienced it where God comes in and just kind of rests in a space like this during worship, when the music is going or during a message, and I just feel the presence of God.

13:04 You know, I just sense that I know he's here. But more often than not, I've experienced deep connection with God in other spaces. My first experience, a th of a thin place was when I was 10 years old on a school bus . It was just the wrong place, wrong time. But God showed up, you guys. I mean, it was like his, he was sitting next to me, plane flying over the Atlantic. It doesn't only happen in things that move, by the way, more often than not, it'll be in the, when I'm walking through nature, the beauty of Central Oregon or the Mojave Desert. I've, I've experienced spaces where God just all just kind of falls and, and he's there he is. And habits the space where I'm at, I've come to believe that he's always there. There's, but on occasion, my eyes and my heart are open to seeing him and experiencing him.

14:07 I, really enjoyed the movie The Shaw Shank Redemption. Aren't you glad? I didn't say Fellowship of the Ring , but I, I watched s Shank Redemption, a couple months after one of the greatest tragedies in my life. And, and it's a movie about hope and it resonated with me in this moment. And it follows a group of prisoners, that are in Shawshank Prison. And the main character's name is, Andy. He's played by Tim Robbins. And, he never seems to lose hope, even though as the movie says, he's the only guy in Shawshank that shouldn't be there, meaning he's actually innocent. and there's one scene where he, he's in charge of the library. And so he has this delivery of books and LPs and records, you know, and he, and he and he, and there's this one guard watching him, and he lo and he ends up being able to lock that guard in a bathroom. And then he gets, an LP of Mozart, and he begins to play it over the PA system that it goes out to the entire prison. Everyone can hear it . And Andy's best friend, red, he's played by Morgan Freeman,

15:10 He describes that moment in the prison yard when Mozart began to play and their singing began to fill the yard. And he said, I tell you, those voices sort higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away. And for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shaw Shank felt free. Andy gets two months in the hole for that stunt. But when he gets out, he describes to red why he did it. And Andy said, there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone. There's something inside that they can't get to that they can't touch. It's yours. Hope. Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.

16:25 Red finally gets, on he gets paroled after Andy escaped prison. And, and he goes looking for his friend Andy, breaking his parole . And he says this on his journey to find Andy. I find I'm so excited I can barely sit still to hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement. Only a free man can feel a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. Speaker 3

17:02 I hope

17:05 Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. You know why I long for the resurrection to be true? Speaker 3

17:18 Because

17:18 It gives me hope. It gives me hope that that all is not lost. If Jesus Christ can come back from the dead, then what else is possible in this life here and now? Hope for the eternal. Yes, hope for the unseen, but also hope for a future today. That God would give us His presence, the hope that God promises through the resurrection of Jesus, that he is with us, and he will never leave us like a bird that comes into our drab little cages of sorrow and despair and awakens us up to something that's real. I love how CS Lewis described Christian hope as a continual looking forward to the eternal world. And he, and he says, it's not as some modern people think a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do, to hope, I don't know what it is about grief or despair, or desperation or fear that opens our hearts to the possibility of experiencing a thin place. But today, Easter Sunday, I feel like Peter, I feel like red. I feel like I'd run into the tomb to see for myself what if, what if it's true? What if Jesus actually came back from the dead? It changes everything. It changes how I see myself. It changes how I see this world. It changes how I see my brothers and sisters. It changes everything. What if it's true? The veil has been torn. It wasn't just kind of brought up, drawn up for a moment, a momentary religious glitch in the system. It was once and for all

19:12 Ripped apart, heaven and earth, now constantly connected through Jesus Christ and his resurrection. And we can experience because of that, his presence here and now. And not just by going to church, but by every moment that we live in this world. And we see the beauty that he's created and the laughter of friends and family gathered together. We can see his, his fingerprints on everything around us. Some of you came here today like Peter can confused, maybe a little disenchanted. Some of you have deconstructed your faith and you don't know what to believe in this moment. And, and some of you came here today like, like the women in grief and overwhelmed by the challenges of this world. And maybe some of you have lost a little bit of hope, but I think all of us share in a desire to see for ourselves. We want to see, we want our eyes to be open. And sometimes we need God's help. I won't lie. A couple angels right now in this moment would be pretty nice Speaker 3

20:32 .

20:34 Talk about a great Easter service. You know, tweet that right Speaker 3

20:37 .

20:39 Let's wait just one moment. You Speaker 3

20:41 Know

20:48 I'm no angel. That's a fact. But I can tell you he's alive. I know without a shadow of doubt in my mind or in my heart, I doubt a lot of other things. I'm unsure about a lot of other things. But the one thing I'm not unsure about in this life is that Jesus is alive. He's as real to me as you are right now sitting in front of me. I've experienced his presence in the same tangible way that you've experienced the presence of people sitting next to you in front of you and behind you. He is that real to me. I've experienced him in the depths of the deepest sorrow you can imagine. And in the highest of highs. He is with me. I. There is no other way to describe it. He is with me. He sits with me. He laughs with me. He cries with me. He stands with me. He is with us. He is alive. And that reality changes everything. And he loves us so much. That's why he did all of it, because of his great love. So don't wait to give your heart to Jesus. Don't wait to put your hope in the resurrection of Jesus. He is alive and he's calling to you right now.

22:19 He's inviting you to come to him right now. He's reaching out to you, inviting you into relationship with him to put your hope in him. He wants to be in your life. Don't you Close your eyes with me and bow your heads. And I'm gonna pray a prayer. It's a simple prayer. It's a prayer of hope. It's a prayer of belief. It's a prayer of receiving this gift of life. It's a prayer of accepting Jesus into my life. And if you wanna, if your heart is with me in this, and you really want to give your life to Jesus for the first time, or for the 5000th time to acknowledge again that he is the hope of your life, would you simply quietly write where you're sitting? Repeat these words after me. Jesus. I believe I receive you. I accept your forgiveness and your love. I put my hope in you. I put my hope in the resurrection. Thank you for life. Thank you for peace. Thank you for the hope that you give. I believe in you

23:51 If you prayed that prayer for the first time. I simply wanna give you an opportunity to acknowledge that before me and God. And you can tell somebody else on your way out if you like. And, but if you prayed that prayer for the first time and it really, really meant it, would you simply lift up your hand right now and look up at me? I'm just gonna celebrate with you and agree with you. I'm not gonna embarrass you. I'm not gonna ask you to come up or anything like that, but just lift you up your hand right where you're sitting right now. Yeah. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord. Others? Yeah. Awesome. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Lord. Here in the middle section. I'm looking at, I'm looking your way. All the way in the back. Yeah. Awesome. Thank you Lord. Thank you Jesus for new life. Thank you for fresh starts, for renewed hope. Because you came back to life. Jesus. You didn't stay in that empty, that tomb. You came out and gave us life. We love you, Jesus, for that and for so many other things. In your name we pray, amen. Amen. Can we celebrate with those that just responded to that invitation? Yeah.