The gates and doors were barred And all the windows fastened down I spent the night in sleeplessness And rose at every sound Half in hope of sorrow And half in fear the day Would find the soldiers breakin' through To drag us all away
And just before the sunrise I heard something at the wall The gate began to rattle And a voice began to call I hurried to the window Looked down into the street Expecting swords and torches And the sound of soldiers' feet
But there was no one there but Mary So I went down to let her in John stood there beside me As she told me where she'd been She said they've moved Him in the night And none of us know where The stone's been rolled away And now His body isn't there
We both ran towards the garden Then John ran on ahead We found the stone and empty tomb Just the way that Mary said But the winding sheet they wrapped Him in Was just an empty shell And how or where they'd taken Him Was more than I could tell
Oh something strange had happened there Just what I did not know John believed a miracle But I just turned to go Circumstance and speculation Couldn't lift me very high 'Cause I'd seen them crucify Him Then I saw Him die
Back inside the house again The guilt and anguish came Everything I'd promised Him Just added to my shame When at last it came to choices I denied I knew His name And even if He was alive It wouldn't be the same
But suddenly the air was filled With a strange and sweet perfume Light that came from everywhere Drove shadows from the room And Jesus stood before me With His arms held open wide And I fell down on my knees And I just clung to Him and cried
Then He raised me to my feet And as I looked into His eyes The love was shining out from Him Like sunlight from the skies Guilt in my confusion Disappeared in sweet release And every fear I ever had Just melted into peace
He's alive yes He's alive Yes He's alive and I'm forgiven Heaven's gates are open wide He's alive yes He's alive Oh He's alive and I'm forgiven Heaven's gates are open wide He's alive He's alive Hallelujah He's alive He's alive and I'm forgiven Heaven's gates are open wide He's alive He's alive He's alive I believe it He's alive Sweet Jesus
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"-and that he had said these things to her.
The song above is one of the most powerful Easter songs I know. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes. It's a Dolly Parton song, and it's one of her most beautiful. As you listen or read the words to the song, you can almost put yourself in the position that the disciples of Christ found themselves. Not only was there great sadness in the death of their savior but also there was fear of what the authorities would do to them. It must have been agonizing for them. Then He appears to them and:
He's alive and I'm forgiven
Heaven's gates are open wide
For Jesus' mother, his disciples and his followers, Jesus' death was a tragedy. You can imagine that all hope was naturally gone. We today can face the same feeling. Many times in life, with homophobic politicians, the increasing rise of anti-gay homophobic groups, and everything that is going on in the world — war, famine, disease, natural disasters, discrimination, and hate — there can be a loss of hope and faith. Yet the resurrection gives us hope that no matter what has happened in our lives, no matter how much faith and hope we have lost, we can experience hope, we can overcome and regain whatever we have lost in our lives.
Our hope includes the knowledge that evil does not win. – Sometimes today, it seems that the bad guy often wins. Sometimes it seems that the one who cheats, the one who lies, the one who steps on others to get ahead, is the one who prospers. Far too often, I read of this person cheating or that one (or catching a student cheating) or another kid, gay or otherwise, who has been bullied, lost hope, and committed suicide. How often do we read of politicians cheating, or working to make sure their businesses get the good contract? It seems there is no hope for the little guy, the one who lives right, to ever get ahead.
With a positive attitude that through God we can accomplish anything, we truly can make the world a better place. With hope that springs eternal, just as the flowers in spring show the rebirth of the earth, we can be assured that God's promises will deliver a better day, a rebirth our faith. The promise that Jesus would rise from the grave on the third day is remembered every Easter Sunday, it is the greatest sacrifice God could give for our sins. When we are baptized, it is done in symbolic reverence as our old body dies in its watery grave to be reborn and rise from the dead as Christ did for our sins.
Easter has always been the major religious holiday at my old church in Alabama. It is a day which has a date for us to celebrate, and it has the most meaning for Christians. It is the day when the Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah were ultimately fulfilled. It is the day that Christ rose from the dead. The resurrection is the most important of the miracles. When I was a child, our church had dinner on the grounds, and everyone brought a dish and the kids had an Easter egg hunt. It was always a wonderful day of fellowship. We no longer have dinner on the grounds because we once had a preacher (he didn't last long with us) who was extremely hardcore and did not believe in having dinner on the grounds. I think he believed the only meal that should be taken at church was communion. Though he is long gone, we never revived the tradition of dinner on the grounds. I find it quite sad, since early Christian services were often centered around the dinner table where fellowship, worship, and food were part of the gathering.
I hope that all of you have a wonderful Easter. I, also, hope that each of you feels the hope of the rebirth that Easter brings to us today. May God's love eternally bless you.