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Saturday, 26 March 2016

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Luke 24:1-12

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”’ Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

We all know the saying “every cloud has a silver lining”? What does it mean? When the storm is coming all is dark, the sky becomes black and can even be quite frightening. During a storm my Grandmother was so frightened that she would usually be found hiding in the cupboard under the stairs. A storm can be quite frightening thing when the wind gets up, the rain lashes down and the lightening begins to flash. We can tell that the storm is getting closer by the shortening gap between flash of lightening and bang of thunder. At times we might even wonder whether we will survive but as the storm passes over with great relief we look to the sky and see a brilliant edge to the cloud. The sun is winning the battle the storm is disappearing and soon we have brightness and all is well. Hence the saying that every cloud has a silver lining. There are some benefits from a storm, one of them is really quite surprising; the lightening which is so dangerous also produces fertiliser for the ground, the electric charge breaks down the atmosphere and produces lovely nutrients that feed our plants.

The day that Jesus died was like the darkest ever storm cloud over the whole world but Good Friday had the greatest benefits for mankind.

Matthew 28:1-10: After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’

A dark cloud over the friends of Jesus:

Jesus had a number of friends that had remained faithful to Him through this extremely tense period of time. There were now only 11 disciples, Judas had killed himself. The disciples themselves had hung on by the skin of their teeth. Even the big man Peter had denied Jesus for a while but now they were together in their grief and confusion. With them were also a number of women. There was Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Joanna and others.

The one thing that united them all was Jesus. They had greatly respected Him and loved Him. They all had faith in Him to varying degrees but now they were united in grief for their teacher and friend who had been so cruelly and wrongly killed.

We can imagine the thoughts going through their minds, grief is a strange thing in that it causes all sorts of emotions and reactions. This grief was all very new to them, they were having to pick up the pieces after having had three amazing years with the Lord Jesus Christ.

To add to their problems, Jesus could not have died at a more inconvenient time! It was feast time, the whole nation was rejoicing in the memory of salvation from Egypt. It was Passover, the most important feast day of the Jewish calendar! As the nation was rejoicing in the light of salvation from Egypt the friends of Jesus were under the cloud of grief. If only they had been able to understand Jesus’ teaching about His death then they would have been saved from a great deal of sorrow. They were first hand witnesses of the working out of the Great Passover.

Their problem was that they could not see the silver lining of this very black cloud.

Their black cloud had a silver lining!

Jesus had died late on Friday, the day before the Sabbath. Due to Sabbath laws they had buried Him quickly, leaving some of the ritual preparations incomplete. This meant that after the celebrations they had to return to the grave, open it up and embalm Jesus’ body properly. After all if anybody deserved a decent burial it was Jesus!
Can you imagine what sort of holiday weekend these friends of Jesus had? They were in deep grief and also they had this most distasteful of duties to perform. I can imagine them dreading Sunday morning; fancy having to get up early in the morning to that!

Their minds would have been racing with thoughts and memories. They would have gone through all of the usual repercussions and guilt trips that grief brings: the “if only’s” etc. They would have had sleepless nights where they would have considered all that Jesus had done and said. They would have considered all of His teaching. They would have had all of the “why” questions. So much had been left undone. They would have gone through their last moments with Him. Why did some of them sleep whilst He prayed? Why did some deny Him? Why did they stand afar when He was dying? All of these things are natural grief and are an important part of coming to terms with the death of somebody close to us. These would certainly have been the emotions going through the disciples minds on that day.

On top of these things there was an element of confusion about the person of Jesus. They had recently declared to Him that they had nowhere else to go and that He had words of eternal life but where did His dying leave them now? He had said that He would rise again but their minds would have been on the day of resurrection some time in the future.

If only they could have seen that their dark cloud had a silver lining!

The light shines through the darkness:

The ladies were prepared for the moment. Spices at the ready they went along to the tomb. They had a problem, there had been a sealing stone rolled into the entrance of the tomb, how would they move it?
But that did not deter them.

On their arrival they found that the tomb was open and on looking inside the body of Jesus was gone. We can imagine all of the immediate thoughts at that moment. Who has done this? Where have they taken Him? As all of these thoughts were going through their minds, enter two men in flashy clothes. These are clearly no ordinary men; in fact we would know them as angels because they have an important message from God to the ladies. The ladies are understandably surprised and frightened. They bow their faces before the men who immediately turn the ladies attention from angel worship to the reality of the situation. In effect they say to the ladies “what are you doing here in a tomb? This is a place of death! Jesus is risen just as He has been telling you that He would!”

Jesus had been teaching His disciples that He would be crucified and that on the third day He would rise again but it clearly had not sunk in. They could not understand it, who can blame them? It is still the same today; there is nothing new under the sun. The gospel of Jesus has been preached clearly for centuries, men, women, boys and girls have heard it but yet when confronted with the empty tomb they will not believe it is possible that God’s Son Jesus Christ has risen!

People will believe in all sorts of fantasies but a Saviour who comes from heaven and dies on a cross and rises back to life again on the third day all because God loves humanity is just too hard to believe.

I wonder if there are any here today who are just like these women. They had been with Jesus; they had heard His clear teaching but yet had forgotten the most important facts! Are you like them having heard the gospel but yet not believing? This account gives heart to the preacher and teacher, if the friends of Jesus who heard His very words could not take it in then we should not be surprised that with our inferior efforts people just do not get it!!!!


The dark cloud has a silver lining!

These ladies on that day were under a very dark cloud. They were in desperate grief, they had a gruesome task to undertake and they were confused as to why things had turned out the way that they had. If that were not a dark enough cloud they also had to cope with the apparent theft of the body and now to top it all 2 men have come besides them. But at that moment the dark cloud’s silver lining is about to be revealed.

The silver lining had been there all along but they simply could not see it. In fact this dark cloud had been planned by God from before the foundation of the world. God had a plan for mankind that would procure salvation by His own sacrifice for those whom He loves. The sacrifice was to be of the Lord Jesus Christ who alone was able to accomplish salvation. The silver lining to the cloud is the resurrection of Jesus and the salvation of His people but that could not be seen until the storm has passed over.

The storm has passed over!

The ladies had spent a period of time in ignorance but were now seeing, the disciples were still in their ignorance but the reality was that the storm had passed by. As soon as the ladies had been reminded of Jesus’ words they remembered all that Jesus had told them. The Holy Spirit of God opened their eyes and they understood:

Jesus is Alive!

John 20:1-10: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped round Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

As soon as they understand they had to tell the others:

Good News! Jesus is Alive!

You might think that immediately the lights would come on with the disciples but you would be quite wrong, they simply would not believe. Peter and John went racing to the tomb they then saw the evidence and left totally confused. We know that it is not long before Jesus reveals Himself to all of the disciples and finally to Thomas who until that moment would not believe the testimony of His trusted friends.

Each one of the disciples had their own personal encounter with the truth about Jesus. Not one of them simply trusted by the “preached word” of the others. It was when God Himself by the power of His Spirit proved that Jesus truly is alive that they each came to believe in Him.

It is exactly the same today, we can tell all of the facts, we can preach with passion and power but until God by His Spirit reveals the truth our hearers will remain in ignorance in the same way as the friends of Jesus did.

The great news is that God delights in saving sinners and we can trust Him by His Spirit to reveal truth into the unbelieving heart just as He has done so for all of us who believe.

The silver lining: Jesus is alive can you see beyond the storm?

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