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The Marvels of Easter

A sermon series idea that focuses on wonder, awe, and amazement of the Resurrection.
The Marvels of Easter
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Wonder, awe, and amazement may find themselves cheapened in a culture that is casual with words. “That was awesome,” is a repeated exclamation about avocado toast or maybe a game-winning goal. But in the vocabulary of the Bible, these words have a wholly different meaning. They are not employed in a diminished way but describe the work of God in a woman’s or man’s life.

Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is one such page from Scripture that demonstrates the loftiness of wonder, awe, amazement, marvel.

The suggested sermon series below attempts to capture the remarkable point of insight that God grants to people amid confusion about the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, the resurrected Lord. Each sermon explores this insight from a particular person’s perspective, cultivating a sense of wonder, awe, amazement, marvel in us as preachers and in the lives of the listeners to whom we preach.

The Marvel of the Centurion (Luke 23:44-49 and Matt. 27:50-54)

The Roman centurion witnessed what happened when Jesus died on the Cross. Darkness shrouded the earth for three hours. Jesus cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Then life left him. At this point the text says, “The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:44-49). Matthew’s Gospel chronicles the centurion was “terrified” and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:50-54).

The marvel of the centurion is cradled in recognizing Jesus for who he is—while being brought there by means of fear and praise. Fear in this text is a means of recognition. All that was taking place was unexplainable to the centurion who guarded the Cross. His guarding skills were at a loss in comparison to the shaking earth and the darkness that enveloped him. No wonder he was knocked off kilter with fear. This experience of fear—of awe, of recognizing that God is God—put the centurion in the perfect place to acknowledge that Jesus is God. Once he came to this realization, he worshiped.

When God takes us off guard our fear leads us to worship.

The Marvel of the Marys (Matt. 28:1-10 and Luke 24:1-11)

Following the placement of Jesus’ body in the tomb, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James went to the tomb (Matt. 28:1-10) with spices to anoint the body, as was the custom of the period (Luke 24:1-11). What they had planned—to anoint the body of the dead Jesus—was not what God had planned.

They discovered that the stone had been moved from the entrance to the tomb and there was no corpse in the burial place. One can imagine their horror at finding no body. Not only that, but also they were surprised by one or more angels whose clothes “gleamed like lightening” (Matt. 28:3 and Luke 24:4).

Luke notes, “in their fright,” or, fear, they collapsed in awe in front of the angels. But the angels told the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he is risen!” and reminded them of what they already knew that Jesus would rise on the third day. “Then they remembered his words” (Luke 24:7-8).

The Marys, along with Joanna left the tomb and went directly to the disciples to tell them what they saw and experienced. Luke records, “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11). This astounding news is rejected by the disciples. But it was true.

These women were the very first evangelists to deliver the message of Jesus’ resurrection. Some might say that the words of the women were dismissed because they were women. But the word of Jesus’ resurrection made what they said even more unbelievable. Yet, the Marys marveled, and they believed—and told.

Marveling moves us to belief and witness.

The Marvel of Thomas (John 20:19-23)

Thomas might be like many of us. His name means twin and even though one might not be a twin, we might duplicate Thomas’ approach to life. For some reason, Thomas was absent when Jesus appeared to the disciples following his resurrection (John 20:19-23). But when told that Jesus had appeared to them Thomas declared, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25).

A week passed and the disciples were together once again, along with Thomas, in a secure location—doors locked, and windows shut. Suddenly, Jesus stood with them and exclaimed, “Peace be with you!” Aware of Thomas’ statement a week earlier, Jesus almost tauntingly tells Thomas to put his fingers in his wounded hands and side. Then he commands, “Stop doubting and believe.” End your lack of faith and have faith, he tells Thomas. Thomas declares, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28).

The greeting of peace from Jesus is in stark contrast to the fear that flooded that house when Jesus’ presence was made known. More than a greeting, they needed peace from him that would quell their confusion about what they were seeing, especially Thomas. Thomas was a realist. He wanted evidence. When confronted with awe-filled evidence, he recognized Jesus as Lord and God.

When confronted with the reality of Jesus we are moved to recognize him as Lord and God.

The Marvel at Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35)

“Ignorance is bliss,” at least that’s what the common proverb says. But in the case of the two men from Emmaus the opposite is true. Knowing is delight.

Luke chronicles the journey of the men from Emmaus as they make their way to Emmaus from Jerusalem. Unknowingly, the resurrected Jesus joins their trek home. They were discussing the events of the day when Jesus steps along with them.

He asks them what they were talking about. They answer with surprise, “Are you the only one living in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have happened there in these days?” The unknown Jesus then asks knowingly, “What things?” (Luke 24:18-19). The two men explain excitedly, “About Jesus of Nazareth” and then they detail all that had taken place—that they and the other disciples didn’t believe the report of the women regarding Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus interrupts them, telling them how stupid—yes, he called them stupid—for not believing all that was promised by the prophets. Then he showed them from the scriptures the promise of the Christ (Luke 24:20-28).

The next scene pulls together the threads of the journey as Jesus reveals himself during the meal. “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:30-32).

The disciples’ ignorance turned to bliss. They realized that Jesus was their unknown guest. At the table in Emmaus, he became their host. When we gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper we marvel at the presence of the Savior. He reveals himself to us and nourishes us with his presence, even when we don’t notice. In this we marvel.

When we celebrate the Supper, we realize that Jesus is with us.


God works to marvel us to himself. The people chronicled above provide points of contact for our listeners as they encounter once again this miracle of the resurrection and its promise to all who believe, and for some for the first time.

Scott M. Gibson is the Professor of Preaching and holder of the David E. Garland Chair of Preaching at Baylor University/Truett Seminary in Waco, Texas. He also served as the Haddon W. Robinson Professor of Preaching and Ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where he was on faculty for twenty-seven years.

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