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In 1786, the poet Robert Burns was plowing a field for his garden. As he plowed the ground he noticed a sudden scurrying of little mice under his feet. Stopping, he realized that he had plowed up a mice nest. That got him thinking about the unanticipated events that happen in life that tend to wreck the careful plans that we've made. Sometimes we bring the disaster on ourselves; sometimes it comes on us from out of nowhere. That led him to write a poem called, "To A Mouse," from which we get this famous line, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Sometime later, author John Steinbeck turned Burn's short poem into a classic novel called, "Of Mice and Men."
So, what's your plan? We've all got one. Some are much more detailed than others. They include timeframes and deadlines. Others are more vague. It's all 'someday,' 'whenever.'
So, how's it going? Is it going according to plan? How many of us can look on our life and say, 'yea, it's going just the way I planned it? It's all going according to plan?'
Stuff happens doesn't it? Sometimes it's the mistakes that we've made, the stupid stuff we've done that make our best-laid plans go awry. Sometimes, things don't go according to plan just because of someone else's mistake or the whole accumulation of mistakes over a long time, or the inheritance of some ancestor's DNA, or a shift in economic or political power.
If you think about this too long, you begin to wonder if there's plan for all of our plans gone awry? Is there a master plan that does not go awry, that will compensate for all of the zillion-billion defects that ruin our plans? Is there a way to turn all of this around so that despite all of the disappointments and disasters, the final result is "a new heaven and anew earth, where the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind"? (Is.65:17). (Wow! All that from a plowed up mouse house.)
The women had followed Joseph of Arimathea to the tomb where Jesus was laid so that they would know where to find the body when they returned. Their plan was to return after the Sabbath day was over with spices and ointments to pack around His dead body, which was the customary thing to do. But things didn't go according to plan. "When they arrived they found the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus."
So how do you react when things don't go the way you planned for them to go? You didn't plan to get sick or have that accident. You never planned on getting laid off. How are you handling all those change in plans? The plan was to get married and raise a family, retire comfortably and spoil the grandchildren. So, how's the plan working out?
Luke says that the women were "perplexed." They were 'confused,' 'baffled,' 'at a total loss.' Now, throw in the appearance of "two men in dazzling apparel," and they go from "perplexed" to "frightened and they bowed their faces to the ground."
And the men asked to them, "why do you seek the living among the dead?" There's a good verse to consider putting on your tombstone.
It's a tough question though. It's one of those questions that asks and accuses at the same time. The question implies that you're operating with the wrong information and bad data. "Where'd you ever get an idea like that?" "You thought you knew how it was going to turn out didn't you? What ever made you think that?"
"Why do you seek the living among the dead?" Good question. "What makes you think that if you get that high paying job you'll find real security?" "Why are you trying to find real happiness in self indulgence?" "Why do you think that recognition from others is the key to the self esteem you long for?" "So, you think that once you're successful, you'll be able to really enjoy life huh?" "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"
And then they state the obvious. Which of course, is not at all obvious to these women. "He is not here, he is risen!" "What you're looking for can't be found where you're looking for it." Truth is, they absolutely had to be told this because they would never have gotten it otherwise. They would have remained perpetually "perplexed" if it hadn't been spelled it out to them. That's why the angels were there.
But they should have gotten it because He had told them the plan. When they were in Galilee, He laid it out for them so that when it happened, they would not be "perplexed." "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (Luke 9:22).
Can't you see? It's all gone according to plan. Exactly according to plan. Down to the tiniest detail. It happened just as He said it would. "Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise."
They had either forgotten His words or they never paid much attention to them. Which explains why they had prepared those spices and ointments and gotten up early and gone to the tomb. They had made their plans without remembering His words. Had they remembered His Words they would have made other plans.
How often do we make our plans without remembering His Words? How much different would our plans be if we remembered His Words as we made them?
"And they remembered his words." It took some reminding. Coming to church on Christmas and Easter isn't enough. We need to be repeatedly reminded of His Words. "And they remembered his words." "Oh yea." The light was going on and it was shattering the darkness, just as the Word will do if given the chance. Nothings really changed, but for these women, everything was changing.
Easter is the celebration that everything has gone according to plan – God's plan. His plan for His creation, His plan for His Son, Jesus Christ, His plan for His holy, Christian Church, His plan for you and your salvation.
Before we explore that more fully, let me just point out what this DOES NOT MEAN. This does not mean that Easter is the divine sign from heaven that God will make everything go just the way you've planned. Like we said, all too often, our plans are hatched without any remembrance of God's Word. And so, just as all too often, our thoughts are not God's thoughts and our ways are not God's ways, our plans are not God's plans.
How can we hope that the Lord will support our plans that run contrary to His Word? St. Paul describes that kind of faith like this, "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied."
The disciples suffered from this kind of "hope in Christ for this life only" narrow-minded faith. They hoped that He would carry out their plans to overthrow the establishment and institute political and social reform. They had hoped He would be the King to lower taxes, improve national security, and bring a return to the good old days of economic and prosperity and international respect.
But now, as they watched Him "suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed," the whole course of current events was heading in the wrong direction. The history they thought was about to be made was coming undone before their eyes. All of their high hopes and noble goals were shattered. It wasn't going according to plan. They were "perplexed."
Easter is the celebration that even when things don't go according to our plan, and even if all of our plans go awry, yet still, everything has gone according to God's plan. And His plan is all for you.
On Easter, Jesus Christ stepped right into the middle of all of your plans for your life in this world with His plan for your life and your salvation in a "new heaven and a new earth where the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind." And His plan has been accomplished.
God's will has been done and nothing could prevent it from happening. Not your sins or mine or the sins of the whole world; not Judas's plan to betray Him; not Caiaphas' plan nor Pontius Pilate's plan, not the nails through His hands and feet, not the stone rolled in front of the tomb, not Satan and all of his devils.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed – alleluia! Everything has gone according to His plan.
This is why Jonah's plan never stood a chance. During the 40 days of Lent this year we traveled with Jonah as he plotted and schemed how to prevent God's plan to save the Ninevites from happening. Jonah chartered a ship to take him to Tarshish, as far away from Nineveh as you could go at the time. But the pagan crew, from the lowest deckhand to the ship's captain all ended up coming to faith and calling upon the name of Yahweh to save them.
Jonah tried to thwart God's plan by ending his life. He pleaded with the sailors to throw him into the sea so that he might drown. How's that for a plan? But God appointed a great fish to rescue him by swallowing him up and spitting him out again three days later, alive and well.
Then finally, Jonah went to Nineveh. His plan was to preach a sermon that he felt would surely get no response – "Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown." No snappy sermon starter or clever illustrations or stories about his vacation to the Poconos. Just "repent or die." But God took Jonah's plan and worked it for good. And by that eight-word sermon, the entire city of Nineveh, from the people, on up to the king, and all the way down to the cattle, repented, turned from their evil ways, and the Lord relented from the disaster He had threatened, JUST AS HE HAD PLANNED.
When you look at Easter like this, as the successful completion of God's master plan for a "new heaven and a new earth," the implications for the believer are incredible.
It means that even when things do not seem to be working out according to the plans that I have made for my life, there is yet a deeper foundation upon which my life rests, whose footers reach all the way down to the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. And I may draw upon the power of His victory on the 3rd day to reorder my plans in remembrance of His Word.
It means that no matter what may threaten me in this life, be it sickness or disease, trials or troubles, accidents or tragedies, unemployment or even all the stupid mistakes I've made, I know that nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus because on Easter, His plan for my salvation has been accomplished.
It means that even though I may see the ungodly and wicked plans of men and women being laid and carried out, against which I feel powerless to stop, whether it be in politics or economics or even in the church, yet because of Easter I know that God has already overcome every evil and wicked scheme and even used them to carry out His good and gracious will.
It's because of Easter that those beautiful words of the prophet Jeremiah have as much meaning for us as they did to the Israelites of old. Israel had been plowed up and taken into captivity in Babylon. Talk about your plans going awry? Jeremiah was left behind in Jerusalem because he old. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Jeremiah writes a letter to the exiles that includes these precious words:
"For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to
give you a future and a hope." (Jer.29:19).
On Easter, God accomplished His plan for you.