Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Resurrection

Because He Lives, 16 April 2017

Because He Lives
Series: A Love That Never Dies
Matthew 28:1-10

Series Big Idea:
Throughout Lent, we prepare for Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return

Big Idea: Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Welcome to Resurrection Sunday! This is the greatest day of the year, the day we celebrate our living Savior, LORD, and King, Jesus Christ! Today we conclude our series, “A Love That Never Dies.” Even though Jesus died, his love for us never dies.

Fear. We all experience it.

We are afraid of failure.
We are afraid of success.

The most common command in the Bible is not love, but rather, “Fear not.”

We are afraid of the betrayal of friends.
We are afraid of the attack of zombies!

What’s your greatest fear?

We are afraid of death.
We are afraid of life.

Fear has been a part of the human condition from the beginning. I can’t imagine the fear on Good Friday. The gospel—or good news—of Matthew says,

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land (Matthew 27:45)

For three hours in the middle of the day as Jesus is suffering on the cross, the whole land turned dark. That would freak me out! I know we have a lot of cloudy days in Toledo, but it doesn’t get dark at noon! A few verses later we read…

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. (Matthew 27:50-53, NLT)

The moment Jesus dies, this huge curtain separating people from the most sacred place on the planet, the holy of holies, is torn from top to bottom. That’s weird! It was wonderful, by the way, because that meant Jesus’ death provided reconciliation between us and our Creator God.

But that’s not all. The earth shook. Have you ever experienced an earthquake? Freaky!

Rocks split apart. What? Have you ever seen that?

And then maybe my favorite part…tombs opened. The dead were raised. It says bodies left the cemetery after the resurrection, went into the city, and appeared to many people. Grandma?!?!

The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54)

Do you get the picture? The crucifixion scene was awful. It was scary. Jesus dies. Nature freaks out. People are weeping. The smell of death is in the air. Roman soldiers are everywhere. Is it any wonder people were afraid?

But that was Friday. People are afraid of death, but today is a day of life, right? Let’s look at our text for today, a verse verses ahead.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1)

These women go to the tomb. They probably had two sleepless nights. They were tired. They were overcome with grief and stress, watching an execution right before their eyes. Mary saw her son’s life drained in front of her. If she did sleep, I’m sure it was filled with nightmares.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. He was such a good boy! He was darn-near perfect. Actually, he was perfect. Why would anyone want to kill him? A week ago a parade welcomed him in to the city of Jerusalem, and now he’s dead!

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.  (Matthew 28:2-4)

It’s Sunday. Another earthquake? A violent one. An angel rolls back the stone. Talk about freaking out, the guards shake and become like dead men.

These are the powerful warriors the women expect to be guarding the tomb. Instead, the women are terrified by someone else.

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.” (Matthew 28:5-7)

First, the angel terrifies the guards. Now he terrifies the women. Can you blame them for being afraid?

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:8)

Fear. Hope. Joy. Fear. Hope. Joy. They were surely an emotional mess! Jesus is alive?

Suddenly Jesus met them.
“Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:9-10)

Why does Jesus say, “Do not be afraid?” Because they’re afraid! They’re overcome with emotion. Is this really happening? Have we finally fallen asleep and we’re dreaming? Dead people do not say, “Greetings!”

Yet this is the account. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses. He ate with them. He talked with them. He showed them his pierced hands and feet. And for about 2000 years men, women and children have been experiencing a relationship with Jesus, a relationship possible only because Jesus is alive!

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Followers of Jesus base everything on the resurrection. Everything!

Paul, once an enemy of Jesus and his followers, remarked

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

Friends, either the resurrection happened or it didn’t. If it didn’t—if Jesus is dead or never died—our faith is useless. Paul says “we are of all people most to be pitied.” We are hopeless. We have every reason to fear death, to fear life.

But if Jesus is alive, we have hope. We have forgiveness. We can have the promise of eternity with God…and the assurance of salvation. We can experience peace, love, joy, and purpose.

What are you afraid of? Death? Many people are afraid of death. You’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die. If you were to die tonight and stand before God and he asked you why you deserved to spend eternity in heaven, what would you say?

I would say, “I don’t deserve to spend eternity in heaven. I deserve to go to hell because of my sins, my evil, my rebellion, my failures. But Jesus died for me. He confronted evil in all its forms and went into the darkness to take its full weight upon himself. And Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered sin and death.”

As I said recently at the International Student Easter Dinner, the difference between our faith and that of religion is how they’re spelled.

Religion is spelled
D-O, what we do to try to make God like us.

The message of Jesus is spelled
D-O-N-E, it’s what he has done for us, dying and rising from the dead.

What are you afraid of? Life? Many people are afraid of life. Tragedy, loneliness, sickness, terrorism. This world is messed up because of sin. But we need not fear because Jesus is alive. He experienced loneliness, temptation, pain, betrayal, and even death. He understands what you and I face every day. He sent the Holy Spirit to be present with us, to guide us, to comfort us, to encourage us, to empower us. He also gave us one another, a family to belong to, brothers and sisters to journey with.

We are all afraid of being vulnerable, of trusting someone only to have them abandon us. It has happened to me and probably to you.

Let me just state I’m sorry…sorry for the pain and disappointment you’ve experienced in life. I’m especially sorry for the behavior of so-called Christians who acted nothing like Jesus. I’m ashamed to say my life does not always look like Jesus—but that’s my desire. I want nothing to do with organized religion…and everything to do with Jesus.

Because of Jesus—and because he lives—I have experienced peace, joy, satisfaction, hope, love, and purpose…and confidence about this life and the next.

We’re going to close with a song that talks about the result of the resurrection. Because he lives, all fear is gone. The Bible says perfect love casts out fear. Jesus loves you. He died for you. He rose for you. He’s alive today and wants to calm your fears. He wants to be your Savior. He wants to be your LORD and King.

Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
Every fear is gone
I know He holds my life, my future in His hands

Because He Lives (Amen)

Fear not!

Credits: Some ideas from Rev. Steven H. Albers, CTA.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Full Life Now, 27 March 2016

Full Life Now
John 10:10

Big Idea: Jesus didn’t just die so we could go to heaven, He died so we can live now!

Jesus didn’t just die for our future. He died for our future, present, and past. Eternity has begun.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and it’s a life God wants to be abundant, fruitful, exhilarating, and full.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

My name is Kirk and I’m thrilled you’ve chosen to spend your Resurrection Sunday morning with us! There is no greater day on the calendar than today. This is our Super Bowl, New Year’s Day, Summer Vacation, Mardi Gras, Memorial Day all packed into one 24-hour period. Today is the ultimate celebration of life.

We often take life for granted…until it is threatened or lost. We live life day after day, perhaps wishing for a better job, better weather, better relationships, or a better car. We’ve all been fed the message that the pursuit of happiness is something we all deserve, and nearly every advertisement is designed to convince us we’re not living life to the full until we have their product or service.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up. Why are you here? No, not why are you in this place at this time, but why are you on this planet? This question has haunted people for generations. What’s the meaning of life?

Earlier we saw a promo for Alpha, an interactive exploration of this question I have experienced several times. Whether you’re an atheist dragged here today by a family member, an agnostic searching for answers, or a follower of Jesus looking to deepen your faith, Alpha is a fantastic way to deepen your spiritual life.

Life. There’s that word again.

Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Here’s the way one enemy of early Christians who later followed Jesus describes it:

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NLT)

With all due respect to other faiths, unlike many religious figures throughout history who are no longer living, the message of Christianity is that of a living God, a God who conquered death. It’s the foundation of our faith. Without the resurrection, Christianity is, uh, dead. Paul, quoted earlier, continues…

And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. (1 Corinthians 15:17-20, NLT)

Today we celebrate that Jesus is alive. His resurrection surprised many, but 700 years before the birth of Jesus Isaiah prophesied that Jesus


    On Friday we remembered the death of Jesus on the cross. It’s important to remember why He died.

    “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NLT)

    Jesus died for every man, woman and child…Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, Christian, and agnostic. He died so our sins can be forgiven. He died to pay the punishment we deserve to pay for our evil deeds. He died to reconcile us to our perfect, holy, heavenly Father who sent Him.

    This is love.
    This is life.

    Have you experienced the love of Jesus?
    Have you experienced the life of Jesus?

    The passage says those who believe—those who surrender their life to Jesus—will have eternal life.

    Years ago I heard the story something like this:

    God loves us.

    We sin and are separated from a perfect, holy God who cannot tolerate sin.

    Jesus died in our place, to forgive us, to reconcile us to God, to make us holy and pure.

    We need to believe in Jesus, receiving the gift of eternal life He offers us.

    This is all true, but it leaves one lingering question…

    What do we do now?

    If Christianity is just about what happens after we die, what do we do in the meantime?

    If Easter is about a past event and eternal life is about the future, what about now?

    Jesus said,

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

    He came that we would have
    full life now. We are promised an eternity with God. That’s fantastic, but He wants us to experience full life now.

    A life with
    hope—hope that someday every wrong will be righted, that every war will cease, that justice will prevail, that peace will come.

    A life with
    joy—not merely happiness but a deep sense of contentment no trial or tragedy can erase.

    A life with
    love—unconditional acceptance from our heavenly Father which allows us to love and forgive others, not because they or we deserve it but because we’ve been given the ultimate gift of love from Jesus…His very life.

    A life with
    meaning—realizing we’re not an accident but cherished children of Almighty God who created us in His image with dignity, value and worth.

    A life with
    security—knowing nothing we can do can make God love us more than He already does…and nothing we can ever do can make God love us less.

    A life with
    grace—undeserved favor from our Father just because He loves us but won’t force Himself upon us which is why we must receive the gift of life, Jesus.

    Religion is spelled D-O. It’s all about what we try to do for God.

    Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. It’s about what God has done for us.

    When my son was younger he wanted to learn about other religions. I said, “Go for it! Study other religions. We are the only ones with grace. Every religion says you must pray, study, eat or not eat, drink or not drink, do certain things…and hope God will love you. Only Christianity has grace.”

    The Bible says

    God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT)

    It’s all about Jesus, His death, and His resurrection. One of the most popular songs is called “Amazing Grace.” Grace truly is amazing. You cannot earn it. You cannot do things to get it. You cannot work for it. You cannot buy it. Like any gift, you can only accept or reject it.

    Will you accept or reject the gift?
    Will you accept or reject Jesus?

    Do you want to continue to be in control or are you ready to
    let go and let God…be God and King and LORD?

    God’s love, His forgiveness, His grace…they are incredible! They are the reason for Easter. Today is a celebration of life…eternal life, full life, dynamic life.

    Are you living a full life now? I love what N.T. Wright says…

    …we should make Easter a forty-day celebration. If Lent is that long, Easter should be at least that long, all the way to Ascension. We should meet regularly for Easter parties. We should drink champagne at breakfast. We should renew baptismal vows with splashing water all over the place. And we should sing and dance and blow trumpets and put out banners in the streets. And we should invite the homeless people to parties and we should go around town doing random acts of generosity and celebration. We should be doing things which would make our sober and serious neighbors say, “What is the meaning of this outrageous party?”

    I’m embarrassed to say I’ve met boring Christians. That should be an oxymoron! We have more to celebrate than a sports victory, a job promotion, or a birthday. Followers of Jesus should throw the best parties…and live the best, most fulfilled lives.

    Jesus told one woman…

    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; (John 11:25)

    Jesus is the resurrection.
    Jesus is the life.

    Know Jesus. Know life.
    No Jesus. No life.

    Ironically, many have died simply because they claimed Jesus was alive. He didn’t come to make bad people good. Jesus came to make dead people come alive. When we die to ourselves, our agendas, and our pride and fully surrender our lives to Jesus He is able to do more than we can ever dream or imagine. It may not always be easy, but we are never alone. He promises to be with us always. He promises to lead us and guide us. He promises to give us full life now…and forever.

    You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

    Because He LIves, Easter 2015, 5 April 2015

    Big Idea: The resurrection changes everything!

    The Butterfly Effect

    “In
    chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.” So states Wikipedia.

    Put into plain English, the Butterfly Effect, attributed to Edward Lorenz, is a belief that a butterfly’s wings flapping eventually create a typhoon that hits land on the other side of the world.

    A snowflake by itself weighs nothing, but enough of them will collapse oak trees and roofs.

    A woman named Rosa Parks simply sat on a bus and sparked the Civil Rights movement.

    Ten years earlier, a man named Jackie Robinson was court-martialed (and acquitted) for not moving to the back of a bus.

    You might call this butterfly effect a chain reaction. One event can change everything. No event changed human history like the resurrection.

    Because He lives. One moment in history about two thousand years ago changed everything. You could argue there were two. The first was the death of Jesus.

    There is unanimous agreement among scholars that Jesus died. He was given an honorable burial. That the tomb was discovered to be empty. That there were post-mortem appearances of Jesus by the disciples. With the exception of Muslims who believe Jesus never actually died on the cross, virtually every scholar will tell you a historical person named Jesus lived, taught, and died. The primary controversy surrounds our celebration today—His resurrection.

    Church history is full of creeds, statements of faith. Perhaps the oldest creed of the Christian faith comes within three years of the death of Jesus (see James Dunn). It was recorded in Paul’s letter to the people in Corinth.

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

    • Christ died for us
    • Christ was buried
    • Christ was raised again

    Much is made of the death of Christ, and rightfully so. We remember it each month as we engage in communion or the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist (call it what you like!). What Jesus accomplished on the cross was immensely important. But it was not enough.

    The cross seems to get most of the attention. People have turned the horrific object of torture into a religious symbol, even a celebrated piece of jewelry. The real focus should be on the empty tomb, an image that is, admittedly, a bit more complex to depict! Still, perhaps we should wear empty tombs rather than crosses around our necks!

    When I was in Jerusalem several years ago I was curious about the place where Jesus died. There are two common possibilities, one now inside The
    Church of the Holy Sepulcher and another outside the city, a hill that looks like a skull. Both are interesting sites, but I wanted to see the empty tomb!

    He is risen!


    Paul was a Jesus freak! He was a leading Jewish leader named Saul who persecuted Christians…until He encountered Jesus. His witness alone is tremendous evidence of the resurrection, for dead men are not known to speak, and only lunatics would be persecuted for a lie, a myth, or a mirage as he and so many others were, including countless martyrs…simply for the belief in the resurrection. Paul wrote

    But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

    There are many “ifs” in those verses! It’s hard for me to imagine life without the resurrection. Paul continues to state things in the positive.

    But* Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

    * when you see a “but” in a sentence, usually the only thing that matters is what follows!

    Our faith is based on not merely a life or a death but on the resurrection. The resurrection is not only the true center of the Christian faith, but it signals God's initiative in the renewing of creation. The resurrection both embodies and empowers the destiny of God’s people as divine image-bearers from now to forever.

    So What?

    The resurrection is everything!

    I recently bought a book called
    Risen: 50 Reasons Why The Resurrection Changed Everything by Steven Mathewson.

    1. To Give Us Eternal Life (John 11:25–27)
    2. To Show His Power over Death (Acts 2:24; Romans 6:9)
    3. To Heal Us (Acts 4:10)
    4. To Receive the Blessings Promised to David (Acts 13:34)
    5. To Forgive Our Sins (Acts 13:37–38; 1 Corinthians 15:17)
    6. To Elevate His Power and Authority (Romans 1:4)
    7. To Justify Sinners (Romans 4:23–25; Acts 13:39)
    8. To Give Us a New Way to Live (Romans 6:4, 8–11)
    9. To Unite Us with Him in His Resurrection (Romans 6:5–8)
    10. To Make Us Fruitful (Romans 7:4)
    11. To Give Life to Our Mortal Bodies (Romans 8:11)
    12. To End Our Obligation to the Flesh (Romans 8:12–13)
    13. To Provide Us with Future Glory (Romans 8:18)
    14. To Set Creation Free from Its Bondage (Romans 8:21–22)
    15. To Adopt Us into God’s Family (Romans 8:23)
    16. To Intercede for Us at God’s Right Hand (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:23–25)
    17. To Fulfill the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:4; Luke 24:44–47)
    18. To Make Our Faith and Preaching Worthwhile (1 Corinthians 15:14–15)
    19. To Guarantee Our Future Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20–23; 1 Thess. 4:14)
    20. To Destroy All Other Powers through His Reign (1 Corinthians 15: 24–27)
    21. To Destroy the Enemy of Death (1 Corinthians 15: 26, 54–57; Luke 20:36)
    22. To Give Us a Reason to Endanger Our Lives (1 Corinthians 15: 30–31)
    23. To Deliver Us from Self-Indulgence (1 Corinthians 15:32)
    24. To Give Us Heavenly, Imperishable Bodies (1 Corinthians 15: 42–48)
    25. To Clothe Us with His Image (1 Corinthians 15:49)
    26. To Give Us Immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53)
    27. To Overcome the Power of the Law (1 Corinthians 15: 56–57)
    28. To Make Serving the Lord Worthwhile (1 Corinthians 15:58)
    29. To Give Us Hope in Hard Times (2 Corinthians 1: 8–11)
    30. To Give Us a Greater Purpose in Life (2 Corinthians 5:15)
    31. To Let Us Experience God’s Mighty Power (Ephesians 1:18–20)
    32. To Display God’s Amazing Grace (Ephesians 2:6–7)
    33. To Bring Victory into Our Intimacy with Him (Philippians 3:10–11)
    34. To Make Us Full in Him (Colossians 2:9–12)
    35. To Reorient Our Desires (Colossians 3:1–2)
    36. To Let Us Appear with Him in Glory (Colossians 3:4; Acts 1:11)
    37. To Enable Us to Kill Our Old Way of Life (Colossians 3:5–10)
    38. To Rescue Us from Coming Wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
    39. To Serve as Our Eternal Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 7:17)
    40. To Give Us New Birth into a Living Hope (1 Peter 1:3; Acts 23:6; 1 Thess. 4:13–14)
    41. To Glorify the Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18–21; Acts 3:13–15)
    42. To Show That Death Does Not Stop Us from Living (Matt. 22:30–32; Rom. 14:9)
    43. To Confirm His Words about Being Raised to Life (Matthew 28:5–7)
    44. To Continue the Mission of God (Matthew 28:18–20)
    45. To Share His Presence with His Followers until His Return (Matthew 28:20)
    46. To Teach More about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3)
    47. To Prove God’s Commitment to Justice (Acts 17:31)
    48. To Make Possible the Judgment of Wicked (Jn 5: 28-30; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:11-15)
    49. To Give Him Complete Supremacy (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:4–5)
    50. To Provide Life in the Unfiltered Presence of God (Revelation 21:3–4, 22; 22:1)

    Because He lives…we are alive.

    • literally true via creation (John 1:1-4)

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1-4)

    • figuratively true in that we have abundant life (John 10:10)

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

    • eschatologically true (John 11:25-26; John 3:16)

    Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. (John 11:25-26a)

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    • Because He lives…we have a future

    • a future with Him, forever

    Because He lives, resurrection is possible. All things are possible.

    Today is the greatest day on the calendar! It’s bigger and better than Christmas, your birthday, the Super Bowl, and Groundhog Day combined!

    Everything changed on Resurrection Sunday and because He lives, there is hope for all of us.

    • Because He lives…we have hope.

    To Show His Power over Death (Acts 2: 24; Romans 6: 9)

    • nothing is impossible for God
    • sin and death have been conquered
    • what should we fear?
    • bad news is temporary
    • the best is yet to come
    • God is working NOW (Jesus is alive!)

    As a pastor on Easter I’m supposed to tell you because Jesus rose from the dead,

    • there’s hope for you dead marriage
    • there’s hope for your dead financial situation
    • there’s hope for your dead relationships
    • there’s hope for your dead-end job
    • there’s hope for your dying body
    • there’s hope for your dead emotions

    Because He Lives (Amen)

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Mary Magdalene and the Risen Jesus, John 20:11-18, 3 November 2013

    Big Idea: Jesus is alive! Let’s tell the world!

    We often approach communion with great reflection, and well we should. However, the story does not end on the cross. Last week we saw Mary Magdalene and others shocked to find the tomb of Jesus empty.

    Jewish people spent seven days mourning the loss of a loved one. This meant they could not wash, work, study the law, or even have intercourse for a week. They knew how to express grief! An empty tomb prevented final acts of love to be done to Jesus. Even tomb raiders would usually leave behind the body.

    We know “the rest of the story,” but those at the empty tomb

    still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. (20:9)

    What does this mean? It means they did not understand! Have you ever read the Bible and seen something you never saw previously? Some Scriptures require experience to fully understand.

    Jesus had said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? (John 16:19b)

    Jesus had said, “You will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20b)

    Jesus had said, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)

    Sometimes we are just filled with disbelief.

    When we ended last Sunday, we read that

    Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. (10)

    Jesus died. The tomb is empty.

    Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. (20:11-12)

    Imagine the week Mary has had. This is a woman that deeply loved Jesus. He had expelled numerous demons from her. He showed her great compassion. She cried at the foot of the cross as her hope literally died.

    His body was buried quickly and two days later she comes with friends to bring spices for the body. The tomb is empty. Peter and John leave. Now she is crying outside the tomb…and she encounters two angels, two angels dressed in white, hardly appropriate during a time of mourning!

    Where were the angels when the boys were around?

    They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (13a)

    Why do they ask? They’re angels! They know. Jesus is alive, but Mary remains clueless.

    “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
    (13b)

    She thinks someone moved the body.

    At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
    (14)

    Mary didn’t recognize Jesus. Unbelief is blind. He was the last Person Mary expected to see. Did her tears mask His face?

    He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (15a)

    Jesus echoes the angels, asking the reason for her tears. She hears His voice now and still has no idea who is before her.

    Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (15b)

    Was it common for gardeners to open tombs and hide bodies? Hardly! They were at the bottom of the social ladder and tended to gardening.

    Jesus said to her, “Mary.” (16a)

    The most important word in the world is your name. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. One word changed everything for her.

    She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (16b)

    This means “my teacher” or “master.”

    It’s easy for us to miss images and symbols John’s initial readers would recognize.

    John is the only Gospel writer that tells us these events take place in a garden, a garden filled with spices, suggesting the imagery of the Song of Songs. Mary is a woman who finds the one she loves in a spice-filled garden and wants to be with Him.

    Dr. Gary Burge notes,

    “Miriam was the most famous sister of Moses, who oversaw her little brother’s journey down the Nile. In an ancient Jewish synagogue at Dura Europos on the Euphrates a fresco depicts this scene carefully. The floating bed of Moses becomes a coffin and tomb from which the baby Moses is raised to life (thus avoiding death).42 Old Testament Miriam even becomes a prophet (Ex. 15:20–21; Num. 12:1–2) who bears a message to Israel. While John refers to Mary in the narrative with the Greek word Maria, when Jesus (the new Moses) meets her in 20:16, oddly, he employs the Hebrew form of the name: Miriam (Gk. Mariam, Heb. Miryam). He names her “Miriam Magdalene”— where Magdalene connotes the Hebrew noun migdal, “tower.” This caretaker of the new Moses, this intimate helper, is now transformed from a mere “Mary” into a Miriam, into a migdal that now bears a prophetic message to the apostles.” (The NIV Application Commentary, John)

    A woman in “paradise” encounters the Creator and Ruler of the Garden, Jesus.

    Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” (17)

    Why did He say not to touch Him? Scholars have wondered for two thousand years. Some believe Jesus literally meant don’t touch His body, but Thomas would soon. Some have translated it “do not fear,” but that seems unlikely. Others suggest it is preparation for His ascension, His return to the Father. In other words, He may be saying, “Do not cling to Me. Go tell the disciples I will soon return to the Father.” He will leave our planet, but also leave the Holy Spirit, an even more intimate expression of God who will live inside every believer.

    Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (18)

    John records her as the first one to see the resurrected Messiah.

    She has seen the empty tomb.
    She has seen the LORD.

    So What?

    Mary Magdalene told the disciples the good news: Jesus is alive.

    It is our privilege to tell our friends, neighbors and co-workers the good news: Jesus is alive!!!

    Last week it struck me how the Gospel is good news. Who doesn’t want to share good news? It’s hard to deliver bad news, but it should be a joy to announce good news.

    This text perhaps raises more questions than it answers, but one thing is clear…Jesus is alive! The One who died for us, who redeems us from sin and death, lives.

    We don’t worship an idea, a concept, or a book. We worship a Person who entered human history and transformed it.

    Listen to the words of John Updike in his poem “Seven Stanzas at Easter.”

    Make no mistake: if He rose at all it was as His body;
    if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse,
    the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
    the church will fall. . . .

    Let us not mock God with metaphor, Analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
    Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages:
    Let us walk through the door.

    The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché, Not a stone in a story,

    But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will eclipse for each of us,
    The wide light of day.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    The Empty Tomb, John 20:1-10, 27 October 2013

    Big Idea: Sometimes tragedies are blessings in disguise.

    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!” (1-2)

    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. (3-5)

    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 around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. (6-7)

    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. (8-10)

    Introduction

    Do you like surprises? Why or why not?

    Life is full of surprises. Some are good and some…!!!

    We’ve spent the last several weeks meditating on Jesus’ death and burial. So now it’s time to celebrate Easter, right? Not yet!

    Typical Easter celebrations are just that…celebrations. We sing happy songs, make colorful eggs, and eat chocolate bunnies. Who doesn’t love Easter?

    Although the resurrection is one of the most miraculous and important events in human history, it wasn’t initially perceived as good news. At first, it was nothing short of shocking.

    We know “the rest of the story,” but consider what it would have been like to be a character.

    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. (1)

    It’s Sunday, the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, though she was not alone. No woman would dare venture out alone in the dark, and the other Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (the synoptic Gospels) make it clear that Mary Magdalene had company.

    Jewish and pagan mourners were often known to visit tombs within the three days after the burial to bring more spices, to weep, or perhaps just to be there.

    The first surprise was clearly the stone. The stone had been removed, something that may not have been immediately clear in the dark. Some tombs were blocked by disk-shaped stones that were rolled in a track.

    What we now understand as wonderful was shocking and alarming. Who moved the stone? Why was the tomb empty?
    Who took the body away?

    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!” (2)

    Mary Magdalene is the first apostle, the apostle to the apostles, the first to deliver news of the empty tomb and later to encounter the risen Jesus…but that’s for next week!

    Grave robbers were not uncommon, though there were severe punishments for such a crime.

    Mary announces the empty tomb to Simon Peter and…the other disciple, the one Jesus loved…John? We’re not certain, but let’s assume it was John. Ancient Jewish men did not accept women as reliable witnesses for most legal purposes. Peter and John had to find out for themselves.

    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. (3-5)

    Peter and John have a race, and who wins?! John lets us know! John was younger, and presumably faster.

    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 around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. (6-7)

    John arrives first, but Peter enters first and gazes at the strips of linen. All of the linens remain. When Lazarus was resurrected, he remained wrapped. Once the linens were seen, it became obvious something was highly unusual. If the body was stolen, it would make no sense to unwrap it. Notice the cloth, commonly used to keep the mouth shut, was separate from the linen. It’s as if the body disappeared, leaving the linens behind. Jesus will appear to His disciples in a locked room (20:19, 26) and His resurrected body apparently passes through the linen wrappings similarly.

    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. (8-10)

    John sees and believes. The eyewitness of two men renders the evidence admissible under the Jewish legal system according to Deuteronomy (17:6; 19:15).

    So Peter and John leave the tomb.

    What were they thinking? What were they feeling?

    This was some surprise!

    Conclusion

    Life is filled with surprises. Some surprises we consider good and others bad, but we can be at peace knowing that God loves us and is in control, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

    We celebrate the empty tomb because we know the rest of the story, but for Mary Magdalene and others it was an unexpected, startling scene. Their initial reaction was hardly one of joy. There’s more to come, though.

    Are you facing an unpleasant surprise? Hold fast to Jesus. He promises to be with you. Your story is not over. There is more to come, and He has a remarkable habit of turning mourning into dancing, trials into triumphs, and tragedies into testimonies.

    I certainly don’t want to minimize any pain you may feel at this moment, but I do want to encourage you and remind you that tomorrow is a new day. As Annie said, the sun will come out tomorrow. A God who loves you more than you can imagine is on the throne and is with you. Draw near to Him and He promises to draw near to you. It may feel like Good Friday, but Sunday’s coming…and next Sunday we’ll look at the exciting events that follow this scene at the empty tomb.

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Awake My Soul, John 12:1-18, 31 March 2013

    Big Idea: God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    Happy Resurrection Sunday! Many refer to it, appropriately, as Easter, though others find the pagan roots of the name disturbing. Whatever you call it, it’s a great day…and a great time of year. For many of you, today signifies the end of lent and you can go back to eating meat or watching TV or whatever you gave up for the season. Today signals that it’s time to be spring, whether it feels like it or not!

    “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.” - Martin Luther

    You may not know it, but today is actually the unofficial first day of spring, also known as baseball’s Opening Day (though the Tigers don’t start until tomorrow). Of course, the real celebration is that of the resurrection of Jesus. This is the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, 4th of July and New Year’s Day all wrapped up in one celebration, a celebration that comes once a year but is actually celebrated every day for followers of Christ.

    We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John. Last week we were in chapter 12. Today we are skipping ahead to chapter 20. The seven chapters in between tell the account of the week beginning with Palm Sunday that included the Last Supper, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. In future weeks we’ll go back to them, but following our remembrance of Christ’s death on Good Friday, we jump to the resurrection account.

    Let me state up front that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we are wasting our time—not only now but every time we gather, every moment we pray, and every minute we spend reading the Bible. The resurrection is the pivotal moment in human history, the day in which everything changed, literally.

    Paul, once one of the greatest enemies of the movement of Jesus Christ, became one of His most ardent followers and said

    And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

    Put another way, if Jesus is dead, our faith is dead. Our hope is dead. Our life is dead.

    But for more than 2000 years people have been searching for the dead body of Jesus and what have they discovered?

    Nothing! Nada! Zip!

    What a difference nothing makes!

    God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    John 20:1-18

    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!” (1-2)

    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, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, 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.) (20:3-9)

    Peter and John raced. John says he won!

    No thief would’ve taken the time to fold the grave cloths!

    Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. (10-12)

    They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

    “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
    (13-14)

    “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

    Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
    (15)

    Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

    She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (16)

    He knows your name, too!

    Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

    Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (17-18)

    I think it’s great that women are the first people that see the resurrected Jesus. He did so much to liberate women and this is no exception. They are the ones who get to tell the eleven disciples that Jesus is alive!

    God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    Jesus is not the only example.

    Last week in John 12 we looked at the story of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. Jesus was not the first—nor the last—person to come back from the dead. There are elements of The Walking Dead that are real!

    Matthew’s biography of Jesus includes one of my favorite images in the entire Bible.

    And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

    At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

    When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:50-54)

    Matthew’s Jewish readers would recognize this bizarre episode of the Walking Dead as similar to yet another example of God resurrecting the dead. The account is found in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. The context is the people of Israel, an exiled nation longing to return to their homeland.

    Ezekiel 37:1-14

    The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

    I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”
    (37:1-3)

    Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” (4-6)

    So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. (7-8)

    Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet — a vast army. (9-10)

    Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”
    (11-14)

    God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. (Isaiah 26:19)

    “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people — everyone whose name is found written in the book — will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:1-3)

    God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.


    Jesus’ death and resurrection have a strong theological meaning for Matthew...and for us. God is restoring Israel, and on the back of Israel, He is restoring the nations, the Gentiles...us! Jesus’ death and resurrection were not isolated events in ancient history, but the most powerful and vivid reminder that our God is the God of salvation and restoration.

    It’s easy to dismiss the resurrection of Jesus as merely an historical event. He came back from the dead, but He’s God, right?

    Yes, but God has a habit of resurrecting the dead—not only Lazarus and Jesus and these dry bones, but also us today. As a pastor, I’ve had a front row seat watching God at work, resurrecting the dead. Here are a few examples:

    1. My friend who was on the verge of hopelessness and despair, lonely and broken. Since she surrendered her life to the risen Christ, she has come alive. Her soul has been awakened and she’s a new creation.

    1. Several years ago some dear friends approached my wife and I and said their marriage was a wreck. Lies and infidelity had invaded their relationship. After years of hard work and the risen Christ, their marriage has come alive. Their relationship has been awakened and they are not only together but now helping other seemingly hopeless marriages.

    1. In 2009 a family I know had more than $300,000 in medical bills that were not covered by insurance. Aside from their mortgage, they ended the year debt-free as God awakened their finances.

    What about you?
    What is dead that only God can resurrect? A relationship? Your career? Your broken body?

    Don’t misunderstand me. God is not a cosmic genie waiting to obey our every command. He is, however, the author of life (Acts 3:15). He is life. As we saw a few weeks ago, Jesus said

    “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

    Did you catch that? Jesus
    is life—the way, the truth, the life. He is the only way to the Father. He is the only way to life.

    Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility and our ultimate destiny. - Rick Warren

    God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

    He wants to offer you life—eternal life…and rich, wild, and abundant life now (John 10:10). He wants to awaken your soul. He wants you to live a life of freedom, faith, hope and love. Jesus died so that you might have life!

    You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    The Walking Dead, John 11:38-57, 17 March 2013

    Big Idea: Jesus specializes in raising the dead. He is life!

    Zombies!

    For reasons unknown to me, zombies are all the rage in our culture today. There are books, films, walks, and even festivals! Have you noticed? There are various definitions of zombies, but for our purposes let’s define them as dead people that come to life. It sounds crazy doesn’t it? It’s clearly the stuff of movies and TV shows like The Night of the Living Dead and The Walking Dead. Some are even preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse! Are you a fan of zombies?

    Perhaps one of the attractions of zombies is that we are afraid of death, but zombies is such a ridiculous notion that we can get creeped out but not truly afraid since we all know zombies are fiction and dead people don’t come back to life…right?

    If you’re easily offended, don’t read the Bible! There are some very disturbing images in the pages of Scripture, including today’s text. The Bible is not Rated G!

    We continue our series on the Gospel of John, a biography written by one of Jesus’ best friends. His purpose in writing can be found in chapter 20:

    Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:30-31)

    The first ten chapters have presented Jesus as a controversial figure, attracting great crowds through miracles and teachings while creating great hatred among the envious, legalistic, judgmental religious leaders.

    It’s easy to skim through familiar stories, but as we read the narrative, imagine you had never heard it previously. Imagine that you have no idea what follows and each word is a choice mortal in your ears.

    Last Week

    The first part of John 11 describes Jesus being told that His friend, Lazarus, is sick. Instead of healing Him, Jesus hangs out for two days only to learn that He has died. Mary and Martha understandably question Jesus, saying that if only He had gone to their brother, He could’ve been healed and they would’ve been spared the tremendous grief and loss of this deeply-loved man. They said, “If only…” and the challenge last week was whether we love and trust God because of what He does for us or simply for who He is. Is your faith dependent upon answered prayer?

    Jesus’ friend Lazarus is dead. His sisters can’t understand why Jesus didn’t heal him. But the story’s not over!

    Scene Four

    Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

     “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (38-39)

    Jesus is “once more deeply moved,” though the Greek verb mentioned last week is used again here, meaning outraged. Jesus is life, and here He is facing His opponent, death.

    This was a “rolling stone” tomb that could be rolled, like a giant stone wheel.

    We said last week that four days in the tomb was significant because the rabbinic teachings believed that when a person died, their spirit hovered over the body for three days so if the body was resuscitated, the spirit would return to it. After three days, the spirit was gone and there was no hope for the body.

    In an early medieval Jewish tradition, Jews would actually go to the cemetery three days after burial to see if the person was living (I wonder how often they were surprised!).

    Martha rightly cautions Jesus about the smell. Dead things stink, especially after four days! John wants us to know that Lazarus was clearly dead.

    Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (40)

    As we have noted so many times previously, God’s timing is never late but rarely early. His glory is far more important than our temporary happiness.

    So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (41-42)

    It is obvious that Jesus has already been praying for Lazarus. It’s not an impulsive request.

    He looked up. This was common posture for Jewish prayer, looking up and likely with hands raised. He prays aloud not to impress, but to allow those around to hear His conversation with the Father. He says, “Father” rather than “our father” to show the intimacy in their relationship. Jesus was constantly following the mission and will of the Father.

    When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

    Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
    (43-44)

    Jesus uses an authoritative shout to call Lazarus.

    Dead Man Walking! Here is one of the first zombies in the Bible! I love the phrase, “The dead man came out.” Wow!

    Can you imagine being a character in this story? An eyewitness?

    Dead bodies were considered unclean and untouchable in Jewish law, but Jesus had a reputation for touching the untouchable and most likely gave Lazarus an embrace that some would’ve found offensive.

    Lazarus

    There are many biblical stories that I wish were captured on video! This is certainly one of them. What was the reaction of Martha? Mary?

    What was Lazarus’ reaction! What did he think about all of this? Would you want to return to this planet after four days of “sleeping?” I’m sure his sisters were delighted, but I wonder if Lazarus wanted to return! Of course, he did eventually. They say that death and taxes are the only certainties in life. Lazarus was given a second life—bonus time—but he eventually died. As we noted last week, death is merely sleeping for the believer. Jesus offers real, eternal life to those who respond to His invitation. He created us and is able to recreate us, providing freedom from both sin and death.

    I often wonder how anyone can live without Jesus. Death surrounds us. You are one day closer to the grave than you were yesterday! You can be one day closer to eternal life with Jesus, though, which is far greater than anything this life can offer.

    “Death is but a gateway to further life and fellowship with God.” - L. Morris

    One More Thing…

    You might think that anyone who witnessed this scene followed Jesus, but tragically that was not the case.

    Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
    (45-46)

    This is Jesus’ last public appearance before His death. His public ministry ends here. Some saw the dead raised but they still didn’t believe. Instead, they tattled on Jesus to the religious leaders who would have Him crucified.

    The problem is not with the evidence but the unbelief of man. Many say they will belief if they see Jesus or a miracle, but many saw dead Lazarus raised from the dead and still refused to believe. Signs alone cannot prompt faith. Experience alone is not enough to persuade the human heart. This is why we need words to accompany our deeds.

    Not only did eyewitnesses not believe in Jesus, this beautiful miracle or resurrection actually led to Jesus’ death!

    Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

    What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

    Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

    He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

    Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

    When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.
    (John 11:47-57)

    So what?

    There are many people today that are zombies. They are the walking dead. They were at one point dead in their sin, yet they have come alive in Jesus Christ. Jesus is life! He is The way, The truth, and The life (John 14:6).

    Sometimes God answers our prayers instantly. Sometimes He takes His time! Hebrews 11 tells us that many of us will live our entire lives seeking to understand God’s responses to our prayers, but Daddy knows best. His timing is perfect. His will and plans never fail. He can be trusted.

    No matter where you find yourself today, no matter what is dead in your life, Jesus is life. He conquered sin and death. He caused the dead to rise. He did so Himself, in case you haven’t heard! We’ll talk about that in two weeks! We worship the God of miracles. He is alive today and wants you to experience life—abundant life (John 10:10), eternal life, supernatural life.

    What is dead in your life that Jesus can resurrect?

    You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

    Celebration, 24 April 2011, Easter

    I was once looking at a book on world religions. It talked about Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism and other faiths and I was curious what it had to say about Christianity. It began by stating that Christianity is an historical religion. It did not begin with a philosophy or dream or vision. In fact, we are here today not even because Jesus was a wise teacher and healed people. It’s all about the resurrection. Period.

    Few people argue that Jesus lived. Most acknowledge that He was crucified. Everything about our faith rises and falls on the resurrection. If Jesus is dead, we are wasting our time this morning. In fact, if Jesus is dead, we are wasting our lives!

    The Account (Matthew 28)

    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.
    - Matthew 28:1-4

    The stone was like a giant wagon wheel. This particular stone is inside a track. What was the purpose of the stone?

    • contain the smell
    • contain the body

    This was not an ordinary burial, though. Let’s go back a few verses to the previous chapter:

    As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. - Matthew 27:57-61

    The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” - Matthew 27:62-64

    “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. - Matthew 27:65-66

    So Jesus’ dead body was placed in the tomb, the tomb was covered with a stone, the stone had a seal, and a guard was posted.

    I’ve always found it fascinating that the chief priests heard Jesus say He would rise again after three days, yet His followers were clueless.

    Back to the story...

    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.” - Matthew 28:5-7

    They entered the tomb. They saw where Jesus lay, yet He was not there!

    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 worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” -
    Matthew 28:8-10

    Why were the women afraid?

    The first thing Jesus says is “fear not.” This is the most common command in the Bible, given to us 366 times, one for every day of the year, including leap year! Fear not. Why? We’ll see in a moment.

    While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. - Matthew 28:11-15

    Matthew tells us why some would not believe in the resurrection. A plan was devised to turn it into a myth.

    For two thousand years people have been devising ways to explain away the resurrection. Maybe His body was stolen. One of my favorites is that maybe Jesus never died and just walked away (if you’ve ever seen “The Passion of the Christ” you know that was impossible, to say nothing of His heart being pierced and blood and water flowing out).

    There’s one huge problem with anything that explains away the reality of the resurrection—hundreds of eyewitnesses with identical accounts. Some people have said it was just a hallucination on the part of His followers, but remember one thing: many of these people died for their belief in the resurrection. It’s one thing to make up a story or experience a vivid dream, but people don’t become martyrs over fairy tales.

    Friends, the resurrection is not merely an important part of our faith. Everything rises and falls on it!

    And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. - 1 Corinthians 15:14

    Finishing our story, it says

    Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:16-20

    We recently looked at this passage as we talked about Jesus’ command to go and make disciples of all nations. Remember He told the women to fear not? Here’s why—I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

    So what?

    Some of you are Christ-followers. Without the resurrection there is no Easter, no Christianity, no church, no eternal life, no heaven, no hope, no joy, and no peace. Everything depends upon the resurrection. If we serve a dead God, our faith is no different than any other religion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burial_places_of_founders_of_world_religions

    There’s only one tomb that is empty!

    If you are truly a follower of Jesus, He tells us two things—go and fear not. We are on a mission that as we are going through life, we are to make disciples. We are to let others know about the incredible life that Jesus offers.

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16

    Tomorrow is the beginning of the E.A.C.H. campaign at 2WordStory.com. I hope you are ready to share your story...and His!

    Some of you are not Christ-followers. I urge you to seriously consider Jesus. This is not about His teachings or miracles, it’s about His With all due respect to other religions, only Jesus died for you. Only Jesus demonstrated His love to you.

    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8

    Only Jesus conquered sin and death and the grave. Only Jesus’ tomb is empty.

    Jesus said to Martha

    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
    - John 11:25-26

    Jesus said

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10

    He said

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6

    He is the way, the truth, and the life.

    Celebration!

    Today is a day of celebration. On Friday we remembered the murder of an innocent man who was also God, Jesus Christ. Today we celebrate His resurrection. Today we celebrate life—His and ours. The word celebration means to make public and that’s what Jesus told us to do. He didn’t tell His followers to keep His life and resurrection a secret. He told them to go! He told them to go public! We celebrate in this building today, but the real celebration begins as we leave this place to go public. That’s what 2WordStory is about. That’s what Scio is about. That’s what the Church is about—letting the whole world know that Jesus is alive!

    You can listen to the podcast here.

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