Jesus’ Last Week: Easter

Good morning.  And Welcome to Journey Church’s Easter service.  We hope you are well today!  And though this isn’t the Easter service we had hoped to have  – it’ll be a memorable one!  And we are truly thankful to be able to worship together – although we are apart.

I want to start first by letting you now about a gift we have for you – our friends from Group Publishing have sent us two cases of these sweet looking Bibles – free of charge – and usually we would have an information table at Journey where we’d say – grab one on the way out.  But since we can’t say that – what we will do is this – if you let us know you’d like one – we will deliver it to you – put it on your doorstep or something.

We had some volunteers – the Shaffer family from Journey – highlighted all of the passages in the bible that talk about the resurrection of Jesus.  You can text me or call me or email us – All the info here and we promise to get that Bible to you free of charge. No Strings attached.   It’s a nice one and I’m enjoying reading it, it’s even the translation we normally use – the New living Translation.

Okay – I tell you – I can’t wait to see you all!  For one thing – I can’t wait to see how long everyone’s hair will get – unless you are lucky enough to have a hair stylist in your home – I bet we’re going to see some funky hair, Neil!  In fact – this is interesting – but this last week we had some fun with Kyle Short – as his mom posted a picture of him with some funky long hair – Check this picture out!  That’s some Hall and Oats hair right there – I can’t wait to see that make another appearance.

But he isn’t the only one.  In fact – I’m not sure if you’ve seen our children’s coordinator Wendy Lopp recently but she has let her hair go – and it looks actually pretty awesome.   Shout out to her husband Joe for learning how to bobby pin that bad boy up in place!

Neil has some unruly hair – in fact – I’m making a prediction that if this goes on much longer – that when we get back together again his hair will look like like this….night it looked like this..

Gary Zessin – our small group coordinator let his hair go but he cut it himself – it’s still long – but check it out.  Shwing – you just gotta maintain that bowl cut right there.

I think the most shocking of all though is Jim Warren. (Regular Photo) Have you seen him Neil?  This is going to come as a shock – but This is Jim now.  Can we full size that picture for the people at home.  (MY finest moment)

HA!  Okay – some fun.  Some laughs hopefully.  If you want to take a shot at posting some of your own photo’s on our Journey Church facebook page – or community forum – go for it.  It’s snowing in April – so let’s just have some fun with each other…

I’m juiced up man!  It’s Easter!  And you know why we celebrate with such joy on Easter?  Because Easter changes everything.

The Apostle Paul one time was writing to a church that met in the greek city of Corinth – and it was a church that had gone off the rails a bit – Corinth made Las Vegas look like Orlando – and so Paul writes them a letter to correct them and get them back on track – and what does he write?

I’m telling you what is most important… 1 Corinthians 15 3 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. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 

17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.

And Easter changes everything.  It does.  It changes everything – and I want to show you – not just in theory or theologically – but it results in a different kind of life for those who believe.

Let me show you three examples.  Three people who were given new life because of the resurrection of Jesus.

The thief on the cross – gets a new life.  Easter gives hope to those who feel hopeless.

Let’s go back to Friday night and talk about the criminal on the cross.  We read on Friday night that Jesus was crucified between two criminals – one hurled insults at Jesus.  The other though said,

Luke 23:41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And how does Jesus respond to this self confessed criminal?  43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Talk about Hope for the Hopeless.  This criminal on the cross – he had come to the end of his life – his last dying breaths – and looked back with regret.  He had made a mess of the life he had been given.  And now hopelessly dying on a cross.

Was there anyone there to support him?  Would anyone mourn his death?   Would anyone notice?  Yes!  Someone noticed that man.  Jesus noticed him.  He wasn’t a criminal deserving death in Jesus eyes. He was a human being.

See –  one of the lessons we learn about the criminal on the cross is that you are never too messed up to be a friend of Jesus’.    You are never too messed up – too far gone – you are never outside the reach of the love of God.

Hope awaits.  Don’t make the mistake that many make – many think to themselves – I’ll wait until I get my life straightened out and then I’ll begin to work on my relationship with God.

Don’t wait.  Today is the day to turn to him.  The criminal on the cross – no – the friend of Jesus on the cross shows us that we are never too messed up to begin a friendship with Jesus.

And it also shows us that it’s never too late to begin a friendship with him either.

I remember talking with a man one time – he was a n older man – and he was very sick in the hospital – and he knew that he would shortly pass.  He knew.  And when I visited with him he told me that he felt like he was cheating.

He said that he had spent most of his life stiff arming God – living like there was no God – and now that he knew he would soon die- he felt he was cheating to turn to God now.

And all I could do was say – look at the thief on the cross.  He had moments left – and Jesus welcomed him with grace and love.  He gave that man on the cross something that I’m not sure he had ever experienced – he gave that man hope.

I wonder if we don’t have someone out there listening right now who feels a little like that man I met – maybe you’ve spent much of your life stiff arming God – but this whole virus thing has you re-thinking your relationship with God.

This virus thing has stirred something within you to think about your soul and your relationship with God – but you too are feeling like maybe a little guilty – like you are cheating to turn to God now.

The thief on the cross – no – the friend of Jesus on the cross –  is for you.  Hope awaits you today through faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus said – today you will be safe – paradise awaits as we are welcomed as a special friend of Jesus.

Now – someone might say – what does this story have to do with the resurrection?  Fair enough.  But – without the resurrection – all we would have are rambling words of a dying man – making promises that could neither be verified or refuted.

But the resurrection is the proof – that what Jesus promised, he delivered.    It’s the money where his mouth was.  It’s the proof in the pudding.  The resurrection is the guarantee that Jesus has the power to deliver his promises.

The resurrection guarantees Hope for the Hopeless.

Easter changes everything.  It delivers Hope to those feeling hopeless.

Secondly – the resurrection brings Joy to the broken hearted. 

Luke 23:27 A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women. 

The writers of the New Testament go to great lengths to detail the presence and encouragement and ministry of women who were involved in Jesus ministry.

And what we learn is that when Jesus is arrested – most of the men run for their lives – and for good reason as we’ll talk about soon – but they flee.  The women are the ones who stick with Jesus to the bitter end.

Jesus treated women with great honor and dignity that was frankly rare in the first century.  They have found in Jesus a leader who treats them as important partners in the ministry.

Mary Magdalene was one of these women.   Luke 8 tells us that Mary had been set free from demonic activity by Jesus and that she became a devoted follower of the one who rescued her.

She was at the cross – watching as her compassionate and healing leader – died an inglorious, humiliating death. And she is heartbroken.  She is crushed.  She was – as Luke tells us – stricken with grief.

However – Easter changes everything for Mary Magdalene and these other women.  Let’s read Matthews account in chapter 28

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

2 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3 His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4 The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

5 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7 And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

8 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message.

Neil has taught us a great song recently called Graves Into Gardens – and one of the lines – he turns mourning to dancing.  This is it!  From grief to joy.  Easter turns mourning into dancing.  Grief into joy.

The resurrection teaches us that Jesus has defeated our greatest enemy – death itself.  Jesus has pulled the teeth out of the grave.  Death is not the end for us.

As Jesus was resurrected, we too will be resurrected someday.  See – now don’t miss this – the paradise that the criminal entered into – it isn’t final.  It’s temporary.  What is final is the resurrection for us all.  A new kind of body and new kind of life in a new kind of world – one that no longer contains diseases and viruses and death and sadness.

The resurrection turns our tears of grief into tears of joy.

Listen – this weird time we’re in is filled with uncertainty.  And there are many people grieving.  There are high school students who are grieving – this isn’t how you wanted to end your last months of high school.  There are parents out there who are grieving too – they didn’t get to have their last things – Jody and I are two of them – our son Josh is graduating…  And we’re sad for him.

Some of you lost your jobs.  Others are in danger of losing their business.  many have lost income.  And there’s level of grief with all of those things.

And of course, down deep we know that these things pale in comparison to the families of 20 thousand Americans who are grieving the loss of family members to this virus.  So we feel guilty that we’re sad about losing our on these milestones – and we pray that none of us listening this morning will have to walk through that kind of grief…

But – even if we do…  here’s the deal – we who believe – Easter helps us grieve differently.  Our grief is undergirded by joy.

It’s strengthened with the absolute certainty that the God who has the power to raise Jesus from the dead – also has the power to provide for our every need.

The resurrection means that Jesus our Good Shepherd has all the power he needs to be able to deliver us safely through the valley of the shadow of dark times.

This is what we celebrate today – if Jesus broke death – he brushed off the grave – he has all the power to care for you and see you through.

Easter turns mourning into dancing for us.

The resurrection brought hope to the hopeless criminal on the cross.  It brought joy to a grieving Mary Magdalene.

Thirdly – it brings courage to the fearful.

Isn’t it interesting – that in 2020 we are celebrating the day of Jesus’ resurrection in the same way his first disciples did?  What were they doing  they were hunkered down in a house.

But they weren’t hiding from a virus – they were hiding from the Romans. Why?  Because when It came to crushing rebellions, the Romans were exceptionally brutal.

See – Jesus was not the first person the Disciples had seen crucified.  The Roman’s used crucifixion as a persuasive deterrent to anyone considering joining a rebellion.

In fact – the real life Spartacus, who led a slave revolt about a hundred years before Jesus was born – upon being defeated by the Romans – 6000 of his fellow rebels were crucified along a 130 mile route between Rome and Naples – one crucified rebel every 40 yards for 130 miles.

Why were these disciples hiding in a house?  They were hiding because they knew if the Romans crucified Jesus – then inevitably, they were next.

And yet – about 50 days later – in  Acts chapter 2 we find these same disciples – the ones who bolted in the garden – who denied Jesus in the courtyard – who hid in the upper room in Jerusalem – afraid for their lives – we find them preaching courageously in the center of Jerusalem…

22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. 24 But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. 

Wait – check this out…  37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

Peter?!   the same Peter who denied Jesus?  The same Peter who was hiding in fear in the upper room?  What happened?

The resurrection happened. Easter morning happened.  And it changed everything.

The Resurrection changes everything.  It brings Hope to the Hopeless.  It brings Joy to the grieving.  It brings courage to the fearful.

How courageous were these disciples?  They knew that preaching about a resurrected Jesus was a death sentence for them, and they courageously preached that message anyway.  And in fact 10 of the eleven disciples were killed for preaching about the resurrected Jesus.

Peter would in fact one day be crucified for his faith.  Why such courage?  Because they saw with their own eyes the resurrected Jesus – and it changed everything for them.

It filled them with HOPE.  It filled them with JOY.  It filled them with COURAGE.

The resurrection changes everything.

Has it changed you?  It cannot change you until you – like Peters audience – allow the truth of God’s plan in Jesus to pierce your heart too.  these 3000 people who heard Peter’s message – they crossed over from death to life – from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light – through faith in Jesus Christ.  And for some of you that’s your next step this Easter morning. today is the day you re-think what this life is like, and you see that the Jesus who loved you enough to die for you is also the Jesus who is worth living for.

For my fellow believers out there – let’s spend a moment in prayer – ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any areas in your soul – anything in your thinking or your feelings – that need to be revamped in light of the resurrection.

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