HE IS RISEN!
HE IS RISEN!
HE IS RISEN!
Good morning to all of you! I have some awesome news for you this morning, HE IS RISEN! (He is risen indeed!) I love that. Let’s try that one more time… HE IS RISEN! That is a greeting that has been in the church of Jesus Christ since the earliest days. It is based upon this verse in the gospel of Luke 24:34
34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
There are a bunch of theories and claims as to how, and when, the greeting and tradition started. One of the earliest comes by way of tradition through the Eastern Orthodox church saying that it was made popular by Mary Magdalene when she supposedly addressed Emperor Tiberius in Rome with the words “Christ is risen.” It is safe to say we don’t exactly know.
What is important, no matter where your personal preferences lie when it comes to maintaining traditions, this one should not be done as an empty, thoughtless tradition. When we consider that Jesus is Risen, it does two things. First, it reminds of the cost that He paid for those that have placed their faith and trust in Him. The bible tells us. Romans 6:23
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
SO it reminds us that He didn’t die in vain,... like they thought that He did on that first Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. It reminds us that He has the power over death, AND it reminds us that HE IS RISEN INDEED. Risen and alive today, at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. RISEN AND RETURNING. I want to read you something and then open us in a word of prayer.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?
39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;
43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Lets pray. Lord, would you please open us up to receive from you. Soften our hostility, heal our pain, and let the truth of your love penetrate to the deepest parts of our hearts, in Jesus name we pray, Amen.
We are here today to celebrate the love that God has for us. He is HOLY, He is righteous, and He is the one true God of Justice. Because He is God, He makes the rules, not us. We are not God, but merely a creation of God, a creation that is unique from any other, because we are made in the image of God.
Because God is holy, He cannot tolerate, nor turn His back away from sin. We read the verse already this morning, that sin is deadly. Sin kills us, and it separates us from God, into everlasting punishment.
How in the world is this a celebration you might be asking yourself? God is all of those things that I mentioned, but the Bible also tells us that God is love. Not that He is a loving God, it says that He is love. Not a perversion of it, like we see in this world far to often, but GOD Himself is Love. And He loves you!
There are some things that I’m going to talk about this morning that don’t require your belief to make them true. They are truth, whether you chose to believe them or not, whether you chose to personally receive them or not. I don’t really want to lay out all of the historical evidence of whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. I’ve done that, I’m happy to have that discussion with you after. It has been documented, validated, He appeared to hundreds at a time, and it is truth, whether you believe it or not.
I do want to talk with you about Him loving you, here’s another truth that you may not know, ... God loves you. Knowing everything you’ve ever done, what your best day would be like... and what your worst day would be like, Jesus Christ was willing to be whipped, beaten, to have His beard plucked from His face, and be nailed to a cross, to pay the price, or the wages of your sin,... willing to suffer to the point of death. God loves you deeper, God loves you greater, than anyone else does on this earth and He wants you to know it.
The verses I read when we began spoke of a judgement that is yet to come. Where some would go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Now at first glance, you might read through that section and assume that it is all based on our work, the things that we do, or that we don’t do. But I want you to see verse 34 again, because in verse 34 it says, Matt 25:34
34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you, before you were born, before you had opportunity to do any good work. See the things that were done and not done in that section are not the means by which salvation is earned, but rather the evidence that true salvation has occured. Those things are the fruit of our relationship with God. There is good fruit and there is rotten fruit. Back to His love for you...
When we read about Jesus going to the Garden of Gethsemane just before He was arrested, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, those three Gospels all give us different details, we know that Jesus was in anguish, it says that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even to death, Dr. Luke tells us that His suffering was so great that He sweat drops of blood. And we know that He begged God, prayed, to take that cup of suffering from Him,... Oh! But only if there was some other way for you to be saved.
But, there wasn’t. SO in His suffering He said, nevertheless, not my will be done, Father, but your will be done. I love them enough to do whatever it takes. Who else loves you that much?
Soon after this, Jesus was betrayed by one of His own, He is arrested, the crowds that just one week before laid down palm branches and shouted over and over again, Hosanna in the Highest, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna, means save us now, Lord, save us. But now, the crowds shout crucify Him, crucify Him.
Even when given the choice between releasing Jesus or releasing a man named Barabbas. A guy in prison for insurrection, or rebellion against the government and for murder. Give us Barabbas, crucify Jesus!
You guys know the story, they did crucify Him, on a cross. The Bible says in Isaiah chapter 53,... He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
He hung on a cross, wearing a crown of thorns, between two guilty men, bearing our guilt that didn’t belong to Him, because love compelled Him to.
Now even though Jesus told His followers before it all went down what was going to happen, they didn’t get it. They hid in fear as He bravely went to the cross, and then He died. AND this day, that for us is a celebration, didn’t start that way for them. They left everything to follow Him. Jesus changed their lives, but now He was gone. I want to read about that first Resurrection Day with you this morning from The Gospel of John, chapter 20. John 20:1-2
1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
I wish we had time this morning to examine what each of the Gospel writers share with us about the resurrection. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record different aspects of the events. John is selective on the points that he gives us and some of the details that he doesn’t but everything he includes here he does purposefully and intentionally, he’ll tell us more about that at the end. John really has an agenda.
But what do we know from John? This woman, Mary Magdalene, the Bible tells us that she had been demon possessed. That Jesus sent seven demons out of her. She then became a very faithful follower of Jesus. I’ve heard many Preachers say that she was a prostitute. I hope I’m there when they first meet her in Heaven because there is nothing in your bible that says that she was, but she was freed from demon possession by Jesus.
On this first resurrection morning, she was not celebrating, she was grieving. The body of Jesus was laid in the garden tomb, and because of sabbath rules, the body could not be touched, so she had to wait till this day. It had been wrapped in linen clothes, a shroud or covering placed over His head. She was going there to care for the body, to bring spices to anoint Him.
But the large stone that was sealed over the opening of the tomb it had been rolled away. So she ran to tell Peter and John, the one whom Jesus loved. Reading further…John 20:3-4
3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.
The guys hear the news and two of them decide to check it out. They run to the tomb. I love that John is humble enough here to not name himself, but has just enough pride to say, I beat the old man. I outran Peter! So now John, back to himself, verse 5…John 20:5-8
5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.
Now at this point, understand as we have read,... they go to the tomb, and the body of Jesus is not lying there. The stone has been rolled away, but the clothes that He was wrapped in are lying there. They haven’t yet seen Jesus. He hasn’t appeared to them yet, they go into the tomb, well, John does only after big Pete goes in first, but something about seeing the cloths lying there as if His body just disappeared, John saw and believed. Verse 9 says… John 20:9-10
9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.
Now this is interesting to me because Jesus had told them, we read it last week on His way into Jerusalem, He pulls the Disciples aside and tells them. Men, I’m going to be betrayed. I’m going to be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes and they are going to condemn me to death. They are going to scourge me, crucify me, but on the third day I rise again. The bible says He told them this 3 times! Luke fills us in a bit, He tells us Luke 18:34
34 But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.
So they go back to their homes, but not Mary…verse 11 John 20:11-14
11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.
Jesus Christ, the great liberator of women, chose a woman to be the first to see His resurrected body... and sent her to deliver the good news to the men. I was going to skip this next part so we could get right to Thomas, but we fed you guys this morning, and I’m sure lunch isn’t ready yet, so lets keep going, verse 19.
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
This blows me away. If I was Jesus, I think I would have gone out and found some other guys. Or at least my welcome wouldn’t be one of peace! What happened to you cowards!?! I told you what they were going to do to me and you bail on me? I’m not Jesus. This is the God who said I will never leave you nor forsake you, and His message is a message of peace. John 20:20-23
20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Men don’t forgive sins, a priest can’t absolve you, I can’t forgive you, Jesus gave them the authority to pronounce what God in heaven has done, or hasn’t done, they will be the messengers for God to establish the basis of forgiveness, and communicate His words to the people. That is great news! If you’re here this morning and need to be forgiven you can be forgiven. No matter what you have done, you can have all of that shame and all of that guilt taken away.
If you need to be forgiven you can ask Jesus to forgive you, to take the debt you owe and replace it with the price that He paid. That is the basis of forgiveness, it is through, and only through, Jesus. If you need to be forgiven... ask Him to forgive you and you will be forgiven. If you don’t ask Him to forgive you, you want to try it some other way, or punish yourself a little more first, well then you won’t be forgiven. It is available for you to receive, but you have to make a decision. A decision to wait, a decision to not decide, is a decision... and it is one of rejection, but lets keep going…John 20:24
24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
Now everybody always wants to bust on Thomas for being a skeptic, but what about this!?! He skipped church on Easter! Who doesn’t go to church on Resurrection Day? John 20:25
25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
Now this sounds sort of not just gross, but I think disrespectful at first. I mean there were all kinds of rules about touching a body under Jewish law, but I just mean as one of Jesus’ closest friends, you want to touch his wounds, penetrate them with your finger? That’s really kinda graphic. But I think when we consider their account to Thomas,... Thomas, He showed us His hands and His side, we have seen the Lord!
Yeah well, unless I see those things for myself, unless I have the same experience that you had, I won’t believe. Have you ever wondered why Thomas wouldn't believe? Why he was a skeptic that for two thousand years has borne the name Doubting Thomas. Why wouldn’t He believe? You know what, I totally understand, when I’m sharing with someone about Jesus, and it is the very first time that they are hearing any of this and the response is…well, I don’t really know. I don’t know if I believe that. I kind of expect that.
Most of us didn’t believe the very first time we heard the Gospel, the good news about Jesus. I understand skeptics, but have you ever really considered this skeptic?
His best friends were the ones telling Him. Was it his grief? Grief can be so overwhelming. Was his sorrow so great in loosing Jesus, that he just couldn’t accept good news? Maybe. Was it his own understanding of what is possible and what is impossible? Was he placing the limitations of his own understanding on who God could be and what He could do? Maybe.
Again, considering Thomas. Thomas didn’t just crawl out of the pumpkin patch. Thomas was one of Jesus’ closest friends. Thomas was in the boat when Jesus calmed the storm, he saw Jesus walk on water. Thomas was there when the Centurion came to Jesus and pleaded with Him to heal his servant, and Jesus simply spoke the word and it was done. Thomas was there at the home of Mary and Martha, when they were grieving the loss of their brother, and friend of Jesus a man named Lazarus. Thomas saw Jesus call him forth out of his grave, he knew that Jesus had the power of life and death, yet he would not believe.
Do you know what I appreciate the most about Thomas? His honesty, not just his honesty, but his willingness to actually say what it would take for him to believe. Let’s look at the rest of this…John 20:26-28
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus heard Thomas say what it would take for him to believe, and invites him to do just that. Reach your hand here, and put it into My side, then he is rebuked. Thomas do not be unbelieving, but believing. Thomas didn’t really need what he said he needed though, Jesus shows up and the response is My Lord and my God!
I hear skeptics all the time who say, well I don’t believe that, or I won’t believe that. When I ask why, they will give me a reason or say because they can’t understand why this or why that, and I will give them an answer, and the response is, well, I don’t know. Or I’m not believing that. Again, the truth of the resurrection, the truth of the way of salvation doesn’t depend upon your belief to be true, but the invitation is given to you. AND all of us must decide for ourselves. It doesn’t matter that your family is Christian, or your were raised Christian, or your grandmother was a Sunday School teacher, or your father was a pastor, the invitation is given to all of us. John 3:16
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Why have we read these particular things this morning? There are other sections in the Bible that talk about the resurrection why here for today? Couple more verses…John 20:19
29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Who is that? Yes us, I hope all of us. Verse 30 John 20:30-31
30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Listen, if you don’t believe, if you are a skeptic I want to beg you to choose Jesus, I really do. But I understand being skeptical. If that is you today I want you to consider where that came from. For most of us it probably started in Kindergarten. Just as soon as we took that first giant leap out of our home and realized the world was not about us.
But for most of us our skepticism about Jesus came from the mistakes of men, or the sins of men. I can honestly say that since I placed my faith and trust in Jesus He has never left me or forsaken me, He has never lied to me, never broken a promise to me. Now don’t let me fool you, God doesn’t always do everything the exact way that I might prefer, but He has never broken a single promise that is in this book.
I want to invite you to do two things. The first is to be like Thomas. Have the integrity to be honest with God and tell Him what it will take for you to believe. Thomas said “Unless I, for him is was see. Tell God, unless I…fill in the blank I won’t believe. AND invite God, ask God to show you, or to do that thing and see what happens.
The second invitation is the one that Jesus gave Thomas to look at His wounds that He endured because of His love for you. Do you know that Jesus would have done it just for you? John 20:27
27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
Your invitation is to not be unbelieving, but to believe. Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard any of this and your not sure what it all means. That’s OK. By asking God to forgive you of your sins and to be your Lord and your Savior, you’re not saying that you understand it all, you’re just saying I believe you and I trust you.
If you’re like Thomas, and you know stuff already. You know about Jesus, you’ve seen Him do things in other people’s life, but for you, you haven’t yet made a choice, do not be unbelieving, but believe. Choose Jesus.
I’m going to pray to close out our service. After that, if you need prayer or something, or you want to pray with someone to get things right with God, there will be men and women up front here that would love to do that with you. Let’s pray.
HE IS RISEN AND IS RETURNING!