Easter 2012: The day that death died
April 8, 2012
Topic: Stand Alone Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:3–15:8
Intro: Happy Easter Damascus Road. For those visiting, this year (and every year) we decided against the kids choir, the rainbow-colored pyrotechnics show, the inflatable bunny-shaped jump-houses, the resurrection reenactment, and the new and improved “spring orb” hunt. We decided to do the same thing we do EVERY Sunday—the only thing with power—preach from the Bible, which means, talk about who Jesus is and what He did. We’ll begin with a text out of 1Corinthians 15.3-8 (3-8) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. The he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me
The Empty Tomb
The Resurrection of Jesus is THE event in history that changed everything. 2000ish years ago, God became a Jewish man, lived 30 years of relative obscurity, walked around the middle east for 3 years preaching, teaching, and doing miracles, entered the city of Jerusalem heralded as a king and, less than week later, was betrayed, falsely accused, abandoned by his friends, beaten, and brutally murdered at the hands of battalion of professional executioners because of the voices of his own people. Jesus of Nazareth was dead and everyone knew it. The governor Pilate thought he was dead, the Jews who delivered though he was dead, the soldiers who executed him thought he was dead, the women who helped bury him in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea’s thought he was dead. But three days later the tomb was empty.
They knew he had died but they had no body. So, they concocted a wild story, NOT THAT HE HADN’T DIED, but why the tomb was empty! Matthew 28.11 11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. No, Jesus didn’t suddenly awaken from a coma after three days, the disciples didn’t steal the body, Jesus rose from the dead and walked out of his tomb alive. And, apparently, he wasn’t super-secretive about showing himself.
Meeting the RESURRECTED JESUS face to face gave a group of scared and depressed disciples NEW life. It is THE event that transformed this uneducated, underachieving, unqualified group of blue collar peasants, fisherman, and tax collectors into the leaders of “THE WAY”. By their radical lives and their fantastic deaths, they launched a faith rooted in the resurrection of this man that has outlasted people and nations for over 2000 years. The Christian faith centers on ONE thing that distinguishes it from ALL other belief systems: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Deep conviction in the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. Some of us don’t believe the gospel at all, others believe parts of it, and most deny the Resurrection. But I feel no compulsion to prove it because, in reality, no one rejects Jesus life, death, or resurrection for lack of information or proof—it’s for lack of faith. Just as there are irreligious people here who deny the resurrection with how they think, there are religious people here who deny it with how they live. Both need to get to Sunday, the day of the empty tomb and stop living on Friday and Saturday. Here is what I mean
** SOME of us live on FRIDAY – Knowing but not believing.
The Irreligious never get passed Christ DIED. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died… The irreligious, nonbeliever, or unchurched never get past the knowledge of what happened to Jesus on Friday. Jesus is a historical person—he really lived. There is more evidence for his existence than mine. And, without a doubt JESUS WAS MURDERED. So, no matter what you believe, you’d have to AGREE (unless you’re Dr. Evil) that the death of Jesus of Nazareth is awful and tragic. A 30 year old carpenter name Jesus, who did nothing but serve and love people, is accused falsely, tried illegally, and murdered brutally. If nothing else, this tragedy confirms FOR EVERYONE there is something NOT RIGHT with the world, that it is broken and messed up.
But you refuse, though you feel it, see it, and know it, to admit that you’re in fact broken too. You refuse to admit you’re “sinful” like those bible-thumping religious folks that killed Jesus! You hate religion but will be “spiritual” because you admit you need something to help alleviate your hurt or satisfy that deep level of discontentment—YOU STILL NEED A SAVIOR. You may not want Jesus as a savior, but you realize you need someone or something to free you. For some it’s a job, some its sex, some its money, basically, whatever brings you satisfaction if you have it and pure hell if you don’t. In other words, even in your unbelief men accept the FACT of the crucifixion as evidence for what is wrong in the world, but deny the true meaning of it. There is no hope.
The religious never get passed the second part of the version, DIED for our sins… for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures The irreligious never talk about their sin and the religious person NEVER STOPS talking about their SIN, or at least your SIN, the world’s sin, everyone’s SIN. Jesus NEVER gets off the cross for the religious. Hours of despairing and condemning are dedicated to thinking about your SINS and the SINS of others. It’s a life swinging between pride and despair as you crucify Jesus over and over and over and over again. In truth, you are like Adam and Eve in the bushes, hiding, ashamed. You are like Peter on Friday…Luke 22.60-62 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly. THAT’S NOT WHERE GOD WANTS US.
** SOME of us live on SATURDAY – Believing but not trusting
Some of us get passed verse 3, but hover on the words of verse 4. 4 that he was buried, Imagine, for a moment, what the disciples were feeling on Friday evening as they went into Saturday. How did they even sleep? They had all run. They probably wept all night, many hid in fear, some were together, others like felt ashamed and wanted to be alone. Then Saturday came. Saturday would have been the Sabbath, so they didn’t even have their work or tasks to distract them from what has just happened. Finally, early Sunday before the sun even came up, Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” Thomas, Nathanel, and James, John, and a couple others come with him. They all sit in the familiar old fishing boat, silent, defeated, angry, depressed. It has been three years since these guys went fishing and so, like salt in the wound, “they catch nothing.” Jesus is in the tomb and they don’t know what to do. Although they don’t know it yet, Jesus has risen from the dead this morning. They had heard a report of it, Peter had even seen the empty tomb, but it wasn’t enough to convince them—they dismissed them as the reports of emotional women. So they’re Saturday continues…
Christianity is not attractive because Christians are not joyful. And most Christians are not joyful because they spend their time on Saturday, Jesus is still in the tomb---this life really is all there is. Even if they SAY that he rose from dead, they don’t REALLY believe that Jesus is living, that Jesus is working, that Jesus is talking, that Jesus is coming! Jesus never gets out of the TOMB…ever. “Saturday living” means we serve a powerless God, a defeated God, a silent God, an inactive God, a dead God. We might put on a good face but we don’t really believe we’re forgiven, that we can have victory over sin, that God is in control of every bad thing. We know the words to say, but our walk proves we feel defeated, joyless, and hopeless. We live in the defeat of a perpetual Saturday. We know, we even believe, but we don’t trust. THAT’S NOT WHERE GOD WANTS US.
** ALL OF US need to live on SUNDAY: Trusting & Living
God wants us to live in all parts of the gospel, to live on Sunday. We begin with the knowledge of the cross, belief in what happened, then WE TRUST: that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. Trusting in the Crucifixion means you accept that need a NEW life not just a better one, and trusting in the Resurrection means believing you HAVE IT. Everyone is looking for a happy, a more satisfying better life. And every author, blogger, and spiritual guru has their man-centered plans to achieve this. I don’t have seven, five, or even three steps; I have just one—DIE. Deitrick Bonnhoffer rightly said, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” In our culture today, you’re not going to sell too many books that tell you the secret to the happy life is to deny yourself and die.
Jesus calls you to die because NOTHING can be RESSURECTED unless it has fully died. The fullness as a man, woman, husband, wife, mother, father, employee, in all of life will never be realized until you fully die with Jesus, until you full deny your own ability to be “good” and trust in Christ’s goodness. That means: WE DENY our own abilities that we can “do it” if we work harder, we deny our comforts of what we “have to have”, we deny our own pride and our “need to know” all the answers, we deny our own entitlements of what we “think we deserve”, we deny our own wisdom that believes “we know better”, we deny our own plans of what “we must do”, AND we deny the opinions of men that speak of “who we were” as we accept WHO God says we are and all that we have in Christ. Dying with Christ means all the guilt, all the shame, all the ugliness, all the fear, all the hopelessness is buried with him forever—dead and gone.
Without Sunday, that isn’t good news. But Easter Sunday is the day that death died…our death is a beginning! Faith in the resurrection means THE OLD IS GONE…but THE NEW has come. We walk, not in a better life, but a new life—made possible by grace. Our resurrection does not come by our own efforts, not by what we know, not by our own morality, not by anything we might do or fail to do, but by God’s grace. Through faith, He gives us a new life in Christ. Through faith, God sees you as He sees his Son without sin, pure, holy, clean, and righteous. Through faith, our life is resurrected in eternity and right now. It has the power to transforms a man from a murderer of the followers of Jesus to being murdered for following Jesus. In writing from a jail cell, Paul’s letter to the Philippians reminds us of this means now:
The resurrected life gives me a meaning and purpose in life now: Philippians 1.1 Paul and Timothy servants of Jesus…
The resurrected life gives me perspective & satisfaction as I live: Philippians 3.8 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
The resurrected life gives peace when I fail to live as ought: Philippians 3.20 Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await the savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body
RESSURECTED The resurrected life gives joy when I fear the world: Philippians 4.4 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.
The resurrected life gives me new strength to grow in every good/bad circumstance: Philippians 4.12-13 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
The resurrected life gives me courage as I suffer…and hope if I die: Philippians 1.19 -21 Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
If you don’t possess those convictions: purpose, satisfaction, joy, peace, strength, courage, or hope, you do not believe Jesus is alive. You’ve either stopped believing on Friday with him on the cross or on Saturday when he’s in the tomb. The tomb is empty. We need to live on Easter, not just as a once a year event, or a one week celebration, or as one day to attend a service. This is not about a better life, but a new life entirely. not faith in some way of living, but someone who gives life. At the end of the Corinthian passage we began with Paul says that: (14-17) If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain... your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. If Christ has not been raised, don’t listen to me, I’m an idiot with nothing offer. But if he has been raised, if the tomb is empty, my preaching is not in vain, and you can be forgiven of all of your sins past, present, and future…freely, fully, and finally. Quite simply, Come and die with Christ today, that you might live with him now and in eternity.
PRAYER - Father, we thank you for sending your Son to die and for mightily raising him from the dead. Forgive us for approaching this day, as other days, without grasping its significance deeply. Forgive us for thinking much of ourselves as we think less of you. Show us, Father, how much we need you, how much you love us, and how much you want us to enjoy you in this life and beyond. Holy Spirit, I pray you will illumine us to see the victory that is the cross and the joy that is the empty tomb. Jesus, help us to die in you that you might live through us. Amen. BENEDICTION – Baptisms/Romans 6