IT IS FINISHED | EASTER 2012

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Easter Friday Message


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The Blood Covenant

By Joseph Magno

Mark 14:12-26

Key Verse 14:24

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.

Happy Easter. We gather here to remember, to make and renew the covenant of life gifted to us through faith in Jesus. We gather here to retell the most awesome story ever told. We want to tell and retell the story of what our Savior Jesus did for us 2000 years ago and for all who believe in him.

Let’s read verse 12, “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover Lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover'”. The first Easter weekend began with what came to be known as the famous “Last Supper”. It was the evening before Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion. It was also the last night that Jesus would be spending with his disciples. So, we can imagine how important this last night was to Jesus, and at the same time, how crucial it would be for his disciples. Jesus knew very well what was in store for him that evening. In other words Jesus knew that he would be captured, tortured, humiliated and would finally suffer the most horrific kind of death ever known – crucifixion! However Jesus was not concerned about himself. Jesus was concerned about his disciples. For this reason Jesus used the last few hours he had with his disciples to prepare them for what was about to happen. He wanted to celebrate the Passover with them. And he also wanted to tell them what was about to happen to him very soon.

This particular Passover, which Jesus was about to celebrate with his disciples, would be the last Passover to ever be celebrated by Jesus’ followers throughout history. After this night, the Passover would be forever changed into what Christians call “The Lord’s Supper”. “The Lord’s Supper” which Jesus was about to establish for his disciples, would have a completely different meaning than the Jewish Passover. This new age would be an age of forgiveness, an age of grace and of love and of peace, in a way that no one had never imagined, nor even dreamed possible. What Jesus was about to do at this particular Passover was in fact prophesied hundreds of years ago. The prophecy said:  “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the nation of Israel and with the nation of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt….. “This is the covenant I will make with the nation of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me,”declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer 31:31-34)

This was the great promise, God made to his sinful people. Up until now, they had been bound by the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant required that, in order for their sins to forgiven, priests had to make sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice for their sins. Each person who claimed to be a child of God could not even come close to God because no matter how many sacrifices a person made through the blood of animals, it was never enough to cover all their sins. For this reason, the people of God at best maintained a long distance relationship with God through keeping a thousand and one laws and through sacrificing countless animals for each and every one of their sins. More than that, even their prayers could not reach God without first passing through priests. The celebration itself was mostly composed of a strict set of rules and regulations that the people of God had to follow to the letter. Of course, it was a time to remember the grace of God’s deliverance to them from slavery in Egypt. But at the same time, the celebration consisted of sacrificing animal blood, cooking and eating meat in haste. In other words, they had to go through tedious rituals only to find favor with God. Still, for them, it was a time of celebration, since they were the most privileged people in the world. They were the most privileged because they were the people of God, whom God set apart to be his people, the ones who alone worshipped and served the Only True God.

But as we said, this particular Passover would be totally different. It would be the last Passover the people of God had to celebrate in this particular way. And there was a good reason for that. The reason was Jesus. It was also what Jesus was about to do. Jesus was about to finally fulfill God’s long awaited prophecy. Jesus was about to do something that would change the entire character of the Passover. What I mean is that Jesus was about to do something that would change the whole relationship between the Holy God and sinful people. Jesus, the Creator of the Universe was himself going to become the Sacrifice for sin! He was going to become the sacrifice to shed his blood for the sins of the world, not only for one year, but forever. His sacrifice would abolish the old Passover, and all of its characteristics, and would establish a new Passover that would last forever. In other words, Jesus was going to become the Final Sacrifice that would ensure the forgiveness of past sins, present sins and the future sins for everyone who wants to be forgiven and who wants to restore their relationship with God. Through what Jesus was about to do, God would now bring his sinful children close to himself, and would give them full access to his presence anytime, anywhere. You don’t even need a cell phone. Their sins would paid in full. Their broken relationship with God would be healed. Their guilt and shame completely removed. And they would now be able to come to God through their only mediator, Jesus, who defends them and upholds them before God. And all this was going to happen through what Jesus was about to do, for Jesus was about to establish the Blood Covenant.

Let’s read verse 22. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body'”. The Passover, which the Jews celebrated once a year was a time to celebrate and remember God’s grace of deliverance from their slavery to Egypt. The Jews were once slaves in Egypt. But God promised to deliver them through a human savior. And God fulfilled his promise when he sent Moses to rescue them. The Israelites were slaves to Egypt. But God loved them and wanted to rescue them from slavery. However, it was not easy to rescue them. Moses tried to convince Pharoah to let the Israelites go. Even after God poured down on Pharoah and the Egyptians 9 deadly plagues. Pharoah would not listen to God and would not let the Israelites go. God had no choice but to threaten the life of the first born sons of Egypt. Moses warned Pharoah that if he did not let the Israelites go. God would kill all of the first born sons of Egypt. But Pharoah refused. Now, God was about to carry out his judgement on the Egyptians by sending the angel of death to take all the lives of all the first born sons of Egypt. But God had a problem doing that. What about the first born sons of his own people, Israel? What could God do to prevent the death of the first born of Israel in this plague?

God had a plan to save the first born sons of Israel. How? In order for them to be saved, they had to do exactly as God tells them to do. God told them that if they sprinkled the blood of a lamb on their doorposts, then God would have the angel of death pass over the family that has blood on its doorposts. The Israelites were sinners. They should suffer the same judgement as the Egyptians. But God had a plan to save them, through the blood of a lamb. God’s plan sounded strange! Blood on the door would make the angel of death pass over their family! But it was not strange, because it was God’s way. It was one time in their lives where they should not think about what is reasonable and unreasonable, what is logical and what is not logical, what makes sense to them and what does not make sense to them. It was a matter of life or death for them to simply accept God’s plan of salvation. How? By faith. In other words they must trust God and his plan to save them – by faith. Therefore, it would be God’s grace and their faith that would save them. When the angel of death visited Egypt that night, the Egyptians perished but the Israelites were spared. When they had faith, they were delivered from their slavery to Egypt. It was a great work of salvation in ancient history…. Now, through Jesus, God wanted to save the whole world through a different kind of slavery…. The slavery to sin. Now, it was God’s new plan of salvation that Jesus would become the Lamb of God. Now, it was God’s plan that whoever wanted to be spared from God’s judgement, that person must have the blood of Jesus on their heart. It was God’s plan that not only the Israelites, but whoever believes God’s wonderful plan of salvation and puts their faith in Jesus and his blood, would receive eternal life.

Sin is not a small matter. Many people in this world ignore sin or undermine it or scoff at the subject of sin. Many people think like this: “I am not a slave to anything or anyone. I am a free person. I don’t need a Savior. I am my own Savior.” But the truth is that, no matter how free a person might seem to be, every human being is a slave to sin. They are slaves to sin. And sin leads all people to death. Sin leads them to God’s judgement. And sin leads them to eternal condemnation in the burning lake of fire. For this reason, God out of his great love, sent his one and only son, Jesus. He sent Jesus to save us. He was appointed by God to become the Lamb of God and to shed his blood, so that whoever believes might not only be spared from God’s judgement, but also from slavery to sin. Therefore, this particular Passover was no ordinary Passover, neither for Jesus, nor for the disciples. He would teach them what they must do to recieve God’s pardoning grace, so that the angel of death and judgement might not harm them when he comes to finally judge the people of the world for their countless sins against God. How wonderful is our Savior Jesus! Jesus was ready to give his own life as the Lamb of God through whom all people might be saved.

Jesus was now ready to make a covenant of life with his disciples – a brand New Covenant that would endure forever – a New Covenant that would not wear out, nor would it need to be ever changed. A New Covenant that would be effective from the moment that Jesus laid down his life on the cross, until the time of his Second Coming to judge the living and the dead. This New Covenant was promised by the loving God who does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to believe, and receive eternal life. And Jesus began to establish this New Blood Covenant with his disciples in this way: Let’s read verse 22 again. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.'”

Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take it, this is my body.” It was a symbol of what it would cost Jesus to establish this New Covenant of life with his disciple. It was a symbol of what would happen to Jesus’ body on the cross. As Jesus broke the bread for the Passover, so also would his body be broken and nailed to the cross. But the precious son of God, Jesus, was ready to give his body to be broken. When we think of Jesus’ life and words, we see that on many occasions Jesus declared that he was the bread of life for the world. Every time Jesus taught he was the bread of life, Jesus was not giving a symbolic teaching. He was teaching a fact. Every time he referred to himself as the “bread of life” he was talking about the time when his body would be broken like bread in order to be shared by all who believe and are waiting for God’s salvation. Jesus was willing to be broken, so that we might live. How precious is our Lord Jesus who says to all of us: “Take it; this is my body.” When people don’t take it, they are rejecting life. But when we take it, we are taking life. When people don’t take it, they are rejecting the best love of God. But when we take it we are accepting the love of God. To accept Jesus is no joke. To accept Jesus into one’s heart and life is to take our soul back from the devil and to give it back to God to whom it really belongs.

After Jesus broke the bread and shared it among his disciples, what did he do? Let’s read verses 23,24. “Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them.” Jesus was not only giving his body to be broken for the sins of the world. The cup Jesus took in his hands was the symbol of the cup of suffering he was about to undergo. The wine he offered to his disciples was the symbol of his blood soon to be shed on the cross for mankind. As the Lamb of God, Jesus was about to shed his blood so that all who want salvation might apply his blood to their sinful hearts. Through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, God extended his hand of forgiveness to all sinners. Through Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross, God offered forgiveness to all who believe. When Jesus offered a cup of wine to his disciples, it was the New Covenant he wanted to make with them – a covenant in his blood – the covenant of faith and of healing, of life and victory.

Let’s read verse 25. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.” Now after the covenant was sealed in his body and his blood, Jesus made a glorious declaration. He declared that even though he was about to suffer, and die on the cross, he would conquer death and rise again. Also, he was also preparing to celebrate his victory in the Kingdom of God where he would wait for his disciples to join him.  Once Jesus said to his disciples in John 14:1-3, “Do no let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” What a glorious hope Jesus left in his disciples hearts! He was going to die on the cross. But he was going to live again. He was going to suffer. But he was going to rejoice again. They too would have to suffer as his disciples. As his disciples, they too would have to drink the cup of suffering someday. But death would not be able to keep them captive. In fact, Life would claim them in the blood of Jesus, and they too would drink together with Jesus the cup of victory in the kingdom of God. This is the promise of Jesus – the promise of life and victory. This Easter Conference lets make or renew our blood covenant with our Lord and Savior Jesus. By faith let’s decide to commit or recommit our hearts and lives to Jesus to glorify his name.

Easter Saturday Message

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The Gospel Of Jesus’ Death

By Nonso Ukeka

John 19:16b-42

Key Verse 19:30

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Since the days of genesis, when man first fell in the garden, this creature which God created for his holy purpose had since been trapped by the power of death, and slavery to sin. The fact is that man had no choice but to follow sin, even though sin devastates human life. Things such as greed and envy rot the bones of man. It paralyzes the very things in our life which were created, originally, to honor and glorify God. Gluttony attacks the very heart of what man is all about and reduces him to the level of an animal. Then there is sloth or laziness— the very enemy of what we know to be God’s desire for man; which is to work hard in life and to avoid sinful pleasures. Lust: a hunger so base that it takes a noble human being and changes him into a vile predator at heart; a predator that hunts with his eyes and goes where no child of God should ever go. And there is anger, a weapon mass destruction, so powerful and dangerous since it can be launched anytime, anywhere and aimed at anyone not even at a moment’s notice. Anger has ruined the most precious and beautiful of relationships in our lives. And it takes only seconds to build up the weapon that is responsible for so many of the world’s disasters— and all while Satan laughs at our weaknesses. But the mother of all sins is none other than pride. At the root of all the things we do in life, the things we are ashamed of doing, things that stand in our way to God and to holiness is pride. And the most unreasonable of sins we commit in life is the sin of pride. Every missed opportunity, every unfortunate event, every unnecessary behavior, and every stumbling block in the way of life and of holiness, is due to pride. There is no need to study or to examine pride. We only need to take a step back and observe some details of the day, any day, to realize that at the root of every disaster in our lives, is pride. Pride is what God sent his Son to die for in our place. God sent Jesus to die for our sins, but of all these sins, Jesus suffered the most because of our pride. And yet, to this very day, people will unashamedly defend and to argue for their sins. When we look at the cross with the eyes of our heart, our hearts should rightly tremble at what the Son of God our Savior had to die for— our pride, the pride which has kept so many souls out of heaven.

It is absolutely crucial that we look at the gospel over and over again, that one day we might actually be sincerely touched by what our Savior had done in order to cleanse us from the vilest of sins— that sin which will stand up and defy God even as we watch the very essence of humility being crucified. If we are to overcome the power of sin, and escape its deadly grips, then by God’s grace, we must make friends with the enemy of our pride—humility. And where can we learn humility, except in and through Jesus? May God truly humble us, and give us the grace we need to crucify our pride right there at the foot of the cross. Amen!

God had made a promise at the beginning of time. When Adam and Eve had sinned, when they realized the enormity of their sin, and when they had been filled with a ceaseless sense of utter hopelessness, it was then that God washed their hearts with a ray hope for the future. God made a promise that the day would come when a Savior would be sent to redeem them from sin, and re-admit them to salvation. These were the words of promise, which he spoke to the serpent: “…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” [Genesis 3:15] And this promise was carried throughout many generations until the day of the fulfillment came to be. When his three plus years of earthly ministry were completed, Jesus was now about to fulfill the final stages of God’s promise for salvation. The night before this was to happen; he was arrested and taken for trial. John, who recorded these details as part of the gospel story, made sure that all history hears these eternal words, spoken by Jesus, during his trial, “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” With this heart piercing challenge, Jesus prepared himself to be God’s sacrificial lamb, for our salvation.

After the trial, begins the most beautiful story ever told. It is the story of the God-Man quietly laying down his life on the cross to save us— the helpless human race. It is a story, filled with grief because it tells of the death on the cross, the gruesome crucifixion of innocent Jesus. Yet it was a death that did not end in tragedy but in joy and victory. On that faithful day, when Jesus surrendered his life— not to evil men— but to God’s Will, was when He conquered death and the power of sin which so far had held us captive in chains of darkness. At that blessed time all who believed were also freed from those dungeons of sin and of death. Many skeptics believe that the concept sin, and the human soul being held captive in dungeons and darkness, is absurd. But it only takes an honest heart and an aching soul to acknowledge that the darkness of the soul is not a myth but a reality men live in and through every day of their lives. It does not take more than simple honesty to admit that man is more than a body, that he is a soul, and that if there is a soul, then there is a God, and if there is a God, there is also a day of judgment. Truly, then, Jesus was to die that we may be set free from that awful judgment of the soul held in dungeons of darkness. So now we must consider why Jesus had to die such a cruel (disgraceful) death! Behold now, the King of our salvation, in the hands of sinners

Look at verse 16. Pilate finally handed Jesus over to be crucified, but Jesus remained silent at his death sentence. He offered no resistance. Centuries ago, the prophet Isaiah foresaw the silent suffering of Jesus, and praised him saying, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Is.53:7) The soldiers also played a part in Jesus’ suffering. They multiplied it. After beating him mercilessly, they put a cross on his bruised shoulder and forced him to walk. But it was no short walk; it was a dreadful walk uphill to the place called Golgotha. (16b-18). They then bound him to the cross, drove nails through his hands and feet, and lifted up the cross where they left him to suffer for many hours in terrible agony, until he died. Jesus was the gentlest and kindest Man who had ever lived. He, of all people, did not deserve to die in this way! But they did this to him. Why? In Isaiah’s prophesy, God tells us that Jesus “Surely … took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows— he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Is.53:4,5) Christ’s horrific death on the cross was no mistake. It was no tragedy. It was the most meaningful event and death in all history. It was a death that gave birth to life—everlasting life.

First, Jesus was crucified to carry our shame. Look at verse 18. “Here they crucified him…” Jesus was crucified in shame, for the cross was a symbol of shame. Why did Jesus have to suffer such unbearable shame? It was to bear the shame of our sins in our place. Our sins are shameful. Our sinful acts are shameful, even disgusting. Most people sin and think nothing of it. At the same time, they don’t want anyone to know what shame they commit in private. Most people are too ashamed to talk about their sins. And if their consciences are still functional, many even hate the shameful thoughts that pass through their hearts and minds. Those who carry out these shameful acts do their best to wipe out their shameful memory, and drown themselves even more with sinful distractions. On the other hand, there are those who feel no shame because of a dead conscience. They even boast about the shameful things that they do. But with or without a conscience, the truth is that there is not one human being who is able to bear his or her own shame.

Shame is a horrible thing. Whether we feel ashamed of our sins or not, one day, every man and woman will have to bear the shame of all his or her sinful acts. That day is the Day of Judgment. The day is coming when every human being will have to stand before the throne of God in the court of heaven to be judged for his or her shameful acts. On that day everything we have done in our lives will be exposed. Our lives will be recounted moment by moment, exposing our deepest shame. On that woeful day, even the thoughts of our hearts will be retold before the court of heaven and in the midst of the multitudes of souls awaiting their own judgment. Who will stop the scene of shameful events that spills out of our lives, leaving nothing unsaid, nothing uncovered? Who will save us on that day? Who will plead our case? Woe to them who are not found in Christ on that day. For this reason our dear Jesus bore our shame to the cross. He felt our shame. He experienced the shame that we deserve. He did it so that all those who put their faith in him may be delivered from shame and be delivered on that day. Jesus was shamed on the cross, that we may be spared the shame of our sin and escape the horrible destiny awaiting those who are not found in Christ. Praise God! Praise Jesus who decided to carry my shame and your shame to the cross!

Look at this scene of human decadence at the foot of the cross! Read verses 23-24. Soldiers are supposed to be spirited and noble. But these were cruel and heartless. They shamelessly divided Jesus’ clothes into four shares, one for each of them. The precious Savior of all men was in torment and suffering. But Jesus did not mind it, if only he may lay down his life for them. They didn’t care about the beautiful gospel story. They didn’t care about God’s salvation. They didn’t care about God. All they were concerned about was some small material gain. This was a great shame. It is a great shame to be indifferent toward the suffering of others and to gain some benefit at the expense of their pain and sorrow. This is not only the story of these soldiers at the cross, but the story of men who fight to gain something in this world, ignoring the sacrifice of the Son of God who hung on the cross to save shameless sinners like them! It is indeed a shame for a human being created with divine qualities to become hardened and heartless in a dog-eat-dog world. We have to think about this carefully. As Jesus suffered on the cross for us, do we only care about small benefits? How can it be that Jesus was dying on the cross for their sake, and they were callously dividing up his clothes! This is a great shame! Surely Jesus did not deserve this! Luke 23:34 tells us what was on Jesus’ heart during this heart-breaking moment: “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided his clothes by casting lots.” Praise be to Jesus!

Second, on the cross, Jesus carried our sorrows. Read verses 25-27. “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’” Jesus was suffering on the cross, but he was not thinking about himself. Instead, he was thinking of his mother and his beloved disciple. In fact, Jesus was thinking about all of us. Specifically he was thinking about our human sorrows. Jesus knew that his crucifixion was shredding his mother’s heart, plunging her into unmitigated sorrow. Jesus deeply understood her broken heart as a mother watching her son suffer. And from the cross of his suffering he cared for her. Jesus carried her sorrow. Spiritually speaking, Jesus graciously healed her wounded heart and comforted her in the loss of her Son until the peace of God settled in her heart- until new strength arose in her, strength to serve the life of faith and mission to which God had called her.

But this story is not just about Jesus and his mother; it is our story as well! Every human being is born in sorrow, raised in sorrow, because we are destined to live in this sorrowful world marred by sin and controlled by Satan. Every man cries about something. Every man is unhappy about something in his or her life. We are all very familiar with sorrow. Some sorrow and cry because of a broken family. They cannot find love, and suffer tremendously for lack of love and security. For some it is painful even to live. Indeed, every one of us has a sorrow. And everyone’s sorrow is more than one can bear! And our sorrows become the spiritual diseases that plague our lives and eat our souls inside out. Even though many laugh, they are really crying on the inside. It is so hard to bear one’s sorrow.

For this reason, like a compassionate Father, Jesus carried all our human sorrows to the cross. He wanted to carry them in his heart so that we would not have to carry them any longer, for he could not bear to see us suffer in sorrow all our lives. But it was not easy for Jesus to do this. He had to take our sorrows to the cross, crucifying them, in order to restore joy into our hearts, which are already shriveled by sorrow. Truly, when we had no one to understand our deepest sorrow; when we had no one who could see the pain in our hearts; when no one could share it, our friend and Lord Jesus did. This is a great mystery; but on that day of HIS sorrow, somehow, Jesus took all our sorrow with him to the cross. And he bids us come to him in faith and behold him on the cross in pain— to take away our pain. Behold his sorrow— to take away our sorrow. Why? This is a mystery indeed, but one look at this crucified Shepherd and Friend who loves us so; one look at him, who poured out his life for us his friends, is enough to take away the greatest sorrow of our hearts. Therefore, in Christ, there is no more sorrow. This is God’s promise to us who believe. Take your sorrow to the foot of the cross today, by faith, and experience the never ending floods of joy in Jesus, the joy of a new life in Christ.

Third, on the cross, Jesus took our sins away. Read verse 30. “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Sin is the spiritual disease of the soul. It also has power in our lives. Why do we do things we really don’t want to do; have thoughts we don’t want to have; feelings we are disgusted with? Why are some unable to pick up the Bible and read; why are they unable to pray? Because of the power of sin. Because they are under the power of sin. Sin has power over human life, and with such force, it will pull us down with it until we become its slaves. Even now, some people’s hearts and minds are full of darkness, because of the power of sin which controls their every thought and every step, day after day. Sin also plagues people’s lives with shame and guilt and fears that haunt them until they despair. It is sin then, living in hearts that destroys the very fiber of life. At the same time, sin demands a price. And no matter how much we go to church, or act religious, it does not pay for our sins. Not one of our sins, even the smallest can go unpunished.

But praise be to God for he has sent us Jesus the Savior. To those who grieve for their sins and are earnestly repentant, God sent Jesus to the cross to carry their sins, to be punished in their place. On the cross, God lay on Jesus our sins. It was agony! But Jesus gladly did it for his Father and for his children. Jesus came to fulfill this mission— to deliver us from the power of sin. Jesus’ words, “it is finished” are his declaration that it is over- it has been solved— the remedy has been found— shout it loud! Sin has been conquered! How beautiful is this friend Jesus. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.” Jesus did it for us. He did it that we may believe, and be saved from sin to eternal life. All you who bear sin in your lives today, humble yourselves, come to the cross of Jesus, lay down your sins at the foot of the cross so that you may be forgiven and freed from the power of sin— freed to live for the glory of God, to live a life of faith and of mission.

Surely, Jesus was crucified and died to change our lives. Jesus’ death is the most meaningful death in all of human history. Commonly, death is meaningless and usually the cause of endless sorrow and despair. But Jesus’ death changed the face of death and robbed it of its horrid character. Jesus’ death changes lives and continues to change lives to this very day. Jesus’ death became the power source for all human beings who are tired of living in sin — to come out of their old and ugly selves and into a new self recreated in the image of God. In verses 38-42 we read the story of two men whose lives were changed by the power of the cross of Jesus; Joseph and Nicodemus! There are those who want to change. They don’t like the way they are. They hate their sins. They loathe their shameful acts and frustrating sorrows. They suffer much under the power of sin. What should they do? They should simply and humbly come to Jesus. From the cross of Jesus, power to change lives emanates. From the heart of our Lord Jesus pours out all the love needed to heal wounded hearts and to mend wretched lives. And from the hill of Calvary, love still pours out to all who come to him by faith. In the cross there is power to change the whole world, how much more a poor lonely soul! God loves that soul. Yes! There is power in the cross of Jesus to forgive, to heal, to restore and to change anyone. If we come to Jesus, he is ready to make us into new people. This is the promise of God to all who believe. By God’s grace, may we believe and be touched and changed forever by the power of the cross!!

Easter Sunday Message

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The Resurrection

By: Tim Lopez

John 20:1-31

Key Verse 20:17b

“Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Usually, the word Gospel has several meanings. When we say gospel we may be referring to the Lord Jesus taught, or we may also be referring to the life and works of the Lord Jesus.  When someone uses the word gospel they may also mean any of the four accounts recorded by the apostles in the first four books of the New Testament. And all these terms are absolutely correct, considering that the term gospel has inherited so many true meanings over the many generations. But in the purest form, the gospel implies the last two acts of the life of Jesus Christ. And here we are talking solely about the (1) death and (2) resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We get this directly from the apostle Paul who wrote to the Corinthian Church these eternal and life-giving words: “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you… Christ died for our sins  … he was buried … he was raised on the third day.”  [1 Cor. 15:1-4] Every one of the four gospel accounts in the New Testament details these two events with immaculate accuracy. And there is a good reason for this. Besides the fact that these two events tell of the main purpose of the coming of the Messiah, Paul tells us in his letters to the early Christians that these two events, when we put our faith in them, are that power which ensures the salvation of the one that believes and firmly stands on them. Simply speaking, there is salvation for the soul that puts its faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Although each of the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection records these two events, let us look at the uniqueness of the author John’s record and account. He not only tells us what happened, but he tells us what happened from a very unique perspective, which his own. And we are not talking only as a witness to these events. We are talking about how these events personally touched his own life. He was there. He saw it happen. Others also saw it happen. Yet what he did not see happen, he did not omit, but also recorded it as part of the gospel story— surprisingly as it was witnessed by women. And all the while he is telling the story, we cannot miss that amazing element of how all of it had affected him personally. It touched his heart so deeply that it created and cultivated and grew faith in his own heart. From the start to the end of the account he gives us, we cannot miss the fact that John believed. Why? He did not believe only because he had been there and saw what happened. He believed because the life of these disciples/apostles was never again the same. The gospel literally transformed their lives and made them witnesses to these events. Later on in his letters to the churches, he mentions the gospel not only as true events which took place, but the very power that began sweeping the world over. He later says such things as “we heard… we looked… we saw… and we touched.” This is the kind of gospel we too should not just believe in, but experience in our very hearts daily. And we can do so if only we would invest our hearts and minds when we listen to it, when we study it, and when we preach it to others.

The passage here now is the conclusion of the message of the gospel. It is the account of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead— the second event we call the gospel. We must believe it. And we must also completely base our Christian faith on it. Why?  One reason is because believing in the resurrection account or ‘resurrection faith’ is crucial for the salvation of our souls. And also because whether we believe it or not actually affects our Christian life in every way. Spiritually speaking, our daily defeat or daily victory has everything to do with whether we have resurrection faith or not. For example, I heard a story about an African shepherdess who lost her husband during an African international conference. She was then faced with a dilemma— To grieve right then and there and to plunge everyone at the conference with her in grief, or to entrust her husband to God and in that way to demonstrate resurrection faith to encourage all her coworkers. She stood at the podium at the conference and shared the message her husband was scheduled to share had he not passed away. Who could do that except someone with powerful resurrection faith! Her resurrection faith shone that day like the bright sun! That day all 400 attendants, rather than fall into unbearable sorrow, experienced the power of God. Surely, to have or not to have resurrection faith, to engage or not to engage it, eventually determines what kind of a Christian we are. We can be an ordinary life-sapping Christian or an extraordinary life-giving Christian, and it all depends on whether we choose to live by resurrection faith or not.

Surely, Jesus’ resurrection goes far beyond the power to save the sinner. The resurrection has the power to transform everyday, rebellious, worldly human beings into powerful fighting Christians. John’s account or John’s resurrection message reveals how the power of Jesus’ resurrection worked in (1) his own life— together with Peter’s, then in (2) Mary’s life and finally (3) in the lives of all the remaining disciples. It also teaches us how the power of Jesus’ resurrection can work in our lives as well (when we have gospel-faith)— particularly when we have gospel-resurrection-faith. We really need to believe the resurrection not in our heads, but first in our hearts and then from our hearts as well. Then we need to engage our faith in such a way to let it work in our lives and from our lives to everything that comes into contact in our lives. In other words, we need to embrace the resurrection faith in such a way that we can actually say as John later did, “we heard… we saw… we touched”.  That’s the kind of faith which can bring us out of our ordinariness as a Christian and make us effective, useful, powerful, and good co-workers with the Lord Jesus whose sacrifice on the cross was the preface of what he really wanted to do—  which is to rise from the dead and show the world that he has Surely beaten the last enemy, which is death.

Read verses 1-2. Mary Magdalene had stood at the foot of the cross and helplessly watched Jesus’ death. Then she watched him until he was buried. After his burial on Friday evening, Mary went home and cried all night, and into the next day. On Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene solemnly made her way to Jesus’ tomb. She wanted to anoint his body with spices. It was the last thing this lovely woman could do for Jesus. She was determined to serve her Shepherd and Friend one more time. But When Mary arrived at the tomb, she saw that the stone covering the entrance to the tomb had been removed. Mary could not but think that Jesus’ body had been removed by his enemies. So she came running to Peter and John and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Let’s read verses 3-9. Peter and John immediately ran for the tomb. When they arrived they saw an unusual thing in the tomb. They 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. But what does this mean? It simply means that the grave clothes had not been torn or taken off. They were just lying there in regular folds as if the body of Jesus had simply evaporated out of them. The strips of cloths lying there were the indisputable evidence that there had been a resurrection. We wonder what might have went on in the disciples’ hearts and minds! Now, what went on was every sincere Christians’ struggle! Look at verse 9. It says, “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” Then look at verse 8b. “He saw and believed.” The contrast here is interesting! How is it that they could not understand and at the same time believe? That’s not so hard to figure out. With their minds they did not understand the resurrection. After all, how could they! They couldn’t, since the resurrection is a supernatural occurrence way beyond human understanding. On the other hand, with their hearts they believed— because the heart is a wondrous instrument of faith given [gifted] to us by God for exactly such things— to believe what our minds are not able to believe. Where the complicated human mind says things such as: How could this be, the simple human heart might easily say: I believe. Surely I do believe. When we come to Jesus we must engage our hearts always and not our limited minds. Then we too can believe.

Look at verses 10-15. The disciples went back home, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. When she bent over to take a last look into the tomb, this time she saw two angels in white. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She said, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.” Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. “‘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.’” How is it that Mary could not recognize Jesus? It was because of the veil of tears covering her eyes. Also, her sorrow blinded her from seeing Jesus. We talked about sorrow in the last passage. Sorrow is a spiritual problem. Sorrow is a problem of heart that needs to not linger, but be healed of. Sorrow is the chronic condition of an empty heart and of a meaningless existence. Sorrow is the condition of a soul striving to find its’ meaning through many tragic events in the world. This was Mary’s problem. She was always sorrowful, because there was always something sad to cry about! Sorrow is not natural to us. It is the devil’s tool. Sorrow is the active power of sin in our lives. Satan uses sorrow to cover up the spiritual reality. For example, the veil of sorrow in Mary’s heart covered the great glory of the resurrection just as the veil of tears blinded her from seeing Jesus. Because of her sorrow problem, everything seemed hopeless to Mary. She needed healing from sorrow. How did Jesus help her?

Look at verse 15a. When Jesus asked her, “Why are you crying?” he meant, “Look Mary! and see that I am Risen, alive ad victorious. Believe in me and be set free from your sorrow, because there is power in the resurrection for you to conquer your sorrow. You don’t have to be overcome by sorrow any more.” All Mary had to do now was to believe. In faith, she needed to open her eyes and see the Risen Jesus. She needed to begin a new life- a life lived in and the through the power of the resurrection- a sorrow free life. Sorrow-free does not mean a perfect and trouble free life. Of course, one sorrows every now and then. But they are not overcome by sorrow! It is a life of joy in the midst of this world’s numerous tragedies. It is a joy that fills all Christians’ hearts. Jesus is Risen and victorious and therefore, we too are victorious in all our circumstances, because he is our Lord and he is Risen. When Jesus called her name “Mary” immediately Mary recognized that compassionate voice and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” Suddenly, her sorrow turned to joy. Suddenly her tears stopped. Her heart was filled with new hope and new life. Mary had met the Risen Jesus personally. It’s a beautiful thing to meet the Risen Jesus personally. It is life changing!

Look at verse 17, “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 wanted to take a ride to heaven with the Risen Christ away from this troublesome world. But Jesus had a different plan for Mary’s life. She had a life of holy mission to fulfill— an essential element of Mary’s and every Christian’s life. What was her mission? Jesus commissioned her to declare the message of the resurrection to his disciples. Surely Jesus restored to her woman’s original mission to be a helper to man. (Gen. 2:18) In the past Mary’s primary mission of life was to look for a husband to take care of her. In the past, she distracted men from serving God’s purpose in their lives with the endless demands of a worldly woman. Woe to that woman who steals man’s heart away from his God! But now Mary was no longer a heart thief. She was a new woman. She was a changed woman. She would now bring men back to God. She was now commissioned to bring men the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Mary then went to the disciples and testified “I have seen the Lord!” Every time Mary shouted, “I have seen the Lord,” the disciples’ eyes popped and their mouths dropped. Mary was alive, but the disciples’ hearts were still dead.

What was their problem? Look at verse 19a. “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews…” The Bible tells us that the disciples were fearful. Why were they fearful? The Bible also tells us where fear comes from. First of all, fear is the result of sin. At the same time, it’s the gift of the devil. (2.Tim.1:7; Rom.8:15) Those who are fearful are therefore experiencing the fruit of their sin, and they are a slave, held captive to that spirit of fear. Peter was a courageous man. He once declared, “I will lay down my life for you.” (13:37) Then what happened to Peter’s courage? When the evil one spoke to his heart, his courage failed and Satan filled him with such fear that he even denied he ever knew Jesus. Peter didn’t want to deny Jesus. He certainly didn’t want to lock the door for fear of anyone. But the power of fear was so much at work in his heart that he was captive to its power. All the disciples were at that time gripped with fear. They needed to be healed from their fear problem.

Likewise, courageous people who walk through life courageously, venture heroically through life’s different circumstances. They scorn fear! But when the time comes, Satan’s one word to their hearts brings about a storm of fear that shakes their foundation and they become helpless victims of a spirit of fear. Many courageous people crumble under the weight of fear. The power of fear makes old people tremble with future uncertainties, anxieties and insecurities. Fear makes young people negative about life. When the reality of a life they are destined to live in fear and despair catches up with them, they begin to hate life and try to cover up their fear with strange behavior. We know how many young people do strange things and act strangely to escape the realities of life. They call it 20th century freedom. But the Bible calls it “a state of sinful fear and the product of despair.” These days not many people have courage to live and to challenge life and to make the best of life. They are just barely existing. It is sad how fear and despair have degenerated a glorious human life to the level of a frightened animal. How terrible fear is! How it robs us of our human dignity and degrades us relentlessly. Fear is not natural to us. It is the result of our sin. Sin finally catches up with people, and invites a swarm of spirits in our hearts that sow and reap the seeds of fear. And it certainly happens to Christians also, those who are secretly sinful and unrepentant. They become helpless and useless to God and to his work. This is how Satan works in hearts. This exactly was the condition of the disciples. Let’s see how Jesus helped his disciples conquer their fear!

Look at verses 19b and 21a. As they sat there, the Risen Jesus was suddenly in their midst. He said, “Peace be with you.” This was not a greeting. It was the blessing of peace to cast out all fear. They needed the power of God’s peace to deliver them from the hold of fear. So Jesus blessed them and empowered them with the peace of God. No sooner did the disciples see the Risen Christ than the power of death disappeared before the victorious Lord of life. When they accepted his words: “Peace be with you,” the curse of fear went away. From the cold darkness of fear, came the warm sunshine of the resurrection. Suddenly the resurrection became real to them and resurrection faith welled up in their hearts. With resurrection faith, new life began within their souls, a fearless life. It was a time of salvation for them, for they heard the voice of the Risen Christ and it penetrated their hearts. Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you,” were no mere words. They were the blessing of a new generation of people who are fearless- who fear no one and nothing- a people who are freed from the power of fear and free to serve God- people who defy all enemies of the gospel. Now, they could be the heralds of the gospel to the whole world. Now, they could declare, “I have seen the Risen Savior and he has changed me. I am not afraid to follow and serve him.”

Do you want to follow Jesus and can’t? You can’t, not because you want to be cautious, but because you are fearful- cowardly- Satan has entrapped you with his fear! Do you want to serve God but can’t? You can’t, not because you want to make the right decision, because serving Jesus is certainly the right decision, but because you are fearful- because Satan has flooded your heart with fear and has trapped you time and again in heeding the Lord’s call! You need to be delivered from this demon of fear that holds your heart in terror every time you come close to making a decision of faith to live for God. “Peace,” Jesus says, “peace“ to you. Look at verse 22. Repent and receive the Holy Spirit and be set free from your fears. Let the Holy Spirit of God dwell in your heart instead of the demons of fear. Surely, repent and believe this good news of the Risen Savior. “Peace be with you,” are the life-giving words of the Risen Christ to you and to me and to everyone with a fear problem. These are the words of your God and my God speaking to us, telling us, “What are you afraid of? Cast out your fears and stand beside me, with me for I am your Lord and I am Risen.” When the peace of God comes in your hearts, you no longer will fear. Fear flees away. Faith settles in. Listen then to Jesus’ voice in your heart, “Peace be with you.”

Doubt is another gift of Satan and a spiritual disease. Now Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus revealed himself. When the other disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, he sneered! Thomas really wanted to believe with all his heart, but every time he tried to believe something, he shook his head saying, “No, it must be a trick.” He is like those who receive much love from God’s people, but instead of believing, they say, “These people are strange.” But Jesus loved this despicable man of doubt and wanted to heal him of his agonizing doubt. Jesus knew that it was not Thomas, but Satan inflicting doubt in his heart. So Jesus revealed himself to him. As soon as Thomas saw Jesus he confessed faith and believed. He made a leap of faith that began eternal life in his heart. When he said, “My Lord and my God!” he meant, “Jesus, you are my Lord, the one who died and shed his precious blood for my dirty sins. You are my Risen Lord who takes away all my fear and doubt. I am sorry for doubting you. I am sorry for rejecting your word so many times. I love you Lord and my life belongs to you. From now on I will live my life for your glory.” Jesus accepted Thomas’ faith which was based on sight. But Jesus blessed the faith of all who believe not by sight but by Jesus’ Word. Blessed are those whose faith is based on the word of God— whose faith is rooted in Jesus’ death and in Jesus’ resurrection.

At this Easter time, once again we look to Jesus who died on the cross for our sins and who rose from the dead in order to give us life and blessing and hope and victory in all things. Surely we are the most blessed people in the world. We must fulfill God’s will for us to bring this gospel to the whole world, beginning with our campuses, our neighborhood, and our nation, and to the ends of the earth. God bless you.

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