Message from our Resurrection Sunday service on April 16th, 2017
What a tremendous day in which the Lord has blessed us! Thank you to all who worked so hard to lead us this morning in worship of our great God. You have blessed us and helped us to focus our minds and our hearts on our heavenly Father and on the Lord Jesus Christ. My prayer is that, our hearts and minds being readied, we can continue to worship through the hearing of His word, that we may be challenged together by His Spirit. This day in many ways is like any other, and yet it is unique to our faith. Today is what we know most commonly as Easter Sunday. We all here understand what that means. It is the day that we celebrate the resurrected Lord, His dying for us and rising from the grave, having defeated death, and appearing to many as the risen Lord, and ascending to the Father where He makes intercession for us. I prefer the words Resurrection Sunday because of their focus on what the day really represents.
Being Resurrection Sunday, I do want to break from our normal study through 2 Timothy and spend this time leading you to what is central to our faith. I want us to focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And even more specific than that, I would like us to consider and glory in the faithfulness and love of the Father and the Son in the death and resurrection of Christ. Or to say it another way, God the Father and God the Son are loving and faithful, and we can see that in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. God is loving and faithful. Jesus Christ is loving and faithful. And one place we see that is in the death and resurrection of our Savior.
Now, as Christians we may think that almost goes without saying. Maybe you think I am stating the obvious. And yet, in our minds, in our personal world of daily living, daily struggles, daily events, we may sometimes question the faithfulness and love of God as it relates to us. Here is what I mean. When the apostle Paul was suffering with a thorn in the flesh, whatever exactly that may have been, he pleaded with God how many times? Three times he pleaded with God to take it away. After three times and apparently no relief from this particular trial, he hears from Christ on this and is told by the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Do you know what that meant? It meant the trial was not going away! “Take it away,” Paul pleads. “It is not going away!”
It is here that we must decide on and answer the question, “Is God loving and is He faithful to us?” Right? And all I am saying is that sometimes in our minds, we may not say it, but in the secret parts of our minds we may not respond as Paul did to such an answer. Paul, embracing what he knew about God, His love and faithfulness, decided that to have an infirmity that would not end was worth boasting over if it meant that the power of Christ would rest on Him to enable him to endure it. He decided that he would take pleasure in his pain for the sake of Christ. He said, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
There are a couple of ways that we may view God’s love and faithfulness. One way is in a general sort of way, and the other is as it relates to us personally. If we consider God’s faithfulness in a general sort of way, that is like if we take ourselves and our circumstances out of the picture and just consider what we know about God from the Scriptures. In this way we can go to all sorts of passages and see His faithfulness, and we are left to embrace and believe that He is both loving and faithful. We can see that He will do all that He says He will do and He will do it perfectly.
6 “And the Lord passed before Him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’”
This is God Himself declaring Himself to be loving and faithful. Who here would argue with God Himself? Probably none of us.
Or how about Psalm 26:3 “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.” Or as David declares in Psalm 40:11, “As for you O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me, Your steadfast love and faithfulness will ever preserve Me!” How about Isaiah’s confession in Isaiah 25:1? “O Lord you are my God, I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed from old, faithful and sure.”
Writer after writer, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, declares the faithfulness of God. He is sure, He is our Rock, He is a fortress, He does not change, He cannot lie, He keeps His word, He is steadfast. What He has said will come to pass. No one, nothing can thwart Him. There is none other of whom we can say these things. He is faithful.
Do you believe that? Do we believe that He is the God who He says He is? Again, I think the vast majority of us here would answer with a resounding yes. “Of course God is faithful, there is no denying it from His Word.” And if that is the case, then that is good. But remember, there is another way to look and consider the truth of His faithfulness, and that is if we go back and instead of looking at this topic biblically, and in a general way, we go back and insert ourselves and our circumstances into the picture. And you know what happens so often? We begin to waiver.
I see this all the time in ministry, and I struggle with it myself on occasion. It goes something like this: “I believe that God is loving and faithful…but…because of my sin, or my weakness, or my struggles, He has left me, or He is no longer faithful.” Maybe we don’t say those words, but that is what we think and that is how we live. And so what happens is we can get bogged down with ourselves, and in effect think that God’s character can change based on our actions.
We may believe that His faithfulness and love for us as His children, as Christians, is not sure, but is dependent on how we act or what we do. Can we change the character of God? Can people change the character of God? Is God acting and reacting depending on what we do or what we think? Is He loving and faithful only when we are good, or is He always loving and faithful in our lives as Christians?
Well, the obvious answer is that God is always faithful to His Word and to us as His people, no matter what. And if we could fully embrace that without an ounce of reservation, we would all be at a better place in this life, in this walk.
To help us see His love and faithfulness no matter what, I would like for us to consider an extreme example of His own commitment to being faithful no matter what. This extreme example is found in the death and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I know some of you were wondering if we would get to that! Yes! That is where we are going! For it is in the death and in the resurrection of our Lord that we see perhaps the most extreme example of faithfulness poured out to those who deserve none of it.
If you ever begin to doubt His faithfulness to you as a believer, then go to the cross and find it there. See it, embrace it, and live in it.
I’m going to skip around some through various texts leading up to the resurrection, and we will begin with what we call the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. When Jesus came into Jerusalem, just prior to His arrest, He did so riding on the back of a colt. You will recall that as He rode in, the large crowd greeted Him with great words of praise and adoration, to the point that the Pharisees recognized it as giving honor to deity and insisted that He rebuke his disciples. These were high words of praise given to Jesus. What did they say?
Luke 19:37 -38
the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
A jubilant, joy-filled crowd welcoming Christ Jesus into Jerusalem. That is the picture we get here, isn’t it? So we see the actions of the crowd, what they did to greet Jesus. Now if we stop right here we may say, “Of course Jesus would die for these people. They loved Him. Surely He would die for His friends.” Our thinking may wander into believing God is faithful to those who are faithful, and these folks seem faithful. But now let’s see if we can discern their desires, see where their hearts really are.
What did they want from Jesus? Well, this may not be an easy question to answer just from this text, but I think if we take a look at another text, it will give us some insight into the motives of the crowd on this day, into what was driving their jubilant behavior on that day. To get some insight, let’s look at another familiar passage, an event that took place just four days after the triumphal entry.
In John’s gospel chapter 18, after Jesus had been arrested, Pilate offers to release Him according to their custom of releasing one prisoner at Passover. But on that occasion the multitudes, the crowd – and it was a multitude by this point, and I believe much of the same crowd that had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem a few days prior – said, “Not this man!” “Not Jesus, give us Barabbas.” And in Matthew’s gospel we read that they shouted “Crucify Him!” Now if Jesus were only faithful to the faithful, then this is where He relents on the whole idea of being a sacrifice for sin. It is while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us.
Now, how can we reconcile this? This seems crazy. On Sunday the crowds treat Him as royalty, waiving palm branches, singing His praises, bowing a knee, and on the very next Thursday, having an opportunity to set Him free, they instead yell, “Crucify Him!” Early in the week it is “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Later the same week it is “Crucify Him!”
Were these people sane? Had their hearts turned from worshipers of the living God to haters of God in a few short days? What were their reasons for welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem? Was it true worship or was it something else? I think that is a legitimate question.
I think their motives at the triumphal entry become more clear in reading of their desire for His murder. The crowd at the triumphal entry must not have been true worshipers of God. I think that what they wanted was clearly an earthly King, and they thought they had found one who could finally crush their Roman oppressors, their enemies – after all, He had raised a dead man from the grave!
I think when they lifted their voices singing Hosanna, what they were saying was not “Save us from our sins,” but “Save us from our oppressors,” and as in Psalm 118:24, “Send now prosperity,” in an earthly way. Their greeting of Jesus was primarily a parade of anticipated victory over their enemies, the Romans. I just don’t see any other explanation. If Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, there would be no limits to His power. Prosperity, victory, salvation all from an earthly perspective! That is why they welcomed Him with such joy.
And if that being the case, it is easy to see why they could, in such a short time after seeing Him captured, mistreated and looking helpless, recant and say, “Forget you. You are not the guy we thought you were, you cannot even free yourself from Rome, much less free us.” “Crucify Him!” Their desires did not change in four days, but their view of Jesus had changed. When it became clear that He would not defeat Rome, which was their highest desire, what they lusted after, they could discard Him like an animal. If He could not give them what they wanted, then “Let Him die!”
Now let’s just note something. And this is really important. Jesus had not changed. His faithfulness to the plan of God, to the promises of God had not changed. His faithfulness was not dependent on the crowd, nor is it dependent on any one of us today. He had not misled the crowd of Jews. God’s plan had not been altered. Jesus had in no way presented Himself to be something or someone that He was not. He had not deceived the Passover crowd even in the slightest way. No, He was the same man with the same determined purpose on Sunday coming into Jerusalem as He was on Thursday standing as a prisoner before Pilate. He possessed the same power within Himself in prison and being beaten as He did when He raised Lazarus from the dead. He was the same man, the same God – the problem was the people’s thinking. And you know what, that is usually where our problems are too. Our problems are usually with our thinking. Our view of God sometimes becomes subjective and is altered by our feelings, our emotions.
God does not change like the changing winds of our emotions. We cannot impugn the character of God and question His faithfulness by how we feel. Especially when we see His faithfulness to go to the cross despite the terribly sinful crowd. He was going to die for them. Their actions did not change a thing. They, no matter how bad they were, could not change God!
But here is the thing, and the lesson for us: God had not changed. God does not promise anything that He does not deliver, for God cannot lie. God does not leave us alone or turn His back on us, not even for a moment, to fall beyond His sovereign reach. He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God does not stop working in our lives as Christians for our good, to progressively sanctify us and make us more like Christ, right? “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed into the image of His Son.”
We must be careful of the same things. Our thinking must be biblical. We must see our circumstances as from God. The crowd failed to see the glory of Christ as a willing sacrifice. What is greater than that? Some temporary freedom from Rome? Would that be greater than the sacrifice of Christ given for eternal salvation? They failed to see that. They failed to see the purpose of it all. And instead they elevated the temporal thing they lusted over, which was freedom from Roman oppression, to such a degree that it blinded them to the most freeing event that was about to take place as Christ died for their sins. Eternal life is what was being secured, and what they could not see.
Sometimes we foolishly desire temporary things and may even complain to God that things are too hard, or begin to question His loving faithfulness, and yet often times behind it all is a faithful Father, ever so faithfully and diligently and carefully working for the greatest good of conforming us into the image of Christ and ushering us into eternal bliss!
Any time we are tempted to become dissatisfied with God or angry with Him, we must remember these things. Remember that God is able and will do all that He says He will do. He will not waiver. He will not capitulate to our fickle ideas of what is good. And if we do not like what He is doing, then the problem is with us and our lack of understanding of His will and His perfect plans, which are always right and good, not just for the world but also for us as individuals as well.
No, Jesus did not change. It was the crowd’s perception of Jesus that had changed. And that perception was clouded by their lust that their temporal desires be fulfilled instead of a greater desire that God’s great will be done.
Thank the Lord also that many of the Jews that we have spoken of who were blinded by their desires eventually, no doubt, became followers of Christ. Eventually they did, as seen at Pentecost and just after Pentecost. Foolishness and unbelief yesterday can be corrected by repentance and belief today. That gives us hope! Praise be to God!
After Jesus did die, being faithful to God’s plan and to all who would believe, He then maintained His faithfulness as He rose from the grave, defeating death and appearing to many before His ascension.
1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen.
Jesus and the Father proved their faithfulness even in the face of unfaithful, uncaring, unloving men and women. When we are tempted to doubt what God says and think it is not applicable to us because of our sin or guilt, we need to repent and trust Him as the one who is trustworthy. He is unconditionally faithful to His word and loves His children with an unconditional love. And that includes you if you belong to Him. What that means is not that you will get everything you want or desire, that is not love, but you will get all that is best for you – that is true love.
Every step along the way Jesus is saying, “I will be faithful.” Every step along the way the Father is saying, “I will be faithful.” Every moment of every day we can be assured that God is who He says He is and will do all that He says He will do.
The resurrection of Christ gives us life. His death cancels our sins, His resurrection justifies us before God. That is what we read in Romans 4:24-5:2:
4:24 It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
He was faithful always, in life and in death. His life gives us life, justified before the Father, not by our works but by the work, the perfect work of Jesus Christ. Death could not hold Him, He defeated death, even for us.
He is our Savior and He is our Lord. Is He your Savior, is He your Lord? Turn to Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and He is risen.