Easter Sunday, 2020
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, April 12, 2020
Happy Resurrection Sunday! It is odd saying that while speaking into a camera. However, I submit to you that now more than ever we are reminded how the resurrection gives us hope. Recently, we have been reminded of more than a few things:
• Now more than ever we have been reminded of the brevity of life (James 4:14).
• We have been reminded that the future is unpredictable (James 4:14, see also Rev. 1:8 and 22:13).
• We have been reminded that what matters is not really what we think matters. Most of our way of life has changed.
• Everything has changed. Did you ever think we would be hoarding toilet paper?
• Have you ever heard social distancing?
• Do we ever think that a microscopic virus could change the world?
• Our way of life has changed, but our hope is the same.
• The resurrection is our hope.
Think with me about things right now. For the Christian, the resurrection is our hope. We truly do have a home in Heaven. The Christian life is about a fuller life now and life eternal. The Christian life is about living life with Jesus now and life eternal in resurrected bodies. We live life with Jesus because He lives (John 15). In John 14:1-6 Jesus says that He goes to prepare a place for us. In Revelation 21 we see the New Heaven and New Earth. In 2 Cor. 5:8 the Apostle Paul says if absent from the body we are to be present with the Lord. This is all the more important because the Apostle Paul had seen Heaven and he knew it was awesome (see 2 Cor. 12). In Christ we win no matter what!
In a Wall Street Journal article, George Weigel gives a combination history lesson and apologetic for the Resurrection:
There is no accounting for the rise of Christianity without weighing the revolutionary effect on those nobodies of what they called “the Resurrection.” They encountered one whom they embraced as the Risen Lord, whom they first knew as the itinerant Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, and who died an agonizing and shameful death on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem.
As N.T. Wright … makes clear, that first generation answered the question of why they were Christians with a straightforward answer: because Jesus was raised from the dead …. As they worked that out, their thinking about a lot of things changed profoundly.
The article mentions some of the positive secular outcomes brought to the ancient world through Christianity:
• A new dignity given to woman in contrast to the classical culture.
• A self-denying healthcare provided to plague sufferers.
• A focus on family health and growth.
• A remarkable change in worship from the Sabbath to Sunday
• A willingness to embrace death as martyrs—because they knew that death did not have the final word in the human story.
• Living as if they knew the outcome of history itself.
Weigel suggests that it’s only through, what he calls the Easter Effect, that these changes make sense. The social changes that followed Good Friday occur only if they actually believed in the resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection changed the world.
So, do you have joy? Don’t let what is going on right now, steal your joy.
The definition of “joy.”
1. a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
synonyms: delight, great pleasure, joyfulness,
Do we have joy about our salvation? (Psalm 51:12)
Today, my focus is that I believe the resurrection gave the disciples joy and we need to have joy as well. We are winners!
Let’s read Mark 16:1-8:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
I. Rejoice! Have great joy, Jesus lives!
a. So, the disciples go from huddling in a room to I think rejoicing.
b. One moment they are huddled the next moment they see Jesus.
c. Consider that the rest of the New Testament is about them spreading this amazing message, so they must have had some excitement.
d. Verse 8 has the women leaving the tomb with trembling and astonishment. I think they had a type of holy fear. They were amazed. They did not know what to think of this.
e. Notice that the women go to the tomb first.
f. In John’s Gospel chapter 20 and verse 2 the women run and tell Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved (Probably John) about this. They ran, probably in excitement, in joy.
g. Then in verses 3-4 the two disciples run to the tomb. Their lives are being turned upside down.
h. Thomas responds when he sees Jesus by stating, “My Lord and My God.” He worshipped (John 20:28).
i. Now, think about the disciples, many of them were fishermen before Jesus called them and then they traveled with Jesus for some three years. Now, they thought that they were going to reign with Jesus, but now He is crucified. I bet this was a real downer. I wonder if they were a bit depressed. I wonder if they were wondering what they were going to do.
j. Do you think they were thinking about fishing again? They were not that good at it. Every time they are fishing they did not catch anything until Jesus would come along. Jesus would come along and they would think, “What do you know about fishing?” Yet, they followed His advice and caught fish (Luke 5; John 21).
k. They were at a loss for their life had revolved around Jesus and then He was gone. But He really was not gone.
Think of the hymn: Up from the Grave He Arose:
Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
l. So jump, up and down, put your hands in the air, rejoice!
m. Have we lost our joy?
n. In John 15:11 Jesus talks about joy while talking about being connected to Him.
o. Joy can be spontaneous and immediate. Think of the joy of seeing gifts under a tree. A few years ago Mercedes came out and screamed “Presents!” We as believers can have joy that is lasting. We have long term joy that sustains us.
p. Many times, I arrive home and I hear Mercedes say: “Daddy’s home!” as she runs to the door. Jesus is alive, He has risen! Are we rejoicing? Are we excited? Do we have the joy of a child when their parent arrives? How do we look when we arrive at worship to meet with Jesus? I am applying this to myself as well.
q. You say, “I want the joy, I want to rejoice, but I have lost the joy.” Let me answer that as best as I can.
i. Everyone goes through dry spells spiritually. That does not mean that God is further away. Nor does it mean that the individual has a sin issue.
ii. Make sure you are active in the Bible. No Bible means no breakfast or no Bible means no television at night. Make sure you are spending time in the Bible.
iii. We need to be in the Spiritual disciplines:
2. Bible reading
3. Bible memorization
4. Meditating/ruminating on the Scriptures
5. Deeper Bible study
6. Extended prayer
iv. I encourage you to spend extra time in prayer and extra time in the Scriptures. If you are not connected to God through prayer and the Scriptures you will eventually lose joy.
v. I encourage you to spend time with the church. If you are not connected to the church you will eventually lose joy. This time of social distancing will end soon and make sure you are connected to the church.
vi. I encourage you to further your church involvement. If you think Sunday is your duty and then you’re done, you will eventually lose joy or not gain joy.
vii. I encourage you to listen to Hymns and songs, read Hymns and songs. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
viii. I encourage Christian radio and/or podcast.
ix. Ask Jesus to restore the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51:12).
x. Pray Psalm 42: “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for You.”
xi. Pray the Psalms.
xii. Just some initial suggestions.
xiii. Share your joy
II. Rejoicing has applications:
a. We no longer have to fear death because Jesus rose from the grave. 1 Cor. 15:55 says there is no longer a sting in death.
i. In 1 Cor 15:3-8 the Scriptures write about Jesus appearing to the disciples and later over 500 people all at the same time. Again, Jesus showed many that He had been resurrected.
ii. Later on, in 1 Cor. 15:13-15 the Scriptures tell us that if Christ was not raised from the dead our faith is in vain! This means that our faith is useless. Later on, in that same chapter the Scriptures write about our hope in the resurrection. You see, because Christ rose from the dead, we have hope. We have hope that when we die it is not the end. We have hope that when our family members and friends who are Christians die they are not gone, but with Christ in eternal paradise. We can see them again because they will have resurrected bodies as Jesus did. Paul wrote, “Where O death is your sting” (1 Cor. 15:55). There is no sting because we have eternal life in perfect bodies.
b. The resurrection separates Christianity from other religions. We must take confidence in that. Our Savior lives!
c. We must rejoice that our savior lives.
d. Rejoicing must cause us to commit: Luke 9:23; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20.
e. Rejoicing must cause us to share the Gospel (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15).
Tim Keller writes the following:
[On Easter] I always say to my skeptical, secular friends that, even if they can’t believe in the resurrection, they should want it to be true. Most of them care deeply about justice for the poor, alleviating hunger and disease, and caring for the environment. Yet many of them believe that the material world was caused by accident and that the world and everything in it will eventually simply burn up in the death of the sun. They find it discouraging that so few people care about justice without realizing that their own worldview undermines any motivation to make the world a better place. Why sacrifice for the needs of others if in the end nothing we do will make any difference? If the resurrection of Jesus happened, however, that means there’s infinite hope and reason to pour ourselves out for the needs of the world.
N.T. Wright has written:
The message of the resurrection is that this world matters! That the injustices and pains of this present world must now be addressed with the news that healing, justice, and love have won. If Easter means Jesus Christ is only raised in a spiritual sense—[then] it is only about me, and finding a new dimension in my personal spiritual life. But if Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead, Christianity becomes good news for the whole world—news which warms our hearts precisely because it isn’t just about warming hearts. Easter means that in a world where injustice, violence and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things—and that we will work and plan, with all the energy of God, to implement victory of Jesus over them all.
When we have joy we share it. Joy is the gift that keeps on giving if we allow it to.
Share Jesus He has risen!
Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross paying the price for your sins? Sins are the wrong things we do.
The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him. (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1 Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must go punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)
Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.