Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and He finally presented himself alive to me. It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don’t deserve to be included in that “inner circle,” as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God’s church right out of existence. 1 Cor 15:1-9 (NIV and “The Message”)
It had been a long three days. Sometimes they thought back about the many good and amazing times that they had had with Jesus. But then, reality would force its way back to the surface of their thoughts. “What had gone wrong?!?”
Things had been so glorious in the beginning, the early days, the days of sunshine…days of ministry! The voice of the first prophet in 400 years had been thundering across the Jordan River and into the hearts of sincere believers! A man sent from God whose name was John had come to prepare Israel for the coming of her Messiah, her Savior! “Get ready,” John said, “prepare your heart, repent of your sin, and be baptized, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!!!”
A great stirring was taking place among the ordinary people of Israel–they were coming out to listen to the message of John; they were responding! They were turning from their sins, they were being baptized; they wanted to be ready and prepared!
One day when John was preaching and challenging Israel to turn to the Lord, he stopped… and he found himself looking straight into the eyes of Jesus!!! “AT LAST YOU ARE HERE!”
John turned to those present and said, “BEHOLD, HERE IS THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD!
“Lamb of God? What does that mean? I know plenty about all of the lambs I have sacrificed time after time, year after year, at the Temple. But what does John mean, “GOD’S LAMB?”
Some of the people standing there were tuned in to the Spirit of God that day, and they were drawn to Jesus! They left John and followed Jesus from that moment. They must get to know Him, learn of Him, follow Him, be His disciples! They became the first followers of Jesus. Not content to just follow Him, they felt compelled to tell others about Him, to invite them to come, see, listen…” Not too long after this, the followers began to grow in number!
After instructing them, Jesus sent them out 2 by 2 to proclaim His message. First there were 6 teams, then 35 teams! It wasn’t long until there were thousands (!) of seekers! Some came from spiritual hunger, others were curiosity seekers, but they came, the saw the miracles, they heard the teachings!
The message of the Kingdom of God began to explode in Judea, Samaria, Galilee, then to Tyre, then to Decapolis… Jews and Gentiles, seeking this One called Jesus!
On His face was the SMILE of God.
In His heart was the LOVE of God!
From His lips proceeded the WORD of God.
He spoke with the AUTHORITY of God.
He healed in the POWER of God!
Everywhere He went He drew the children to Himself and blessed them. Jesus was like a magnet to the spiritually hungry, the neglected of society, those whose life had been ruined by sin, by demonic oppression, and self-destructive lifestyles!
A roman soldier comes and pleads for the health of his servant! Jesus heals the servant!
A gentile woman comes and asks Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus heals her daughter!
A synagogue ruler comes to beg Jesus to come and pray for his daughter. She is raised from death!
Lepers come, the demonized, the blind, deaf, paralyzed, poor, rich, religious, skeptic… all were drawn to Jesus!
Wherever He went…
He touched the untouchable.
He healed the unhealable.
He gave hope to the hopleless.
He helped the helpless!
He enabled the blind to see and the deaf to hear.
The crippled walked.
The mute spoke!
The dead were raised!
He turned the flavorless water of OT Law into the delicious wine of NT grace!
He fed 5000 people with a boy’s sack lunch!
When the waters of Lake Galilee became so stormy that the boat was about to capsize, He spoke, and the waters calmed!
Things were building to such a pitch that, everywhere He went, the people brought their sick and afflicted, their demon-possessed, their crippled and physically afflicted… and He healed them all!
The crowds were so large at the Lake of Galilee that Jesus had to climb into a boat and row out a ways so that He could preach to the people! Some wanted to make Him KING, by force, if necessary!
When He entered Jerusalem for Passover week, crowds went ahead of Him laying palm branches and their own cloaks before Him shouting: “Hosanna, Hosanna,
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!”
Where was all of this going to go?
Watching all of this—AND HATING EVERY MOMENT OF IT—were the chief priests, elders, Pharisees and Sadducees… i.e. the “professional religionists” of that day!
Jesus was drawing the people away from their control! Jesus was troublesome to them because of His strong call to the people to GET REAL with God! All the compromised leaders of Judaism cared about in that day was keeping the people in line, making sure they paid their Temple tax, brought in their offerings. There was, by and large, NO EMPHASIS ON THE HEART!
Satan does not mind if you want to play religion, even FERVENT religion, as long as there is NO CHANGE OF HEART. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that, eat this, don’t eat that, observe this day, etc. Look at our world today… 987 religions! Cults, isms, new age, blah, blah, blah…
Jesus had exposed the sham of religion, and the people were coming to HIM for the Word of God; they were coming to HIM for their needs.
Of all things, they who should have led Israel to welcome their Messiah(!) actually begin to conspire to kill Jesus! But they must be careful, for the average person loved Him. So they conspire to take Him secretly, at night, quickly before word could get out and put Him to death!
Judas(!) one of the 12, now steps in and offers to lead them to the place where Jesus stayed every night. Judas, poor Judas, he never “got it,” leads the mob to where Jesus is praying, steps up to Him and kisses Him on both cheeks, and watches as Jesus is arrested!
The next few hours are a blur of activity:
a hurried, mock trial is put together (at night, which was illegal in Israel.)J
false witnesses come, lie, but their lies don’t match
Pontius Pilate, the week governor, tries to wash his hands of any responsibility… eventually gives the crowd permission to crucify Jesus.
All along, the evil one, Satan, thinks he is in control of this situation! But Jesus said much earlier: John 10:18
That night, Jesus Christ, eternal son of God, who became man and lived a sinless life, gave His life on the cross for the sins of the world!
2 Cor 5:21 says, “He who knew no sin became a sin-offering for us that, in union with Him, we might become righteous in the eyes of God the Father!”
Now it had been three long, weary days since Jesus had died! Taken down from the cross, already dead, laid in a borrowed tomb—borrowed because He would not need it for long!!
Sunday morning, early: “I don’t know why,” said one woman, “but I just feel compelled to go to that tomb! I mean, look, I know He’s dead, but, for some reason, I just need to go and be near Him! He totally set me free from all the demons that had so controlled my life for years!”
“I’ll go with you,” said another, and another! “So, when we get there, how are we going to get in? There’s a big stone in front of the tomb, and a bunch of soldiers standing guard at the entrance!” “I don’t know,” said another, but we’ve got to go. I’ve got these spices and, well, He didn’t even have a decent burial!”
But when they arrived at the tomb, the stone wasn’t even in front of the tomb entrance any more! And the guards all looked like they were in a daze! A being in a dazzling white robe was sitting at the entrance to the tomb!
“You’re looking for Jesus, aren’t you! I have wonderful news! He is not here! He has risen from the dead! See, that’s where he had been placed; there’s the wrapping for his head and there are the burial cloths. But he has risen from the dead!”
They were soon reunited with Jesus and, for forty days, He fellowshipped with them, ate with them, but, most important, He taught them how the OT scriptures repeatedly spoke of Him! He showed them how He had conquered sin on the cross, and defeated death by His own resurrection.
Now they were to go into ALL the world and tell everyone the GOOD NEWS that the Savior has come to reconcile us to the Father! He paid our debt, appeased the accumulated wrath of the Father toward all sin and rebellion. Now, anyone can come to God and everyone is invited to come! We come to God, not on the basis of what we DO for Him, but we receive salvation as a gift of God on the basis of WHAT HE DID FOR US!!!
Three Results of the Resurrection:
1-Forgiveness for the past! – God made Him Who knew no sin to become a sin-offering for the world, so that we—by uniting ourselves to Him—could become forever righteous before the Father “in Christ!” 2 Cor 5:21
2- Direction and power for the present—the every day issues of life!
I have a grandson that is fascinated with every aspect of the Titanic which, as we know, sank on it’s “maiden voyage” over 100 years ago! Of the 2220 people on board this luxurious liner, only 705 were rescued by the Carpathia! The story is very sad, to say the least.
But there is one aspect of this tragic story that we seldom hear about: There was another ship (the Californian) which was stopped only 10-20 miles away from the Titanic as she was sinking. She could have rescued all of the remaining passengers—everyone could have been saved!
After Titanic hit the iceberg, she sent out numerous calls for help: “S-O-S” and “C-Q-D.” The investigation committee eventually learned why the Californian did not respond to Titanic’s distress calls: the wireless receiver had been turned off 10 minutes prior to the collision. Sadly, her distress signal was not being received by anyone aboard the Californian.
“Throughout the night, no one on board the Californian attempted to wake their wireless operator, and ask him to contact the ship to ask why they were firing rockets and trying to signal them, until 5:30 AM. By then however it was too late — the Titanic had gone down at 2:20. When she had slipped below the water, the sudden disappearance of lights was interpreted by the Californian crew that she had simply steamed on her way.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stanley_Lord&oldid=541407990).
There are people “drowning” all around us—next door to us, in our neighborhoods, on our jobs, at school– people who are struggling to “keep afloat!” Addictions, pregnancy out of wedlock, others on the brink of divorce, drowning in financial problems—they need a friend, need a helping hand, a church. They need the Lord in their life!
“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?” (Romans 10:14, The Message)
We must ask ourselves: have we turned off our receivers? Have we turned off our care, our concern, our involvement, and have we gone to sleep!?!? Are there young people around us at school who are drowning, but we are so self-absorbed that we don’t even see it? Are there people in our neighborhoods whose lives and families are falling apart, and we don’t even care!?
Early in His earthly ministry, Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the most important. Here is His reply:
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40, NLT, emphasis mine)