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Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

Luke 23:54-24:7

After Jesus’ crucifixion and burial –

The disciples acted as if Jesus was dead and gone

This is what they believed, and you can tell what they really believed by their actions:

  • The eleven were overcome by fear – John 20:19. In fact, they were huddled together behind locked doors for fear of the authorities. Jesus was dead, and they were afraid they might be next.
  • The two disciples on the Emmaus road were despairing – Luke 24:21. They said, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” But now, here Jesus is dead.
  • The women (from our own text) had given up – Luke 24:1. They went to the tomb in order to treat Jesus’ body with spices and ointments they had prepared. It’s what you do when someone’s dead.

All of these believed that Jesus was dead and gone, and they acted accordingly.

But Jesus is alive!

Picking up again with our text, first the women found the tomb was empty – vs. 3-4. But, since this didn’t fit their belief “they were perplexed” – v. 4. And then they heard the message of the angels, who told the women two crucial things. And I want us to get this.

1. You need to remember what Jesus said. Luke 24:6-7 – “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” He said he would rise from the dead

And even deeper than this, 2. You need to understand who Jesus is. Luke 24:5-6 – “Why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Jesus is the Living One. Why would he be found in a tomb? That’s not who Jesus is!

No, Jesus isn’t dead, as you think and as you are living. Rather –

Jesus lives, and they should live based on this truth

  • So, the eleven don’t have to huddle in fear, they can go forth with courage and serve God boldly
  • The two disciples on the Emmaus road can have hope for the salvation of God
  • The women don’t have to give up and move on. They can press on in their service to Jesus

That’s the difference it makes to truly realize that Jesus is alive and to live like this is so.  And as we know from the scriptures – Jesus’ disciples were transformed by this realization from despair to new life.

Well, you know what?

We often act as if Jesus is dead and gone

Oh, we say Jesus is alive. But just as with the disciples our actions (our attitudes and outlook) often betray a different belief.  We act as if Jesus is unable to hear us, unable to respond to us, unable to help us; as if he’s as good as dead.

Like the disciples –

  • We too are overcome by fear, hiding away under the weight of our struggles in life and serving God
  • We too become despairing, thinking our situation is impossible
  • We too give up in the face of our difficulties

But, sisters and brothers, the truth is that Jesus is alive!

We need to hear the twofold message of the angles, just as the women did 2,000 years ago. 1. We need to remember that what Jesus said happened. Jesus was raised. He told his disciples ahead of time and they witness to us of this truth.

  • Peter said, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” – Acts 2:32
  • Peter also said, “You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” – Acts 3:15
  • Again Peter said, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things . . .” – Acts 5:30-32
  • Peter preached, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses” – Acts 10:39-41
  • Paul preached, “And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took Jesus down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.” – Acts 13:29-31
  • Paul said, Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead. . .” – Romans 1:4
  • Paul wrote, “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” – Romans 6:4
  • Paul delivered to his hearers that Jesus “was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (or Peter), then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:4-8
  • Paul taught that “God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” – Ephesians 1:20-21

 What Jesus said has indeed happened!!!

And even deeper than this, as the angels told the women, 2. We need to understand who Jesus is. He is “The Living One”; this is his very identity.

  •  Jesus said about himself, “I am the resurrection and the life” – John 11:25
  • Jesus states “just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” – John 5:26
  • Jesus calls himself “the first and the last and the living One” – Revelation 1:17-18
  • Jesus said, “I was dead, and see, I am alive forevermore; and I have the keys to death and Hades” – Revelation 1:18
  • Jesus is called the “Author of life” in Acts 3:15
  • “The word of life” in 1 John 1:11
  • John 1:4 says, “what has come into being in him is life”  (NRSV)
  • Hebrews 7:16 says that Jesus had “the power of an indestructible life”
  • And because of this as Acts 2:24 testifies, “it was impossible for Jesus to be held by the power of death.”

This is who Jesus is. Jesus is life! He cannot, not live! This is the very identity of Jesus. And we need to remember this.

Jesus lives, and we should live based on this truth

  • So, we don’t need to be overwhelmed by our fears. We can have courage to move forward in life as we serve God.
  • We don’t need to despair. We can have hope for the salvation of God in our lives.
  • We don’t need to give up. We can press on when things get difficult

Why? Because Jesus is alive and he can hear us and respond to us and walk with us. So let’s live our lives based on this truth and move forward with boldness and faith in our lives and in our service to God.

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The message today is very simple. God is a God of life and a God of blessing. And even though we so often fail and sin and mess things up so that there seems to be no hope, in grace, God offers us a new beginning.

Let’s start off with –

Some examples of new beginnings

– that God has given in the Scriptures.

1. Think of Adam and Eve. God made them and blessed them, and everything was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But they sinned and rebelled against God and were judged and exiled from the garden.

But God in his mercy offered them a new beginning. For through their son Seth came a new start. As Genesis 4:26 says, “at that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . (say it all together) “God made a new beginning.”

2. Think of the time of Noah. Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” (NRSV)

But God offered a new beginning through Noah and his family. They survived the judgment of the flood on callous evildoers. And God told Noah and his family, repeating the original commission to Adam and Eve, “be fruitful and multiply on the earth” (Genesis 8:17). Humanity began again.

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

3. And then there was Abraham. The nations of the earth had forgotten God and were going their own way, worshiping different idols and false gods.

But God revealed himself to Abraham and his family. And God began a plan and made promises to use Abraham and his family to make himself known to the nations.

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

4. And then there was Moses. Abraham’s lineage was in slavery in Egypt, captive in their suffering and not fulfilling their role.

So God raised up Moses to deliver them and to put into action the plan and promises he gave to Abraham. Moses led them to the promised land as a new nation, Israel.

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

5. Remember the judges. Israel was unfaithful to God, worshiping idols and false gods and to fulfilling God’s plan. And they were enslaved to the rulers of the people around them.

But God raised up judges like Gideon and Samuel to call them to faithfulness. And he used them to deliver Israel from their oppression.

At many points during these years, things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

6. Remember King David. Israel wanted a king like the nations around them, even though this was not of God. And when God gave them their first king Saul, he turned out to be a disaster.

But then God raised up his servant David. And he led the people toward faithfulness to God. And he delivered them from their enemies.

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

7. Finally, remember when Israel returned from exile. After many years of rebellion and sin, and not listening to the prophets, they were judged and carried away to Babylon for 70 years of exile.

But God acted to bring them back to their land to begin anew. He did this in accord with the promise in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” And God did give them a new start.

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

And then we come to –

The new beginning

And this requires us to look at the big picture. God doesn’t just want to give new beginnings within history. God is really leading all things toward a a cosmic new beginning. God created the world, but the world has fallen under the powers of Sin, Satan and Death. But now, God is bringing forth a new creation. As he said in Isaiah 65:17-18, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create”

And God is doing this through his Son, Jesus, whom he sent for this very purpose.

All of the new beginnings we have looked at so far prepared the way for Jesus , who is a descendant of Seth, Noah, Abraham, David and the people of Israel. And Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises given to Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets.

Jesus became a human but he knew no sin. And so the powers of Sin, Satan and Death had not right to him. Yet, even though he was innocent, he was put to death on the cross. And because of this:

  • The powers of Sin, Satan and Death have been put down.
  • And Jesus has been raised up from the dead, vindicated and seated at the right hand of God with all authority over heaven and earth.

And he now gives us the blessings of salvation – the forgiveness of our sins and new life through the Spirit of God living within us. What I am saying is that in Jesus, the new creation has begun. And when he returns in glory he will raise us from the dead and the new creation will be completed.

Things seemed truly hopeless for the first creation, but . . . “God made a new beginning”; a new creation in Jesus Christ.

And so in light of all this, I ask you this morning –

Do you need a new beginning?

This God of new beginnings, who works throughout history to give new starts and who has brought forth a new creation through the resurrection of Jesus – this same God can give you a new beginning!

Have you failed God and others? Is your life a mess? Do you think that things are so bad – your situation, your sin, your guilt and shame – that it’s beyond hope?

Well, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us – “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Right now this Easter day he can give you a new start., Your sin and guilt and shame can be wiped away and you can be a part of the new creation that God has begun in Jesus.

And when Jesus returns you will be raised to an unending life of righteousness, peace and joy in the presence of God. As Revelation 21:3-5 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”

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Easter so clearly proclaims the Christian message – Jesus is raised from the dead and he has provided for us a great hope of resurrection life in the world to come. And this is a time when we gather and sing and celebrate this great truth.

But the question I am asking this morning – Do you really believe in the resurrection? – has to do with whether this belief in our minds makes itself evident in our actions.

Let’s turn to-

1 Corinthians 15

In this passage Paul argues against some Christians who were saying that there is no resurrection.

  • In vs. 1-5 Paul reminds the Corinthians that the gospel he preached and that they believed is based on the resurrection – the resurrection of Jesus.
  • In vs. 12-20 Paul states that if there is no resurrection this means that Christ is not raised, and so our faith is in vain. It also means that we are still in our sins, and so there is no salvation.
  • And then in vs. 30-32 he makes the argument that I want us to look at. Let’s read these verses:

vs. 30-32 – “And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'” (NRSV)

I want to turn this passage around and make Paul’s point in reverse. Paul’ point is that if the dead are not raised, why would Christians be willing to give up their lives in this world? He references his own experience as he talks about being in constant danger and fighting with wild beasts in Ephesus. If this life is all there is they should all be out living it up, enjoying this life, because it’s all anyone has.

So he argues from their current behavior back to a belief that sustains that behavior. He’s saying, it’s our belief in the resurrection that allows us to give up our lives in this world – because there is another, better world to come.

My point moves from a belief in the resurrection to the kind of life that such a belief should produce in our actions and choices. Since we believe that there is a resurrection, we are free to give up our lives in this world. This life is not all there is and what is to come is better. So we don’t need to cling to our lives in this world.

Our belief in the resurrection and new life in the world to come gives us a whole new outlook on this life, which should reorient our everyday decisions. I call this a resurrection perspective. We are not to live for this life, but for the next.

This resurrection perspective is truly liberating

It sets us free to serve God in bold new ways. For instance, 1. We can give up pursuing our own dreams in this world. We can give up our own ambitions; all the things that we seek to find meaning and worth in life.

Maybe your dream is about having a family and enjoying life with them all your days. Or maybe it’s being with your friends and living life with them. Maybe it’s gaining more and more wealth, or making a name for yourself or finding “fulfillment” in life – making of yourself all that you can.

We can give this all up and follow God wherever that may take us. We can let God’s will for us be our dream, our ambition, our meaning – making everything else secondary or even setting them aside to do God’s will.

Paul says in Philippians 3:8 in the context of the resurrection, “I have suffered the loss of all things.” He gave up everything for Jesus.

Paul was not bound by fear of the loss of his own dreams and ambitions connected to this life, because this world is passing away and another is coming that is better than our best earthly dreams.

Belief in the resurrection set him free so that he could pursue God’s call on his life wherever that took him.

Another example of the liberating power of belief in the resurrection is that 2. We can give up being comfortable, secure, and settled in this world. We can give up having all that we want, just like we want it; living life like we always have, where we want to live.

Rather we can endure hard times and suffering in this world in obedience to God’s will. Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 talks about his many “imprisonments . . . countless beatings, and (how he was) often near death.” He says, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”

He was not bound by the fear of loss of earthly comfort, security and settledness, because his true comfort and security is waiting for him in the world to come. As he says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure.”

Belief in the resurrection set him free to obey God radically, even if it means that suffering for doing Gods’ call, will be a part of this.

3. We can literally give up our lives in this world. We can obey God even when others threaten to take away our lives for doing it.

In 2 Timothy 4:6 he says, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” And indeed he was killed for his faith.

He was not bound by the fear of death. Because he has a life in the world to come he doesn’t’ need not cling to his earthly life.

Belief in the resurrection set him free to obey God boldly, even if that means dying for Jesus.

Now, Paul said that “he dies daily” in v. 30. What he means is that he is prepared to lose all these things each day – earthly dreams, comforts and his own life. And he can do this because there is a resurrection.

What about you?

Do you really believe in the resurrection? Does it show up in your everyday life choices?

When others look at your life, do they see you living like this world is all there is? Do they see you chasing after the good things of this life, wanting more and more, and guarding against the loss of what you already have? In other words, living like everyone else?

Or do they see you living for the world to come? Do they see that you are free to serve God boldly and sacrificially, making life decisions based on your faith in the God who raises the dead, and doing things you would never do unless there was a resurrection?

We can all say what we want this morning, as we sing and talk about the resurrection. But if it doesn’t affect how we live, it’s meaningless.

This is the challenge I leave with you – let’s live our lives like we really
do believe in the resurrection.

William Higgins

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(Community sunrise service)

It is an honor to be able to share with you this morning. I want speak on a theme that I believe God has put in my heart – Jesus has overcome!

Scripture portrays three powerful enemies who oppose God and seek to destroy us.

The first is Sin. For sure, Scripture talks about sins in the plural. But it also talks about Sin, with a capital “S.” This is the power of sin personified as a tyrant.

God said to Cain in Genesis 4:7, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you.” Jesus said in John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to Sin.” Sin is a power that comes to control and destroy our lives.

But we have good news to celebrate this morning – Jesus has overcome the power of Sin! Jesus himself was tested in every way, but without sin (Hebrews 4:15). And when he walked this earth he called all to repentance and forgiveness.

Even on the cross when he bore our sins, Sin could not overcome him, but rather his death brought about the provision for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus overcame.

And this same Jesus now sets us free from the power of Sin. Paul says in Romans 6:17-18, “thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart . . . having been set free from sin . . ..”And although Jesus tells us in John 8:34 that all who sin are slaves of sin, he also tells us in John 8:36, “if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.”

Jesus has overcome! Can I hear you say it! “He has overcome.” What has Jesus done? “He has overcome.” He has overcome the power of Sin.

Satan is another powerful enemy. In Luke 11:21-22 Jesus describes him as a fully armed strongman who holds his captives hostage. And John tells us in 1 John 5:9, that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

But, sisters and brothers, we have good news to celebrate this morning – Jesus has overcome the power of Satan! Jesus himself did not give in to Satan’s temptations and testing, and when he walked this earth he delivered people from the power of Satan, and this was especially evident when he cast out demons.

Because of the cross, as Jesus said in John 12:31, “the ruler of this world (is) cast out.” And this should not surprise us for 1 John 3:8 tells us that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” If at the beginning of the gospel of Matthew Satan is portrayed as having authority over all the kingdoms of the world, at the end of the gospel of Matthew, after his death and resurrection, Jesus tells us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Things are quite different – now Jesus has all the authority!

And this same Jesus now sets us free from the power of Satan. As Jesus went on to say in Luke 11, Satan may be a strong man, but Jesus is the stronger one who “attacks him and overcomes him” and sets his captives free! (v. 22). Jesus sets us free from Satan! As Paul says in Colossians 1:13, “God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”

Jesus has overcome! What has Jesus done? “He has overcome.” What has Jesus done? “He has overcome!” He has overcome the power of Satan.

The final enemy is Death. Death is also personified in Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul speaks to Death as if it were a person. And in the book of Revelation Death is the rider of the pale horse rider who comes to bring judgment (6:8). Death is a power that enslaves and destroys us.

But, brothers and sisters, we have good news to celebrate this fine Easter morning – Jesus has overcome the power of Death! Jesus himself was not under the power of Death, but as he said in John 5:26, the Father has “granted that the Son . . . have life in himself.” And when he walked this earth he healed people and raised the dead.

Even though he died on the cross for us, Death could not keep him down. After all, as Peter says in Acts 3:15, he is “the author of life.” And as h also says in Acts 2:2, “it was impossible for Jesus to be held by the power of Death.” As Hebrews 7:16 tells us, Jesus had “the power of an indestructible life.” Jesus really is, as he calls himself in Revelation 1 (17-18) “the first and the last and the living one.” Jesus truly is “the resurrection and the life,” as he himself said in John 11:25.

This same Jesus, who is life, sets us free from the power of Death. Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us that since we are flesh and blood, “Jesus himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of Death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of Death were subject to lifelong slavery.” We no longer need to fear. Jesus sets us free!. For as Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Jesus has overcome! What has Jesus done? “He has overcome!” What has Jesus done? “He has overcome!” He has overcome the power of Death.

And if Jesus has overcome these most powerful enemies of God, he can overcome any obstacle that we face and give us freedom, and give us victory and give us God’s blessings. Jesus has overcome. And because he has overcome, we too can overcome through him.

William Higgins

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As we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection today, we rightly think of the glory of our risen Lord. We think, for instance, of how he was transfigured into a glorious new existence. Revelation 1:13-16 describes him in this way – “one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. . . and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”

We also rightly think of his glory as he is seated at the right hand of God being honored and glorified above all.

But we need to remember what came before all this. First he walked a lowly path without glory at all. And there is a connection between this lowly path and the glory of the resurrection. And the connection is this – the one has to come before the other; lowliness before glory.

And this is something that we need to take note of, all of us who have set our hope on being raised up on the last day. And in fact, Jesus calls us to this very thing – to take note of his teaching and example and to follow him on the lowly path that leads to resurrection.

Let’s look at this path this morning to see what it consists of. Before the glory of the resurrection, comes –

 The way of humility

Jesus taught us to be humble. He said, “He who humbles himself will be exalted” – Luke 14:11. In context here, he is talking about taking the lowest place at a banquet; that is, not seeking out honor or social status.

This saying is also used in Luke 18:14, James 4:10 to talk about recognizing our failures and sins and repenting of them. This is a part of what humility means.

So Jesus is saying that it is the humble who will be exalted by God to a place of honor. And this certainly includes on the day of resurrection.

Jesus also modeled the way of humility for us. He gave up seeking out social status and honor and put himself on the bottom; he took the lowly place. For instance:

  • He became human. Although, John tells us, in the beginning he “was with God, and (he) was God . . .. he became flesh and dwelt among us” – John 1:1; 14. As Paul said, “though he was in the form of God, (he) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing” – Philippians 2:6-7.
  • He was homeless. As he said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20.
  • He was dependent on others for food and shelter. Luke 8:2-3 speaks of several women disciples “who provided for (him and his disciples) out of their means.”

Jesus took up a very low social place. And just as he taught, he was raised to a place of honor at the right hand of God.

So we learn from Jesus’ teaching and example that first comes humility, and then comes exaltation; being raised up by God to a place of honor on the final day.

And without humility we will not be exalted. For Jesus also said in Luke 14:11, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,” that is, by God. If we are busy lifting ourselves up in this life we will not be lifted up by God on the final day. It is only those who humble themselves who will be exalted in the resurrection.

Also, before the glory of the resurrection, comes –

The way of serving others

 Jesus taught us to minister to the needs of others. He said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” – Mark 9:35. He is talking about lowering ourselves to the lowest place in order to serve the needs of others.

Jesus is saying that those who make themselves last, are the ones whom God will make first on the final day.

Jesus also modeled being a servant to others. He placed himself below others in order to minister to their needs. As he said, “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve” – Mark 10:45. He served those who were lowly in that day – women, children, outcasts and the poor. He sought to bless them and lift them up. He served as:

  • He taught people God’s way – Luke 4:43
  • He healed people – Matthew 4:23
  • He set people free from demons – Mark 1:27

He became last of all and servant of all. And just as he taught, he was raised to the first place in all of creation, above all powers and authorities. He is indeed the first-born of all creation – Colossians 1:15.

So we learn from Jesus’ teaching and example that first comes servanthood, being last, and then comes being first.

And without being last, we will not be made first by God. For Jesus also said, “the first will be last” – Luke 13:30. If we are busy putting ourselves first in this life, we will find ourselves in the last place on the final day. It is only those who serve others that will be given the highest status in the resurrection.

Still yet, before the glory of the resurrection, comes –

The way of suffering

Jesus taught us that we will suffer for our faith in him. He said, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” – Luke 6:22-23. We are to accept whatever suffering comes our way because of our faith in Jesus.

And Jesus is saying that those who accept suffering will be “blessed.” Their “reward is great in heaven” waiting for them on that final day.

Jesus also modeled for us the path of righteous suffering:

  • He was slandered, being called a false prophet and a blasphemer – Mark 14:64
  • He suffered injustice from the Jewish and Gentile authorities – Mark 15:15
  • He was shamed being spit on, mocked, ridiculed and taunted – Mark 14:65; 15:16-20
  • He was beaten and scourged – Mark 15:15

Jesus suffered greatly. And just as he taught, he was blessed for his suffering. He received his reward when God raised him from the dead.

So we learn from Jesus’ teaching and example that first comes suffering for our faith, and then comes the blessing of God – an eternal reward from God on the final day.

And without accepting suffering we will not be blessed. For Jesus also said,  “Woe to you” speaking of those who compromise, so that they don’t have to suffer for their faith. He teaches us that the only reward and blessing such will have is what they get in this life. There will be nothing for them in the next life – Luke 6:24-26. It is only those who accept suffering for their faith who will be blessed in the resurrection.

Finally, before the glory of the resurrection, comes –

The way of death

Jesus taught us to lose our lives. He said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” – Mark 8:35. In context, to lose your life is to deny yourself, to take up your cross; to give up your earthly life for Jesus. And we are to do this in smaller way even daily – Luke 9:23.

The phrase, “to save your life” comes to us in different versions: It means that you will “find it” – Matthew 16:25; you will “keep it” – Luke 17:33 on the final day. It means that you “will keep it for eternal life” – John 12:25. Jesus is talking here about resurrection.

Jesus also modeled for us losing his life:

  • He gave up his life every day. He denied himself to serve others as we have seen.
  • He was crucified and killed –  Mark 15:34, 37.

And just as he taught, having lost his life, having taken up his cross, he saved his life. He found his life in the resurrection.

So we learn from Jesus’ teaching and example that first comes losing one’s life, and then comes saving one’s life.

And without losing our lives, we will not save our lives. For Jesus also said, “Whoever seeks to preserve his (earthly) life will lose it” – Luke 17:33. It is only those who take up their cross, who lose their lives in service to God, who will find their lives in the resurrection.

So for us who have set our hope not on this life, but on the life to come and the resurrection of the dead – Jesus shows us the way. He is, after all, the Risen One. And he shows us the path that all must take. First comes lowliness, servanthood, suffering and death. And then and only then comes resurrection – new life, blessing, being first, and exaltation.

May God strengthen us to take the lowly way, so that we may each find the glory that God desires for us.

William Higgins

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The theme of hope is a core distinctive of Christianity, based, as our faith is, on a resurrected Jesus, who lives forevermore. Peter speaks of the “living hope” that Christians have in 1 Peter 1:3. And Paul prays that his readers will be enlightened so that, as he says, “you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, (and) what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” – Ephesians 1:18.

And it is this “glorious inheritance” that I want to talk about this morning. What is our hope as Christians? What are “the riches of his glorious inheritance?” I am focusing on this because I fear some Christians aren’t getting the full scope of what God has for us. I say this because some believe that going to heaven when you die, is what it’s all about.

But I ask – Is going to heaven when you die the extent of our hope? This past year I visited a church and I heard just this belief expressed. Someone had died in the church and one person shared, in so many words, that the one who died now had all that God has for him.

Let me begin by saying, yes –

When we die, we go to be with Jesus

Anyone who dies in the Lord, goes to be with the Lord at death.

We’ve talked a lot about Sheol in the last few months – the place of the dead. Scripture doesn’t say a lot about what happens to the righteous dead with the death and resurrection of Jesus. But the best way to put together what is said, is to say that those in paradise (the good part of Sheol) have now moved to heaven to be in the presence of Jesus.

And this is a great blessing and something to look forward to. And this is a great comfort as we think of our loved ones who have died in the Lord, and even as we contemplate our own future. We go to a better place.

Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . .. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”- Philippians 1:21-22. He also says, “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord . . . and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 5:6-7. Dying and going to be with Jesus is far better than this earthly life so full of sin and suffering.

And then in the story of Stephen, when he is being stoned to death. He says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” – Acts 7:59. He knew that when he died, he would be with Jesus. His spirit would go to be in the presence of Jesus.

But our hope is more than this. That’s the message today. Our hope is actually so much more than this! And we don’t want to sell short the amazing hope and inheritance that God has given us in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our hope is more in three specific ways: First of all, our hope is not just something that happens right when we die.

Our hope looks to the end when Jesus returns to completely save us

In other words there is an issue of  timing here. The fullness of our salvation awaits the coming of Jesus at the end of all things. This is when we will receive all that God has for us.

To think that our hope only has to do with when we die, is to mistake the end of one short sentence as the conclusion of a grand, complex and long story – made up of many, many volumes. We are talking about all of history here, billions of stories being woven together into the story of Jesus and coming to the end that God has chosen when Jesus returns.

In the bigger picture our time with Jesus in heaven is a place of waiting for this final goal, the return of Jesus and all that God has for us. It is like a grand waiting room. A good one, for sure, but a waiting room nevertheless. And just like any waiting room, it is easy to get impatient.

This is exactly what we see in Revelation 6:9-11. The souls in heaven who died for their faith, “cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long . . .? Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer . . ..” They are told to be patient.

Our hope is much more than something that happens right when we die. Those in heaven with Jesus, along with us, await the full blessings when Jesus returns.

Second, our hope is not just something that has to do with our spirit.

Our hope includes the redemption of our bodies

Here the issue is the scope of our salvation. Salvation involves every part of us – spirit, soul and body. Our destiny is not to be disembodied spirits in heaven, which is what we are after we die and go to be with Jesus.

Being in the presence of Jesus is far better than life on earth with suffering and sin. But still better is the resurrection. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:3-4, in the resurrection we will no longer be “naked” or “unclothed” – that is, a spirit without a body in heaven with Jesus. In the resurrection we will be clothed with our new resurrected bodies.

Christianity is not like some traditions, where the goal is to escape creation or our bodies. Creation is good, though fallen. And the solution is not abandoning it to be in a purely spiritual realm. The solution is the renewal of creation.

So it is in the resurrection, not simply being in the presence of Jesus in heaven, that we will find our completion; our full salvation.

We see that this is true in Jesus’ resurrection. He was not a spirit or a ghost. He was an embodied person. In Luke 24:39 the resurrected Jesus said to his disciples, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” He had a real body, even though it was supernatural, disappearing and appearing at times, waking through walls and so forth. It was supernatural, but it was a body nonetheless.

And this is also our hope. Philippians 3:20-21 says, “from (heaven) we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Our hope is much more than something that happens to our spirit. Every part of us will be saved when Jesus returns. 

Third, our hope is not something that has to do with just me going to heaven.

Our hope includes the fulfillment of all of God’s purposes

The issue here is the excessive individualism. Salvation includes all of creation, not just me making it to heaven. 2 Peter 3:13 says, “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This is when, as Paul says in Romans 8:21, “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Then there will be a new creation.

Salvation also includes God gathering together a new community, not just me being in heaven. Jesus sais in Luke 13:29, “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” There will be a new community.

Salvation includes the establishment of God’s kingdom over all the earth, not just me in heaven. Just as Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” so it will be when Jesus returns. The innocent will be lifted up and the wicked will be put down. Justice will be done. All wrongs will be righted, and all suffering will be rewarded. And righteousness will prevail.

Our hope is much more than me being in heaven with Jesus, it is the fulfillment of God’s grand plan, formulated from before the beginning of time, brought to completion through Jesus, when he returns. God’s people living in a perfect creation, in righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14:17).

 

Because Jesus defeated death, rose from the grave, ascended to God’s right hand and reigns over all we have a great and amazing hope!

But do you have this hope? It is one thing to learn it in your head, but do you have it in your heart? Receive the new resurrection life that Jesus gives. As Jesus said, “ask and you will receive.” Ask for and receive God’s free gift of new life in Jesus. 

William Higgins

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Our theme is hope because the message of Easter is a message of hope and because Jesus is all about bringing hope to people.

This is clear from when Jesus walked the earth. Here are some examples from the gospels:

1. Jesus gave hope to the sick. Mark 1 gives the example of a man with leprosy. He came to Jesus and asked for healing. He said, “If you will you can make me clean.” And Jesus was moved with compassion, and the man was healed immediately. 

He was set free from a condition that had ruined his life. And now he was able to move forward and live again.

2. Jesus gave hope to those who had sinned. In Luke 7 a woman, most likely a prostitute, came to Jesus in tears and anointed his feet as an expression of devotion to him and as a response to his message. Jesus said to her, “your sins are forgiven.” 

She was forgiven, her repentance was accepted and she was given a chance for a new life; a fresh start.

3. Jesus gave hope to those who were overcome by evil powers. Mark 1 tells of how a demonized man was set free by Jesus. Jesus simply said, “come out of him” – and the demons had to leave. 

This man was miserable and enslaved, but Jesus set him free and now he had new life.

4. Jesus gave hope to those who were left out; who were excluded. Luke 5 tells how Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. Those not acceptable to the rest of society. 

Instead of being outcasts, now they were befriended by Jesus and given another chance. 

5. Jesus gave hope to those who were confused. Matthew 7 says that the crowds were astonished at Jesus’ teaching, for he taught them the will of God with authority. 

Those who were like sheep without a shepherd, who were lost and needed guidance – learned from the good Shepherd himself, how God wanted them to live.

6. Jesus gave hope to those who needed new purpose in their lives. Matthew 9 recounts how Jesus called Matthew out of a dead end situation in life. He was a tax collector for the very empire that was oppressing his people. Jesus said to him, “follow me” – come and work with me. And he did.

Matthew found a new focus for his life that was full of meaning and true significance. 

7. Jesus gave hope to those who needed God to be near. God worked through Jesus by the power of the Spirit. God’s presence was real to people when Jesus was around. In Luke 7 after Jesus raised a young man from the dead, the crowds said, “God has visited his people!” 

Those who felt far away, even abandoned by God, were brought close as the Spirit worked through Jesus. 

So in all of these examples we see people who were suffering, miserable, confused, disillusioned; who were despairing. And Jesus gave these very ones hope. 

But the world we live in doesn’t like hope. The world we live in is all about crushing our hopes. The guardians of the way things are, the authorities and the powers of evil, caught up to Jesus. And they killed him. 

As the two men on the road to Emmaus said, “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24). Jesus gave them hope, but now their hope was dashed.

But guess what? Jesus didn’t stay dead! Amen? The “powers that be” thought they had extinguished our hope. They thought they had extinguished Jesus. But they failed! And oh how they failed!

As the angel said to those who looked for Jesus’ dead body, “He has risen; he is not here” (Mark 16:6).

Jesus lives! Our hope lives. For since Jesus is still alive, he is ever with us, to continue to help us. 

  • Who is our hope? Jesus is our hope!
  • Who is our hope? say it out with me, “Jesus is our hope!”
  • Who is our hope? say it – “Jesus is our hope!”

And so I ask . . .

1. Do you suffer physically? Are you in need of healing? The same Jesus who healed a leper and so many others, still lives to heal us and help us in our suffering. And when the Father says it time, Jesus will give us a new resurrection body that will live forever – without pain or suffering. 

  • We too have hope for healing and the redemption of our bodies.  
  • Who is our hope? “Jesus is our hope!”

2. Do you feel guilt and shame for the wrong things you have thought and done? The same Jesus who forgave sins and who laid down his life on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, still lives to forgive us when we turn to him in repentance.

  • We too have the hope of forgiveness. Our guilt and shame can be taken away. We can have a new, a clean and a fresh start.
  • Who is our hope? “Jesus is our hope!”

3. Are you enslaved by powerful evil forces; unable to break free of sinful habits? The same Jesus who cast out demons with a word, still lives to deliver us from the evil one. 

  • We too have hope of freedom and new life from the powers of evil that seek to enslave and destroy us.
  • Who is our hope? “Jesus is our hope!”

4. Do you feel excluded, alienated, left out? The same Jesus who welcomed any and all who would follow him, still lives to befriend us; to befriend you.

  • We too have hope of connection with Jesus; of acceptance by him; of relationship with him and his people.  
  • Who is our hope? “Jesus is our hope!”

5. Do you need guidance in your life? Are you confused about God’s will? The same Jesus who taught the crowds of old, still lives and he still brings his teaching alive in our hearts and minds.  

  • We too have hope that we can know God’s way and that we can learn, from the good shepherd himself, the path of God. 
  • Who is our hope? “Jesus is our hope!”

6. Do you feel adrift in your life; without a purpose? The same Jesus who gave Matthew new direction, still lives to call us from our dead ends and our wrong turns, to come and follow him and to finish the work of God that he began.

  • We too have hope for a meaningful and significant life, doing what God has called us to do and what God has gifted us to do.
  • Who is our hope? “Jesus is our hope!”

7. Do you feel separated from God; that God is far away? The same Jesus who made God present to the people of old by the Spirit, still lives and he pours out this same Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives, so that God lives in us. 

  • We too have hope of knowing and being near to God; to have a relationship with God; to have God come and live within us by the Spirit.
  • Who is our hope? “Jesus is our hope!”

Indeed, no matter what problem or circumstance we find ourselves in, because he lives, Jesus gives us hope. Hope that he will ever be with us to help us – to deliver us, to save us, to guide us and to give us the strength we need to move forward. 

And so I say, thank God for Jesus our Lord and Savior, and thank God that Jesus still lives!

William Higgins

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