A few years ago, while I was pastoring a church in Liberty, Missouri, on Resurrection Sunday I preached a message that I would like to share with you now. The following is the transcript from that message. I pray it blesses you this Easter…
“History” has been called, “HIS-STORY”… and truthfully all of history is God’s story.
The story began many years ago when God created all things… good.
The earth, and all the things in it – the oceans, the sky, all the universe… with it’s multitude of planets and stars and suns and moons and galaxies.
He also created humanity, as His image bearers… in order to live in fellowship with Him and with one another… and with creation itself.
The enemy of God tempted the first humans, and darkness and evil entered the story through human sin… and are now a part of the world. This devastating event resulted in our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and creation being fractured and in desperate need of being fixed.
God did not abandon His creation to destruction and decay; rather He promised to restore this broken world. He started out with a specific people, descendants of a guy named Abraham, that He chose and revealed Himself to in a special way. God gave these people all kinds of instruction, both written and spoken and He promised to bless them as a nation so that through them all nations would be blessed. At times, God’s chosen people became enslaved or oppressed and they’d cry out to God because of their oppression. God always heard their cry, liberated them from their oppressors, and would bring them out. Throughout the story of Israel, God refused to give up on His people despite their frequent acts of unfaithfulness to Him.
As the years passed, God would remind His people of Himself… and they’d go after Him, and follow Him and His ways. But it seems it wouldn’t be long before they would disobey and allow fake, foreign gods into their lives… they would overlook the poor, and mistreat foreigners. All the stuff that God had instructed them in… how to behave, how to act… they’d ignore.
So God would raise up people, prophetic voices, that would emerge and hold His people to the mirror, reminding them of how far they had strayed from God’s ways… of how they were being selfish and treating the oppressed, those in the margins of life, those that were poor and forgotten, those who were different… foreign. Then, ironically, God would allow His people to be treated in the exact same ways by those that would come in and conquer them. So, as the story progressed, Israel’s disobedience caused them to become uncaring and they stopped being a “blessing to all nations” – they were in no way living up to the potential that God had for them.
Even when they’d be completely taken over, or when they were even exiled from their homeland, there seemed to always be this hopeful remnant – sometimes small, other times larger – that was always looking ahead with longing and hope to a renewed reign of God, where peace and justice would prevail. They believed this would happen one day, when God sent to earth His ultimate Deliverer… they called this Savior the “Messiah”… or “Christ”.
Hundreds of years went by, and the people simply waited. History kept repeating itself. God would bless, the people would become selfish, God would remind them, they’d get their act together… then they’d eventually blow it again.
Finally, after a particularly long period of silence, when it almost seemed as though God had given up on His people, He caused a young teenage girl… a virgin… to become pregnant. The baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit and mysteriously, was God become human.
This God/Man’s name was Jesus… and He is the Messiah.
Jesus came to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted and set captives free, proclaiming a new arrival of the kingdom of God, and restoring our fractured world. Although some followed Him and seemed to “get” what He was all about, He and His message were rejected by many as He confronted the oppressive nature of the religious elite and the empire of Rome. The people, for the most part, weren’t really expecting their Messiah to look, or act, anything like the way that Jesus did.
So… He was murdered. He was killed, as many in that day were killed when they upset the “powers-that-be”: He was nailed to a Cross. The idea was that the person would eventually grow exhausted and suffocate to death, if the loss of blood didn’t kill them first.
That death, however, had massive amounts of meaning that nobody seemed to “get”… at least at the time. The death of the Messiah was to be a once-and-for-all-time price paid… for the forgiveness of all humanity. The shed blood of Messiah was to cover the sins of humans so that they could have the relationship with God Almighty once again.
Now, three days later, after He was murdered and placed in a cave – a tomb – and left for dead… He came back to life! He did what no other person claiming to be mankind’s Savior has ever done… He resurrected!
You see, the path of Jesus – the path of suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection – would truthfully bring hope to all creation.
Jesus is our only hope for bringing peace and reconciliation between God and humans.
Through Jesus we have been forgiven and brought into right relationship with God.
The story that God is, and has been, telling remains the same: God wants relationship with humanity. As we can see,… He has gone through great lengths to see that happen.
To some degree, this is what is being shared in churches all over the world this Easter weekend. People will sing songs, act out dramas, hear sermons, and read the Biblical accounts of this particular part of history… HIS-STORY.
Which is awesome… if the story is really EPIC, this HAS to be the most EPIC part of the story:
“The Messiah who died and paid humanity’s price… came back to life!”
But… so what?
What does all this mean for the average guy and gal today? What’s it mean for us?
To help us understand why it’s so important… I want to share with you another story… actually, a tiny part of the story I just told you, but glossed over. You see, I obviously summarized a lot.
The Bible is full of all kinds of stories, in the Old Testament, and the New Testament… that all point to Jesus. The O.T. part of our Bibles points to the need for a Messiah, the longing for a Messiah, and the promise of the coming Messiah. The N.T. part of our Bibles simply REVEALS exactly Who that Messiah is: Jesus.
One of the stories in the O.T. that, I believe, points to the coming Messiah is found in the ancient story of Noah and the ark. Hopefully, you all are familiar with that particular story.
In one of the moments when humanity was being sinful and selfish, God could find no one at all, with the exception of a man named Noah and his family of 8, that gave a rip about Him. All of humanity seemed hell-bent on being destructive to others, themselves, and all of creation… and God had had enough. He determined to flood the entire planet and destroy every living thing.
Of course, God warned Noah, and asked Noah to warn the people… but no one listened. As a result… they all died. Only Noah and his family, along with two of all the animals were “saved”.
The ark, is the boat that Noah built. The ark is a perfect picture for you and me of what “salvation” is today. As the ark passed through the waters of the flood, Noah (and the others) was preserved in safety within the ark. The Bible says that the “waters of the flood touched him not”, because he was safe in the ark. It doesn’t mean that Noah wasn’t in the storm, and that the ark was always a super comfortable place to be… at times, I’m sure it stunk. At times, I imagine the waves of the storm tossed him all over the boat – slammed him against walls, and made him feel sick. However, within the ark, he was safe. Just like you and I may experience the waves of life beating on us at times – life may stink – but for us, Jesus is our salvation – our ‘ark’ – He is our place of safety.
Now, in the story… the waters of the flood eventually receded. As they got lower and lower, the huge ark came to rest on a mountain called Ararat. This is where the story gets really interesting to me. In Genesis chapter 8, the Bible very specifically tells us the exact day that Noah’s ark came to rest upon land…
Genesis 8:4 – NASB – “And in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat.”
Back then the seventh month was the month of “Abib”. However, later on, when Passover started being celebrated, God renamed the seventh month and called it the first month. Check it out:
Exodus 12:2 – NASB – “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.”
We know that God named the first month “Nisan” from a small verse in the Book of Esther:
Esther 3:7 – NASB – “In the first month, which is the month Nisan…”
I don’t want to confuse anyone… so follow me here: The seventh month was the month of “Abib”, however when Passover started, God renamed the seventh month and called it the first month, which we know was called “Nisan”. The Jewish calendar, based on lunar months rather than solar months as our present calendar, had its beginning at this exact moment.
So maybe you’re saying, “Michael, so what? What does this have to do with anything… especially Easter?”
I’m glad you asked.
Read Exodus 12:6… “You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.”
Do you follow this? In verse 2 of this chapter God changes the 7th month into the 1st month. Then He begins to give all kinds of instruction on stuff they’re supposed to do during this 1st month – these are specific instructions about how to do PASSOVER. Here God specifically tells them that they are to kill the lamb on the 14th day of this month.
Jesus was killed on Passover – the 14th day of the 1st month… the month of Nisan… the month that previously, before Exodus 12:2, had been called Abib (the 7th month).
Now, do the math: 14 plus 3 = 17… right? That means that Jesus, Who died on Passover (the 14th), and was raised to life 3 days later, was resurrected on the 17th.
Remember, Genesis 8:4 – NASB – “And in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat.”
Do you understand that this means that Noah’s Ark came to REST on the exact same day as Jesus came back to life? Coincidence? Hmmmmm… I wonder…
I wonder if God is really writing a story?
I wonder if He actually has a plan?
I wonder if the Bible really does point over and over to the Messiah?
What if the message of Noah’s Ark… isn’t so much that God wiped out the entire sinful world, but rather that God provided “SALVATION”… for those who would heed the warning… and that salvation – the ark – came to REST on a very specific date?
By the way… here’s some more ‘coincidence’ for ya: Noah, in Hebrew, literally means “REST”.
Gang, you and I who have believe in Jesus, the Messiah, can truly REST today… because of what happened on the 17th day of the 1st month… the Day that Jesus Christ came back to life! In fact, our entire SALVATION rests on this fact: Jesus is Alive!
In John 20:19-20 we read: ‘So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you;…’”
Put yourself in these guy’s sandals for a second.
They are freaked out, and shut up in a small room, because they are afraid for their lives. They’ve heard this strange report from Mary Magdalene of angels and empty tombs. They’re not sure if the Jews came and stole the Body of Jesus and are trying to frame them for something, or if the Romans are up to something, or if Mary is just so sad that she’s seeing things. Whatever is going on, these guys are freaked out! Then, all of a sudden Jesus – ALIVE – appears to them in the room they are locked up in. The first word out of His mouth is the Greek word “eirene”, translated “peace” here in John. Literally, it means “tranquility, health”. In Hebrew it is most closely related to the word “shalom”, which was a way of saying to someone, “be at peace” or “feel healthy, rested, comforted, and whole”.
Jesus could have popped up and said, “BOO! I’m baaaaaack!” I mean, I would have. “Oh yeah, and by the way… where were you guys! Why did you leave Me at My lowest moment?”
By the way… that’s exactly what they all did. Only the disciple John was at the crucifixion – the rest had all split the scene.
“Why didn’t you stand by Me, when you all said you would?” “Peter, how could you have denied me like that… three times!?!”
But Jesus didn’t say any of that. He simply said, “Peace… Shalom… Rest”.
I guess I believe that this is the same message that Jesus is speaking to us today. For those of us in this room that haven’t always been faithful. For those of us that have even denied Jesus by the way we’ve lived. For those of us here that have split the scene way too often, when Jesus seemed to need us to stand up the most…
I think His message is the same: “Rest”… ““Peace be with you”.
Why? Why should the fact that Jesus is alive give us peace… or rest?
- We’re FORGIVEN
- We can KNOW Truth
- Our scariest enemy ain’t so scary
First, you and I are forgiven. It has been said that “Our greatest need was God’s greatest deed”. That greatest need that you and I have… is ‘forgiveness’. Each of us has done things that we shouldn’t have done – it’s simply called sin – but the Good News is that Jesus came to pay for all that sin… in totality. This, gang, is our greatest need.
Your greatest need is not to be rich, to be healthy, to have a beautiful spouse, to be taken care of when you are older, to raise great kids, or to change the world. Your GREATEST need is for forgiveness. Mine too.
When Jesus went to the Cross, and paid the price once and for all for our sins, whatever it is we’ve ever done in the past, or wherever we’ve been, or whoever we’ve been – it’s all been paid for and forgiven by Jesus, the Messiah. It’s amazing… grace. Your greatest need was God’s greatest deed.
Second, Jesus is alive, and we can have real REST today, because we can KNOW TRUTH.
As Jesus was going through the trial process that would eventually lead to His murder on the Cross, part of what transpired was His standing before a Roman leader named Pontius Pilot. Because Jesus was being accused of claiming to be a king, Pilot asked Him about that. Jesus replied that He was indeed a King, although a different kind of king, as He went on to describe. Jesus said, I came to testify to truth, and everyone who is part of My Kingdom recognizes that truth. To that, Pilot threw out a question that people have been asking ever since… to this very day: “What is truth?”
I mean, everyone claims to have the real… truth! Do we believe that Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, or someone else truly has it? What about all the modern day celebrities that claim to have truth? How many movie-stars are into ‘scientology’? I mean, they seem to have the world by the tail – they must be on to something. Perhaps they have the truth? Who can we believe in? Who really has the TRUTH? All kinds of people have come on the scene claiming to have truth… who’s right?
- Do we keep the 10 Commandments?
- Do we embrace the 5 pillars of faith of Islam?
- Do we go after the 8 steps to Nirvanah like Buddah taught?
- Do we embrace our ‘inner-light’ as Tom Cruise and Shirley McLain would say?
Who has TRUTH?
I think that this is a question that haunts every “thinking” human.
They asked a question like that to Jesus one time. “How do we know that You are Who You say You are? And Jesus said, “Guys, it’s an evil generation that is always asking for a sign… for proof. But you know what, fine, I’ll give you one proof. Destroy this body and I’ll raise it up again on the third day. Just like Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days, so shall the Son of Man. I’m coming back. That’ll be My proof.”
Guess what? Jesus did just that. They killed Him. He came back to life… exactly 3 days later like He predicted!
- Buddah never came back. Died, buried,… still there. Visited by millions each year.
- Muhammad never came back.
- Confucius never came back.
- Tom Cruise & Shirley McLain… we’re still waiting to see what happens there… =)
Jesus is the only One that uniquely and exclusively came back from the dead, something no other guru, philosopher, or leader has ever done. That is how we KNOW what is truth, and Who’s speaking it. If He did what He said He was going to do, and actually resurrected… man, you gotta start taking the other things He said into consideration!
We can relax, we can rest… why? Because Jesus lives, and now we can KNOW TRUTH.
Third, we can rest this Easter, not only because we’re forgiven, and not only because we can honestly KNOW TRUTH… but lastly, we realize that our scariest enemy ain’t that scary.
Who is our scariest enemy? Death.
1 Corinthians 15:26 states, “The last enemy that will be abolished is death.”
Maybe you’re one of those tough guys that says, “Man, I’m not afraid of dying… bring it on!” I beg to differ. I think we’re all a little scared. We eat vitamins, we work out, we dye our hair… but take a good look in the mirror when you get home. You are dying. Every sore muscle, every grey hair is a reminder to us. Some that we once knew and loved are no longer with us, and we know it is true. The statistics are outstanding: 10 out of 10 people… die.
That’s just the way it is. DEATH is an enemy that we all can expect, and in some sense, do our best to delay bumping into. And even if you really are tough enough not to fear death for yourself,… I bet you have a bit of fear for your loved ones: your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends. We all have those we wish not to see hurt… or taken from us.
But for the follower of Jesus… truthfully… our scariest enemy ain’t all that scary! Why? Because Jesus came back to life! Maybe you say, “So what?” Listen,… Jesus said, “After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19).
You know, there’s a reason that we Christians call this story, “Good News”. Jesus lives… and He lives in us. Physically He is not here presently, but His Spirit is here, His actual Holy Spirit lives inside those of us who love Him, believe in Him, and pledge our lives to Him. And DEATH just ain’t that scary for those who are all about Jesus. Because Jesus conquered death… in a big-time way!
Today… are you like Noah? Do you feel that you are smack-dab in the middle of a serious storm? Perhaps it’s the biggest storm you’ve ever seen, or even imagined possible?
I’d ask you to consider jumping into the ark – that picture of salvation.
Ask God to make Himself real to you.
Ask Him to forgive you of all your flaws… all your mistakes.
Tell Him you appreciate what He did on the Cross – you accept His grace, His forgiveness.
It’s all actually pretty simple. Does it mean that life will be smooth sailing?
No. Ask Noah if he had smooth sailing. At times life will still stink, be bumpy, and make you want to hurl. But then ask one of the thousands of people who didn’t heed Noah & God’s warning to jump in the boat. Ask them, if you could, was it worth it?
Your life could be at REST today. This could be your RESURRECTION DAY. The day where the dead you goes away… and you are, in a sense, BORN AGAIN – a new person. A lover of Jesus.
God doesn’t want you and I freaking out. He appears in the stress of our lives today, like Jesus did in that locked-up room, and He says “Peace be with you”. He offers you and I an ARK – a way out.
You can be saved if you are not. That means that you can rest knowing your sins are forgiven. You can rest knowing what TRUTH really is. And you can rest knowing that the greatest enemy of all just ain’t that scary. Let’s pray…