Easter Promises


Print This Post Print This Post

What do you do for the rest of the week – ask person in front of you.

I used to be a mathematician – great conversation stopper at parties

  • if being a mathematician was a conversation stopper, you should try being a Baptist Minister!

I encountered a man at a previous church

  • never been to church before – and liked it!
  • He blind-sided me with a question “What do you do for a living?”
  • “I do this”
  • “is it a full time job?”
  • “you bet”
  • “… so you don’t work then”

I should have told him the truth. I work for a multinational conglomerate – We’ve got hospitals, hospices, night shelters, orphanages

  • we do youth work, marriage work, bereavement support, feeding programmes, justice work,
  • we look after people from birth to death, we celebrate the naming of babies, creating great marriages, teach life skills
  • and we work in the area of behaviour modification.
  • And it was founded by the only man ever to borrow a tomb!
  • It’s the church!

And were it not for Easter, none of it would even exist!

So if you’re a visitor today, you’re seeing something of the church of Jesus Christ.

  • What you’re seeing and feeling is the tip of a huge iceberg that was made possible by the events of the first Easter Day in AD30

Easter is the pivotal moment in human history

  • the moment when God’s promises of new life were made real for anyone who will receive it.
  • Stephen’s / Stephanie’s baptism is a vivid illustration of that fact.
  • We buried him / her in a watery grave – and we brought him out again (thankfully!)
  • This act, which Jesus commanded his followers to do, is a picture of Jesus being buried in a real grave and being brought out again by the power of God.
  • God promised – and he delivered!

Don’t underestimate the cost of what you’ve seen happen this morning.

  • On the one hand it’s an act of straightforward obedience, on the other it’s an act of great courage.

I’m going to explain the significance of what you’ve seen here today

When I conclude, if you’re going to say ‘yes’ to starting out with Christ

  • or if you used to be Christians and you’ve strayed away
  • or you’re just not sure what all this is about and you’d like to begin that journey …
  • I’m going to ask you to stand.

I’m telling you now so that when I mention it later you won’t be surprised!

John 20 – page 1089

Have you ever encountered a moment when you’ve tried to describe something that’s been truly earth-moving and run out of words doing it?

  • All the superlatives ‘wonderful’, ‘great’, ‘astounding’, ‘awesome’ etc. don’t quite do the business

There are some occasions when facts are so powerful they speak for themselves. Moments when we don’t have to big them up with superlatives

  • John F Kennedy has just been assassinated
  • I was just about to start a rip-roaring children’s event as part of a summer children’s extravaganza when the headline came through – “Princess Diana has just been killed in a car crash in Paris
  • Two airliners collide into the World Trade Centre
  • a Tsunami kills hundreds of thousands
  • 31 die in terrorist attacks in Brussels.

The words themselves carry their own impact. We have no need to add any superlatives, big them up – they’re big enough by themselves.

The New testament accounts of what people saw around the first Easter are just like that.

  • They are artless and free of words like wonderful – awesome – incredible.
  • Can you image writing in your diary “on the third day, Jesus came out of his grave, alive”

He had been brutally killed on Friday, but that was three days ago …

I really like this Tweet I heard:

Darkness fell, death came, friends scattered, hope seemed lost but heaven just started counting to 3

Easter was God delivering on his promises. For hundreds of years God had been saying (in the OT) ‘your messiah / rescuer will come!’

An empty promise is something that makes us annoyed and frustrated and disappointed.

  • The diet that promises to lose you 2 stone in 2 weeks without giving up chocolate.
  • The skin cream that will keep you looking 21, eve when you’re 81!
  • The toothpaste that will make you look like Julia Roberts (nothing will make IW look like JR!!)
  • The recorded voice that says ‘your call really matter to us’

A man I know put it like this: If empty promises make us cross, the empty cross makes us promises.

God’s promise of new life was dramatically demonstrated in the events of Easter

What promises? John 20 (page 1089) tells us

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

Mary has come to the tomb and found it empty

15 [a man] asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’

16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).

17 Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Promise of returning to the family (v17)

Right through human history God has been calling people to return to him – to came back into the family.

  • We sometimes loosely talk about ‘the family of man’ or talk about everyone being ‘children of God’ but God’s own words don’t back that up.
  • By default, we are estranged for God.

Way back at the dawn of time the Bible points out how we fell from grace, went our own way and reaped the fruit of it.

  • Ever since then, God has been on a personal quest to win back our hearts.

Maybe you’ve drifted from your spiritual roots and coming to church today is a tad embarrassing. What are you going to say to anyone who might remember you from years ago?

Easter wakes you up to realise what you’ve lost

  • let me assure you, nothing gives your heavenly father more joy that for you to return to him.

Jesus painted a touching picture of this in the story of the prodigal son.

  • This some left the family, squandered his wealth on wine women and song (and we all know he couldn’t sing) and returned home a penniless wreck.
  • At this point in the story the father (who is the picture of God in the story) has a choice to make. He can either get his son to work for him to earn back what he’s wasted, Or he could welcome him back into the home – against all the social norms of the time – and re-instate him as a son
  • The father chose to write off his debt, welcome him back into the family and start again from where they’d left off
  • A staggering piece of counter-cultural generosity!
  • That’s God! That’s what He’s like to us!”

He said “My son that was dead is alive. My daughter that was lost is found

You may be saying to yourself “I wilsh God would would accept me back like that” – He will. That’s what he’s like

I’m going to give you an opportunity to make that true for you later.

Vv19-23

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’

The promise of peace and renewal

I think it I’d just seen, in the flesh, someone I’d just buried at a funeral I’d be scared, mystified and shaken.

No wonder, then, that Jesus said “Peace be with you!” … twice!

A few chapters previously Jesus had told his disciples he was leaving and they’d got very upset.

  • Then he said ‘your weeping will turn into joy – trust me!’
  • and here it is happening!

In the face of tragedy and death, Jesus gave them peace

And that’s not all, In v21 Jesus commissions them …

As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

But he knew they couldn’t do it without a power that came from outside of them.

  • If you were there with the disciples I think you’d take Jesus commission very seriously indeed.

Maybe you need the same spiritual renewal he gave to them.

  • Not because you’ve deserted him, but just because the pressures of life have run you dry. You’ve been running on empty for too long and you need the Holy Spirit’s filling agin.

I’ll give you an opportunity later.

Vv 24-28

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.

Thomas was Aramaic for Twin and Didymas was Greek for ‘twin’ … so he had a twin brother!

25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’

But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe you’

26 [Then] A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

28 Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Promise of confidence (v27)

Jesus wanted Thomas to be confident of what he was seeing.

I love Thomas! It’s his unbelief that makes him so believable

  • If some of my friends said “We’ve seen a dead man walking” I think I would have been like Thomas. “oh, c’mon! – what were you drinking last night?!”

But Jesus, instead of criticising Thomas (‘you second-rate unbeliever’) Jesus just said “here I am” and showed him the evidence.

My friend, if you’re a sceptic here this morning, that’s OK. Jesus is not phased by sceptics and he doesn’t condemn them either.

  • Just look at the evidence

Thomas had seen Jesus convicted, tortured and crucified, yet here he was, standing in front of him. Of that, Thomas could now, always be confident..

Is it any wonder he just blurted out “My Lord and My God!”

The resurrection of Jesus was not only the sequel to his death, it was the reversal of the human verdict that had been pronounced on him.

And the final promise is

Promise of new life (v30)

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

What we need to ask about Jesus’ resurrection is not only whether it happened, but whether it really matter whether it happened. After all this is an event which took place 2000 years ago and 2000 miles away, so what possible relevance could it have for us today?

Why did John write all this up? As a history – certainly. He wanted us to know what he knew and see what he’d seen. But there’s more

This is history with a motive!

  • I think John would say to us – I don’t just want you to know about Jesus, I want you to know Him. (personally, intimately). I want you to follow him (wholeheartedly) I want you to receive him and experience the liberation he brings.
  • And if that’s you this morning I’m going to give you an opportunity to say so.

Many of us are not confident that what we believe in (materialism – I am what I own; naturalism – life is just 70 years and then nothingness) really helps us – really does us any good!

What I’m convinced of is this: the resurrection of Jesus speaks to the very heart of our human condition.

  • We need to know we’re accepted in God’s family
  • We need deep peace that we’re no longer condemned and renewal when that peace fades
  • We need confidence to face an uncertain world
  • We need the kind of new life Jesus promises to give us.

… and those come through trusting Jesus Christ and living for him.

And now I’m going to ask you how this applies to you personally.

  • You might want to say ‘yes’ to starting out with Christ
  • or if you used to be Christians and you’ve strayed away
  • or you’re just not sure what all this is about and you’d like to begin that journey …
  • or you’ve seen Stephen / Stephanie baptised and you know Jesus Christ is calling you to do the same – copy their example. (You don’t have to be a specially religious or holy person, you don’t have to be an extravert)

Pray

  • I’m going to ask you to stand. >>>