What to watch for below…Our service leader for today, Jordi Wills, has an Easter greeting from his family. This is followed by our worship leader Anne’s Easter greeting followed by a couple songs chosen by her worship team. A short Easter message is delivered while I visit our empty church. I conclude with a closing Hymn selected by Cliff and a closing prayer. If you want to read my full message I have also included it at the end. Keep scrolling and uncovering what the LORD Jesus has for you. He is Risen! He is risen indeed!
Easter Sunday 2020 Message
Note: All the Holy Bible verses in this message are New International Version used by permission by New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Here we are! The first Easter Sunday service where we are “not gathered together” to worship our Risen Saviour and LORD Jesus on the most important Sunday (some may call it the holiest) in Christendom. I am responding to this tragedy with conflicting emotions. Am I the only one?
In my personal devotions, this past week, I have been meditating on some of the apostle Paul’s richest words of encouragement to the church gathered at Thessalonica found in his letter to them 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” How do we superimpose these verses into our current situation and how do I internally apply them to my life, as a believer?
Obviously in the midst of trial the above exhortations can only be carried out by a “liberated” heart, mind and soul. What does that mean? How can a person have a liberated heart, mind and soul? What does a person need to be liberated from if he or she is living in a free country?
The simple answer is this… if you are not rejoicing, not continually talking to God and you are not giving thanks to God “in” what you are facing then you are captivated by something or someone that is causing you to take your eyes off of Jesus.
I will admit, with the current circumstances around me and hearing of trials that dear friends and loved ones are going through, I can quickly take my eyes off of Jesus and focus on suffering or loss. It could even be one quick thought, “O LORD why is this happening? It shouldn’t be this way!” As soon as I think this then what I’m saying to God is, “You need to heal, deliver and change that person’s circumstances according to my will for them.” Whereas a liberated heart, mind and soul “in Christ Jesus” would say or think, “God you have a plan that I don’t understand for this person right now. I am going to rejoice in You that You will not abandon this person in their heartache or trial, and through my continued prayers, You will show me what You are doing and for that I am truly grateful in this circumstance.
Ruth Bell Graham (wife to evangelist Billy Graham – now both in glory) once said to a pastor friend, “We can’t always give thanks FOR everything, but we can always give thanks IN everything.” This is a very liberating thought. If I agree with Ruth I can say, “I am not thankful FOR COVID-19, but I am thankful IN the way God is allowing it and using it to bring about change, conviction, confession or compassion IN my heart, my mind, my soul leading me to the freedom to love others as Jesus did and share the good news of salvation (liberation) in Him.” Reread this former sentence and replace COVID-19 with something you are NOT thankful for like cancer, murder, divorce, poverty, sexual abuse, mental illness or any evil action. Does this help you to understand “give thanks in all circumstances?”
If you are a little lost with where I am going with this “liberation” thing then hopefully it will be clearer as we join the disciples on that first Resurrection Sunday when our Risen Jesus appeared to them. Get your Bibles and read this passage – John 20:11-23 and Luke 24:36-49.
Mary has mentioned that she has seen the LORD, but the disciples have not. They have only received a report that the body is missing from Peter and John. The disciples are gathered in a room. What do you notice about this situation? It is a lockdown. Literally, the doors are locked. Why? John 20:19, reveals “for fear of the Jewish leaders.”
The disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ crucifixion and death is paralyzing “fear.” When you read through the gospels it seems to be a reoccurring problem that they have. How about us? Have you ever been trapped and incarcerated by fear? How about now as you wonder what will happen with COVID-19 and its aftermath? I have thoughts that are fear inducing in this time.
It is easy to have conflicting emotions especially when “fear” is at the root spinning out other impulsive thoughts and emotions like worry, fright, hopelessness and helplessness. In 1933 during the dark days of the depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in a radio speech. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (George Sweeting, Who Said That? p.196).
Here is the good news. Jesus met His disciples (His followers) right in the middle of their fear. No locked doors could stop Him. The only thing that could hold Him back were the locked doors in their hearts, souls and minds. How did Jesus break through those intrapersonal locks? He broke through them with PEP. He broke through with “peace,” “evidence” and “power.”
First of all, Jesus’ spoke these words to their hearts, “Peace be with you.” These are words Jesus had used many times with his followers. The night of Jesus’ betrayal and death He spoke these words to His disciples in the upper room, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).” God’s peace is the antidote to fear. God’s peace does not mean we won’t face trials, but we can experience His peace and presence in our hearts in the midst of our trials. Courage is birthed from His inner peace for us.
Peace in the midst of storm – A former president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India have come up with some startling information: Since 3600 B.C. the world has known only 292 years of peace! During this period there have been 14,351 wars, large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed. Moreover, in excess of 8000 peace treaties have been made—and broken. (Bits and Pieces).
How is Jesus speaking His peace into your life right now? Invite Him into your fears today and spend time in His WORD (Holy Bible) and you will be liberated.
The second thing Jesus did to liberate His disciples from fear was offer their minds empirical evidence that He was alive. “He showed them his hands and his side.” He revealed evidence of His resurrection. He was not a ghost! His body that was crucified which had the nail (and spear) pierced wounds were available for observation.
Science is based on empirical evidence. Today, we have very intelligent, logical scientists who believe that Jesus was a historical figure and rose from the dead. How did they come to these conclusions? Many of them through observing the constructs of this cosmos from micro to macro see “design, order and purpose.” I won’t take time here to get into evidence of God’s existence and the importance of Jesus’ resurrection which is the foundation of our faith, but you can visit these incredible apologists and their websites – Ravi Zacharias https://www.rzim.org/, William Lane Craig https://www.reasonablefaith.org/ and Creation.com https://creation.com/. There is more than enough evidence that points to a loving Creator who sent His Son to save us from our sin.
Finally, Jesus liberated His disciples from fear by giving their souls His power and presence through the Holy Spirit. We read in Luke 24:45, “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Also we read in John 20:21, 22, “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.” Jesus opened his disciples’ minds and souls to His Spirit. The lights came on! Everything that Jesus had taught them was now coming into focus as He breathed His power, His truth and His presence upon them. This was just a foretaste of what was to come for them on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in the book of Acts chapter 2.
This is the power we need to keep living God’s purpose for each one of us both now and forever more. This is what Jesus told his follower Nicodemus in the gospel of John chapter 3 verses 5 to 8, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” This means that a heart, mind and soul of a person will be “liberated from sin and its darkness” (born of the Spirit) when you confess Jesus as your Saviour and your risen LORD. The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 10:9, 10, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Have you declared with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is LORD? If so then you are born again, not by anything you have done, but what Jesus did for you on the cross by taking your place there. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished” on the cross your sins were paid for in full – making the way for you to come to God the Father and His kingdom. Is there anything that is holding you back from receiving Jesus and His Holy Spirit? Is it selfishness? Is it self-determination where you still want to be god of your life? Today is the day to trust in Jesus and He will liberate you into an eternal love relationship with God. Ask Jesus to save you and give you new birth by His Spirit.
If you are a saved believer then let me leave you with this final thought. I love verse John 20:20. Do the numbers of this verse open your eyes and minds to anything? Take this verse with you as a fear-fighter… “20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” This verse gives me peace because I have an unspeakable, deep seated joy that my faith in Jesus will be rewarded by actually seeing Him face to face one day. This is the joy of eternal glory. Jesus had the same joy when He faced the cross. The joy of His future heavenly glory. Take that same joy with you this week. Death is not our end! Jesus is! Because He lives beyond the grave we will also live just as He promised in John 11:25, ““I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”
I’m putting my hope in Jesus! He has liberated me! Now there is something to be thankful for!