Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

The Importance of the Resurrection

April 15, 2015

Title: The Importance of the Resurrection
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Time: April 10th, 2015

Every year the Easter season comes and goes, and while it is celebrated around the world, I often get the feeling that people don’t really get the point and purpose of it, even though they know it has some profound meaning. There really is confusion today, perhaps more so than at any other time in church history, as to the basic meaning of such important things like the death of Christ on the cross, his burial and finally the resurrection. What do these things mean? What did they mean and what do they mean today? We know in fact that these things had a profound effect on the people of the first century because of the rapid growth of the Christian church. And we know historically they had a great effect on the development of the Western World, including all of Europe and also our own nation the United States. So there is no question that the life of Jesus, and in particular his death, burial and resurrection changed the course of world history. But why don’t these profound and earth shacking events have much of a powerful influence today? Yes, they do have some impact on people today, but it doesn’t seem that they grip the human soul the way they used to thousands of years ago, or even hundreds of years ago. It seems like in modern times their impact has lessened to the point that our culture celebrates Easter more out of historical remembrance than profound personal experience. How many people attending an Easter church service are truly gripped with the reality of the risen Christ today? I would guess that a majority is not; maybe even a vast majority is not. Why not? How can things that meant so much in earlier times mean so little to people today? One of the contributing factors is that people are largely ignorant of the true and profound meaning of the Easter events as they occurred two thousand years ago. They just haven’t been taught properly from the pulpits. Pastors and church leaders over the last twenty or thirty years have so emphasized “practical” Christianity – having the proper positive mental attitude, teaching principals of “success” from the Bible, and generally appealing to the practicality of Christianity over the theological or doctrine or moral aspects of the faith. The result is that most people today, even those who attend church regularly, don’t know the basic and essential theological teachings of the church, and if they do, they often don’t know them very profoundly. This must be corrected before it’s too late. So let me delve into some of the important theological reasons why Christ rose from the dead, and why the resurrection is so important for – or should be important for us – today. I’ll use as my text, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. (more…)

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Jesus Prophesies Concerning His Resurrection (Revisited)

April 15, 2015

Title: Jesus Prophesies Concerning His Resurrection (Revisited)
Text: Matthew 12:40, 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19, 26:32; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22, 24:6-8; John 2:19-22
Time: April 8th, 2015

Last time I stated that I believe the disciples weren’t thinking about the resurrection after Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified and buried. What prompted my comments on the subject was the made-for-television mini-series “A.D. The Bible Continues” on NBC, that depicted the disciples and Mary the mother of Jesus discussing the prophecy of Jesus about him rising from the dead after three days. They were hiding in Jerusalem in the days that followed the death of Christ and talking between themselves. Some seemed to remember and believe the resurrection prophecy, while others couldn’t believe it. Clearly the TV presentation depicts the disciples keenly aware of the third day prophecy. But as I stated before, the Bible actually doesn’t present things as if the disciples had this in mind at all. It depicts them rather as discouraged and defeated, without hope. Now I can understand why the writers, directors and producers of the TV program might want to show the disciples anticipating the prophecy of Jesus rising from the dead after three days, because after all, the gospel accounts are full of the Lord repeating the prophecy over and over in the course of his ministry. So why wouldn’t the disciples remember and hope in the prophecy of resurrection? It seems logical that they would. But the problem once again is that the Bible doesn’t say anything about them hoping in the resurrection after Christ died. Does the Bible need to say anything about it? Can’t we just assume they did pay attention to it and move on? Not really, at least, to be faithful to the New Testament accounts. If they were full of faith in the prophecy of Jesus to rising to life after three days the gospel accounts probably would have said so. But why wouldn’t they remember and believe the prophecy, especially since it was repeated over and over again by Jesus? Maybe because the arrest, torture and crucifixion of Christ was so horrible, so terrible that it took all their faith out of them. After all, the Messiah, the Lord, the Savior had been taken and killed by the Jews and the Romans. To the disciples way of thinking that wasn’t supposed to happen. So if that happened when it wasn’t supposed to happen of the Messiah, to their way of thinking, they might have given up all hope in anything else happening as they might hope or expect, including the resurrection prophecy. But these are issues that need to be explored further. That’s why I’d like to take a whole message and look at the gospel reference to the resurrection prophecy spoken by Jesus, starting in Matthew, and then Mark, Luke and finally John. As we’ll see, Jesus told his disciples many times he’d die and rise to life afterwards. They heard him, but did it really sink in. That’s the question we must face today. (more…)

Were the Disciples Expecting Jesus to Rise From the Dead?

April 15, 2015

Title: Were the Disciples Expecting Jesus to Rise From the Dead?
Text: Mark 8:31-32, Luke 24:25, Mark 16:1-3
Time: April 7th, 2015

I mentioned last time that I’d just watched part one of the made-for-television series “A.D. The Bible Continues.” In it the disciples are shown talking about the prophecy of Jesus that he would rise from the dead after three days. It shows that Mary, mother of Jesus, did believe that it would happen. It also shows that Mary Magdalene was thinking that it might come to pass. But it mostly shows the disciples discouraged, depressed and anxious to leave Jerusalem out of fear of the Jews who might want to round them up and either jail or kill them to prevent them from spreading the teachings of Jesus. Peter is inclined, the presentation shows, to wait for at least three days to see what happens – to see if Jesus rises from the dead as he said, until he and the other disciples flee the city for their own safety. So the TV drama shows the disciples conscious and reflecting and pondering that Jesus might indeed rise from the dead. Now the only problem with this depiction is that it isn’t anywhere in the New Testament of the Bible. What the biblical record shows is that the enemies of Christ and his disciples – the Jewish leader and Pharisees in particular – were indeed thinking about the Jesus prophecy of resurrection after three days. We know this because they went to Pilate to ask for a Roman guard to seal and watch the tomb in order that nothing could happen that might give anyone the impression that Jesus had fulfilled prophecy by rising from the dead. They didn’t want anyone moving or stealing the body of Christ and then spreading the rumor that he had risen from the dead. So Pilate sent troops to seal and guard the tomb of Jesus as the Jews had requested. So we know from the Bible that the Jews were thinking about the resurrection prophecy, and we know that the Romans were now thinking about it due to the Jews bringing it up, but we don’t have any evidence – at least that I’m aware of – that the disciples were thinking or contemplating or expecting anything like Jesus rising from the dead. In “A.D. The Bible Continues” while some of the believers are hoping the prophecy comes true, others like Peter doubt it, as he says in one scene, “I’d give my right arm to believe that Jesus is coming back to life again, but I cannot.” Clearly the TV presentation shows the disciples considering it. But is this actually accurate? I think it’s a fascinating topic because we often don’t take the time to think through what it must have been like to live as a Christian believer during those dark days after the death and burial of Christ. Did they truly believe at that point? Were they expecting something to happen? Or were they downhearted, discouraged and depressed? Let’s investigate the matter a little closer. (more…)

Did Pilate Send Troops to Guard the Tomb of Jesus?

April 15, 2015

Title: Did Pilate Send Troops to Guard the Tomb?
Text: Matthew 27:62-66
Time: April 6th, 2015

Last week I watched the new made-for-television movie “Killing Jesus,” based on the book by talk show host Bill O’Reilly and writer Martin Dugard of the same title. I have to say I wasn’t very impressed with the movie because it departed so often from the biblical account in depicting the life and times of Jesus Christ. But it did cause me to think more closely about a number of different things concerning the gospel accounts. For example, the movie emphasized the fact that when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples and the solders came with Judas to arrest him it was pitch dark outside. This explains why Peter was able to strike one of the soldiers and cut off his ear, all the while not being attacked and killed by the soldiers there. Before Jesus healed the man’s ear there must have been great confusion being that it was so dark outside. Now the movie “Killing Jesus” didn’t show Jesus healing the soldier who was struck by Peter’s sword, which is strange because that fact is in the Bible and you’d think that because it is in there (and working under the assumption it’s important to use all available information because so many details are left out) you’d use it in the movie scene. But they didn’t show it in the movie, which left the impression to the viewer that it didn’t even occur. That’s an example of how the movie while it brilliantly portrays some things, like the darkness of the night in the Garden, also leaves out basic and essential information. The movie did that constantly. But there is another scene that got me thinking that I’d like to spend more time on – it’s the part of the gospel account where Jesus was being crucified and the Jewish leaders come to Pilate to ask him for soldiers to guard the tomb where Jesus is laid in order to assure that no one moves the body. Evidently these religious leaders feared someone might try to steal the body and then claim he had arisen from the dead, thus creating even more trouble for them. The movie “Killing Jesus” shows Pilate refusing to send soldiers to guard the tomb. Is this depiction flat-out wrong? Everything I’d ever read, heard or seen about the death, burial and resurrection account always describes Pilate as sending Roman soldiers to place a seal on the tomb and guard it. So the “Killing Jesus” movie caused me to return again to the Bible account, in the Book of Matthew 27:32-36, in order to reread it. What I found is pretty much what I’d always believed, that is, that indeed Pilate sends Roman soldiers to seal and guard the tomb. But what I also learned is that there is a little ambiguity as to what the verse actually says, enough so that I could see how one could misread it to describe Pilate as not sending any soldiers. I’ll explain. So let’s go on a little investigation this morning to find out what really happened: did Pilate send troops to the tomb of Jesus or not? It’s always good to dig deeper into the Bible because the end result is being better informed about our faith. So let’s do that today. (more…)

Cursed is Anyone Who is Hung on a Tree

April 15, 2015

Title: Cursed is Anyone Who is Hung on a Tree
Text: Deuteronomy 21:23
Time: April 5th, 2015

Recently, I was reading along in the Old Testament as part of my annual One Year Bible reading program and I stumbled upon a verse that had a very strong connection with Easter. And since we are in the Easter season I was naturally interested in exploring it further. Now when you read the One Year Bible, that is, the yearly Bible reading program that gives us verses from the Old Testament, New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs every day, with the goal of reading through the Bible in one year – during the most popular Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter, the reading don’t particularly match up with the calendar. That means you’ll be reading nothing in particular in the Bible related to Christmas during that season, or during the Easter season you won’t be reading anything in particular relevant to that season either. But here I stumbled upon a verse that had direct relevancy in respect to Easter. Deuteronomy 21:22-23, “If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a true is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.” We can obviously see Jesus Christ in this passage, particularly at his crucifixion. And the New Testament Christians saw the same thing. The Apostle Paul in particular wrote in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a cruse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” Here we have a clear and definite link between the New Testament and the Old Testament on the matter of Christ’s crucifixion, but that connection needs unpacking. That’s what I’d like to do this morning. But there’s another angle to this same topic, and that’s the Judas Iscariot angle. If you remember the disciple who betrayed Jesus, Judas, was also hanging from a tree, because, of course, he hung himself seeing that he’d betrayed innocent blood. What, if any, does this connection have to do with the Old Testament passage or Christ’s death on the cross? I’d like to explain further. What I’ll show is that the Old Testament passage claims that anyone hung on a tree is cursed of God, and so both Jesus and Judas were cursed of God, but for different reasons. Jesus was cursed by God the Father in our place, to bear our sins, to experience our punishment, and to win our salvation. Judas is cursed by God the Father for his own sins because he chose to bear the penalty for his own sins himself. Yes, he was cursed, just as we all deserve to be cursed for our sins. But through faith we can benefit from the curse God the Father laid on Jesus on our behalf. I hope this all makes sense as we go further in the message. (more…)

Easter’s Not Over Yet – Some More Observations

April 30, 2014

Title: Easter’s Not Over Yet – Some More Observations
Text: Luke 22:59-60, 23:3-7, 12
Time: April 28, 2014

It always bothers me that culture turns the corner on holidays like Christmas and Easter so quickly. The day after these most famous Christian holidays and already people have moved on, moved past the special day. It’s too quick for me. Why? Because I’m still thinking Easter because of all that I’ve heard or seen during the holiday season. I can understand from a secular, commercial standpoint that stores would quickly take down their holiday signs and sales, and begin to look forward to the next upcoming advertising push; but for Christians and Christian churches it makes no sense. I’ve been known to give Christmas messages after Christmas, and Easter messages after Easter. I don’t always do it, but I feel again this year that things have just gone too fast, too soon after the holidays. So I’d like to deal once again with some Easter season issues. As I do every year I’m always on the look out for anything new that I can learn every holiday about something in the Bible concerning – if it’s Christmas, the birth of Jesus; if it’s Easter, something new about the death, burial or resurrection of Christ. Well, I wasn’t disappointed this year because I did in fact find a few things from the biblical text that I hadn’t noticed before. I was reading in my daily readings of the One Year Bible – which I encourage everyone to read from if you don’t have a daily Bible reading plan – and I stumbled upon a couple of new observations from the Gospel of Luke. One of the bad things about reading the One Year Bible readings is that they aren’t on schedule with the major holidays in the Christian calendar. There aren’t Christmas readings on Christmas day, and there isn’t a Easter reading on Easter Sunday. That’s one of the weaknesses of the One Year Bible, but it’s also one of its strengths on the other hand, because it schedules Christmas and Easter readings at other times of the year, reminding us of these great holidays all year round. Well, I’m reading along after Easter and I’m reading an Easter passage in the Gospel of Luke and I find three things new I hadn’t seen before. I’d like to talk about them this morning. First, there’s the possibility that Pontius Pilate is using sarcasm towards the Jews when he says, “I find no basis for a charge against this man (Jesus).” I’ll explain. Second, there’s a possible reference to territorial prejudice when people refer to Jesus and his disciples as from Galilee. And third, there’s the strange description of Pilate and Herod becoming friends after their dealings with Jesus. It’s not at all obvious why they would become friends, nor is there any further explanation why they became friends, only that they did so become friends afterwards. Let’s try to makes sense of these observations as we think some final thoughts about Easter 2014. (more…)

The Essence of Easter

April 23, 2014

Title: The Essence of Easter
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Time: April 21, 2014

If we were to boil the holiday of Easter down to its essential parts, what would they be? Or in other words, if we were to summarize the essence of Easter, how would we? It’s popular today for people to say to someone else, “Give me the short version,” or “Put it in simple terms for me,” or “Break it down for me.” What they mean is, “I don’t have a lot of time, so give it to me in a nutshell.” In our busy and fast paced world, we get used to commercials and salesmen and advertisements getting quickly to the point. We’re used to bite-sized presentations that take about thirty-seconds to one minute to get to the point. Well, today I’ve got a little more to say than thirty-seconds, but I’ll try to keep it under thirty minutes in length in getting to the point. After all, it is Easter today and we are celebrating the day, so let’s understand what the essence of Easter is in the process. What is the essence of Easter? Well, Easter is a little different than other holidays, for example, like Christmas, because Easter is really a combination of a number of things – it’s not all just one event. Think about it. With Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. But with Easter we are remembering three different things. First, we remember Christ’s death on the cross on Good Friday. That’s part of Easter. Then, we remember his entombment or burial for three days. Then, finally, on Easter proper, we remember his glorious resurrection on Sunday. So it’s not just one thing, like Christmas is mostly one thing, the birth of Jesus. Easter really encompasses three things, which I’d like to talk about this morning. Now it’s curious because sometimes people get the three things confused or get themselves out of sequence. Even churches sometimes get things mixed up at Easter time. For example, I’ve noticed lately that large mega-churches sometimes have Easter service on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to accompany the large crowds they anticipate during the Easter season. This approach makes it nice if you’re traveling to and fro visiting friends and family out of state. However, it does confuse things a little bit. For instance, some churches are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Good Friday, which is normally the remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross and burial in the tomb. So if you skip his death and burial, or just right to his resurrection, you’ve got things out of sequences, and you’ve missed remembering the total holiday properly. Also, sometimes people wish each other “Happy Easter” on Good Friday, which again is technically rushing things and out of sequence. The mood of Good Friday is supposed to be markedly different than Easter Sunday. And so forth. This all happens because Easter is actually three different things we are remembering. Let’s talk about these three essential things using 1 Corinthians15:3-4 so we can remember the holiday in a richer way. (more…)

The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 3

April 23, 2014

Title: The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 3
Text: Psalm 22
Time: April 20, 2014

I said last time that I’d try to finish up the prophecies of Psalm 22 by going through any of the prophecies I might have missed in my first two messages. I’d like to go ahead and do that today by mentioning three more prophecies. But before I get into these I’d like to take a minute to point out what might indeed be a prophecy, although it’s a little hard to tell. It’s Psalm 22:9-10, “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Now the reason I say this section “might” be a prophecy of Christ is that the New Testament doesn’t say it’s a reference to Jesus – which doesn’t necessarily rule against it – but also, it isn’t specific enough to say with certainty that it could exclusively apply to Jesus Christ. It also isn’t dealing specifically with the crucifixion, as the other prophecies in this Psalm. But it could very well be a reference to Jesus because it talks a lot about birth, womb and his mother. Any Christian knows that these are familiar themes, not around Easter time but during the Christmas holiday – although they certainly apply to any time of the year, including Easter. Now why could this verse be talking about Jesus? Because as Messiah, he didn’t just appear out of nowhere; he was born of a virgin, as Isaiah 7:14 prophesied, so he had a mother, who we know as Mary. The Messiah was born of a woman, grew up and became an adult. That’s the uniqueness of the Incarnation. Again, something we celebrate more at Christmas than at Easter, but is perfectly appropriate to mention anytime. Is this a reference or veiled prophecy of Christ? Possibly, although it’s not nearly as clear as the other prophecies in the chapter. I mention it here in passing because I need to do some more exploring, reading and studying on it before I put it definitely in the category of prophecy. Yes, much of it applies to Christ, but then again, it could apply to others as well. We’ll leave it an open question for now. But the other three passages I’ll be looking at today I’m very confident are prophetic passages. First, there’s the verse in Psalm 22:6 that says, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” There’s a lot of prophetic messianic material here. Second, there’s the sentence in Psalm 22:14 that states, “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.” Now at first this might not seem significant, but as I’ll explain later, it has great importance in connection with Christ’s death. Finally, three, there’s the verse in Psalm 22:17 that goes, “People stare and gloat at me.” Again, this is pretty obvious in relation to the whole crucifixion scene. But I’ll talk more about it shortly. Having gone over the main prophetic verses found in Psalm 22 in the last two messages, today I’ll just finish up on lesser know but still power prophetic verses from the same chapter. I hope this builds our faith, as did the last two messages. (more…)

The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 2

April 23, 2014

Title: The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 2
Text: Psalm 22
Time: April 19, 2014

Like I said last time, the most famous prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the atoning death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ are found in Isaiah 53. I’ve given many messages showing the detailed prophecies concerning Christ in this Old Testament source, but believe it or not the famous Isaiah prophecy is not the most quoted source in the New Testament. What is the most quoted Old Testament prophecy in the New Testament and Gospel accounts? Psalm 22. I bet you didn’t know that. I bet you are surprised by that. It’s the most under reported prophecy in the Old Testament, although the New Testament writers knew it well. So let’s get to know it well also. Now last time I tackled three of the verses in the Psalm 22 prophecy concerning Christ’s crucifixion. Today, I’d like to cover three more verses. There are actually more than six verses of prophecy in Psalm 22, but I’ll just deal with the main prophecies as they pertain to the Lord’s death on the cross. I’ll also deal with the more obvious prophecies, although we shouldn’t think that these are the only ones in the chapter. I plan to do another message and catch any of the other, smaller prophecies that I might have missed. But in order to do justice to the most obvious prophecies in Psalm 22 I’ll only deal with three more verses today. First, I’ll talk about the reference in Psalm 22 that says, “My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth,” as an indication of Christ’s thirst on the cross. Of course, the Gospels report that Jesus said, “I thirst.” Second, I’ll cover the verse that says, “They have pierced my hands and feet,” which is an obvious reference to the method of his execution – crucifixion. And finally, third, I’ll deal with the verse that explains, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” Again, clearly a reference to the Roman soldiers dividing up the purple robe of Jesus. Now what’s amazing for us Christians is that while we are familiar with these New Testament references, such as the fact that Jesus was thirsty on the cross, that his hand and feet were pierced, and that his robe was divided between the soldiers, what we usually don’t think about is that these things were all prophesied in the Old Testament one thousand years before in the Book of Psalms. We can see how important it is to know the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. In the early church there was a debate as to whether the Old Testament should even be included in the Christian Bible. I’m glad wisdom prevailed and it was included, because it’s really important and essential for understanding the New Testament. Let’s turn to it now to get a fuller understanding of our Lord’s death on the cross, how these events were all spoken of one thousand years beforehand. (more…)

The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 1

April 23, 2014

Title: The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 1
Text: Psalm 22
Time: April 18, 2014

The most famous Old Testament Bible prophecies concerning the atoning death of Jesus on the cross are found in Isaiah 53, the whole chapter. If you’ve never taken the time to sit down and review this famous prophetic chapter, please do so soon because it will truly astound you how a Bible writer could describe the event of the crucifixion so accurately hundreds of years before it took place. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time teaching and preaching about the prophecies of Isaiah 53 so I won’t go back over them again today – although I plan on going over them again at another time because they certainly deserve further review. But today I’d like to go over the second most famous Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ’s crucifixion found in Psalm 22. Now this section often escapes the notice of Christians, and the Isaiah prophecies get the most attention around Good Friday and Easter, but the Psalm 22 section deserves a serious review because it’s almost as amazing as the Isaiah prophecy. Psalm 22 gets pretty detailed in its description of the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and again, it was written hundreds of years before Jesus died, so it’s all prophetic. In order to talk about the most important parts of the prophecy I’ll divide it up into six parts, three parts for today and another three parts later in another message. So today I’ll talk about the first three prophetic verses as they relate to Christ’s crucifixion. Now what’s interesting is that some of the references in Psalm 22 are specifically mention in the New Testament accounts of the crucifixion as they are being fulfilled, while other parts of Psalm 22 aren’t specifically mentioned by the Gospel writers, but we can easily identify them as related to the day Christ died. So I’ll just go through the prophecies one by one and try to draw the parallels between the Old Testament description of Christ’s crucifixion and the New Testament’s reporting of it at the time. The first verse I’ll talk about today is the famous utterance of Christ on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Many people recognize this as what Jesus said on the cross before he died, but most people don’t realize that it’s an exact quote from Psalm 22. We’ll talk about it. The second verse I’ll mention in Psalm 22 is where it says, “All who see me mock me, they hurl insults, shaking their heads,” which is clearly a reference to most of the crowd surrounding the cross of Christ at his crucifixion. Finally, I’ll talk about the verse in Psalm 22 that says, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint,” which is a clear description of the physical suffering Christ endured during his crucifixion. As we can begin to see, the Old Testament references aren’t merely symbolic, they are accurate descriptions of what actually takes place on Good Friday. That’s amazing because they are prophecies given hundreds and hundreds of years before. I hope this will strength your faith and give you a deeper appreciation for what took place on the cross two thousand years ago. Let’s explore further. (more…)