Liberty Chapel-Easter Sunday 2020
Liberty Chapel, this Passion Week, the week heading up to Easter, has been unlike anything I have ever faced before. It has been unlike anything any of us have ever faced before. There is so much going on right now in our world, in our nation, in our County, and yes in our church family. Most of us have been experiencing what it is like to be quarantined, and I don't believe any of us are fans of not having the ability to get together with our loved ones, our friends’, and the rest of our church family. And if we're honest, our inability to get a break or distance from our immediate family has caused us to reach for the bottle of Excedrin a little more frequently than we would like to, and perhaps for some of you you're reaching for a completely different type of bottle!
All of these things being said, one of the things that we have also been trying to do this week as a church family, is to turn our focus off of all of these other things that can increase our anxiety level, by preparing our hearts for what it is we celebrate today, and today we celebrate our Risen Savior.
We have sought to change our focus by doing daily devotions via video, that we have entitled “A Walk with Christ to the Cross, which included a special Communion Service on Thursday Evening, which was the night during the original Passion Week that Jesus established the first Communion with His Disciples. I trust this time of reflection on the things that took place during Passion Week, has greatly enhanced your ability to turn your focus off of the cares of this world, and onto the Savior, Who paid the ultimate price to purchase our Salvation.
With that is a backdrop, let's go ahead and move to Easter morning. To begin with this morning, we are going to look at: Next Slides
The Importance of the Resurrection. 1 Cor. 15:3; 14; 17
You know, the resurrection is not simply just a part of the gospel, it is the main event. It is the glorious centerpiece of Divine redemption, the cornerstone of the gospel promise, and the guarantee of eternal life for those who believe. The resurrection is not the epilogue or postscript to the life of Christ, it is the culminating climax of His atoning work. The Apostle Paul establishes the importance of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, but to begin with he points out the importance of what Jesus did on Calvary in verse 3 of the same chapter. Where we read: “for I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” The Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear, that what Jesus accomplished on the cross was absolutely central to the gospel. Yet he goes on to point out later in the chapter, that without the resurrection, the cross would be meaningless and there would be no hope for us for Salvation from our sins. He writes in verse 14; “and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” Then, just a few verses later in verse 17 we read; “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you're still in your sins.” While we may spend a lot more time and effort and money in the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas, and while we may use a cross for decorations around the house or the church or as jewelry worn upon our neck, those things are absolutely meaningless if not for the empty tomb. That is exactly why the Jewish believers in the early days of the church completely changed their calendar system. Up until that point in time for the Jew the calendar always revolved around the Sabbath, but not long after the resurrection of Jesus, with an understanding of how pivotable the resurrection was for their lives, they changed their calendars so that it now revolved around the resurrection.
Now that we have established the importance of the resurrection for the life of the believer, let’s look and some of the early Events that took place following the resurrection. There is one particular theme that you will see with each of these events, that theme is Doubt. The first event we will look at this morning is: Next Slides
Doubtful Women at the Empty Tomb. Mt. 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8; John 20:1-2
In both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke we see that several women woke up early in on Sunday morning for the purpose of going to the tomb with spices to better prepare the body of Jesus for His final resting place. When Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared the body hastily on Friday before sunset, so as to have it done before the Sabbath began, these women had watched them. They knew where the body was laid, and they knew that they could do a better job of wrapping the body with the spices mingled throughout the clothes. It was a custom that Jews did to care for the body of a loved one that had passed away.
Keep in mind that Jesus had made it clear over and over again to His followers, not only that He would die, but more importantly that He would rise again from the dead. Luke makes that very clear in his Gospel when we see the Angels speak to the women at the empty tomb. In Luke 24:5 & 6 we read; “5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men (angels) said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee” Had these women believed the words of Jesus, had they not doubted, they would have never come to the tomb with spices to anoint and prepare His body. Why anoint a body that was soon to come back to life? These women had watched Jesus do miracle after miracle. They even knew He had the power over death, because he had already brought Lazarus back from the dead. And Lazarus wasn't the only one! They had watched as he had healed the sick, given sight to the blind, opened the ears of the deaf, and cleansed the lepers. Yet here they were not trusting his assurance that he would raise from the dead.
But the doubting did not end with them. Next Slides
The Doubting of Peter & John. Luke 24:12; John 20:3-10
Nobody on earth knew Jesus better than Peter and John. They were His two closest companions. Everything He ever told them would happen, happened exactly as He said it would. Including the previous Thursday, when He sent the two of them into Jerusalem. They were to go there to make preparations for the Passover dinner that was to take place that night. His only instructions on the whereabouts of the Passover dinner, were that as they were walking into the city, they would see a man carrying a jar of water. And they were to follow him into the home he was going to, and they would find an upper room already furnished and ready for their preparations for the Passover. How could He possibly have known the very first person that they ran into would be a man carrying a jar of water? Men didn't carry jars of water, that was a task reserved for women. But somehow, He knew! They had no reason to doubt Him, yet still they did. John didn't believe until he stepped into the empty tomb and saw the linen cloth that Jesus had been wrapped in. Both he and Peter were filled with doubt, despite the assurances from Jesus that he would raise from the dead.
The doubting did not end with them either. Next Slides
Doubting on the Road to Emmaus. Luke 24:13-35
The next doubters we see are the two men on the road to Emmaus. We find this account in Luke 24:13-35. Most of us are familiar with this account, but frequently we miss some key details as we rush to the spectacular end of the story when their eyes are opened to the reality of the resurrected Savior. One of the details we often miss is the account that takes place in verse 23, where we read; “23 and when they (the women) did not find His body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive.” That was followed with them stating that some men, probably Peter and John, went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said. Despite the accounts of the women hearing that He had risen from the dead comma and from the men that they found the tomb empty just as the women had said, still they could not fathom that He could have risen from the dead. Doubt overtook them.
The next account of doubting is perhaps the most astonishing. Next Slides
The Gathering Disciples Doubted. Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23
Immediately following the event with the two men on the road to Emmaus, the 2 men returned to Jerusalem and to the Upper Room where the remaining 12 disciples, minus Thomas, as well as several other disciples who were up there behind closed and locked doors. By now all of the followers there had heard accounts of the risen savior and of the empty tomb. Yet still they were startled when Jesus all of the sudden appeared in the room with them. They thought they had seen a ghost! It seemed even His words to them could not convince them that He was not a ghost. It wasn't until He ate a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb that they finally realized that He was in fact the resurrected Savior.
The last account of doubting we will look at this morning is by far the most famous;
Doubting Thomas. John 20:24-31
Not long after Jesus appeared to all of the disciples in the upper room and finally convinced them that he actually had risen from the dead, they were quick to let Thomas know that they had seen Jesus alive and well. But nothing they said could convince Thomas that he had actually risen from the dead. His statement from them made it very clear; “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Jn 20:25
Well 8 days went by, and rest assured the disciples tried on multiple times to convince Thomas of the reality that Jesus had risen from the dead. Yet their attempts fell on deaf ears, because Thomas wasn't about to believe.
Finally, they were once again in the upper room with the doors shut comma and all of the sudden Jesus just appeared. Shortly after he appeared, he looked at Thomas and said; “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but be believing.” Scripture goes on to state; “and Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” Then Jesus went on to say; “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
And that is where we come in to play, as we are those who have not seen yet still believed. That being said, we ourselves struggle as well, there are still: Next Slides
Modern Day Doubting Thomas’. John 20:30-31
We find out in John 20:24, that Thomas was a twin. We know little to nothing about his twin. However, if we really think about it, maybe we know a great deal more then we realize. Because in many ways, with our tendency towards doubting ourselves, we almost seem like we come from the same bloodline as Doubting Thomas. All of the evidence is laid out before us, through Scripture, through history, and in most of our lives through what God has done on our behalf. Yet still we struggle with doubt, and like Thomas we say; “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails comma and put my finger into the print of the nails comma and put my hand into his side comment I will not believe.” Oh perhaps we don't say the exact same words as those that Thomas uttered that day. For us, they are different, but the meaning is the same, we still doubt. As we closeout our time this morning, I would like to look at modern day Doubting Thomas’s from two different perspectives. 1st I would like to look at it from the perspective of the believer, those who have put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. And 2nd, I would like to look at it from the perspective of those who have not yet trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, the unbeliever.
Doubting Believers. For the believer, our doubt raises its ugly head in many different areas, but especially when we live in fear. And in times like those in which we are living in now, this happens all too often. We know from Scripture that God is Sovereign and in complete control of all that is taking place, but the uncertainty of a pandemic like the coronavirus, fills us with fear and unbelief, and panic sets in. This is not to say that we should not take precautions to protect us and others from the spread of this virus, because we certainly should. But if our fear paralyzes us, that is not evidence of us being cautious, but instead of us being overcome with doubt and lack of trust in the Sovereign God. There are certainly many other areas that show evidence of the believer’s tendency towards doubt, but for now we will stop with this one, as it is the most prevalent from what I am seeing.
Unbelievers Doubt. For the unbeliever, their doubt is different, and can be rooted in many different things in their lives. Perhaps it is something tragic that has taken place in their life or the life of a loved one. Or it could be all the evil that is taking place in the world today. Maybe it is skepticism at the scriptural account itself, I mean how do you explain all the supposed miracles that took place? However, based on what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1, they like the believer have no excuse for their doubt. We read in Romans 1: 19 -21; “19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God”
Either way, doubt in the life of the believer or the unbeliever, is inexcusable in the eyes Of God. Yet doubt is something that we all are faced with from time to time. Which is one of the reasons that I am so encouraged by the encounter of Jesus with Thomas in the upper room that night. Jesus does not condemn him for his doubt, He does not chastise him, doesn't deliver any form of discipline, even though He had every right to based on all the Thomas had seen take place in the three years that he worked alongside Jesus, listening to all of His teachings, watching all of His miracles, being there when He walked on water, seeing Him calm the sea with nothing more than the words out of His mouth. Yes, Jesus had every reason to chastise him, yet instead his response was to invite Thomas to explore His wounds. He said to Thomas; “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; And reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
He gives you an I that same challenge today.
For the believer, the challenge is to trust in Him completely and not to be overcome with fear and anxiety. To trust that He is the Sovereign God. That He is in control of all things. And that does not mean that things will always go perfectly for us, because they won't! In fact, frequently it is the opposite, but that does not mean that He is not in control, it just means that we have to trust Him even in the midst of the difficult times that we are faced with in our life. By the way, our trust in Him in the middle of those difficult times is often times the greatest testimony that we have before others.
For the unbeliever, don't be swayed by the tragedies that you have either experienced, or seen in your life. Jesus himself experienced tragedy on a regular basis, attacks from those who opposed Him, and in the end experienced the gruesome death of a Roman crucifixion. Don't be swayed by the evil that you see in the world today. That is all are result of the fall in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to eat of the forbidden fruit. That set the course for evil to be unleashed in this world, but it also opened up the door for God to show His love for you by sending His Son to die on the cross for your sins. Stop doubting and accept the gift that Jesus purchased for you that day with His blood. In fact, I would like to give you the opportunity to do that right now. There is no better time than on the day we celebrate the empty tomb, to accept that great gift. If you would like to accept that gift today, pray with me right now.
Lord Jesus, for too long I've kept you out of my life. I know that I am a Sinner and that I cannot save myself. No longer will I close the door when I hear You knocking. By faith I gratefully received Your gift of Salvation. I am ready to trust You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth. I believe You are the Son of God Who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Thank You for bearing my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life. I believe Your words are true. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, and be my Savior. Amen