Series: Special Occasions
April 12, 2020
Welcome, everyone to our special online Easter service! If you’re dressed up in your best, we’re glad you’re here. If you’re lounging around in your jammies, we’re glad you’re here too.
I don’t like not being able to worship face-to-face but the upside is FINALLY I got every single one of you to sit up front.
I hope you are blessed today. Be sure to stick around right after my message for a special song by Jessica Willis Fisher.
Well it’s Easter time even though it doesn’t quite feel like it this year with all that’s going on. But I asked anyway for some of you to share with me how you know it’s Easter time:
You know it's Easter time when the Suttmillers all gather at Grandma and Grandpa's for homemade donuts!
I don’t know who the Sutmiller’s are, but they sound like folks good folks to me.
You know it's Easter time when you get your new dress and shoes for Easter Sunday!
I remember those days with three girls.
You know it’s Easter time when the Easter lilies Dogwood trees start blooming.
You know it's Easter time when you make sure you have food coloring for decorating the eggs, especially gold.
I remember those days as well.
You know it's Easter time when I get to put a few things together in a Easter basket for our last 2 youngest grands.
FUN FACT: I was actually 16 years when I got my last Easter Basket.
You know it's Easter time when we buy flower arrangements to put on the graves of all of my grandparents.
Reminds me of a day they had every year back in Alabama, decoration day.
You know it's Easter time when your church is packed with people and you see purple hanging on crosses as you drive down the road.
I wish that were true today!
You know it's Easter time when I get to buy my all time favorite candy, only sold around Easter.. Starburst jellybeans!
Bless your heart. This is a good one…
You know it's Easter time when there is a strong odor of wild onions in the air. The Redbuds and Dogwoods are in bloom. The women are wearing big ol’ hats, and the Masters Golf Tournament is on tv.
You know it's Easter time when I make a coconut bunny cake!
You might want to connect with the Suttmiller’s!
You know it's Easter time when you have to start mowing the grass.
Thanks for reminding me.
You know it's Easter time when Everything outside wakes up from The Winter.
That includes grass, doesn’t it?
You know it's Easter time when I can get my Cadbury caramel fix.
I kind of see a pattern here.
Finally, and this is mine BTW…
You know it’s Easter time when you see those yard signs every where that say, “Easter is all about Jesus.”
That’s not wrong, for sure. But if they really wanted to include the full story, the signs would say…
Easter is all about a Jesus who claimed to be God and came back from the dead.
This Easter Sunday I want to talk to you about why that’s what those yard signs should read and how it powerfully speaks to all the terrible things happening in our world right now.
Let’s look at that first part…
Easter is all about a Jesus who claimed to be God.
That statement is way more loaded than we probably know. Some say it’s not true. That Jesus never said, “I am God.” They say the idea that he was God come to us in the flesh was developed later by early disciples because they wanted create a religion around a man who did great things and taught great things but was still just a man.
If you’ve ever wandered into the blogs and forums of skeptics and atheists you’ve come across this. By the way, I’m not threatened by that. The skeptics and atheists have truly helped us over the last few years. They’ve forced us to stop the whole “God just works in mysterious ways” thing and the “You just just gotta have faith” thing. I’d rather talk with an honest atheist than a disingenuous Christian any day.
This may surprise you, but the naysayers are partly right. The whole Jesus-was-made-into-God-later idea has fallen apart with recent scholarship but not the Jesus-never-said-I-am-God one. Technically, they are right. Jesus never once said in any of the Gospels, “I am God.” You can check that out sometime of you like.
In my statement, though, it says Jesus “claimed to be God.” Jesus never said “I am God,” but I want to show you he 100% claimed himself to be the God who made all there is.
Folks, there are ways of saying things without saying them that are even more effective than just coming out and saying them.
You married fellows know what I mean. Have you ever thought you might have made your wife mad and then asked her about it and she just came out and said, “Yes, dear. You made me mad.” NO, you haven’t, because no wife would ever do that. Instead, if they’re really upset, they say, “I’m fine.”
That’s way worse than just saying they’re mad. Some of you fellows learned the hard way not to believe them when they say they’re fine. I can just see you the first week after your honeymoon saying, “But sweetheart, you didn’t say you were mad!”
Jesus never said, “I am God,” but in John 8, Jesus said he was God without saying it in a way that was way more forceful than if he just said it.
Once again Jesus was clashing with those religious Pharisees. They hated on him because the people loved him and listened to him, and he made them look bad. They said he had a demon!
John 8:48–58 (CEV) — 48 The people told Jesus, “We were right to say that you are a Samaritan and that you have a demon in you!” 49 Jesus answered, “I don’t have a demon in me. I honor my Father, and you refuse to honor me. 50 I don’t want honor for myself. But there is one who wants me to be honored, and he is also the one who judges. 51 I tell you for certain that if you obey my words, you will never die.” 52 Then the people said, “Now we are sure that you have a demon. Abraham is dead, and so are the prophets. How can you say that no one who obeys your words will ever die? 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” 54 Jesus replied, “If I honored myself, it would mean nothing. My Father is the one who honors me. You claim that he is your God, 55 even though you don’t really know him. If I said I didn’t know him, I would be a liar, just like all of you. But I know him, and I do what he says. 56 Your father Abraham was really glad to see me.” 57 “You are not even fifty years old!” they said. “How could you have seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus answered, “I tell you for certain that even before Abraham was, I was, and I am.”
Let’s read that last verse again.
It’s mind blowing enough for Jesus to say he was around before Abraham who lived 2,000 years earlier but the kicker is the phrase “I am.” That contains a powder keg of meaning.
Remember the story of Moses and how he saw the burning bush? And how God was in that bush? And how God told Moses he was going to deliver the Israelites but Moses was reluctant?
Exodus 3:13–14 (ESV) — 13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”
Tim Keller explains the significance of that…
Moses and his descendants always knew this was the greatest, the highest, expression of divine self-reference. There has never been a more profound revelation of who God is than that… “I AM THAT I AM,” made him a unique God in the world of gods and of religions and of philosophies, because when he says, “I AM THAT I AM,” he is saying, “I am uncaused. I am self-existent.”
God is saying, “Unlike the gods of the East or of the West, I am, simply because I am.” Eastern religions will say, “God is because God is the emanation of the life force of the universe,” or in Western religions (I mean, they had millions of them), the gods would always arise out of sort of the raw material of the universe and the deeps of time. God says, “No, no, no, no. I am self-existence. I am self-determined. I am not caused. In a sense, I do not exist; I am existence. I depend on nothing and no one. Everything that exists depends on me.”
Do you see? “I have no beginning. I couldn’t have begun. If I would have begun, something would have caused me. I am the cause of all causes. I’m the uncaused cause. I am transcendent above the universe. I existed before there was a universe. There’s no beginning, no ending, to me.”
I AM is a special, holy, covenant name for God among the Israelites related to YAHWEH and Jehovah.
And what did Jesus imply here?
58 Jesus answered, “I tell you for certain that even before Abraham was, I was, and I am.”
He basically said, “I am the I AM.” I have no beginning and no end. I’ve always existed. I am the same as the God who met Moses at the burning bush and revealed himself as the great I AM.
That was way more forceful than just saying, “Hey, guys. I am God, just so you know.” Jesus said he was God in a way more intense than just coming out and saying it. If you think the Pharisees didn’t get the message, look what they wanted to do to him in verse 59.
John 8:59 (CEV) — 59 The people picked up stones to kill Jesus, but he hid and left the temple.
You can’t get away with just believing in a doing-good-and-teaching-good only Jesus. He won’t let you. He actually claimed to be God. But that alone is not enough to make Easter a big deal.
I mean throughout history there have been more than a few who claimed to be God, to be divine.
Ariffin Mohammed is one of them. He founded a religious sect which worshipped bizarre, concrete structures, like a giant teapot, and a vase and umbrella, on his “Sky Kingdom” commune on the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula.
His followers called him Master Pin. He claimed to be a reincarnation of Jesus, Buddha, Shiva and Mohammed – as well as the King of the Sky… God. He also claimed to possess the power of invisibility as well as the ability to kill a man using only his mind.
If you search for it, you can find his obituary. He died at age 74.
Claiming to be God isn’t that big a deal, unless…
What was our statement?
Easter is all about a Jesus who claimed to be God and came back from the dead.
That’s what makes Jesus revolutionary compared to all other religious figures. He backed up everything - EVERYTHING he said and did - with proof he was who he said he was by coming back from the dead! That’s what makes Easter the hinge on which Christianity swings.
If that’s right, and I know with my whole being it is, then Jesus’ claim to be God was true. By the way, recent scholarship has also proven that tomb was empty the first Easter Sunday. For more on that, listen to last year’s message.
This is how Easter speaks into the mess our world is in. This is how Easter powerfully addresses all the brokenness and sickness and pain and loss and injustice going on right now. Easter gives us something nothing in this world, not even a pandemic or economic meltdown, can touch.
Easter gives us hope because Jesus proves he was who he said he was, the Great I AM, which means he has the power to save us, to help.
Easter means God loves us so much he actually wrote himself into history to deliver us from all this mess. He actually entered into our pain and suffering to call us out of it.
If Jesus really was and is God come to us in the flesh, then everything he taught, every promise he made can be counted on with absolute, rock solid assurance.
Matthew 11:28–29 (ESV) — 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
John 14:1–3 (ESV) — 1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
John 11:25–26 (ESV) — 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Conclusion: As we get ready to close, here’s another “You know it’s Easter when” saying I’d love to see happen.
You know it’s Easter when people start believing in the Jesus Easter is all about.
That’s how the mighty, life-changing hope of Easter becomes active in your life. Believe, put your faith and trust in Jesus as God come in the flesh. The apostle Paul wrote, in his letter to the Romans…
Romans 10:9–10 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
He also framed the gospel, the good news of how to be saved from this wicked old world and our own sinfulness, in the simplest of terms…
Romans 10:13 (ESV) — 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
As we get ready to close, listen to the words of that great prince of preachers, CH Spurgeon…
The buds are bursting, the trees are putting on their summer dress, the flowers are smiling and even the seeds which we buried in the earth are beginning to feel the vivifying warmth. They see not the Lord of day but they feel his smile. Over what an enormous territory is the returning sun continually operating! How potent are his forces when he crosses the line and lengthens the day!
Such is the risen Christ. In the grave he was like the sun in his winter solstice but he crossed the line in his resurrection. He has brought us all the hopes of spring and is bringing us the joys of summer. He is quickening many at this hour and will yet quicken myriads. This is the power with which the missionary goes forth to sow; this is the power in which the preacher at home continues to scatter the seed. The risen Christ is the great producer of harvests. By the power of his resurrection men are raised from their death in sin to eternal life.
Charles Spurgeon delivered this message on Sunday April 21, 1889 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, London.
In just a minute I’m going to pray and while I’m praying you can call on him and have the hope of Easter invade your life. And if you do that, please let us know by filling out the online card so we can help you along on your faith journey.
PRAYFolks, Easter is about hope. Easter is about how deep the Father’s love is for us in coming to save us himself. He is Risen!
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