"Christ Died and Rose According to the Scriptures"
March 23, 2008 Easter Sunday SonRise Acts 13:22-33
Something we really value in human relationships is faithfulness, trustworthiness - you can count on the person to follow through with their promise. Someone is faithful if they do what they said they would.
The opposite to faithful is FICKLE. A fickle person might make a promise but then they fail to come through with what they said. You can't count on a fickle person. We don't want to be fickle: that's shameful, it gives you a bad reputation. But sometimes we forget our promises or underestimate in making commitments and wind up seeming fickle.
Take Thursday, for example. It had gone lunchtime and I was busy on the computer. Suddenly I looked at the clock and realized it was about 23 after 1: but Homework Club at the school on Tuesdays and Thursdays runs from 1:20 to 1:50. I was late! If I didn't show up, I might have seemed 'fickle' to the school staff - promising to help but then not coming through on time. I grabbed my coat and rushed down to the school, making it in time to help out for the last 20 minutes - and just as well, because there were lots of students and I was the only volunteer.
If you've ever had someone break a promise, or stand you up for a date, or fail to come through when you needed them, you've some idea what 'fickleness' is. You know how hurtful it is to be disappointed.
That's why Easter is so important in the overall picture of God's dealing with people. God is faithful, not fickle. Jesus' death and resurrection were the fulfilment of many promises God made that He would help us with our sin-problem.
When Paul began preaching in the decade following Jesus' resurrection, he made a point of showing how the events at Jerusalem that Easter were precisely the accomplishment of all God's promises to the Jewish people through the centuries. In Acts 13, Paul's first recorded sermon, he said in v23, "God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as He promised." He then mentions how John the Baptist announced a coming Saviour. In v27 Paul notes the irony of the leaders' actions in opposing Jesus: "The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath." V29, "When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb." Next Paul summarizes the great "Good News" in vv32-33: "What God promised our fathers He has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus."
God is not fickle, but faithful: He did what He had been promising all along. That's why the little phrase "according to the Scriptures" is so important - it shows Jesus' death and resurrection weren't a surprise, or unexpected, or some fluke, but a very deliberate part of God's plan (that was older than the ages) so we could be saved rather than end in hell - so we could have our sins and evil nature dealt with, and become children of faith acceptable to God through Christ's cleansing and the Spirit's holiness.
In 1Corinthians 15(3f), Paul summarizes the key facts of the Christian faith: "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..."
Ever since Jesus had begun warning his disciples (repeatedly) about His upcoming suffering, He linked it all to God's previous promises; for example Lk 18:31, "Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.'" Even on the cross, His life ebbing away, Jesus was still consciously fulfilling the Scriptural predictions. John records (19:28), "knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.'" It was all part of God's plan. Consider this list:
• The betrayal of Jesus by Judas occurred "to fulfill the Scripture" (John 13:18; 17:12, NIV).
• The gamble for Jesus' clothing "fulfilled the Scripture that says, 'They divided my clothes among themselves and threw dice for my robe'" (John 19:24, NLT).
• The legs of Christ were not broken "so that the Scripture would be fulfilled" (John 19:36, NIV).
• Jesus' side was pierced to fulfill the passage which says, "They will look on him whom they pierced" (John 19:37, NLT).
• And John says the disciples were stunned by the empty tomb since "They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead" (John 20:9, NIV).
Why the recurring references to Scripture? God, who is faithful, knows we humans are so used to being let down by fickleness that we have a hard time trusting promises. He knew we would doubt. He knew we would question. "Can I really believe He is who He claims to be?"
Since he did not want the logic of our head to keep His love from our heart, Jesus used even His final moments to offer proof. He systematically fulfilled centuries' old prophecies--checking them off one after another, after another (see John 19:28; 13:18; 17:12; 19:24, 36; 20:9).
If you add them all up, some 332 Old Testament scriptures and prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus' life. Mathematician Dr.J.P.Free refers to the astronomical possibilities of all these predictions being fulfilled in the life of one man . He calculated the probability as 1/840000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 That's ninety-seven zeroes! One more proof for those who might doubt!
Maybe things have been going well for you lately and you don't have difficulty believing God loves you and has a purpose for your life. That's great. On the other hand, for some of you, times have been rough; you're struggling, perhaps financially, or physically, or emotionally. Our bodies, made of dust, let us down. Our resources run out. The people we thought were friends may move on and lose touch - or just quit seeming to care for some reason we can't figure out.
This morning, realize that Easter is God's way of showing you He won't abandon you; He's not going to dump you or be fickle. You can always count on Him who is faithful, and loves you with an everlasting love. The Psalmist wrote, "The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made." Today may it be true for you as Joshua said to the Israelites: "You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed." [Lucado video]
"He Broke the Bank - for You"
March 23/08 Easter Celebration Matthew 28:1-10
Easter morning is about exciting news: the grave where Jesus' body had been lain following His crucifixion was empty! How could that have happened? Think about it - how hard it would have been for ANYBODY to have gotten past the guards, and rolled away that heavy stone. That grave had been designed to be as secure as a bank vault. Recall how the authorities had made every effort to secure it. Matthew writes: "The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first." "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard." (Mt 27:62-66)
Note those words - "as secure as you know how". Plus the legal seal, for which, if anyone had even tried tampering with it, there would have been a severe punishment. Plus real live armed guards. They weren't taking a chance on ANYBODY breaking into that vault!
Vaults are where we store our treasures, things that are most valuable to us. Maybe you have a 'safety deposit box' and have actually seen inside a bank's vault - how thick the doors are! How sophisticated the locks and alarms!
We usually think banks are pretty secure places. But the big news in financial markets this past week was how
UNSAFE some banking institutions that dealt in subprime mortgages were. One bank named "Bear Stearns" was going belly-up and had to be bought out by JP Morgan. The Globe and Mail called this "a stunning collapse for one of the world's largest and most venerable investment banks." Next, the institution known as Lehman Brothers, whose business model is close to that of Bear Stearns, had to be propped up by other investment banks.
In England, the economics editor for The Guardian newspaper underscored how significant these events were. He wrote: "George Soros, who was largely responsible for Black Wednesday, the last bout of serious financial turmoil to afflict the UK, believes there has been nothing to match the events of the past nine months since the Great Depression. Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Fed and the man blamed by many for setting off the boom-bust in the US housing market, agrees with the man who broke the Bank of England. Writing in the Financial Times yesterday, Greenspan said: 'The current financial crisis in the US is likely to be judged as the most wrenching since the end of the second world war.'"
So, we commonly think of banks as safe and secure places - the vault's called a 'safe' - but things in the financial world have been teetery. Note he said the one fellow "broke the Bank of England": what a thought - to 'break a bank'! Yet when Jesus exited the tomb at Easter - when there was a huge earthquake and the stone rolled away from that secure vault - that's exactly what Jesus did for us. He 'broke the bank' so the world could be reconciled to God, our massive sin-debt paid up.
Forgive me for broaching the issue, but I must. I need to talk to you about being overdrawn at the bank. Your paycheque was late. Your landlord cashed your rent cheque too quickly. You were going to make a deposit, but your aunt called from Manitoba and by the time you got to the bank it was closed and you didn't know how to make a night deposit.
Regardless of the reason, the result is the same: INSUFFICIENT FUNDS. What an ominous phrase. In the great gallery of famous phrases "insufficient funds" hangs in the same hallway with "Canada Revenue Agency is about to audit your account," "A root canal is necessary' and "Let's stop dating and just be friends." INSUFFICIENT FUNDS. You are overdrawn. You gave more than you had to give. You spent more than you had to spend. And guess who has to cough up some cash? Not the bank; they didn't write the cheque. Not the store; they didn't make the purchase. In the grand scheme of things, you can make all the excuses you want, but a bounced cheque lands in the lap of the one who wrote it.
What do you do if you don't have any money? What do you do if you have nothing to deposit but an honest apology and good intentions? You pray that some wealthy soul will make a huge deposit in your account. If you're talking about your financial debt, that's not likely to happen. If you're talking about your spiritual debt, however, it already has. Your Father has covered your shortfall.
Debt. The Greek word for debt simply means "to owe someone something." If to be in debt is to owe someone something, aren't we all in debt to God?
Aren't we in God's debt when we disobey his commands? He tells us to go south and we go north. He tells us to turn right and we turn left. Rather than love our neighbour, we hurt our neighbour. Instead of seeking His will, we seek our will. We're told to forgive our enemies, but we attack our enemies. So doing, we disobey God.
Aren't we in God's debt when we disregard Him? He makes the universe and we applaud science. He heals the sick and we applaud medicine. He grants beauty and we credit Mother Nature. He gives us possessions and we salute human ingenuity.
Don't we go into debt when we disrespect God's children? When we criticize a co-worker or gossip about a relative or speak about someone before we speak to them? Aren't we in God's debt when we mistreat a neighbour?
"Wait a second...You mean every time I do one of these things, I writing a cheque on my heavenly bank account?" That's exactly what I'm saying. I'm also saying that if Christ had not covered us with his grace, each of us would be overdrawn on that account. When it comes to goodness we would have insufficient funds. Inadequate holiness. God requires a certain balance of virtue in our account, and it's more than any of us has alone. Our holiness account shows insufficient funds, and only the holy will see the Lord; what can we do?
We could try making a few deposits. Maybe if I wave at my neighbour or compliment my wife or go to church next Sunday, I'll get caught up. But how do you know when you've made enough? How many trips do I need to make to the bank? How much credit do I need? When can I relax?
That's the problem. You never can. "People cannot do any work that will make them right with God" (Romans 4:5). If you are trying to justify your own statement, forget ever having peace. You're going to spend the rest of your days huffing and puffing to get to the drive-through window before the bank closes. You are trying to justify an account you can't justify. "It is God who justifies" (8:33).
God assigned himself the task of balancing your account. You cannot deal with your own sins. "Only God can take away sins" (Mark 2:7). Jesus is "The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" It's not you! (John 1:29).
How did God deal with your debt?
Did he overlook it? He could have. He could have burned the statement. He could have ignored your bounced cheques. But would a holy God do that? Could a holy God do that? No. Else He wouldn't be holy. Besides, is that how we want God to run His world--ignoring our sin and thereby endorsing our rebellion?
Did he punish you for your sins? Again, he could have. He could have crossed your name out of the book and wiped you off the face of the earth. But would a loving God do that? Could a loving God do that? He loves you with an everlasting love. Nothing can separate you from His love.
So what did he do? "God put the world square with Himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering the for giveness of sins...How, you say? In Christ. God put the wrong on Him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God." (2 Corinthians 5:19-21, MSG).
Don't miss what happened. He took your statement flowing with red ink and bad cheques and put His name at the top. He took His statement, which listed a million deposits and not one withdrawal, and put your name at the top. He assumed your debt. You assumed His fortune. And that's not all he did.
He also paid your penalty. If you are overdrawn at a bank, a fine must be paid. If you are overdrawn with God, a penalty must be paid as well. The fine at the bank is a hassle. But the penalty from God is hell. Jesus not only balanced your account, he paid your penalty. He took your place and paid the price for your sins, "He changed places with us and put Himself under that curse" (Galatians
That's what Christ did definitively; suffered because of others' sins. The Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all--was put to death and then made alive--to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18, MSG).
But he was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to Him, and we are healed because of His wounds. (Isaiah 53:5).
"With one sacrifice, Jesus made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Hebrews 10:14). No more sacrifice needs to be made. No more deposits are necessary. So complete was the payment that Jesus used a banking term to proclaim your salvation. "It is finished!" (John 19:30) Tetelestai was a financial term used to announce the final installment, the ultimate payment. He unloaded the whole heavenly vault of merit to pay for a lost world's shortfall.
Now, if the task is finished, is anything else required of you? Of course not. If the account is full, what more could you add? Even saying the phrase, "forgive our debts" does not earn grace. We repeat the words to remind us of the forgiveness we have, not to attain a forgiveness we need.
For some of you these thoughts about bounced cheques and Gods grace aren't new, but are they precious? Honestly, have you ever been given a gift which compares to God's grace? Finding this treasure of mercy makes the poorest beggar a prince. Missing this gift makes the wealthiest man a pauper.
Again, many of you knew that. I pray the reminder encourages you.
But for others, this is more than good news...it is new news. It's like a big roof that can shield you from the storms of guilt and shame. Beneath the covering of Christ, no accuser can touch you and no act can condemn you. "But is it big enough for me?" you ask. Well, it was a big enough shelter for one who denied Christ (Peter). One who mocked Christ (the thief the cross). One who persecuted Christ (Paul). Yes, it's big enough for you. Though you've spent a lifetime writing insufficient cheques, God has stamped these words on your statement: MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU.
Picture, if you will, a blank check. The amount of the check is "sufficient grace." The signer of the check is Jesus. The only blank line is for the payee. That part is for you. May I urge you to spend a few moments with your Saviour receiving this check? Reflect on the work of his grace. Bursting forth from the tomb shows that Jesus broke the bank for you - He paid it all. (adapted from The Great House of God by Max Lucado)