The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Easter Sunday 2015’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 4/5/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1Ixmhgp
This morning, we find ourselves in a position the Bible says, “…angels long to gaze into” (1 Peter 1:12). We find ourselves with a point of view that would have made Old Testament prophets and kings jealous (Lk 10:23-24). You and I are people who know the power of the Cross first-hand.
We know what it means to be completely immersed in sin, and then to have God bring us up out of it. Not even angels know the depth of God’s forgiveness quite like we do. We also know what it means to have God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us! Not even prophets and kings know how that feels. Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest prophet who ever lived (Lk 7:28); and then He said that you and I can hear from God better than he ever could have, because we have His Holy Spirit living in us!
This morning, we celebrate Jesus being raised from the dead. The Bible records that Jesus died on Good Friday. There was darkness over the whole land from 12-3pm; then, according to Luke, Jesus cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!” and breathed His last (Lk 23:46).
Jesus died so that we might live. He was put to death so that we could rise from Calvary and join God in Heaven for all eternity! Paul explained the Cross to the churches of Galatia like this:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. – Gal 3:13
When Jesus died on the Cross, our sin was imputed (ascribed or assigned) to Him. This has so many implications for us as believers today.
Jesus conquered every sickness and disease known to man with His death on the Cross. Isaiah explained that, “…by His stripes, we are healed” (Is 53:4). The Cross should give us the boldness to pray for complete release from the enemy’s devices – sin, sickness and death – knowing that God has already overcome every single one of them on the Cross!
Jesus took on all the pain and suffering we could ever have to bear. He took on the punishment we deserve as recompense for our sins. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23); but Jesus reached down, pulled us up from the depths of our sin, and clothed us in righteousness.
There is no sin so great that it can overshadow the finished work of the Cross. When we believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation of our souls, there is a divine exchange that takes place. God strips us of the punishment we deserve for our sins and shortcomings, and promotes us to a place of perfect righteousness: right standing with God.
When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, we inherit full confidence that when we die, we are heaven-bound! At the end of our lives, all of us will face judgment. God does not allow sin in His presence, yet each and every single one of us is a sinner. That puts us in a bit of a predicament, doesn’t it?
But when we trust in Jesus, the Bible says that we are hidden in Him (Col 3:1-4). For those of you who think you can try really hard to be good and earn your way into Heaven, I’ve got news for you. When you die, you’re not going to be compared to an axe-murdered, or Bernie Madoff (for New Yorkers, those are on the same level). You will be compared to the sinless, spotless Lamb: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. There is no way you will be able to stack up on your own; and it is for that reason that every man and woman needs to put his or her trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.
God put all the punishment we should have to face on His Son Jesus Christ. In one moment, Jesus took on the eternity of suffering we deserve:
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Cor 5:21
Jesus became sin and death. He became darkness, depression and loneliness. He became all these things so that He could conquer them once and for all: to break forth from the prison that Satan intended for you and I to be stuck in for all our days!
When we put our trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, we are heaven-bound. Romans 10:9 says that if you, “…confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in Your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
But did you know that Christianity is meant to be more than a hope in Heaven? Did you know that a relationship with Jesus Christ answers more questions than, “What happens to me when I die?” The death, burial and resurrection of God’s Only Son mean that we have eternal life, starting here and now!
So often as Christians, we rely on Jesus to secure our eternal future, and then go back to living as though that decision should have no impact on how we live our lives. We accept Him into our hearts, but don’t fully invite Him to finish the transformative work He’s started. We say “Yes and Amen” to the plans and promises He has for our souls, but not for the plans He has for our lives!
David said this about His relationship with God:
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. – Ps 27:13
We don’t have to wait until we get to Heaven to see God’s goodness! We can, and should, experience the fullness of His love here and now!
If you’re going through hell on earth, I want you to know that God has better for you. His will is for all of His children to experience Heaven here and now. A relationship with Jesus Christ has tangible benefits that should start at the moment you open your heart to Him.
Whenever you start a new job, your employer will sit down and outline your salary and benefits to you. You would never work at a company for many years, and then leave without taking your retirement assets with you. You would never get into an accident, and avoid using the insurance your employer has already paid for in full. We never forget about our benefits when it comes to earthly situations; but so often we forget about all the benefits God has promised us as His children!
David cautions us in Ps 103 to never forget God’s benefits:
Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. – Ps 103:1-5
There is a difference between religion and relationship. Religion lulls us into a false sense of security. Karl Marx called religion opium for the masses. When we rely on religion, our senses are dulled, and we become complacent. We ask other people to pray for us instead of praying for ourselves. We assume that we can never enjoy a relationship with God, but only dream about one.
But unlike religion, relationship makes us alive! When we discover relationship with God, our eyes are opened to the Resurrection life we are supposed to live in full view of the finished work of the Cross! Whereas religion feeds our addiction to avoidance of pain, relationship frees us from any and all addiction! The Cross is our invitation to know God as only Jesus could.
So how do we experience Heaven on earth starting right now? The answer might surprise you.
After the death of Jesus, we see Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus. The Sabbath started at 6pm; so Joseph knew he only had 3 hours to get Jesus’ body down from the Cross and give Him a proper burial. It was illegal to work on the Sabbath; violation of Jewish law relating to the Sabbath was an offense punishable by death. Joseph had work to do, and he had to move quickly:
Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.
And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. – Luke 23:50-56
I don’t believe that Jesus died on a Friday afternoon by accident. According to Jewish Law, Friday was the Day of Preparation: the Israelites would get ready for the Sabbath, which was a day of mandatory rest and cessation from all work.
If there was ever a time when the disciples should have panicked, this was it! Jesus, their future King and Savior, was dead! But they didn’t panic, because they didn’t have time.
Notice that not a single disciple prayed for Jesus to be raised from the dead. Jesus told them to, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead…[and] cast out demons” (Matt 10:8). But they forgot their training at the Cross, because they were in a hurry. They had to get home and rest, or else they would have been killed!
Joseph of Arimathea quickly asked Pilate for Jesus’ body, and buried Him. The women who had just watched Jesus die on the Cross watched as Joseph buried Him, and then went home. And then, they rested.
When we rest, Jesus rises. We find Heaven on earth when we rest in the finished work of the Cross. The Cross means that we rise when we die. It also means that we can rest while we live!
The finished work of the Cross is finished. It is done! Death has been defeated, and Jesus has conquered the grave! We don’t have to fight, struggle and toil to earn our inheritance. God has freely given salvation into our hand as a gift!
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”
And they remembered His words. – Lk 24:1-8
While the disciples rested, Jesus was rising. While the disciples were worshipping God on the Sabbath, Jesus was making copies of the keys to the Kingdom so He could rise from the grave and pass them out to all His disciples!
Salvation is a gift:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Eph 2:8-9
There is nothing we can do to earn the grace of God. The definition of grace is unmerited favor; and unmerited means we can never earn it. All the disciples had to do to see the Risen Christ was believe in Him. The same standard holds for us today.
Rest in the finished work of the Cross. Trust that Jesus Is Who He says He Is. When we confess our faith in Him, and believe in Resurrection life, we are saved (Rom 10:9). Jesus has already paid the price for our salvation. All that’s left for us to do is enjoy it!
– by Pastor Mike White
© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
 Marx, K. 1976. Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Collected Works, v. 3. New York.