Apr 9 2023 Easter - VICTORY!
9th April 2023
We’re going to back up a little bit to Friday…
Matthew 27: 50 Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. 51 Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 52 And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. 53 (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.) 54 Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, "Truly this one was God's Son!"
When we were planning Good Friday – we took different characters – who may have been there and we thought creatively – what might they have been going through – and each one did a great job of thinking through what they might have gone through.
There would have been priests there making the evening offering – and they would have seen the curtain split from top to bottom – and that is why we are using this story to launch us into Easter.
The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is one event. Yes, there are three parts – but it is all about Redemption. It is a cosmic event. A cosmic battle that takes place through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
The battle took place on the cross and also in the grave and in the resurrection.
That is the victory of Christ!
The earthquake is not a natural event. Yes, rocks splitting – but the curtain being torn from top to bottom – it was orchestrated from heaven.
Now, if we jump to Sunday morning:
Matthew 28: 1 Now after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a severe earthquake (this is a theme! Was this a natural event?), for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven came and rolled away the stone and sat on it
All of these events point and symbolize a victory won by Christ on Easter Sunday. There were 3 or 4 enemies that were defeated – Sin/Death/Powers and rulers – and the Law!
We will look at how these enemies were defeated and what it means for us.
First – the curtain being torn – that curtain represented the barrier between God and humanity – this barrier because of Sin – and when the curtain was torn, sin was defeated – and the barrier was removed between us and God.
The second – the tombs opening – and people walking around. This represents the death of death! The triumph over the grave – Jesus triumphed over death - but also so did all these others – so the world would know that death was defeated.
Then we have the Roman centurion – this represents the rulers of this world – This one would have been loyal to Caesar, who was to be worshiped as the son of god. And for one of his royal commanders to say this one is the son of God (not Caesar) – shows the defeat of the rulers and the powers of this world.
On Thursday – I did a funeral – a friend of Tony who ran cross country – and it creates this unbelievable community.
Track meets are the worst – it runs for hours and you get to know the other parents. Dan’s wife contacted me – that he had brain cancer – and they wanted me to come talk about his faith. He wanted to know for sure, himself. And he passed this week – and Thursday we had the funeral. As I was working on the funeral message and this message – I realized they are the same message.
For those who believe – death is a victory – it is not for those who are left – it doesn’t feel like that, but for the one who goes on, this is not the end.
What does this mean?
We will look at some verses that are not in the gospels…
Colossians 2: 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
The power of sin is defeated by forgiveness. Through the cross and resurrection – that power that sin had over us is gone! Think of it as having paid off your mortgage! At that moment – the lender has no power over you! And that is what happened when Christ died – all of our debts were paid! I owe nothing to sin!
This victory – and now, we are kind of in the in-between – the war has been won over sin, but there are battles to still face. The key is remembering our forgiveness.
2 Peter 1: talks about the characters we have – if you lack this – living in your old way – it is because you have forgotten your purification from sin! And that is the reason we struggle – when we lose those battles today – it is because we forget that we have been forgiven.
14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
Here is the Law – the Law has no power over us – none! Not because it was an enemy – but because we no longer need to live under the Law because Jesus fulfilled it all for us! We have completely fulfilled all of the Law once and for all, so it has no power over us.
15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
So here, Paul tells us that He has defeated the powers and authorities – both human and spiritual.
Disarmed – literally, disrobed – and there is irony here, because Jesus was disrobed on the cross – but Jesus did not despise the shame – and what is actually happening – rather than Jesus being shamed – Jesus is disrobing the powers that put him there and He is putting them to shame!
1 Corinthians 15: 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
We are in that in-between – so we will die, but death for us is entrance into eternal life – entering our new creation.
In Revelation 19 – God will take death and hades and cast them into the lake of the fire! They are burned up. Along with the devil and his minions. That is when it will be finalized. The battle has already been won!
Hebrews 2: 14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
By His death, the power of the dark forces has been broken.
In Adam, we all died. Through Adam, death reigns, on this earth.
There is no descendant of Adam who could defeat death. If all you have is the DNA of Adam, you are unable to defeat death. The only way death could be defeated is if there was a new Adam – someone with Adam’s DNA – but another DNA – He shared in Adam’s DNA – since the children have flesh and blood – He too shared in their humanity – in order that he might destroy death.
This verse popped into my mind this morning
John 1:3 – All things came into being by Him… 4 in Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.
The only thing that could destroy death was life – and in Jesus was Life.
When Life – when we were dead in our sin – we did not have life that could escape death – but when Life entered the grave – the grave had no chance. There was no way the grave could stand before life.
The light shines in darkness and the darkness could not overcome it – it was swallowed up!
If you have the light – all the darkness is swallowed up.
In the same way – Death – we don’t want to skip from Friday to Sunday – because when He entered the tomb – He swallowed up death. And there is this theology of Jesus descending into Hades – defeating/destroying death. I won’t go into the theology – but it is there…
1 Corinthians 15: 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." 55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
He lists all these things He has defeated!
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we live in the victory? First – we need to bring the gospel into our fears – our fear of death – as we have been talking about in Romans – this entire story – nothing can separate us from the love of Christ – neither death, nor angels, or principalities or powers.
We live this victory by understanding we live in His love.
Second – remember you are forgiven!
That is why we are urged to do communion – to remember that He died for our sins on the cross.
Third – our battle is not against flesh and blood – but against powers that have been destroyed. We have defeat because we fight the wrong enemy – ourselves and others!
And going back to Romans – we must participate in our baptism – we died with Christ – we are raised with Christ – we are new Creatures – something different than what you were.
Finally – we need to partner in the work that Jesus is doing – to make His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Now to the Easter story:
Matthew 28:1 Now after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a severe earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were shaken and became like dead men because they were so afraid of him.
First – the stone was not rolled away so that Jesus could get out! That is really important! Yes, it is funny – but that is not why it is important.
Then we have another irony – why were the guards there? To guard a dead body – but when the angel came – who became like dead men? The guards.
5 But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has been raised, just as he said. Come and see the place where he was lying.
Come on in! Look! See! Then he says this:
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead. He is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there.' Listen, I have told you!"
We participate in the victory of Easter in what some people call Christus Victor – when we are witnesses to the resurrection. Matthew’s entire story is built around being a witness to the resurrection. Then the soldiers provide a false witness – and the disciples are called to be witnesses.
To participate in victory – we must participate in the gospel. It is more than hearing the gospel – it means living the gospel. The gospel is our life.
As a pastor – when it comes to the gospel – I have a tremendous advantage – and a tremendous disadvantage – for some, the moment they find out what you do for a living… they are gone. But there are other things that give you an advantage. For Dan – we talked. I never said – let me share this with you. Then he was going to get married. I don’t know any pastors, Mike, could you do our wedding?
YOU know – God – Cindy and I tried to live as Christians to the families. I’m sure we didn’t do it as good as we ought – but we tried.
All these Cross country and track families were at the wedding -and I always have a little gospel message in the wedding. Then 6 weeks ago, I had that opportunity. And Thursday night – a hundred people at his funeral.
We live the gospel – and it might be 20 years – and God opens up an opportunity. You might say – you should have done it faster, but God is the timing One here…
8 So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 But Jesus met them, saying, "Greetings!" They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there."
Simple message. Tell the people – He is alive! That is our message. That is all! How often… I think, when you look at what is going on in the Easter story and then in the book of Acts – and we talked about – in the gospel presentations in the book of Acts – the focus was on the resurrection
We tend to focus on going to heaven. That is okay – but I think there is something about Jesus being alive – being raised from the dead – that really matters in our presentation of the gospel.
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.