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Easter Sunday Sermon 2015


Easter Sunday Sermon 2015


Just after Palm Sunday, the Pharisees went into a general state of dissonance over the statement from Caiaphas, the high priest that year having said, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look the world has gone after Him!” Of course, this was an intended overstatement, but it was a fairly accurate and ironic assessment of what God would soon be doing in the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Caiaphas meant it as an expression of exasperation for the Pharisees not being able to curb the progress of this Jesus fellow, or kill Him for continuing to be a nuisance who threaten their personal careers.

Here we see a momentary shift in John’s account of Jesus’ mission to the Jews, to an off-handed mention of the Greeks. The term he actually used was {Greek word for hellienes ( Helleine,s) referring not just to people from Greece, but to all non-Jews and Gentiles, those generally thought of as “pagans”. So the sarcastic irony is a little more obvious when we hear him say, “Look, even all the pagans are going after Him( this Rabbi)!”

The thing is, some of the God-fearers who went up to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover Feast were in fact non-Jews. John tells us that before Jesus can reach out to the Gentiles in a significant way, He must first die and be resurrected, because the Son of Man must first be glorified. Jesus explains this idea by repeating an earlier statement (10.16), “I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold,” referring to the Gentiles. Also recall the prophesy of Caiaphas who said that Jesus would die, not only for the nation( national Israel), but also for the children of God to be gathered into one place from those who are scattered abroad. The true meaning of God’s Word on this is that Jesus was to die in order that the other children of God from places abroad might be brought to “one in Christ” along with the Jews who are also “in Christ”.

While Caiaphas was blind to the fact that “the children of God”, actually referred to those who would be heaven-born in Christ, his perverted understanding as well as that of the Jews in general, was that “the children of God” must only be Jews, and those scattered were the Jews dispersed among all foreign nations. The Zionist Jews of today are still waiting for the Messiah to appear and also believe that it is necessary for them to re-establish the Third Temple upon the Mount, and re-institute the sacrificial system before the Messiah will come. Little do they see; and what little they do see they chose to distort to conform to their own fleshly pre-conceptions as to what God has said. When He returns the next time, it will be to judge all for their persistent and self-willed blindness.

Yet is was true the Greeks( the non-Jews) were beginning at this time to seek out Jesus, desiring to see Him, just as many Jews were coming to faith in Christ. Religiously inclined Gentiles were relatively few in number and were called “God-fearers”.

They were the ones for whose benefit Jesus had cleared the merchants from the area of the temple that was legally reserved for them, as a place where they might gather and worship as near as possible without “defiling” the holy place.

So, some of the Gentiles representative of a larger group of God-fearers came to Philip, and asked him, “Sir we wish to see Jesus”. The word “wish” (qe,lw) is an expression of an inwardly motivated desire of one’s will. This was not the kind of thing Jews would have been used to in that day; that is, a significant number of Gentiles seeking after the Messiah. So Philip deferred to Andrew, but nether one knew what they should do, so they both informed Jesus about this unusual matter.

This is where Jesus makes the implication that the Holy Spirit would come and draw even the Gentiles to faith; but this is to happen after the Son of Man is glorified; that is, He dies in the same sense that a grain of wheat dies and falls into the earth in order to bear much fruit. After this, Christ will manifest Himself to people from among the world by the Holy Spirit, who will find themselves strangely loving the world less and seeking God more. That would turn the world upside-down, so that where many would no longer delight in serving the life of the world and hating God; but instead, actually want to live a life of fullness which honors God, and hate the emptiness of the world system. This radical change would only come about when the Holy Spirit is released by the Lord into the world.

Jesus reveals the manner by which this is to be accomplished; that is, He will triumph over Satan by His atoning death and resurrection. In order for this to come about, Jesus says explicitly that He must be “lifted up”, just as He had spoken to Nicodemus about earlier, being the manner by which the death and the serpents in the wilderness had been overcome in the sojourn of Israel during the time of Moses.

The Jews, having seen so much and believed so little, those who still did not believe would be culpable for refusing to let the miracles help them to believe. Rather than this idea being a problem, it serves to confirms the sovereignty of God, that God must always first give the ability to believe, otherwise even the most learned and those most naturally likely among men to understand God, do not have the spiritual ability of their own to believe. If you don’t believe Christ in a saving way, confess your unbelief as the culpable sin that it is, ask for His forgiveness and plead to Him that He might enable you to believe. It’s not about you at all, or what you can or cannot do on your own, it’s about what He is willing to empower you to do,…or not.

However, there were many even among the religious leaders who believed in Him, but for the fear of the Pharisees, they would not confess their belief aloud. Since they loved the acceptance and glory of men more than the glory that comes from God, they remained silent, for fear of being excommunicated from the synagogue.

Thomas wasn’t the only one inclined to doubt. At one point Philip chimes in, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough to convince us.” Jesus replied, “Philip, where have you been all this time? Can you still not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?

When I have spoken to you it is the Father who dwells in me and does His will and His works.

We then learn from Jesus how this idea of “God within” translates to the true believers. Jesus tells the believers how this will work. When I have gone I will ask the Father, and He will give you another, a divine Helper, to be with you forever; to help you to love Me and to demonstrate your love by keeping My commandments.

He is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot receive Him, because the world neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, because He dwells with you and will be in you.

In that way, when I leave, you will not be deserted as orphans. As the Holy Spirit, I will come to you. Because I live, you also will live. And in the day when I come to dwell in you, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.”

Then the other Judas asks a good question. “Lord, how is it that you will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” In effect, Jesus says that “this is the way the Father wants it to be”. Those in whom I will dwell will love Me and want to keep My commandments, the Word of God; the Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. But as for those of the world who do not believe My words, those who do not hear the Words of the Father and do not belong to Him, I will not manifest Myself to them.

Right where our Mary left off Friday, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a secret disciple of Christ, for fear of the Jews, knowing Pilate personally, asked for and received permission to take away the body of Jesus from off the cross. Along with Nicodemus (we suspect he was an un-confessed disciple as well), they came by night bringing an one-hundred pound mixture of myrrh and aloes, along with strips of linen cloth, to bind the body of Jesus with spices.

Listen carefully to this description and tell me if you get the same interpretation as I.

John 19.41
“Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.
42 So they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.”

So, while it was customary to prepare a body during burial by wrapping layers of spice- laden strips of linen against the flesh of the deceased, it was not customary to do this work during the hours of the Sabbath; in fact, this was a special Sabbath because it was the Sabbath of Passover week. We have already learned from John that Joseph and Nicodemus came onto the tomb scene during the night, which was technically the Sabbath.

So the event of placing Jesus’ body in the tomb occurred during the daylight hours of Friday. That means that these two covert disciples, both of significant religious and social status, would have been engaged in an illegal covert operation according to pious Judaism. But because they were driven by respect for Jesus, and obviously cared deeply enough about Him, they took the risk to do this work of servitude. I have one word for that. “Admirable!” I really respect those two men for doing what they did.

So, when John picks up in Chapter 20, he refers to “the first day of the week”, which would have been Sunday. John’s language already reflects a particularization of Sunday as a commemoration and celebration of the Resurrection event. That means we worship mainly on the first day of the week. I don’t know if we all actually think in those same terms. The world, whether realizing it or not, demonstrates some measure of respect for God as the Creator by thinking of Sunday as the “last” day of the week, just as God did at the original creation of all things. As Christian believers, we should be aware that Sunday is a commemoration, celebration, and worship time in the main with respect to the re-creation of God’s Kingdom in Christ. From that Day of Resurrection, we think of it as a day of preparation for the challenges that face us in the week ahead. For us it becomes, the “first” day of the week. These are two totally different ways of thinking which reflect how we view and organize, as we live out our time upon the earth.

When Mary of Magdala went to the tomb, finding the stone rolled back and the tomb empty, she ran to report to Peter that “we do not know where they have laid Him”; the “we” implies that there were other women with her as well, John tells us that at that time it was actually still dark, therefore before dawn, and technically still on the Sabbath.

When Peter and John arrived to check it out, we catch a brief glimpse of mild competition between John and Peter. John indicates that it was he who outran Peter getting there first. But, probably out of deference to the status of Simon Peter among the twelve, while John at first just looked into the tomb, Peter went into the tomb first. There they found only the linen cloths and the face cloth which had been on Jesus’ head.

There is another subtle story hidden between the lines. Listen to this. “Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scriptures, that He must first raise from the dead.” You tell me what these words imply? John says, “Then the disciples went back to their homes.”

Who was at Peter’s home when he returned there; and who was at John’s home when he returned? Jesus’ mother was there, because Jesus assigned her to his care, meaning that she would have come to live under his roof. From the above phrasing, in all likelihood John brought the good news to her of Jesus’ resurrection.

The guys take off, leaving Mary and the other women there alone. “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and the other at the feet.” What thought just popped into your mind?

“They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have taken Him”. Then as she turned about she saw Jesus standing there but paid little attention to who He was, probably not even looking directly at Him, so Jesus says to her the same words spoken by the angels, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Then in a gentle manner, He draws her out, “Whom are you seeking?” She responds to Him as she would to a gardener, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away”.

The most interesting thing to me about this particular encounter is that Mary has no real idea of what is going on until the Lord speaks one word to her; her name. He said “Mary”, and she knew His voice.

Recall Jesus’ words:

“I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14).

“To him the doorkeeper( the Holy Spirit) opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3.)

So, the official good news comes through a woman who was truly concerned about Jesus enough to stick around and wait to deal with the matter at hand, instead of impetuously running off unthinking with the feet or unthinking with the mouth. I respect that woman too.

That whole day passes by, and that evening, the disciples had locked themselves away in someone’s house for fear of being found by the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them.

How did He enter? Either someone opened the locked door to Him, the door opened amazingly on its own to Him, or He miraculously passed through the walls of the house.

Let it be according to your faith. So, there He was, saying, “Peace be with you.”

Then He showed His hands and His side to verify His having a physical resurrected body.

Many denominations practice this as “the passing of the peace” during Easter. But Jesus repeated this greeting to the disciples in addition to this charge: “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

The final thought will relate again to Peter and John. Before Christ ascended back into heaven He said to Peter “When you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” This, John tells us is what Jesus said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God. It is a generally accepted fact that the reference to “you will stretch out your hands” was to convey the notion of crucifixion.

Then when Jesus turned to see John, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said, “If it is My will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” “You follow Me?” John obviously understood the message that Jesus was saying. Even though an incorrect interpretation of Jesus’ words was spread abroad that Jesus was saying that John was not to die, John understood the intended meaning as, “If it is Jesus will that he remain until I come, it is none of your business!”

Because of what Jesus did in our behalf; His life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, with the help of His Holy Spirit, we should never be jealous, envious, or covetous of one another.

Because the Lord is sovereign, it is none our personal business to question what the Lord wants to do for any of His own. Each of us is to be concerned with following Him individually, and be willing to follow Him wherever His lead takes us.


Copyright April, 2015

Rev. Jim Craig

All Rights Reserved

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