A major purpose of evangelism for Christian churches is to give people the assurance of their life after death. In fact, one evangelism approach is to ask a person, if they died today do they know where they would be? But faith in Christ, and the whole meaning of the Easter resurrection, is about life, life not only after we die, but life now and for each day on earth. Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”(John 10:10) Faith in Christ is about a relationship with Almighty God, the author and creator of all things. God’s relationship with mankind is explained in Holy Scripture, the Bible. And the Bible is a book that has Jesus Christ at the center of both Testaments. Faith in Christ helps us to begin to make sense of the chaos we see around is in the world, and in ourselves. Faith in Christ gives us hope that there is real meaning to life, and that that meaning will finally be worked out for all mankind. The Church has a great truth to offer in its efforts to reach the world. Actually, it s the greatest truth possible, full and fruitful life in fellowship with our Creator, a life that has no end.
Yesterday we began our worship service with the shout, “Jesus is Alive! Hallelujah!” And then immediately began with our first hymn Jesus Christ is Risen Today. It is always a joyous opening to our Easter worship, but what does it mean? What does it mean to say that the Lord Jesus Christ is alive? I can’t see Him today. I can’t put my finger into the nail print in His hand as He invited Thomas to do. Even so, because that grave in Jerusalem was opened, of which there is ample historical evidence; because there were numerous eye witness account of meeting Jesus after His resurrection; and because all of the Apostles, except for John, died a martyrs death testifying to the truth of the resurrection, the fact of Jesus being alive is undeniable. Further, it testifies to the truth that there is a very real realm of life beyond what we see with our eyes and apprehend with our five senses. Jesus Christ is alive. Through faith in Him we are even now a part of that real realm of life called God’s Kingdom. This is not a hope only for our time of death, but a truth in which we daily walk. Jesus Christ is alive! Hallelujah!
What do we call good? Well, lots of things, I suppose. A child doing well in school or in some sport; a gift received that is really wanted and needed; a day of perfect weather. We would also say that a breakthrough cure for some serious disease is certainly good. How about a day that began with the beating of an innocent man, and a forced march attended by mocking and whip lash? We see nothing good in that. A day marked by a horrible execution, and most painful death we certainly would not call good. But we do. This is the day called Good Friday. Of course the abuse, mocking, and torturous death are not good in themselves. But God has taken this death and turned it to good for all mankind. In this death, the sacrifice of God’s only begotten son, the sins of all mankind are atoned for. In Jesus Christ all have forgiveness and new life. The amazing truth of this day is that God has taken all that is most horrible and used it to bring the best good for all people. That is why this is GOOD Friday. There is no greater breakthrough cure than that which provides cleansing from sin for all people.
The day started out like any other, but the Lord knew it would not be a “normal” day. Yes, He would do some teaching at the Temple, but Passover was approaching, the last one He would share with the twelve. He had instructed them to prepare a place for their meal, and they would eat together. He knew His betrayer would act. He knew His disciples would scatter. He knew well the prophecy of Isaiah. “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”(53:7) He had meditated on the verse that said, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.”(vs.5) He knew that was the task ahead of Him, but He didn’t full know the depth of the anguish He must endure, the hell of separation from His Father. He would pray in that anguish for three hours, “If it be possible let this cup pass from me.” Yielding to His Father will He would proceed towards the cross. All of the events of these days are very familiar to us, but we must not let their familiarity decrease the magnitude, the awesome wonder of what Jesus did for each of us. For in His prayer, “Father, not my will but Thine be done”, He was doing it for each one of us.
Jesus came to the Temple court early in the morning. People were already expecting that He might come and a few had gathered to hear Him. The group swelled quickly. They seemed to hang on His every word. Though they didn’t understand everything He said, there was something compelling about this teacher. “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.” No one ever spoke like this before. “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” Jesus looked at these people surrounding Him. He loved them. He longed that their hearts would be opened even more to the truth of God. They were the reason He had come. They were the reason He had to endure all that faced Him in this week. Even some of the Jewish leaders were listening. He knew that they heard and even believed. Yet they were to afraid for their position to declare their belief. Oh the doubts, fears, and anxieties that hold people back from the strength and peace God seeks to give. If only they could truly hear, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” But these days would play themselves out, and Jesus would accomplish all that the Father sent Him to do. And it would be for their good. (John 12:44-46 & Matthew 11:28)
When a rocket is about to be launched there is a count down, 10…9…8… When there is an exam coming there are just 3…2…1…days left to study. That relentless pursuit time weighs heavily as the day approaches. Such were these days for our Lord. He knew clearly what was ahead. The prophets had foretold the events of this week hundreds of years before, but that was hundreds of years. Now it is down to days and hours until Jesus faces His trial. He still went to the Temple to teach the people. He still healed a few, but the Jewish leaders looked on, like vultures waiting for the kill. All of this rested on Jesus’ mind as He spent these days. He found some comfort with the company of His disciple, but the task that lay ahead weighed on Him every moment. He would be the unblemished Lamb of God who shed His blood for the sins of all mankind. There was no other way. He alone, God in human flesh, the perfect man, would make the atoning sacrifice. Tuesday…Wednesday…Thursday…until the cross.