Tag Archives: resurrection

Resurrection! – John 20:1-9

Resurrection! – John 20:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 16, 2017

We are at a spiritual crossroads in history. We live in a day and age whereby folks do not use critical thinking but rely on their instinct or passion. This is dangerous because we are then motivated to think that what we feel is more important than facts. Or worse, that we can distinguish what is right or wrong in life simply by how it feels to us. From personal relationships, what we believe in, or to whom we vote for is a matter of feelings and not what we truly know. We end up hurt and confused when our emotions have steered us in the wrong direction.

The resurrection is not a matter of emotion or personal feelings. It is a historical physical fact. This is why later when Mary is crying by the empty tomb and the angel rebukes her by reminding her of the facts, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'” (Luke 24:5-7 NIV) And later here in John the angel bluntly reminds Mary to stop relying on her emotions by asking her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (v. 13) As believers or seekers we must come to the realization of the fact of the resurrection because if we do not we are still standing outside of an empty tomb that has no effect on our lives. Therefore this morning let’s look anew at the resurrection.

READ: John 20:1-9

When people die and you put them in their graves, contrary to any TV fiction, they do not get up and walk around! The dead stay dead! Except in the truth of the resurrection! In light of what occurred we must first ask…

I. Why is the tomb empty?! (Vv. 1-2)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

1. Now there are some pretty nifty sleight of hand arguments concerning which Mary was where at what time. However, I believe we have to take each one as they were written realizing that the authors were remembering the event as it was told to them or as they saw it for themselves. John relates what he remembers that “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” It was early Sunday morning, probably right before the sun rose and the sky was still dark but the dawn of the new day could be seen. We discover that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb first. We know from other accounts that she was with other women who wanted to finish the burial preparation of Jesus’ body. Her gratitude and devotion to Jesus came from her deliverance from bondage to Satan. She had been an observer at the cross and now was one of the first folks at the empty tomb. She saw Jesus die and evidently knew where he was buried; now the heavy stone had been removed from the entrance! Mary does the first thing she could think of, “So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!'” Mary knew the tomb was empty but did not realize why and could only think of the logical answer, someone had taken Jesus’ body! Why is the tomb empty?

EXAMPLE: Go into any grocery store and Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, or WinCo and you would find aisles of Easter eggs, cards, candy, baskets, bunnies, chicks, Peeps, and chocolate this or that. Yet you would not find the one thing that is most important part to all of Easter: the empty tomb! Easter is not found in bunnies, eggs, baskets, or Peeps. It is discovered in the fact that several thousand years ago folks found the tomb where Jesus’ dead body was laid empty. It therefore begs the question for us every Easter, “Why is the tomb empty?” Paul knew full well that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead”! (1 Corinthians 15:17-20 NIV) The tomb is empty!

Hindsight is always 20/20 but when you’re in the thick of it one’s vision can become very myopic indeed. As the facts of the empty tomb just keep coming and what is revealed makes one wonder…

II. Where is the body? (Vv. 3-7)

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

1. Whether Peter is bewildered or he simply suspects what has happened is not at first clear, but he does the one thing most of us would do, “Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.” Peter and John “Both were running.” Both understood the importance of the news Mary had brought them and as they head to the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid to rest, the younger John, “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” Being younger perhaps John was fearful of defilement of entering a tomb or perhaps he was afraid of what he may or may not find inside. John therefore, “bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.” Whatever the reason, “Simon Peter, who was behind him,” and being older and more impulsive “arrived and went into the tomb” while the hesitant John waited outside in bewilderment. Peter also “saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.” In fact we know this is an eyewitness account because of the detail described by John. Peter saw exactly how the burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head was lain aside and how neatly “The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.” The burial cloths were there but the fact remained, where is the body?

EXAMPLE: Where is the body? It was a natural question to ask. The Radio Bible Class relates, “No element in the Easter story is more troubling to unbelievers than the report that the followers of Jesus found the tomb empty that Sunday morning. Some simply deny it, saying that the women and others went to the wrong tomb. Others think that Jesus was not quite dead when He was buried, and somehow He revived and got out of the tomb—even though the Roman soldiers had declared Him dead (John 19:33), an eyewitness saw blood and water flow from the pierced body (v.34), and His body had been wrapped tightly with strips of linen containing 100 pounds of spices (v.39). In the first century, even Christ’s enemies agreed that He had died and the tomb was empty. They bribed the guards to say that the disciples stole His body (Matthew 28:11-15). Jesus rose from the grave in a real body, and that means everything to us. When a Christian friend or loved one dies, we can be confident that we will meet again. The body may turn to dust, but God will not forget it. It will be transformed into a body perfectly designed for heaven (1 Corinthians 15:35-50). This is not wishful thinking. It is an expectation based on solid evidence.” Where is the body? Happily it was not there!

Courage is often found in the strangest of circumstances. Here we discover John found his and…

III. Believed! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

1. John in succinct fashion relates how he had gotten to the tomb first but was either too fearful or awestruck to go inside. What he had seen from the outside of the tomb was curious and so he just had to go in as well. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside.” What he saw inside of that tomb changed his life forever. John had run to the tomb out of curiosity, concern, or fear that someone had stolen Jesus’ body. John had run to the tomb merely as a disciple of an itinerant rabbi, but came away a true follower of Jesus. Believing there was a Jesus and believing in Jesus are two different things. John had loved Jesus’ teaching, he had loved and followed Jesus the man, but now he had to believe in Jesus the Messiah. And not just in a Messianic-type person but in the actual resurrection of Jesus the Messiah! The Living God! The first born! The King of kings and Lord of lords! Jesus was no longer just a good teacher; he was John’s Master and Savior. However, John’s personal notation tells us that both he and Peter “still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” But now they did! They believed!

EXAMPLE: When the dark day of Jesus’ crucifixion drew to a close, it seemed that the most wonderful of all lives had come to an end. For a few brief years, Christ had astounded the crowds and His followers with the wisdom of His teaching and the wonder of His miracles. But Jesus chose not to save Himself from the cross, and now His life was over. It seemed that nothing more could be expected of Him. Hope returned, however, on that first resurrection morning. A painting by Eugene Burnand portrays Peter and John running to the tomb. Shortly after dawn, Mary Magdalene had told them that she and her friends had found the tomb empty. In Burnand’s painting, the faces of Peter and John show contending emotions of anguish and relief, of sorrow and surprise, of despair and wonder as they race toward the tomb. Their gaze is eagerly fixed forward, turning the viewer’s attention to the sepulcher. What did they find? An empty tomb—the Savior was alive! Christ still lives. But many of us go from day to day as if He were still in the grave. How much better to look beyond the empty tomb to the One who can fill our lives with the power of His resurrection!  (RBC, Living With Expectation, March 27, 2004) They believed!

Conclusion:

Why is the tomb empty? Where is the body? They believed!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Religion, Sermon Notes

Do you share the Good News? – Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20

Do you share the Good News? – Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 20, 2014 AM

“What a wonderful Easter service we had this morning,” gushed a mother as she and her family drove home. “So, what do we do about Christ’s resurrection,” asked her older daughter. “What do you mean, honey?” “I mean Christ’s resurrection supposedly changed everything. We say it changed our life. It seems to me we should be doing more to indicate Christ has made a difference in us and He wants to make a difference in others.” It made the mother realize that she needed to share the good news with others joyfully and more consistently. Let me ask you, “How does your celebration of Easter influence your daily service for Christ?”

As Sunday morning dawned, two women went to visit the tomb of Jesus. Suddenly an earthquake occurred, and an angel of God rolled back and sat on the stone at the entrance of the tomb. He told the women not to fear because Jesus had been raised from the dead. The angel then instructed the women to tell Jesus’ disciples He was alive and would meet them in Galilee. Later, the disciples met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. Jesus told them all authority had been given to Him and instructed them to share the good news with the world. Their resurrection experience changed their lives. It caused them to desire to share the Good News, let’s see why…

READ: Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20

Our resurrection experience should cause us to…

I. Share the Good News Eagerly! (Matthew 28:1-7)

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Sunday, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:1-7 NIV)

1. After Jesus died, He was buried in a new tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57-60). Visiting the tomb on Saturday was forbidden by Jewish regulations; but as soon as Sunday began to dawn, two women went to the tomb. All of the Gospels mention Mary Magdalene as being among the women who visited Jesus’ tomb and saw the resurrected Jesus. The other Mary may refer to the mother of James and Joseph. Luke relates that the women came to anoint Jesus’ body (Luke 24:1) and perhaps to mourn and pray at the site of Jesus’ burial. When Jesus died, an earthquake had shaken Jerusalem (Matt. 27:51). As the women arrived at the tomb, another earthquake shook the area. In the Old Testament, earthquakes sometimes indicated God’s presence. Through this earthquake and the descending angel, God announced His presence to the women at the tomb. The angel rolled back the stone that sealed the tomb, not to let Jesus out but so the women could enter and confirm the tomb lay empty. Jesus had already risen from the dead. The angel simply assured the women of Jesus’ victory over death. The angel then triumphantly sat on the stone. Humans had rolled the stone before the tomb’s entrance to seal the crucified Jesus inside forever, but neither stone nor death could contain Him. God raised His Son Jesus from the dead. Victory and joy replaced death and loss. The angel’s appearance reflected God’s glory. In fact, “The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” How ironic the soldiers assigned to guard a dead body became like dead men themselves while the corpse they guarded was raised to life! The angel tells the women, however, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.” The angel brought news of great joy, not of condemnation. The angel told the women they would not find Jesus in the tomb because He had been resurrected from the dead. The angel encourages them with, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay!” The invitation indicated the women had the correct location. Then they are instructed to go tell the disciples Jesus had been raised from the dead and would meet them in Galilee as He had said. They were instructed to share the Good News eagerly!
EXAMPLE: We all have experienced events in life so wonderful and joyous we could not wait to share them with everyone we saw. We eagerly knocked on doors, made telephone calls, and sent e-mails. We need to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection in the same way with others, knowing their lives can be changed by Jesus even as ours have. Why is the good news of Christ’s resurrection exciting to you? We discover that the women were instructed to share the Good News eagerly!

Our resurrection experience should cause us to…

II. Share the Good News Joyfully! (Matthew 28:8-10)

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:8-10 NIV)

1. Although the angel invited the women to enter the tomb and see for themselves Jesus was not there and Matthew does not indicate whether they did. Instead, he specified they obeyed the angel’s command to go quickly and tell Jesus’ disciples. The angel’s words had not completely removed their fear, but his announcement of Jesus’ resurrection had given them a joy they had not possessed and enabled them to obey his instructions. As the women ran to tell the disciples the good news, Jesus suddenly met and greeted them. The word Greetings translates a Greek word that served as a typical greeting in Jesus’ day, much like our greeting hello. Yet the Greek word can also mean rejoice. Both meanings fit the account beautifully. Jesus greeted the women as devoted friends but also encouraged them to rejoice at His resurrection. The women immediately recognized Jesus and rushed to Him. The statement they clasped His feet emphasizes Jesus’ physical body. As the women grasped Jesus’ feet, their hands did not pass through a ghostly apparition. Their hands touched flesh supported by underlying muscle tissue and bone. Jesus rose from the dead not as a disembodied ghost but as a person with a physical body people could touch and hold. Seeing Jesus led the women to worship Him. Through Elijah and Elisha God had raised individuals to life. In each case they were an instrument for God. Jesus also had raised the dead during His ministry. Yet no human stood before Jesus’ tomb and called Him forth. God raised His Son to life, indicating Jesus’ Deity and authority. Earlier the women would have reserved worship only for God; but here they worshiped Jesus, whose resurrection clearly indicated His oneness with God. Jesus repeated the angel’s instructions but chose the significant word brothers to describe His disciples. In His greatest hour of crisis just a few days earlier, the disciples had abandoned Jesus. One had denied Him. Rather than condemn them for their lack of faith, Jesus forgave them, referring to them as part of His family. Jesus invited them and invites us to join Him in the work of sharing the Good News joyfully!
EXAMPLE: How can you help others to experience the joy you have as a Christian? The disciples had failed and would fail again just as we fail to be the people God calls us to be. Yet Jesus stated, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50 NIV), inviting us to work with Him in helping individuals find faith and life in Him. Despite the women’s fear, joy overwhelmed them when they saw the risen Jesus. We share our faith out of joy, not out of guilt. Through our confession of faith Jesus has saved us and has made us part of His family! God’s great gifts to us through Christ lead us to share the good news of Christ’s resurrection so others might experience the joy we know. We should share the Good News joyfully!

Our resurrection experience should cause us to…

III. Share the Good News Everywhere! (Matt. 28:16-20)

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 NIV)

1. By mentioning the eleven disciples Matthew reminds us of Judas’s betrayal and suicide. Despite Judas’s tragic rejection of Jesus, the remaining disciples had a task to do (just as we do). Matthew did not record the specific mountain, they knew where to go. Just as mountains like Sinai served as sacred meeting places between God and humans in the Old Testament, so Jesus used mountains as places where people could encounter Him. It provided a fitting place for Jesus’ final instructions. When the disciples saw Jesus, they worshiped Him just as the women had done earlier; but some doubted. It refers not to unbelief but to hesitation or uncertainty. Why would some of the disciples have been hesitant or uncertain at seeing Jesus? Perhaps Jesus looked somewhat different (as He had at His transfiguration), and the disciples at first could not positively identify Him. Perhaps they feared Jesus’ response to their failure to stand with Him. Perhaps the reports of Jesus’ resurrection and then His appearance overwhelmed them since they did not expect to see Him again. We may suppose if we had been there, we would have been among the believers rather than the doubters. Yet we need to admit we too sometimes hesitate and doubt Jesus. Events sometimes overwhelm us, and the challenge of following Christ can prove daunting. Jesus did not berate them but invited them to join the work of spreading the kingdom of God. Jesus tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus’ resurrection validated His teachings and miracles, Jesus is the Messiah! “Therefore,” Jesus tells them, “go and make disciples of all nations”! The Greek term make disciples serves as the main verb of verses 19-20. Go and baptizing, as well as teaching are participles and subordinate to make disciples. Jesus commands followers through the ages to make disciples, which involves going, baptizing, and teaching! We need to go as Jesus commanded us to help others become maturing, committed disciples. We do not do it on our own, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus’ authority and presence empowered His disciples then and still empowers us today! Jesus’ first disciples did not evangelize and disciple based on their strength. Following Christ requires us to share the Good News everywhere!
EXAMPLE: Matthew began his Gospel declaring Jesus as the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, the prophecy for a virgin to bear a son named Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Matthew ended his Gospel assuring us Jesus will be with us until His return at the end of history. The resurrection of Jesus continues to fill us with joy and hope today. Jesus’ resurrection also requires a response from us. We need to let others know salvation and new life are possible through Him. Let me ask you, “How can you participate in making disciples in your community and around the world?” Easter is a wonderful time for Christians to recommit themselves to share the Good News everywhere!

Conclusion:
We need to eagerly share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
We need to joyfully share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
We can share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with all peoples.

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sermon Notes

Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 17, 2014

Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:8 NIV)

I was just wondering how many of you have had one of those moments whereby you were in the midst of doing your own thing, going your own way, and all of a sudden remember the words of God? You know what I mean; you were so focused on what you were doing, like carrying spices to a dead man’s grave, that you have forgotten all that he taught you for three years! Perhaps you do that even today. You have Christ in your life; you even read his word once in a while when the moment strikes you. You have even posted those pithy little spiritual magnet moments on Facebook, but there you are in the midst of your thing and you forgot his words. You forgot what he has been trying to teach you for the past how many years now? You are just looking at the dusty path in front of you, weeping over what you are experiencing, and you are carrying these heavy spices to your friend’s grave. What? Who moved the stone? Who would do such a thing? Are we at the right place? Doggone those rotten Roman soldiers, can’t they leave well enough alone! See! There’s no body! I am really mad now… oh my goodness! You know what, Dear child of the King, we can become so focused on what we think is true for our lives that we can miss what God is trying to teach us in the moment of our greatest need. The women at the empty tomb so long ago almost did the same thing. Now you may not have a shining messenger of the Lord sitting on the stone to direct you, but you do have his very words and teaching to do so. And, remember, we are promised by him that our faith is even greater than those who actually experienced and saw him when we rely on the word he has already given us! So, have you remembered his words for today? Makes one wonder…

Leave a comment

Filed under Just Wondering

Recognize God’s Ways! – Isaiah 53:1-12

Recognize God’s Ways! – Isaiah 53:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 23, 2014 AM

God often works in ways contrary to human thinking to accomplish His glorious purposes. Bill, a college student, spoke to the church’s senior citizens’ group about his summer missions experience. He had been in Cambodia helping to create a sanitary water supply for a community. He told about the backbreaking work; the wonderful, generous people he met; and his call to return as a missionary to the area. After Brandon left, some complained he had not dressed very nicely. Others wished he had gotten a haircut or at least combed his hair. Still others pointed out he had made three grammatical mistakes and they wished students would pay more attention to speaking skills.

What factors sometimes cause you not to recognize God’s ways of working? As we look at the work of the Suffering Servant that Isaiah speaks about, let’s focus on ways we can recognize God’s ways of working in our life. Isaiah described God’s Servant as called to restore the people of Israel to their homeland and to speak His salvation to all the earth. The Servant’s faithful obedience would stand in stark contrast to the people’s disobedience and lack of faith. Israel and Judah fully experienced God’s punishment of destruction and domination by a foreign power, but God would bring them new life. To deal with Israel and Judah’s root problem of sin, God would send His Servant. The Servant would suffer, but through His suffering, He would bear the punishment for all human sin and provide forgiveness. They needed to recognize God’s ways…

READ: Isaiah 53:1-12

We first discover that…

I. God May Use Unlikely People! (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:1-3 NIV)

1. God inspired Isaiah to write four poems or songs about His Servant (Isa. 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12). My message today focuses on the last Servant song. Isaiah had begun this song by describing the Servant as One who would “act wisely” and be “highly exalted” (52:13). Prior to His exaltation, however, people would be appalled by His suffering (52:14). When the Servant had completed His mission, people would be astonished at what they saw (52:15). Isaiah prophesied the Israelites who saw the Servant and witnessed His voluntary suffering would not understand God was working through His Servant to accomplish their salvation. This divine revelation came through the arm of the Lord, symbolizing God’s presence, strength, and saving activity. The people of Israel could not see the true identity of the Servant because they concentrated on His appearance. They saw only a tender shoot… a root out of dry ground. Like a plant barely surviving in dry conditions, the Servant seemingly displayed no potential to accomplish anything of value. In fact, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Not content to just ignore God’s Servant, Israel despised and rejected Him. His suffering did not fit the people’s ideas regarding how a Savior should look and act, so Israel failed to value Him as the One sent from God. Despised did not carry the emotional meaning for Israel that we associate with the word, it meant, “To consider something or someone as worthless or insignificant.” In fact, we are told that He would be “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Esteemed expresses an accounting concept. When Israel listed the Servant’s assets and liabilities, the balance shifted heavily to His liabilities. Israel expected nothing of value or importance from this Servant. God may use unlikely people!

EXAMPLE: Israel had difficulty seeing as God sees and we often do as well. God often chooses people for His service we would never choose. We may say God can use anybody but not really believe it. We need to be sensitive enough to see God at work and encourage rather than abandon or criticize individuals. What individuals do you know who exceeded people’s expectations by allowing God to work through them? Remember, God may use unlikely people!

II. God May Use Unexpected Means! (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV)

1. The Israelites would not understand that the Servant “took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” When the Servant suffered, they assumed He suffered justly for His sin. Only after His death, would anyone realize the Servant had suffered for all our sins rather than His own. Israel completely misjudged the Servant, as many do today. Pierced and crushed describe the Servant’s terrifying suffering. Pierced typically described a stab wound that brought death. Crushed could describe an individual whose spirit had been utterly broken or an individual who had been killed. Both words emphasize violence.  Do not make the mistake in thinking that the Servant’s “passion” paid for our sin, it did not. The Servant died for the people’s transgressions and iniquities. Transgressions emphasize sin as intentional rebellion. Even though we know God’s command, we deliberately disobey, demonstrating our complete disrespect for God and His law. Iniquities indicate the crookedness of our human nature. Rather than recognizing we are created in God’s image and following God, we delight in unrighteousness and in following our own desires. We willingly become less than God has intended. Sin robs our life of peace. We only can find wholeness and satisfaction through a personal relationship with God. As we look back at the life and death of the Servant (Jesus Christ), we realize our punishment was placed on Him; but we also realize His punishment brought the opportunity for our healing. The Servant’s ultimate suffering, his death, for our sin and disobedience has made possible a new start, a new relationship with God, and true peace and wholeness. The phrases “we all” and “each of us” emphasize all Israelites and all of us bear responsibility for the Servant’s sufferings. As much as we might like to remove ourselves from the list of guilty parties, we cannot. The comparison of humans to sheep provides a condemning portrait of sinful humanity. As sheep pursue their desires oblivious of others, so we pursue our desires typically thinking only of our needs. We make choices without considering the consequences. We too need a Shepherd. Yet, “the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all!” God punished the Servant when He should have punished us! God sent Jesus to die and rise again that we might have salvation. Miraculously, God can take the worst circumstances and from them accomplish His good purposes! God may use unexpected means!

EXAMPLE: Isaiah 55:8 states, God’s ways and our ways differ dramatically. No one saw the true nature of the Servant’s suffering until after the Servant’s death. The disciples did not understand Jesus’ suffering and death until after His resurrection. God continues to work in unexpected ways to accomplish His will. Rather than expecting God to work in ways we think appropriate, we need to recognize God is at work around us and within us–often in unexpected ways. How has God worked in unexpected ways in your life? Remember, God may use unexpected means!

Contrary to what much of the world believes, we learn that…

III. God May Use Undeserved Suffering! (Isaiah 53:7-9)

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7-9 NIV)

1. The Servant certainly had just cause to protest His treatment. He could have pleaded His case, condemned those who rejected and despised Him, and met violence with violence. Instead, He responded to unjust treatment with a calm demeanor and a peaceful spirit. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” As a lamb went mutely to be shorn or to be offered as a sacrifice, so the Servant offered no protest as He faced death. Unlike sheep who do not know their fate, the Servant knew what would happen to Him. Knowing the injustice of His suffering, He accepted His death. A lamb could not make forgiveness available. Only a faithful, willing Servant could bear the punishment for a disobedient, rebellious humanity. The Servant offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice and substitute. The Servant experienced violent treatment. “Taken away” could refer to a deceitful action or to the sudden removal by violence or force of something precious. “Cut off” almost always refers to an act of violence. Such punishment might be understandable for a person whose sin deserved horrible consequences. Yet the Servant had done nothing to deserve it. People wrongly assumed the Servant’s suffering was justified. No one realized the Servant suffered for others. It was “By oppression and judgment he was taken away.” Based on the common (but false) idea that sin causes all suffering, people buried the Servant in what they considered an appropriate place, with the rest of “the wicked, and with a rich man.” Having been crucified with criminals Jesus was assigned a place of death with the wicked, and later He was given a tomb of the rich man Joseph. Only later would people understand the Servant had engaged in neither violence nor deceit. Violence characterizes humanity at its worst. “Deceit” describes the action of an evil individual maliciously intent on causing trouble or destroying others. The Servant engaged in neither behavior. His actions and His thoughts indicated His innocence. We realize that God may use undeserved suffering for His glory!

EXAMPLE: While we cannot explain all suffering in our lives, sometimes God works miraculously through an individual’s undeserved suffering to bring salvation and deeper faith to ourselves or to the lives of others. The faith of Christian martyrs as they suffered and died helped spread the gospel. The quiet faith of some with terminal illness brings hope and belief to those around them. God can work despite and through tragedy to accomplish His purposes. What have you learned in your suffering or that of others? Never forget, God may use undeserved suffering for His glory!

Yet, for those who trust in Him…

IV. God Rewards the Faithful! (Isaiah 53:10-12)

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12 NIV)

1. Astonishingly, we learn that “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer”! God worked through the Servant’s suffering and his final death, placing on Him the guilt of and the punishment for the people’s sin. The Servant willingly accepted the burden and carried through God’s purposes. Isaiah described the Servant as a “guilt offering”, an offering for individuals who had sinned unintentionally but later become aware of their sin would offer a guilt offering to make restitution (Lev. 5:14-19). Thus, the Servant’s offering of Himself was an atonement not only for consciously committed sins but also for unintentional sins. When the people realized and accepted what the Servant had done for them, the Servant would experience the reverse of what people had believed He would experience, “though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand”! He would enjoy the blessings of those favored by God. He would see His descendants, live a long life (eternally), and accomplish God’s will for His life. Since the Servant died, God would bless Him after His burial in a resurrected life. If we labor and see no useful results, our toil seems meaningless; and we become discouraged. If we labor and see useful results or the promise of useful results, we feel satisfaction. The Servant experienced the same satisfaction. “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.” As a result of the Servant’s faithful obedience, God would reward Him. Like a king returning from winning a battle and bringing spoils with him, the Servant would come triumphantly. Once they had been condemned by sin, but through His sacrifice, they now are redeemed and made right with God: “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” God rewards the faithful!

EXAMPLE: Applying the faithful obedience of the Servant and Jesus to our lives can be difficult. However, God does not call us to bear the sins of people. God has accomplished that miracle through Christ. God calls us to be faithful instead. God will reward our faithfulness. Some may find recognition and fame, but we all will experience the strength of God’s presence, the joy of allowing God to work through us, and eternal life with Him. What greater rewards could we receive? How has God blessed you as you have served Him? Remember, God does indeed reward the faithful!

Conclusion:
1. God works through persons whom society rejects or views as insignificant.
2. God uses even unexpected means to accomplish His purposes.
3. God works even through people’s undeserved suffering to accomplish His purposes.
4. God works through His faithful people and rewards them.

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sermon Notes

Doubting Thomas – John 20:24-29

Doubting Thomas – John 20:24-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 31, 2013

I was wondering what you thought about doubt. You know what I mean do you doubt yourself. Perhaps as you head to the finals of your education, you doubt the outcome. Maybe it is the future you have serious doubts about or a significant other. Perhaps, in your darkest moments, you have even doubted him who died for you. While we can be doubting Thomases at different times in our life, we should not live our lives in such suspicion. The one who made us has a plan for our lives. And, in that plan, he will never leave us nor forsake us. Cast you doubts aside because he cares for you. If you doubt what I am saying, try it and you will discover your uncertainties vanish.

Many of us are familiar with the story of Thomas and this morning we will return to the theme that we have been presented. It is an extremely important message for our day and age as well. The tomb is empty, some have seen the risen Lord, and some have had the experience of actually talking with Him. However, one doubts because he has not seen, heard, nor experienced the risen Lord himself. His name is Thomas. Let’s see if his doubts are the same as some of ours…

READ: John 20:24-29

I. Thomas doubted himself! (John 20:24-25 NIV)

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:24-25 NIV)

EXAMPLE: I had jumped off things before, the water never scared me, and my father was right there to catch me. Why could I not jump? I doubted myself. I doubted my ability to swim, to jump into the water, and for my father to catch me. That is kind of like many of us who struggle with our faith. We say we believe, we say we love Jesus, but we are afraid to jump into his arms — so we hesitate. We doubt ourselves. We need to trust in God.

II. Thomas doubted Jesus’ promise! (John 14:1-7 NIV)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7 NIV)

EXAMPLE: Thomas forgot what Jesus had promised all along. That he would die and then rise again! Far too often, we come to Christ because we experience his love, his forgiveness, and we accept him there, and then the doubts begin to creep into our lives. Can the dead live? Is there truly eternal life for those who believe? We begin to doubt and ask, “Can I trust God with my life, love, and where I am headed?” The answer is, “YES!” Jesus had already promised Thomas — never doubt Jesus’ promise!

III. Jesus answered all of Thomas’ doubts! (Vv. 26-29)

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:26-29 NIV)

EXAMPLE: Russell Kelso Carter (1849-1928) was a star athlete of a military academy and an excellent student academically, who went on to be a successful teacher and coach. He then spent several years as an ordained Methodist minister, after which he went to medical school. He spent the last of his professional years as a doctor of medicine. Carter was also a musician and songwriter. Although Carter was a professed Christian most of his life, it wasn’t until a crisis with his natural heart that he began to understand the reality and power of Bible promises. At age 30, his health was in critical condition and the physicians could do no more for him. Carter turned to God for help and healing. He knelt and made a promise that healing or no, his life was finally and forever, fully consecrated to the service of the Lord. It was from that moment that the written Word of God became alive to Carter. He began to stand upon the promises of healing, determining to believe no matter what his physical condition, no matter how he felt. Over the course of the next several months, his strength returned, and his heart was completely healed! Carter lived another healthy 49 years. The hymn Carter had written several years before his healing miracle became more than words and music to him. Standing on the Promises became an integral part of his life: Standing on the Promises.

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain:
Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Jesus answers all of doubts!

Conclusion:

Thomas doubted himself! Thomas doubted Jesus’ promise! Jesus answered all of Thomas’ doubts! On this Easter, let us remind ourselves of the promise of God, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The tomb is empty, Jesus is at the right hand of God, and when we believe we are saved!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sermon Notes

Just Wondering…

I was just wondering what you thought about Fridays. You know what I mean, not necessarily the day that comes before the weekend or the old restaurant, but rather the day on which the One who loves you died for you. We often say, “Thank God it’s Friday!” but do you realize what that truly means? The One who loves you gave up his life on a Friday and there wasn’t anything really good that happened that day. He was falsely accused, tried in a trumped-up court, and murdered. The good news is that death did not keep him, on Sunday morning he rose from the grave! I guess we could say, “Thank God it’s Friday!” after all! Makes one wonder…

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Just Wondering

Easter, Is It As “Pagan” As We Think?

Easter, Is It As “Pagan” As We Think?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 25, 2010

Over the years, there has been a lot of stuff, absolute garbage, written about Easter, its origins, and whether or not Christians should observe it. While what I write here will surely cause some consternation with a few folks of the more radically conservatives among us, perhaps it will lay to rest for some of you the history of this holiday and if it is okay to celebrate it or not.

Easter – What’s with that name anyway?

How in the world did the term Easter get started? Yes, the word for Easter has its roots in a pagan deity, but then again so does much of our calendar, namely the name of the days and the months and even the names for the seasons! The term or name “Easter” is speculated to have developed from Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre or Eoaster, which itself developed prior to 899 AD. The name refers to Eostur-monath, a month of the Germanic calendar attested by Bede as named after the goddess Ēostre of Anglo-Saxon paganism. You know, kind of like those folks in the movie Braveheart that painted their bodies differing colors and believed in the wee folk, only the German rendition. The roots of this goddess are also found in Diana and Ashtoreth or Astarte and Ishtar, which the Greeks, Phoenicians, and later the Germans borrowed from the Babylonians. She was the moon goddess which symbolized the female aspect of fertility. Her celebration was in the early spring, often around March or April. (Germans used bunnies and eggs in their observance, but we are not too sure how.)

It’s all Constantine’s fault! Oh, Really?

When we make a broad sweeping exclamation that the rascal Constantine made her a part of the Christian calendar during the Council of Nicaea we are guilty of greatly oversimplifying history and the issue in order to score piety points. Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the vernal equinox. It did this because the Hebrew nation was commanded to celebrate Passover in just the same manner!  (Exodus 12:2, 14) It was kept in remembrance of the Lord’s passing over the houses of the Israelites (Exodus 12:13) when the firstborn were destroyed. Since the Hebrew calendar is based on phases of the moon, the date of Easter therefore varies between March 22 and April 25.

Now, let’s look at the Early Church History and Easter Celebrations...

We learned that Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover not only for much of its symbolism but also for its position in the calendar. In most European languages, the feast called Easter in English is termed by the words for Passover in those languages. Surprisingly, older English versions of the Bible used the term Easter to translate Passover, even in the King James Bible! Perhaps the earliest extant primary source referencing Easter is a mid-2nd century Paschal homily attributed to Melito of Sardis, (died 180 AD) was the bishop of Sardis, near Smyrna in western Anatolia, and a great authority in Early Christianity, and he characterizes the Easter celebration as a well-established one by that time. That is an exceedingly short period after the early church and well before the established Roman Catholic Church of today. By the later second century, it was accepted that the celebration of Pascha (Easter) was a practice of the disciples and an undisputed tradition.

The Quartodeciman Controversy… the what?

The Quartodeciman controversy, the first of several Paschal/Easter controversies, arose concerning the date on which Pascha should be celebrated. This controversy lingered well into the fourth century and needed to be settled because differing bishops were trying to excommunicate one another over the issue and argued over it insistently. And this can get confusing when you began to argue who excommunicated who first over what. It was kind of like the millennial controversy of its day. The precise date of Easter has at times been a matter for contention. At the First Council of Nicaea (which lasted well over 100 years) in 325 AD, finally decided that all Christian churches would celebrate Easter on the same day, which would be computed independently of any Jewish calculations to determine the date of Passover. However, contrary to popular opinion no method of determining the date was ever exactly specified by the Council. (Say, what?) Even the Catholic Church did not follow the method recommended by Nicaea until 1582 when they fully adopted Gregorian calendar! In determining the date of the Gregorian and Julian Easter, a lunisolar cycle (using the phases of the moon) is followed. In determining the date of the Jewish Passover, a lunisolar calendar is also used, and because Easter always falls on a Sunday, it usually falls up to a week after the first day of Passover (Nisan 15 in the Hebrew calendar). Most evangelical churches celebrate it using this dating system.

Okay, but what about the bunny rabbits?

Certainly many of the customs of Easter, such as colored eggs, bunny rabbits, and such originally come from Pagan sources; few of us recognize them as such nowadays. Nor do we give any credence to them. Many of those that have distaste with using the term Easter or giving any credence to it usually do so because they are living under more of a works oriented faith rather than giving God the glory. They usually have no problem with using the terms for the days of the week and the months of the year without being too revolted at these paganisms. I mean, if you truly have a problem with this then why do you say, “I worship on Sunday,” which is a direct reference to the pagan son god, which is really hilarious when some say they only worship on the Sabbath, Saturday, which is a direct reference to and recognition of the mythical god Saturn! I digress…

So, should good pious Christians allow their innocent little children to eat chocolate rabbits and hunt for Easter Eggs? Only if they do not have allergies or you do not want them to have a sugar high and heart disease – just kidding! Many Christians use the hardboiled eggs to teach the concept of the trinity: Decorated shell, pure colored whites, and the yolk corresponding to the one God made of up of the three personalities of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Others use them to teach the newness of a person’s new life in Christ when they accept him as Savior and Lord. Old life is equated with the egg not yet hatched, the new life is the new chick that now has to mature and grow as new believers do in the Lord. Personally, I refer to Easter as Resurrection Day and Easter, and I always focus on the empty tomb. Frankly, I use the chocolate as a means to enjoy myself and bunnies are so cute!

We can get so caught up in the sliver in someone else’s eye, celebrating or using the term “Easter”, and thinking that somehow paganism might rub off on us if we celebrate Easter, that we forget about the timber sticking out of our own and what it is truly all about: The empty tomb and the resurrection! Because Jesus lives, we too can live for eternity as well! And, besides, the next thing you know, people will have a problem with Halloween, Santa Claus, and Christmas…
—-
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission…

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion