Well, hi everyone. Hey, I want to add a word of welcome that you've already been given, but I want to put my 2 cents worth. Man. I'm so glad to have you with us. I don't know whether you're actually watching this and experiencing this service online, in person. I don't know how it's coming to you, but what I do know is that man, I'm absolutely delighted that you're with us. Hey, I'm filming this in front of the Superstition Mountains, obviously,
[00:00:23] and. Beautiful desert. And we're going to talk today about what I think is incredibly good news. Where it's just some incredible good news is coming your way. I do have to say though that before I can get to the good news, we got to start with some bad news. And so if you'll allow me, let's get dark for just a few minutes so that the light of what's going to come will make sense.
[00:00:46] If you happened to be with us this past Friday, you celebrated with us what we call a Good Friday service. It's an interesting turn of a phrase to call it, Good Friday. There's nothing fun about what happened on Friday of the Easter story. It's a, it's kind of, again, a weird thing that something so bad such a dark historic day would be referenced as good in any capacity, but it's called Good Friday because of what it leads to.
[00:01:14] But you got to start there or where it leads to, it's not going to make any sense. I want to talk to you about the narrative of the death of Jesus. Now, I want to say this about our lives. You know, we all want to live a life of joy and a life of happiness. We want to see success and, you know, we want to see prosperity, want things to go the way we want them to go.
[00:01:36] The tragedy of life is that life so often doesn't quite go that way. It's often less than that. While we desire it to go, well, it doesn't go well. We, we, we talk about D's that we encounter the D's and the, you know despair and disappointment and, you know, disillusionment and just the, the difficulties of life.
[00:01:59] The big D of course is death. And like nobody, we all want to get as far away from death as we can possibly get. But, but the reality of it is that life consists of all those, D's. If you were If you were with us a couple of weeks ago, I closed the message on the weekend with a prayer for Atlanta and what happened within the Asian community,
[00:02:24] and then again, eight people were just murdered. You just go, why? And then just following that was the tragedy of what happened in, in Boulder, Colorado. And you, one guy just decides to gun down 10 innocent people to take 10 lives. And when you hear that you, there, there's just a sense of despair that sets in of doom it's stuff like w why, w what purpose, you know, where's the justice in all of that?
[00:02:59] I think what makes that story even worse if it could be worse as the tragedy of the police officer Eric Talley and, this guy's a 51 year old man who's got seven kids. Races in to go help, which is what police officers do and gets gunned down. The hardest part of that was to discover that this man's a devout Christian, because something cries out within us.
[00:03:26] Well, God, where were you? Why did you even let that happen? And it's just all part of the difficulty of living in the world that we live in. You know, some people would say that the smartest thing you could do is just give in to the despair, literally to surrender your life and your belief system to a futility on the idea that it's all meaningless,
[00:03:47] and there's no point to any of it. And you're never going to find happiness and that, you know, it's just a dark existence. I was reading a comment that an atheist made on an atheist website. Let me read to you what this girl said. She said this, she said, I'm confused. I always believed science would be the cure all for my problems, but I don't know if I can keep living without eternal life.
[00:04:13] I guess I'll just have to find a way myself to make through, make it through this meaningless existence. I just wish I knew of someone who could show me the path to eternal life. If science can provide the answers though then who or what can. And then she writes *sigh* doesn't it seem like there is a higher power that gives our lives purpose.
[00:04:33] Well science says there isn't. So there isn't. Is that all there is? I mean, w do we have to succumb to this dark despairing, you know, kind of like hopeless. I want to explain something to you. Hopeless living is joyless living. They're synonymous. When you surrender any sense of hope in a situation, you will surrender any sense of joy and I understand why it makes sense to surrender.
[00:05:01] I understand why the despair seems like such a great option because we're surrounded with difficulty. Life is hard and life is full of loss and there's all kinds of things that we suffer through. And I don't know, as you think about life, like what's been difficult or maybe a loss of a job, a loss of a loved one, loss of a relationship that you were in.
[00:05:21] Loss of finances, loss of health, lots and lots of loss. This is all bad news and there's absolutely no shortage of it. And as hard as it is to start there, we have to start there because that's the reality that we're living in. Now, let me transition away from that. And let me just talk to you about Jesus Christ.
[00:05:43] And I want to give you a little bit of a framework that should help you to understand. Really who he was and what his life was all about. I want to say this. When he came to Earth, he came with a vision and a mission. He didn't just appear it wasn't just to live his life, his death wasn't accidental. That literally, literally Jesus came to accomplish to change the world, to change the outcome of my life and your life.
[00:06:10] And as he, as he came, he began to share a message and he began to attract followers who wanted to hear what he had to say. And. The crowds kept getting bigger and bigger. And as he was doing this, he, he designated a certain number of people to be what we know as his apostles. Now, let me say this about these guys.
[00:06:28] These are not first string players. These are not the varsity team. These are not the guys you would go. These are the best choices you can make. I mean, I could just tell you that some of them were just fisherman, common fishermen. Not, not sport fishermen, just that's what they did for a living. There was a tax collector who was a despised person.
[00:06:49] He was one of them. There were, there were guys that had issues like several of them were known to be hot headed. They were known to be skeptical. They were known to be doubtful. There was one who famously betrays him in the story. And that's of course, to Judas. The most remarkable thing about the story of these guys, Jesus chose to be as apostles is the utter unremarkableness of the, of their lives.
[00:07:13] Who would choose these guys? Jesus would because he knew the difference being with him would make. And so he began to lead them. Now, I want to say this not very long into their journey. A couple of things happened. They got the wrong idea about who Jesus was and what he was here to do. They began to think that what Jesus was was a revolutionary, that he was literally going to rise up as a, a military opponent.
[00:07:41] He was literally going to be the force that overthrew the occupying power of Rome. They longed for this. They long for the idea of a kingdom on earth, like the glory days of the King David and, and you know, the apex of Israel's history. And so they, they positioned themselves so that they would be the key players.
[00:08:00] They would be the generals and they would be the lieutenants. And it would, it would be about their role in that, that kingdom, that Jesus would establish, but he would have none of that. That's not why he came. But early on, he also began to tell them about what, like where this is going to go. He began to prepare them for what was going to happen on that day
[00:08:20] that we've dubbed Good Friday. He began to get them ready for it, to get them to start thinking about it. And yet they had such a difficult time. When Good Friday actually came, you need to realize that for, for them Good Friday was Final Friday. The day that it all came crashing down. They'd all experienced loss of loved ones before, but no one quite like Jesus.
[00:08:45] It was the day where everything that they believe when Jesus was crucified, it was the day everything they believed in came just crashing down in on them. And it was a day of dark despair. All of us, and and them, know the feeling of finality. We understand that death is final. We understand that when it's over, it's over. When what happened happened, it happened and you can't change it.
[00:09:10] You, you can't go back and rewrite the script. Life doesn't work like that. And they knew that. And so when Jesus was crucified, it was a very, very dark day. Now I want to explain something to you that maybe you've never really thought about, but I want to encourage you to think about it. Most of us, when we think of Easter, we think of a day. We think of Easter Sunday and, and most of us think that all that significant happened was on Sunday and incredibly significant things happened on Sunday.
[00:09:36] But to understand the significance of Sunday, you've got to understand the significance of the days before Sunday. You'll see the story of Easter actually begins earlier in the week. And I could spend a lot of time, but let me just jump in on Friday. Friday, Good Friday is the day of pain and agony and suffering.
[00:09:59] It's the day that they literally want the capture Jesus on Thursday night. On Friday, it was the day of abuse. It was the day of defeat was the day of despair. It was the day that they took him and they, they beat him. They mocked him, they spit upon him. They slapped him around. They shoved the crown of thorns on his head.
[00:10:20] They put the robe, they shredded his back. They, they abused him and they mocked and they jeered. And then they had him carry a cross outside the town and they crucified him driving the nails through his hands and his feet, the story that you know, and the piercing of the sword on the side. And it's just a horribly dark day.
[00:10:41] And It's a day that you feel like there's absolutely nothing good could ever come out of that day. A day of anger and angst and just a difficult day. That's Friday. Well, Friday is going to give way to Saturday and Saturday's not going to be like Friday because what happened on Friday, can't happen again on Saturday.
[00:11:00] But what happened on Saturday was nothing happened on Saturday. Saturday was the day of disillusionment. Saturday was the day when you're processing what happened on Friday. And you're trying to make sense of it and you can't come up with it cause you have all kinds of questions and you have no answers.
[00:11:15] It's a day of disillusionment. What, like, why did this happen? Where were you God? Why did you allow this? What is the purpose behind this? What do we do now? Saturday is a a day of just like, I don't know, I'm confused. I don't know what to do with any of this. And it's a difficult day. Hopelessness, hopelessness reigns on Saturday.
[00:11:39] I don't get it. Well then Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Now Sunday is of course the great day. It's the day that changes everything. Sunday in this story is going to be, we're going to call it Easter Sunday. It's the first Easter Sunday. It's the day of joy. And so they have hope. And it's the day of victory. In fact, let me read to you from the gospel of Mark, what actually happened on that day.
[00:12:03] I'm just going to pick this up in Mark chapter 16. I'm going to read verses one to eight and just follow along in the narrative. When the Sabbath was over. So that Saturday, when the Sabbath was over Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Salome bought, brought bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus's body.
[00:12:21] Now very early on the first day of the week, that Sunday, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other. Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb? But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away and they entered the tomb.
[00:12:38] As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side and they were alarmed. And don't be alarmed, he said, you, you are looking for Jesus. The Nazarene who was crucified, he has risen. He's not here. Now. See the place where they laid him, but go tell his disciples and Peter.
[00:12:58] He's going ahead of you into Galilee and there, you will see him just as he told you. Now, trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. I find it fascinating that this young man specifically said to the women, be sure to tell Peter. Why would you designate Peter? Folks, nobody felt more disappointment, more disillusionment, more despair, more doom, more defeat,
[00:13:25] then Peter who had denied Jesus three times. You make sure you tell him. It ain't over. You make sure that he knows that I'm thinking about him and you make sure that he gets there. Now, we got to understand that everything is riding on this Easter Sunday. I want to just make a startling disclaimer here that you've got to understand.
[00:13:46] It's a, it's a rider to the story. It's a caveat that you've gotta understand and, and, in the story of Christianity, everything pivots on the resurrection. If the resurrection didn't happen, none of the rest of the story matters. Everything rotates around this point. It's that crucial. Now, if you can find the bones, if you can find the body, if you, you can, you know, if you can locate any of that of Jesus, everything goes out the window.
[00:14:18] Nothing matters. The resurrection. In fact, it's been called the crisp hard fact of the Christian faith. It is crucial. Paul said it this way. And I'm going to read from first Corinthians 15, he said this, for what I received, I pass on as of first importance. All right. That Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas and then do the 12.
[00:14:46] And after that, he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time. Most of whom are still living though, some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James then to all of the apostles. And last of all, he appeared to me also as to one abnormally born. Nothing is more important than what happened at the resurrection. As a first importance.
[00:15:09] And, and, and so the church we celebrate this, you might remember the old him, it goes like this up from the grave he arose with a mighty triumph or his foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain. He lives forever with a saints terrain. He arose, he arose hallelujah Christ arose. I almost sang that, and if I had done that, it had been, there'd be a day of darkness.
[00:15:29] So you can thank me later for not singing. But folks, here's what you got to understand, a risen Jesus changes is everything. A risen Christ. So Easter. Is the day of hope. Easter is the day that everything changes. Easter is the day of a different perspective. And in fact, let me read another passage.
[00:15:47] This is First Peter one, three and four. And I want you to catch a phrase in here that I think is truly significant to understanding what it all means. Praise be, this the First Peter one, three and four, praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy. He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.
[00:16:18] Did you catch the phrase, a new birth into a living hope? A new birth into a living? What is a living hope? A living hope is a counterpoint to a dead pessimism. It is a life of meaning in contrast to a life of meaninglessness, a living hope is a gift that God wants to give you a gift of a different perspective, a different outcome, a different future, a as it were. It, it means that your life, it, it really has a direction that there's there's meaning behind it all. That death won't be the end of it.
[00:17:00] And, and you start to understand that you have a future and that, that you have a purpose. And all of this is wrapped up in this. I want to say this, that as humans, we, we're hard wired to need and live by hope. You you're not made to do life with a hopelessness about you. And again, hopelessness is joylessness, they're easy, they're synonymous and God's going, I didn't create you for this.
[00:17:28] We all need hope. As I mentioned, I'm out here in the desert and springtime, and you might not have ever connected why Easter is celebrated in the spring time, but let me make the connection. Springtime follows the darkness, the coldness, the dormancy, if you would, of winter. Springtime is all about birth.
[00:17:51] It's all about new life. It's all about new beginnings. Easter is celebrated in the spring time because it is the picture. That's the perfect metaphor of what God wants to give you, which is a new beginning, a new start. And it's just a gift. And again, as I said, we have to have this folks. You we're hard wired for this.
[00:18:14] It's been said, this, that humans, we can go 40 days without food. We can go four days without water. We can go four minutes. With without breath, without air, but we can't go four seconds without hope. Hope is the oxygen that God literally wants to breathe into your soul. That's what keeps us alive. When your sense of hope dies, your body might not be shutting down immediately, but your spirit is it is it shuts down.
[00:18:47] You are not meant to live without hope. And God knows this. And the greatest hope that God can give us as an assurance that he's there. He cares and he's involved. And that's what Easter represents. Thessalonians, Second Thessalonians, two 16, may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father who loved us by his grace and gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
[00:19:10] encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. In fact, one of the primary understandings of what it means to believe in God is to realize that when you come to faith in God, God says, I want to start your life over. I'm going to give you a springtime, going to give you a new beginning. In second Corinthians five 17
[00:19:29] it says, therefore, if any of us are in Christ, we are a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come and got us trying to say something to each and every one of us, to me saying it to you, I don't have to stay the way I am. I don't have to be the way I was. The future doesn't have to just be more of the past. That I can have a better, more positive.
[00:19:50] Now the alternative to all of this offer of the living hope of God is just to surrender to the darkness. To just literally say I'm chucking it all. There's no meaning to no life, no purpose, no nothing. Just to believe the worst and, you know, resolve yourself to the suffering around you. God never gave you the desire for that.
[00:20:12] That's what the world beats out of you. Not what God has though. Now I want to say this Easter has God's counterpoint to despair. I hope you're making this connection. But I also, and just just a few moments. I want to say something that's really important. Easter is not just about hope. You can't just say, well, I hope Easter is true.
[00:20:34] I hope it's true. Now Easter is all about hope, but it's gotta be built on belief that it is that God is, and that this is what he's declaring. In other words, you can say why I long for something I hope for something I wish for something that's not what God's trying to get you to do. What he wants you to do is to believe in him and place your hope in him.
[00:20:55] And when you do that, then, then incredible things open up to you. And that's the thing that God wants to give you. John Ortberg. Who is, uh, an author and pastor he is he's written something that I just think is so good to remind us, you know, for 2000 years, what happened at Easter has been celebrated by the church. By people going, you know what?
[00:21:20] I've had enough of the despair of life I want, the more that God has for me. And he, he put it in these words. And again, I just want to read what he wrote. He said, people have not gathered for the past 2000 years to say the stock market has risen. It has risen. Indeed. They have not gathered to say the dollar has risen.
[00:21:38] It has risen indeed. Or the government rate is the employment rate has risen or the gross domestic product is risen or general motors has risen, or the value of my 401k has risen. Here's the only hope that has held up human beings across every continent and culture for the, two millennium of difficult times, poverty of times of poverty, disease, pain, hardship, and death itself.
[00:22:03] Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. The resurrection is the reason we have hope in our lives. Now, as I close, I want to ask you a simple question, which day are you living on? Now, it might seem like an odd question, but we talked about three days. We talked about Friday. Friday was the day of pain and suffering and agony.
[00:22:26] The day of darkness. Friday was the day when it seemed like the lights went out. Like there was no way out. It was the, the difficult, difficult day of suffering. Are you stuck on Friday? Now. You might go it's not Friday or Saturday. Saturday is the day of confusion. Saturday's the day of doubt. Saturday is the day of, I don't know. It's the day of skepticism.
[00:22:51] It's the day of questioning and the day of disillusionment. And maybe that's where you find yourself. Hey, I'm not, you know, I'm not stuck in pain necessarily, but I don't know. I'm just, I'm just, I can't make sense of anything. Or are you on Sunday? Because Sunday is the day of hope. Sunday's the day of the resurrection.
[00:23:11] Sunday's the day when you start to realize that what happened on Friday and Saturday, wasn't the end of the story. It was just part of the story that set up the great news of what happened. Now, I don't know where you are, but I do want to point something out to you. Okay. If you're stuck in the past, God has a future for you that he longs to give you.
[00:23:33] And so we're going to begin a series on our church. I personally want to invite you to be a part of. It really kind of begins today, but we didn't promote it as this, but next week it starts a series called from now on. From now on. The idea from now on that we're going to talk about is like, from now on, because of this, you can have hope over despair.
[00:23:56] You don't, despair doesn't have to win. You can have faith over fear. You can have courage over cowardice. You can have, and we're going to talk about some of these things, but how we're going to go about it is we're going to go into the book of Acts and we're going to we're going to show you how this day.
[00:24:13] This Resurrection Sunday changed the course of the lives of those utterly unremarkable men that we know as the apostles. We're going to show you how less than 50 days later they were transformed into powerful personalities who literally changed the world. I promise you that if you join us, you're going to find tremendous encouragement.
[00:24:33] And you're going to discover hope that God has a better future in store for you. I want to close this message by telling you about someone who's going to seem kind of odd. I want to tell you about a tree. It's not just any tree. It's about a 90 year old American Elm tree that has huge significance.
[00:24:49] It's a tree that's become quite famous. This is a tree that people literally travel from all over the country to get their picture taken in front of, to pose in front of it's a tree, that's become a symbol of something. You see, it's a tree that's placed right outside the Alfred P Murrah building in Oklahoma City.
[00:25:06] The alpha Premera alpha, Alfred P Murrah building is that building that Timothy McVeigh blew up in one of our worst, you know, historical tragedies in America. You might remember that he took his car, you know, literally laden with death and parked it and blew the front of the building out. And he parked it just feet away from this tree and the tragedy of what he did took the lives of a 185 people,
[00:25:35] and 850 people were injured. It was horrific. Well, what does this tree have to do with anything? You see, amidst all the death and all the destruction and all the doom and all the despair and all of the, you know they thought the trees that, that that's hopeless. There's nothing that tree that trees gone. In paying attention to it as they were trying to clear out all the rubble, but something miraculous happened. It's as if this tree refused to take the fate of what happened into its future.
[00:26:06] It began to do something remarkable. Slowly it began to bud. Slowly leaves began to push its way up through the soot and up through the burned bark. And this tree miraculously came to life. And, and it's as if going, this is not going to be the end of me. It's not going to kill me. I'm not going to allow it.
[00:26:26] And so people of Oklahoma City have come to revere this tree. In fact, they've dubbed that the Survivor Tree, it's the tree of hope. It's the tree of endurance. It's the tree of possibility. And I'll tell you what it is a fantastic picture of the hope that God wants you to have. It doesn't matter how dark it looks out.
[00:26:45] He's got something coming for you. It's spring time. It's Easter. It's all about hope. Don't surrender your life to hopelessness. God has joy in store for you. Listen, I'm going to close right now with a word of prayer, but before I do, I want to thank you one more time for being with us. Thanks for listening.
[00:27:03] And I really do pray that you embrace the hope that God has for you. Also, I want to say this encourage you not to go anywhere. Our hosts are going to take it from here and we have something that we want to have you experience, so stick around, but let's just close out our time together with prayer. So God, thank you for the meaning of Easter.
[00:27:20] Thanks for the incredible truth of what it's all about, God. Thank you that we don't have to live in the past in the doom and the despair and the disappointment and the disillusionment and the defeat and all of the D's that make the just make life so difficult. God, that, that really, you have something wonderful in store for us.
[00:27:38] We were made for more than that. And God, I pray that each and every person who hears my voice will reach for that, embrace that, and live in that. Nobody wants to live a joyless life. God, joy and hope are synonymous. May we place our, our hope in you. May we believe in you for what you've done. Thank you for the celebration of Easter this year. In your name, we pray,