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A Sunday School teacher asked her class on the Sunday before Easter if they knew what happened on Easter and why it was so important. One little girl spoke up saying: “Easter is when the whole family gets together, and you eat turkey and sing about the pilgrims and all that.” “No, that’s not it,” said the teacher. “I know what Easter is,” a second student responded. “Easter is when you get a tree and decorate it and give gifts to everybody and sing lots of songs.” “Nope, that’s not it either,” replied the teacher. Finally a third student spoke up, “Easter is when Jesus was killed, and put in a tomb and left for three days.” “Ah, thank goodness somebody knows” the teacher thought to herself. But then the student went on: “Then everybody gathers at the tomb and waits to see if Jesus comes out, and if he sees his shadow he has to go back inside and we have six more weeks of winter.” What does it all mean?  How does Easter make a difference?  In an attempt to answer these questions, I want us to explore the ins and outs of Easter. Romans 10:9 and 13 if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Silent  Prayer Never in a million years did I think I’d begin my Easter message this way, but here goes.  I got locked in the bathroom at Target this week!  Yes, that’s right. Do you know the feeling of being trapped?  The feelings of worry, anxiety and fear that accompany being trapped? Perhaps worse than worry, anxiety and fear is the hopelessness you feel when you realize you can’t do anything to change the fact that you are trapped. There I was, trapped in a bathroom at Target.  I’m serious.  It happened on Wednesday.  I got in, but I couldn’t get out.  I furiously tried to jiggle the door lock.  The walls began to close in on me.  I started to see my life flash before my eyes.  I looked down and thought, “There is no way I can squeeze under that door.”  I looked up and thought, “I don’t want to preach from a pair of crutches on Easter Sunday.”  So I did the only thing I could think of.  I started to yell, “Help!”  Not really, but I did say in a rather distressed voice, “Is there anyone out there?”  Much to my relief, a woman and her daughter were also there.  I said, “I’m locked in the bathroom.”  She said, “Do you want me to go get someone?”  I said, “Well someone from the outside is going to have to get the door unlocked.”  Long story short, the lady on the outside was able to open the door to let me out. As I finished laughing at myself, I recalled what I had said to the lady.  “Someone from the outside is going to have to get me out of here.”  Do you know that’s what Jesus did through His death and resurrection?  He unlocked the door of sin and death where I had been a prisoner, where I had worried and been fearful over my future and daily life, where I had been surrounded and confined by the burden of my sin without any hope of crawling under it or going over it or ever getting out of it.  He came from the outside of my mess and unlocked the door so I could go free.  I had gotten in, but I couldn’t get myself out. I want to tell you about the crucifixion and resurrection was that even though Roman officials accused people inside the ranks of Jesus’ disciples of having something to do with the disappearing body, It was an OUTside job. There was no other way it could have happened. The whole thing, from start to finish, the purchasing of forgiveness of sins, it had to be done by someone on the outside of the whole mess.  Someone who wasn’t trapped in their own sin had to be the One to open the door to let us out.  Another human couldn’t have taken care of our sin problem.  It could only be accomplished by God Himself.  Jesus, fully divine, yet fully human, came to earth to open the door to a personal relationship with God and the door of eternal life in heaven with Him forever. Hebrews 2:14-18 14 Since the children (that’s us) have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  Verse 17-17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. One of the mysteries of the Christian faith is the fact that Jesus was and is God and that when He walked the earth, Jesus Christ was also fully human. One moment the Lord Jesus Christ was robed in robes of glory. The next moment He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. God became a man. Hebrews 2:14 declares it. However, Jesus, the eternal God became a man uniquely. When you and I are born, when we become people, when we are born into the human family, we have eyes, ears, nose, mouth—we partake of flesh and blood. Jesus shared in our humanity in every way but one. We were born with a sin disease, passed on from Adam and Eve’s sin.  “Just as sin entered the world through one man (that is Adam and Eve) and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, for all have sinned.”  (Romans 5:12) Jesus’ humanity had a uniqueness about it.  He became a man by means of the virgin birth, so He was born sinless. Not only was He born sinless, but He lived a sinless life. Hebrews 4:15 says that “He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” He became a man, but He became a man uniquely, making Him an outsider, different from us. He also became a man voluntarily. He decided to be born. You and I didn’t decide to be born. We weren’t just floating out there and one day had the idea, “I think I’ll be born” and there we were! No. You just woke up one day and there you were. In fact, when I was born I was so astounded it took me almost a year to say my first words! We had no choice in the matter. Jesus chose to be born. He became a man uniquely. He became a man voluntarily. It’s an astounding thought. God took upon Himself human nature apart from human sin and He voluntarily chose to be born as a human being. In Philippians 2, Jesus is said to be “in very nature God” (verse 6). The New Testament continuously insists that Jesus is God:
  • He was God before he was born in the flesh: “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
  • After his human birth he continued to be God. On earth, Jesus forgave sins (Mark 2:5-7), something only God can do. He claimed divinity (John 8:58) and thus equality with God (John 10:28-30).
  • After his resurrection, he continued to be God. Thomas called the risen Jesus “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
  • The author of Hebrews, quoting Psalm 104, says of Jesus, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8).
Jesus did not give up any of His divinity to become human. Rather, as one early theologian put it, “Remaining what He was, He became what He was not.” Christ “was not now God minus some elements of His deity, but God plus all that He had made His own by taking manhood to Himself.”3 No, Jesus did not give up any of His divine attributes at the Incarnation. He remained in full possession of all of them. For if He were to ever give up any of His divine attributes, He would cease being God. Only God could unlock the door of our prison.  Only a perfect human could qualify as the freeing sacrifice. Think about it in earthly terms.  The lion who is King of the Jungle, who is wired to eat meat, sees some rabbits in distress. I don’t know what pains and distresses rabbits have, but let’s pretend they have some.  Even though the lion is created to eat meat which would compel or propel him to destroy the rabbit, for some reason, he is moved with compassion towards the rabbits because of the situation they are in.  And so rather than destroy them, the lion thinks, “I want to help the rabbits.” That Lion could try as hard as he could to gently move closer to the rabbits, but you can be sure that as soon as the rabbits detect the lion, they will be hopping as far as their little bunny legs can move.  He could call to the rabbits from afar, but likely, even his roar would send them packing.  If, however, he could become a rabbit, yet retain his abilities as a lion, he would possess the perspective and power to set them free. Do you see why Jesus came?  Do you see why He limited Himself to the human experience?  He became like us so that we wouldn’t fear Him; so that we could relate to Him.  So that He could show us His amazing love and so that in His full humanity and full divinity, He could set us free.  When God sees sin, He is compelled to destroy it because of His holiness.  His wiring is such that He can’t be in the presence of sin.  But because He was moved with compassion over our situation, He longed to set us free.  It’s the sin, not us that He despises. He loves us.  He desires us.  The lion has nothing in common with the rabbit, but we have been made in God’s image.  We are supposed to be in fellowship, harmony and relationship with God.  Sin has messed it up. Because of His great love, the Scriptures say, that even though we were wrapped in the sin that He hates, Christ wrapped Himself in flesh in order to decloak us of our sin.  “For God demonstrated His love for us in this. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 It was an outside job, and it was an OUTrageous plan. Here’s the plan.  Since God’s love is just as strong as God’s justice and sin has to be punished, God decided He would punish Himself instead of us.  Jesus would take our place and we would go free.  Here’s how it would flesh out. God would wrap Himself in human flesh for 33 years.  He would go through childhood, adolescence, and young adult hood, submitting Himself to the authority of His earthly parents, to the learning of carpentry and being taught the Scriptures and would leave home as an adult to begin a three-year on the road discipleship program with twelve men in an attempt to prepare them to receive His nature later on so that they could continue His reconciling and miraculous works. His authority, excellence, generosity, love and miracles would spark such jealousy and fear in the officials, both the Roman officials and the religious officials, that they would conspire against Him and even though He would lead a stellar life, impeccable in every way, above reproach, and above sin, the people would have Him sentenced to death by crucifixion and have a known, proven criminal set free instead. Jesus would undergo the worst kind of torture known to humanity and would hang on a cross on a Friday.  The sheer personal cost to Jesus was outrageous.  Once dead, he would be pierced with a sword, laid in a borrowed tomb, have a whole brigade of soldiers assigned to keep watch and keep the tomb protected. Then on Sunday, through the miraculous power of God, Jesus would be raised from the dead and would appear to over 500 people.  He would charge His disciples with the responsibility to go and tell what He had done for them, having served as a substitute sacrifice for the sins of the world. He would then ascend to His throne in heaven and send the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Trinity, to earth so that Christ could be present in every person everywhere for the rest of time.  God would foretell the plan hundreds of years before it was executed in various ways and Jesus would fulfill all of the prophecies so that people would have proof, in addition to the miracles, that Jesus was the Messiah. The plan is basically summed up in two verses of Scripture:  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” Romans 3:25 “God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. What is even more outrageous than the plan is that Jesus went through all of that knowing that many wouldn’t acknowledge His sacrifice and receive God’s love.  Who does that?  What movie have you ever watched where the hero works tirelessly, tediously, at great personal cost to find the prisoner who is tied up and gagged, malnourished, scared, exhausted and in great fear only when the hero gets to them and removes the gag from their mouths, they say, “No thanks,” I’d rather stay tied up?  Who works and sacrifices and sweats to give someone a gift that you know in advance they won’t receive? A Religion Professor named Dr. Christianson taught a required survey of Christianity course at small college. Every freshman was required to take the course regardless of their major. Although he tried hard to communicate the gospel, students viewed the class as nothing more than a waste of time. One particular year Dr. Christianson had a student named Steve. Steve was the Center for the college football team and also a strong Christian who intended on going to Seminary. One day Dr. Christianson had an idea and he asked Steve to stay after class. “How many push-ups can you do?” He asked. Steve said, “I do 200 every night.” The professor asked Steve if he could do 300. “I have never done 300 before” Steve said, “But I think I can do it.” “Good,” the professor said, and he proceeded to tell his plan to Steve. Friday came and Steve got to class early. Dr. Christianson came in with a large box of fluffy, cream filled doughnuts. The class was excited. Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the row and asked, “Cynthia would you like a donut?” “Yes,” she said. Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?” “Sure.” Steve jumped down out of his desk and counted off ten push-ups. Dr. Christianson laid the donut on Cynthia’s desk. Joe was next. He asked Joe the same question and Joe said “yes.” Steve did 10 more pushups and the professor laid the doughnut on Joe’s desk. And so it went all the way down the first row and half way down the second until it came to Scott. He was a tough guy. Scott replied to the professor’s question by saying, “I want the doughnut if I can do my own push-ups.” Dr. Christianson said, “No Steve has to do the pushups.” Then Scott said, “Well I don’t want one if I can’t do my own.” Dr. Christian turned around and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scot can have a donut he doesn’t want.” Scott said, “Hey! I said I didn’t want one!” Dr. Christianson said, “Look, this is my classroom and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” And he put the donut on Scott’s desk. Steve had begun to slow down a little and sweat had begun to form on his cheeks. Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Students were beginning to get uncomfortable and angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?” Sternly, Jenny said, “NO!” Then Dr. Christianson asked, “Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?” Steve did ten-Jenny got a doughnut. By now a sense of uneasiness had filled the room. The students were all beginning to say “No.” There were uneaten donuts on every desk. Steve was now putting forth a lot of extra effort to get the pushups done for each doughnut. A small pool of sweat was on the floor, his face was red, and you could see the sweat soaking through his shirt. Dr. Christianson asked Robert, the most vocal unbeliever in class, to watch to make sure Steve did the full ten. Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row. Students from other classes had come in and were sitting along the side of the room watching on. When the professor saw them he counted and saw that there were now 34 people in the room. He was worried about Steve, “Could he do that many push-ups?” Jason, a recent transfer student, didn’t know what was going on and came in to see. The class yelled, “Go away! Don’t come in!” Steve picked up his head and said, “Let him come in.” Jason was asked and he said “yes.” “Steve will you do ten push-ups so Jason can have a donut?” Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great struggle. Jason, confused, was handed a donut and he sat down. Dr. Christianson then finished the fourth row and began on the visitors. Steve’s arms were shaking uncontrollably with each push up. By this time sweat was pouring off of his face and arms. The very last two students were cheerleaders. “Linda, do you want a donut?” Linda cried and said, “No thank you.” Professor turned to Steve, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?” Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Linda. The last girl was Susan. “Susan would you like a donut?” Susan was full of tears and did not answer. “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?” Susan asked, “Dr. Christianson why can’t I help him?” Dr. Christianson had tears in his eyes also and replied, “I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not. When I decided to have a party I looked at the grade book and found that Steve was the only person with a perfect grade. All of you had failed a test, skipped class, or turned in inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he must do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push-ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.” Steve slowly got up off the floor.  He had done 350 push-ups, his arms buckled beneath him as he started to get up. Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile. “Well done good and faithful servant”, said the professor, “Not all sermons are preached in words class.” Turning to the students the professor said, “My wish is that you may fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God did not spare His only Son but gave him up for all of us. Whether or not we accept His gift is our choice. The price has been paid. Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it lying on the desk? An outrageous plan, executed by an outsider, had a phenomenal OUTcome. Let me quickly list some of the positive outcomes of the Crucifixion and Resurrection: The penalty for sin was paid. Before that fateful Friday, God could open the books and look up our names, and written in black were the words – “Guilt of sin.” But when Jesus went to the cross, God literally transferred our accounts to His name. On that day, across every name – he wrote – in Jesus blood – “Forgiven – Forgiven – Forgiven.”  Forgiveness for all had been purchased forever. Christ’s right-standing with God is available to us.  II Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The Resurrection proved Jesus is Lord!  Romans 1:4 “ and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” It makes our salvation possible.  Romans 4:25 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. My resurrection is guaranteed.  II Cor. 4:14 ““He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” Because of the resurrection, Jesus intercedes for us in heaven before God. Romans 8:34 “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Because of the resurrection, we are born again to a living hope. 1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Because of the resurrection,  we enjoy his personal fellowship with us always. Matthew 28:20 “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Because of the resurrection, He has a name above every name and every knee will bow to him. Philippians 2:9-10 “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” The resurrection means that Jesus kept his word. Matthew 17:22 “Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.’” Because Jesus was raised, we have received the promise of the Spirit, poured out on us. Acts 2:33 “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” Those are the outs of Easter.  It was an outside job. It was an outrageous plan.  It had a phenomenal outcome.  The ins?  Jesus came out of the tomb so that He could come IN-to your heart and life and to offer you all of the benefits of the Resurrection. How do you take Him up on His offer?  It’s as simple as the Scripture I read at the beginning. Romans 10:9 and 13 if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Let us pray.
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