Tag Archives: Easter

Through the Cross

The following is a sermon I preached three years ago on Palm Sunday. it came to mind this morning as I was walking and praying. I trust it will bless you this Easter!

In the 5th century BC, the Greeks started some games at Mount Olympus.  An olive branch was twisted as a crown, and onlookers waved palms for the victor.  Palm branches were a symbol of victory. Olympic medals still have palms on them today!

There was excitement in the city.  Jesus was coming.  They had heard of his miracles, of people healed, of demons cast out, of his run-ins with the Pharisees.  The discussion about the coin with Caesars image on it and whether we should pay taxes or not.  The story of the Good Samaritan and the prodigal son.  Lazarus had been raised from the dead just days prior.  And now he was coming to Jerusalem!

He was really coming.  He was the King, the Messiah, in their minds.  They believed he was coming as a victor to bring His kingdom to reality.  They saw victory over the Romans coming to pass so they gave Him a victor’s welcome.  They waved the palm branches and laid them down at His feet in victory.  They even laid their overcoats down in homage to Him.  They praised the one who came riding in on a donkey, just as the prophecies said He would. Of course, the religious leaders were aghast!  They derided Him for accepting the praise of the people.  But He told them the rocks would cry out if the people did not.  They were incredulous, I am sure

Then he walked into the temple and saw the money changers there, cheating the people and lying to them.   They would take a lamb from one family, saying it was not clean enough, and they would sell that same family a lamb that had been taken from another family, supposedly because it was not clean enough.  There weights were not accurate and they cheated the people one after another.  Jesus came in, and as He had done before, he started dumping the tables over, causing a huge commotion in the entry of the temple.  Once again, the religious leaders were furious and said this man has got to go.

The next two days he spent time in Jerusalem, teaching the people with stories about ten virgins and ten talents.  He pronounced woes on the Pharisees in a tone none had seen from Him before.  He told of the end times, and what they would be seeing at the end of the age.  He talked about the value of a widow’s mite, and His feet were anointed with very costly oil by Mary. He told Peter he would betray Him three times.  A lot happened on those two days that we rarely read about.

But then Thursday came.  He sent His disciples into the city to prepare for the Passover, telling them to take someone’s donkey and tell them the Master had need of it.  The disciples went and prepared the feast, and as soon as they were all there, Jesus washed their feet.  The Master washing His followers’ feet – quite a sign of servanthood.  He told them one of them would betray Him, and sent Judas away on His mission.  He told them the bread was His broken body, and the cup was His blood spilled for them.  They were trying to figure out what he was talking about.  I am sure the atmosphere was solemn and sobering.  Not a typical Passover fest, which were usually joyous and celebratory.

Around midnight, they took a walk to the Garden of Gethsemane.  He told them he was going to prepare a place for them, that he was giving them His peace and would send the comforter to teach them.  He told them he was the vine and they were the branches, and they were to be fruitful.  He said the Holy Spirit would convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment.  He told them to pray in His name, and he pronounced a blessing on the disciples, all during that short walk.  Those words can be talked about forever.

When they got to the Garden, He took Peter, James and John a little further in and asked them to pray with Him as he went aside.  But they fell asleep, not once, not twice, but three times.  He told His Father that he was ready to do the Fathers will, and not His own.  He would face the cross.  Judas came and betrayed Him with a kiss and the soldiers took Him away in the middle of the night.  A mock court awaited Him. It didn’t take long for them to convict Him as peter was outside betraying Him.  Pilate listened to the case and washed His hands of the whole thing after the crowd cried crucify Him.  He was beaten, bruised, spit on, scourged, given a crown of thorns and made to carry His cross.  He fell under the weight, weakened by the loss of blood.  A man helped Him carry the cross the rest of the way.  They laid Him on it and put the nails through His hands and feet.  Then they raised the cross and dropped it in the hole with a thud.  The pain in His body must have been immense, the sight of Him almost grotesque. 

Then He asked the Father to forgive them, for they did not know what they were doing.  He put John in His place to care for His mother.  He asked for a drink and got vinegar.  Then he cried it is finished and His life left Him at three in the afternoon.  He gave it up, they did not take it.  All of a sudden there was an earthquake.  The veil of the temple ripped from top to bottom.  People came up out of their graves and walked in the streets of Jerusalem.  It was an incredible series of events.  They took His body down and laid it in a borrowed tomb, wrapped in a cloth.  They out a huge stone at the entry of the tomb, sealed it with a Roman seal and placed a guard at the door so no one would steal the body.

Saturday was quiet.  The people mourned His death.  They seemed hopeless because they had such high hopes.  Now He was gone, and their dreams of a Messiah were gone with them.  The disciples were in hiding, afraid of the Romans, who thought they might steal the body so they could claim he rose again as He said He would.  I can’t imagine the tears that were shed that day.

Then Sunday came.  Mary came to the tomb to anoint the body, but when she got there the Roman guard was asleep and the stone was rolled away!  She went into the tomb and Jesus was gone.  She wondered where he was, and Jesus appeared to her, telling her He had risen just like He said He would.  Se ran to tell the disciples. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves.  They were amazed, and suddenly Jesus came into the room and talked with them.  The victory had been won.

You see, the cross was necessary.  Jesus had to win the victory by going through the cross.  And we win the victory by going through the cross as well.  We don’t ant to stay on the front side of the cross, and see the agone and defeat that is there.  We need to get to the back side of the cross and see the victory that Christ won for us.

On the front of the cross is agony on the back of the cross is peace

On the front of the cross is sorrow on the back of the cross is joy

On  the front of the cross is weakness on the back of the cross is strength

On the front of the cross is doubt on the back of the cross is faith

On the front of the cross is pain on the back of the cross is healing

On the front of the cross is deceit on the back of the cross is honesty

On the front of the cross are lies on the back of the cross is truth

On the front of the cross is bondage on the back of the cross is freedom

On the front of the cross is darkness on the back of the cross is light

On the back of the cross we are lost on the back of the cross we find the way

On the front of the cross is sin on the back of the cross is forgiveness

On the front of the cross we are stained with sin

on the back of the cross we are white as snow

On the front of the cross is defeat on the back of the cross is victory

On the front of the cross is death on the back of the cross is eternal life

If we stay on the front of the cross, hell will be our destination

When we go through the cross, and come to the back, our destination is heaven

All is only achieved if we go through the cross.  Have you seen Him on the front of the cross, blood stained, nailed, in agony? Have you accepted Him as your sacrifice for your sin? If you have, then come through the Cross for victory.  Come to the back of the cross and realize all God has for you.

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The Third Night

A question was posed to me a few weeks ago that I have been pondering ever since.  Do you ever have those biblical questions that you just want to sit on for a while and contemplate, wondering what it really means.  You think you know, but you are not sure, so you seek the Holy Spirit to guide you to an answer because it is He that will guide you into all truth.  You ask God for wisdom and your faith doesn’t waver so you know He will give you the wisdom you asked for.  This was one of those questions.  I gave my friend a quick thought, and the more I ponder it, the more I think the Holy Spirit spoke tome in an instant and gave me those words I shared with him.

In Matthew 12:38 the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask Him to show them a sign.  I found this a little funny, since he has already been ministering for over a year, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, making the lame to walk and the dumb to speak. Certainly they had heard of these deeds and maybe, upon giving them the benefit of the doubt, they had never been present to witness one of these miracles.  They wanted to see for themselves, much like Thomas did the night of His return from the dead.  After all, it would be much easier to believe Him if they could see and actual sign!

Jesus knows their hearts though. He tells them an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.  WOAH!  Wait a minute!  How often do we seek signs?  How often do we need a miracle to happen in our lives in order for us to believe he is the good and merciful God we have heard about?  I hear a lot of people praying to God for miracles all the time and when they don’t get them, they question God.  They wonder if He really hears their prayers, if He really cares about them.  Even though His word tells us He does, they still question.  Does that make us an evil and adulterous generation?  We should worship God for who He is, not for what He will do for us.  There is a huge difference there, and we should make sure we are praising Him for the right reasons.  That way our praise can be unceasing and our love will never die.  But that is not the point I am writing this about.

The next thing Jesus says is even more intriguing.  In Matthew 12:40, He says:

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 

Let me check my math here.  Jesus died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday, right? Friday, Saturday, Sunday – that’s three days.  But Friday night and Saturday night are only two nights, right?  He says three nights.  My friend misquoted the verse by saying Jesus was three days in the heart of the ground.  But it says earth here.  So, what happened to the third night?

I think Thursday night was the third night – the night of the Last Supper and the Garden, the several trials also.  It was then that He gave Himself up, that he was no longer a man of this earth.  How could any earthly man endure the suffering he went through?  How could anyone not want to atop Jonas from leaving the upper room and betraying Him?  How could any man not call upon all the power He had to dispel the Roman guards that came to take Him away?  How could He face the Sanhedrin and Pilate without defending Himself before the sun even came up?  My thought is that no living human could.  Only a person who had fully died to himself could go through this chain of events that happened Thursday night into Friday morning.  For all intents and purposes, Jesus really died Thursday night.  His power, His anointed preaching, His ability to call on His Father – all gone.  From that moment on, nothing could kill Him because he had already consigned himself to death.  Three nights in the heart of the earth.

We can learn a valuable lesson from this.  This world is going to come at Christians more and more in these last days.  We are seeing it now and will continue to see the persecution rise.  It started back in the 70’s, with the Bible and prayer being taken out of our schools.  But today it is so much worse.  Today, there is an all-out assault on the church by the LGBTQ+ coalition.  They are splitting churches wide open and are perverting the scriptures with their misinterpretation.  They are winning even the dearest of saints over to their side and indoctrinating our children even as young as kindergarten age.  Free speech will be next as they seek to stop us from reading certain parts of the Bible.  Oppression will hit us all eventually, and we must be prepared.

In my mind, the only way to be prepared is to die to ourselves.  We are supposed to crucify this flesh, let it die, so the Spirit can live within us in this world.  We are supposed to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  If my body can be offended and made weak by the attack of the enemy, what good will I be to the Kingdom of God?  We cannot allow ourselves to be offended, but rather to stand on the word of God when the enemy comes roaring in like a lion.  And he will come, you can depend on that.  He came against Jesus!  He certainly has no fear coming against us.  If we react in the flesh, we are doomed.  But if we react in the Spirit, as Jesus did, we will be victorious every time.  Jesus trusted God in the middle of the assault, and we should as well.   The third night shows us that.  It was in the third night, which actually came first, that all the enemy’s arsenal was used against Jesus.  He did not flinch.  He did not get offended. He did not complain.  He just did what God called Him to do.  And we should do the same!

The Year of Our Lord

I got to thinking about our calendar today.  We are here in the year 2022 A.D., with A.D. signifying “Anno Domini” or “the year of our Lord.”  It’s interesting to me that the3 calendar dating system is based on the birth of Jesus rather than His death, which was much more significant for us.  After all, we derive very little from His birth other than some wonderful stories and a rich Christmas tradition.  But from His death and resurrection, we are blessed with Salvation healing, deliverance and eternal life.  We are also blessed with the ability to become a new creation in Christ, putting away that old man in order to take on the new man that Christ will form within us as we grow and mature.  His death brings new life to whoever accepts this great sacrifice that He made.

It was not pretty, that’s for sure.  First, His best friends couldn’t even stay awake to pray with Him.  To give them a little credit, it was around 1 in the morning when they arrived in the garden.  But he had told them He was going away, and was going to die.  Certainly, that would keep them awake, wouldn’t it?  Then he was betrayed by a kiss from one of His closest disciples.  The Roman soldiers led Him to the Sanhedrin, where He was slapped and ridiculed by many.  Then top Pilate’s court, where he was ordered to be beaten with many stripes.  They ripped open His back with cat-O-Nine tails and it was oozing with blood when they out a purple garment on Him and a crown of thorns, which dug deep into His head.  They mocked Him and spit on Him before pulling the robe back off, opening again the stripes on His back.  He was rejected by the crowds that so eagerly welcomed Him just 4 days earlier, and they cried out to have Him crucified.  Through all this, He never protested or complained.  Then they made Him carry His cross uphill to Calvary, where they nailed Him to that cross, putting spikes through His hands and feet. 

Isaiah 53:7 says He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

He gave up His life – they did not take it from Him.   The ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  The sinless Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world.  This was foretold by John the Baptist (John 1:29).

He was placed in a borrowed tomb and a stone was rolled over the opening and sealed with a Roman seal.  Guards were placed at the door.  But three days later, the stone rolled away and he came out alive!  Alive for all to see.  Alive for you and me!  Alive to bring us the promise of eternal life.  What a glorious day that was.

I started to wonder why the calendar was not set to that date – the date he rose from the grave.  After all, that is the day we gained new life, a new beginning.  Why is that not the day we began a new era?  After all, all things were made new, right?  Jesus Christ had given the ultimate sacrifice so we could be free from this earthly life and all its entanglements.  God had given His only Son just so we could have a way to eternal life with Him, and a life free from condemnation here on this earth.  Shouldn’t this be the day we set as ground zero on the time line before and after Christ?

Then I started thinking about the other sacrifice Jesus gave.  We think about the sacrifice of the cross often.  But what about that sacrifice He made to come to earth in this place To give up His royal standing to come to earth as a mere mortal man.  He was used to unlimited power, yet he became powerless.  He was used to the praise of angles, yet he came to the praise of mere shepherds.  He was used to having dominion over all things to being dependent for everything.  He went from creator to created, from all knowing to knowing nothing, from being all places to being restricted to a mothers manger, from a throne to a stable.

When I think about these two sacrifices that Christ made, I think the first one was the more difficult decision for Him.  Giving up heaven for an earthly existence was harder then giving up earth for a heavenly existence.  I start to consider the humility it took to come here in the first place and realize that is a much deeper humility than the humility of the cross.  And I realize that new life began in the cradle, not in His rising from the grave.  If He had not decided to humble himself to the lowly human life he would face, He would never have found the strength to humble Himself to the cross.

Can I even begin to find this humility for my life?  Can I find a way to come down out of the clouds in areas like my financial state, or job expertise, or the vast knowledge I possess or wisdom I have gained?  Can I put aside the thought that I did some of this on my own, without God’s help?  Or thinking that this was just a fluke and filled with luck?  Can I bring myself to realize that I am nothing without Him, and all things I have accomplished I have done so because of Him.  He has guided and directed me to this point in my life, and I should not take the credit for any of it.  Instead, I should realize this new life that I have attained through His sacrifice is His plan, His wisdom, His guidance and His influence on my life.   I cannot come to this place of understanding except by humbling myself.  Humbling myself to new life being formed in me, just like it was formed in a manger tow thousand the twenty-two years ago.  He brought new life with Him when he humbled Himself in the manger, and allowed me to partake of it when he humbled Himself to the cross.  This is why the calendar says 2022 instead of 1983 today.