Summary: This is the final message in a series that looks at Jesus’ final few days leading up to his crucifixion. This was the Easter Sunday morning message that declares the hope that we have because of the cross.
As many of us have heard, cartoonist Johnny Hart has come under a great deal of criticism for his B.C. comic strip - specifically for the strip he created for today, Easter Sunday. It depicts a Jewish menorah being transformed into a Christian cross as Jesus the last words of Jesus are stated. It is a tremendously powerful statement -- one that has many people protesting to get it removed from many newspapers because of its so-called "lack of respect" for the Jewish faith.
Why is this such a big deal? For a simple reason -- as Christians, we believe that Easter is the Focal Point of History. Picture a timeline with a cross in the center. The Bible tells us that every moment from Creation on has been leading up to the cross (as part of God’s eternal plan), and that every moment since is lived in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s very clear.
Max Lucado – “No Wonder They Call Him The Savior”
“The cross. It rests on the time line of history like a compelling diamond. Its tragedy summons all sufferers. Its absurdity attracts all cynics. It’s hope lures all searchers… History has idolized it and despised it, gold-plated it and burned it, worn and trashed it. History has done everything to it but ignore it. That’s the one option that the cross does not offer. No one can ignore it! You can’t ignore a piece of lumber that suspends the greatest claim in history. It’s bottom line is sobering: …if the account is true, it is history’s hinge. Period. … If not, it is history’s hoax. That’s why the cross is what matters.”
The Centrality of the Cross and the Empty Tomb
-- Paul: “I want you to remember the Good News… of which this was most important: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say; that he was buried and was raised to life on the third day as the Scriptures say…” (1 Corinthians 15:1,3-4 – New Century Version)
BECAUSE JESUS IS ALIVE…
1. YOU CAN EXPERIENCE HOPE THAT RELIEVES YOUR DOUBTS.
-- The angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!… I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen…” The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were frightened but also filled with great joy. (Matthew 28:5-6,8 – New Living Translation)
-- Thomas… 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…” Jesus came and stood among them… he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-25,27-28 - NIV)
Good News – Our hope and assurance rests in the same source – our Living Lord!
-- Let us hold firmly to the hope that we have confessed, because we can trust God to do what he promised. (Hebrews 10:23 – New Century Version)
2. YOU CAN EXPERIENCE GRACE THAT FORGIVES YOUR FAILURES.
-- A servant girl saw Peter sitting there in the firelight… she said, “This man was also with him.” But Peter said… “Woman, I don’t know him…” Then the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter… Then Peter went outside and cried bitterly. (Luke 22:54-57,61-62 – New Century Version)
-- The women who went to the tomb… told the apostles what had happened, but the story sounded like nonsense, so they didn’t believe it. However, PETER RAN to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened. (Luke 24:10-12 – New Living Translation)
-- “The Lord has really risen! HE APPEARED TO PETER!” (Luke 24:10-12,34 – New Living Trans.)
-- Again Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?..” Peter was hurt… he said, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep…” Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:17-19 – New International Version)
Another B.C. Cartoon by cartoonist Johnny Hart:
Three guys talking:
1 -- "Would you lay down your life for someone else?"
2 -- "That would be pretty stupid."
3 -- "Yeah, why would we do that?"
1 -- "What if you loved someone so much, you would give your life for them?"
2 -- "… You mean, like, would we die in their place?"
3 -- "…So they wouldn’t have to?"
1 -- "BINGO!"
2 -- "Nobody has that much love!"
3 -- "And if anyone did, I’d sure hate to lose him!"