MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(REVISED IN 2021)
(Powerpoint slides are available at no charge. Just e-mail me at email@example.com & request PP #216.)
TEXT: Acts 2:22 36
ILL. You probably don’t remember the name Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin, nor should you. But during his day he was the 2nd most powerful man in the Soviet Union.
A Russian Communist leader, he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which means "Truth"), & was a full member of the Politburo.
There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to lecture a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity, hurling insults, arguments, & what seemed to be proof against it.
An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what he considered to be the smoldering ashes of men’s faith. “Are there any questions?” he asked in gruff tones that would scare the stoutest of men. Deafening silence filled the auditorium, but then one man approached the lectern standing near the communist leader.
He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: "CHRIST IS RISEN!" En masse the crowd arose as one man & the response came crashing like the sound of thunder: "HE IS RISEN INDEED!"
I say to you this morning: CHRIST IS RISEN! I am convinced! I have faith that Christ was dead & buried. That I believe. But, this too I accept as true: He rose from the dead & will come again in glory!
Today I want to celebrate His resurrection with a message that I have titled, "Four Jewels of Easter." And in order to do that, please listen to these words of the apostle Peter to the thousands of people crowding around him & the other apostles on the Day of Pentecost.
(Acts 2:22-24) "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders & signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know.
“This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose & foreknowledge; & you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross.
“But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him"
(Acts 2:32-33) "God has raised this Jesus to life, & we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit & has poured out what you now see & hear."
(Acts 2:36) "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord & Christ."
Now with that proclamation of the death, burial, & resurrection of Jesus ringing in our ears, please listen to this story.
ILL. Alexander the Great of Greece was one of the greatest military leaders in all of recorded history. During the brief years of his rule his army swept through most of the known world, conquering all in its path. Even the mighty Persian Empire proved to be helpless before him.
As his army marched through Persia the soldiers went into the villages & cities, taking whatever they wanted. In the capitol, they entered the palace of Darius, & one soldier found an attractive leather bag. He looked inside & there were the crown jewels of Persia.
But being ignorant of the value of precious stones, the soldier looked at them for a moment & decided that they were simply worthless, shiny rocks. So he dumped them out, but kept the leather bag.
He was seen time & time again, carrying his prized find, a leather bag, & boasting of the attractive container in which he carried his food.
B. We smile at a story like that. But I wonder how often in life we hang on to worthless bags & throw away precious jewels?
1. How many times do you suppose we have clutched the bag of pleasure & pursued those things that bring us only momentary satisfaction?
We eat too much. We eat the wrong things. We drink the wrong things. We dull our minds with chemicals, & in the process we throw away the precious jewel of our physical health.
2. Or how many times do people yield to the lust of the flesh, searching for some kind of temporary gratification? They cling to that little leather bag, & in the process throw away the precious jewel of a good marriage.
3. Or how many times have we pursued material things, thinking "If only we can get our pot of gold." So we work extra hours & weekends. We separate ourselves from our families, clutching that bag of material gain. And in the process we throw away the precious jewel of our children & our families.
PROP. Let me share with you this morning 4 precious jewels of Easter. And as I mention them, you're going to think, "Those are precious? I don't see anything precious about them."
You see, precious stones are often deceptive. When you first see them you're not sure if they're valuable or not. You have to grow in your appreciation of their quality before you really begin to see their value.
I. REALIZING THE TRAGEDY OF SIN
A. So the first precious stone of Easter is "Realizing the Tragedy of Sin."
Jesus said, "They worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." I wonder, have we come to grips with the tragedy of our sin? So many times we try to cover it up or justify it, & convince ourselves that that is alright with God. Maybe everybody else's sin is wrong, but ours is alright.
ILL. Martin Luther said, "The ultimate test of a sinner is that he doesn't recognize his own sin."
ILL. Bob Copeland said, "We used to hiss at the villains, but today we buy their books." That's another way of saying that we have convinced ourselves that sin is really not all that bad, & we can live comfortably with it. And we seem to think that since we have accepted it, God has accepted it too.
Easter & the resurrection come, & we seem to reach the conclusion that just as snow covers up ugliness, that Easter, with its blossoms of flowers, covers up all of the wrong that we have done. And the tragedy of sin is cast aside.
B. We need to realize that sin is a real tragedy because as long as we don't, we'll never come to grips with our need for repentance.
ILL. The story is told about a professional football player who didn't like to obey curfew, & many nights he sneaked out. He would take blankets & pillows & put them under the covers of his bed, so that when the coach checked his room, it would look like he was sound asleep like all the others.
Well, in one city they stayed in a hotel where there weren't enough extra blankets & pillows. So he improvised by taking the lamp from the nightstand by the bed & putting it underneath the covers. It looked just fine.
But when the coach came by for the bed check & turned on the light switch, the bed lit up. "Be sure your sins will find you out."
The realization of the tragedy of sin is a precious jewel that we dare not throw away. You don't look at the cross, you don't hear the cries from Calvary's hill for long before you recognize the tragedy of sin.
Did you notice the words in vs. 23, He "was handed over to you by God's set purpose & foreknowledge"? Sin is such a tragedy that the only one worthy of paying the price was God's only Son. So God handed Him over to be crucified. That is how terrible sin is in the sight of a Holy God.
II. THE NECESSITY OF SACRIFICE
A. The 2nd jewel is "The Necessity of Sacrifice." We don't think that is a jewel because we live in a self indulgent society that doesn't care much for sacrifice.
We live in a time when sacrifice is not part of our usual vocabulary. Many prefer a religion that doesn't ask us to sacrifice. We would just as soon cast sacrifice aside & cling to the leather bag of indulgence.
ILL. Bob McFall was a 39 year old bachelor suffering from A plastic anemia. He needed a bone marrow transplant. A search was conducted among his family & they discovered that his first cousin was the ideal one to donate bone marrow so that Bob McFall could live on.
But when the first cousin was approached, & it was explained to him that there would be no harm to him whatsoever, he refused to give any bone marrow. So Bob McFall sued his first cousin, & took him to court.
The trial drug on & finally a verdict was reached. While the behavior of the first cousin was considered reprehensible, the court ruled that it could not force him to give any bone marrow. Bob McFall died 3 weeks after the trial. Sacrifice is not in our vocabulary today.
B. But contrast that to the cross. Jesus could have said, "I'm not going. I'm going to stay here." But willingly He sacrificed Himself. There is the necessity for sacrifice that comes as a result of the tragedy of sin.
III. THE GENUINENESS OF GRIEF
The third jewel is "the genuineness of grief." In Luke 24 you see some of the friends of Jesus gathering after they have taken His body down from the cross & laid it in the tomb.
And here are their words, "We thought that He was the one sent from God who would redeem the people of Israel." What great dreams & plans they had! But now He was dead, & all their hopes & dreams were shattered.
ILL. Jerry Kramer played football for the legendary Green Bay Packers when Vince Lombardi was the coach. He retired from professional football many years ago & then wrote several books all of them best sellers.
Kramer wrote, "I think more about death these days than ever before. That is kind of remarkable because I'm in better health than I have ever been. I'm about the right weight. My choles-terol level is good. I haven't had a serious illness. And since I've retired from football I haven't even had a broken finger."
"But," he said, "I think more about death these days than ever before. Maybe it is because I lost my father 2 years ago to cancer. Dad was a great man. He was a man of faith. He told us frequently in those last days of his life that he was safe in the arms of the Lord. So I feel good about my father's death," he said.
"I think a lot about death these days," he said. I guess we all do, because planted inside our bosom is the seed of immortality. We are created in the image of an immortal God, & we all desire to live beyond the grave. That is what makes Easter so special. Every one of us wants to live beyond the grave.
But we don't want death to interrupt our plans. "If death doesn't come I'll go on my vacation this summer. If death doesn't interrupt I'll watch my grandchildren grow up & graduate from high school & get married & become responsible adults. If death doesn't intervene I'll be married to my wife for 50 years one of these days."
But James said, "Don't count on tomorrow because you don't know what tomorrow will bring."
Hear the tears on Calvary's hill. Listen to the sobs. The grief is real & it is a precious stone. The tragedy of sin, the necessity of sacrifice, the genuineness of grief. We must travel through all those valleys before we finally break through to the certainty of joy.
IV. THE CERTAINTY OF JOY
"The certainty of joy." That's the message of the resurrection. Travel with the women down the garden path. Come to the open tomb. Look inside at the grave clothes undisturbed. Realize that Jesus has just gone through them & He is not among the dead. He is alive!
Hear their excited words as they go from person to person. "He is alive! He is alive!" Over & over again it is repeated.
ILL. A first time traveler looked over the brim of the Grand Canyon & said, "Wow! Something happened here."
Now listen, people. When we look in that empty tomb, we can reach only one conclusion something happened here, something wonderful, something glorious, something eternal happened here. Death & sin have been defeated. And our promise, our hope is all wrapped up in an empty tomb.
Taste the certainty of joy. Sing your hallelujahs. Look into the tomb. Something happened here.
ILL. The story is told about an old fisherman who became a Christian. He lived 7 miles from the church & walked 14 miles every Lord's Day just to worship God. He loved God & God's people so much that he didn't consider that a sacrifice.
One particular Lord's Day it was stormy & rainy, & he was delayed time & time again because of the mud & rain.
But finally he arrived at the church just in time to hear the preacher pronounce the last part of the benediction, "Because of Jesus, now & forevermore, Amen."
The old fisherman stood there, soaked, dripping. And the people went out, saying to him, "We're so sorry that you missed the service & the fellowship & the sermon & the time of worship & praise together."
The old fisherman, with a twinkle in his eye said, "It is worth a 14 mile walk in the rain & through the mud just to hear the words, 'Because of Jesus, now & forever¬more.'"
CONCL. Those are the words of Easter, "Now & forevermore," because Jesus Christ has conquered the temporary & made it eternal through His resurrec¬tion. Taste the certainty of joy.
Rejoice in the victory that is Christ's, & hear the words once again, "If we die with Him we will also rise with Him." We will live with Him for all eternity.
INVITATION: So this morning, if you are now aware of the tragedy of your sin, then we offer you the certainty of joy that can be yours in the resurrection of Christ Jesus. And we extend to you the invitation of our living Lord. We invite you to respond to it as we stand & as we sing.