Summary: To be connected to God through Christ is to be about the Father's business of turning negatives into positives. Jesus is essential for going about the Father's business of turning shadow into sunshine, sorrow into joy, death into life.
GREAT “I AM” DECLARATIONS OF JESUS
Who was Jesus? You will recall that He himself asked that question of His closest followers. First, He asked them, “Who do folks say I am?” Then He asked them a pointed question, “Who do YOU say I am?”
As we look back upon that encounter with His disciples, we soon realize that, just as it was wise for them to answer that very important personal question, it is wise for us to do likewise. It’s one thing to say that we are followers of Christ; it is quite another to know who He is.
As you know, it was the Apostle Peter who seized upon the question and blurted out the answer that all Christians ought to be able to give, “You are the Christ, Son of the living God.”
In this series of devotional messages, our focus is not on the question of who Jesus was based on public opinion; nor do we focus on Peter’s declaration of who Jesus was. Rather, we shall focus on who Jesus himself said He was – and hopefully still is in the hearts and lives of each one of His followers.
GREAT DECLARATIONS OF JESUS - SERMON IV: “RESURRECTION AND LIFE"
JOHN 11:25 . . .
I have always loved a parade – which is one reason why Palm Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. What a thrill it was for me, when I served with First Baptist Church of Augusta, to join with other ministers as we marched in the traditional Palm Sunday processional to the majestic sounds of the pipe organ.
On Palm Sunday each year, Christians commemorate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. What a parade! Jesus rode on a donkey along the main route lined with people waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna!”
By the end of the week, though, the shouts of triumph had turned to accusations of anger demanding that He be crucified. What a stark contrast! It reminds us of the crazy, mixed-up world in which we live.
As the story of the crucifixion unfolds, we are stunned by the sudden deterioration of human nature, as it plunges from the mountaintop of joy to the valley of sorrow. What a dastardly deed done to the One who came to bring joy and love and forgiveness to the world!
The good news is that the scheme of wicked religious people did not then, nor will not in our day, undo God’s divine plan for the redemption of His creation. For, you see, that which evil conniving tried to get rid of, God the Father reversed by the resurrection of His Son – the One who had been unjustly crucified. What a tragic moment in history the crucifixion was!
My heart has always gone out to Mary the mother of Jesus, as she bowed grief stricken at the foot of the Cross and wept bitter tears of anguish due to the unjust execution of her son. Yet, I have always taken comfort in the fact that God the Father raised His and Mary’s son from the dead.
God is in the business of turning negatives into positives. He took the greatest negative the world has ever known – the crucifixion – and turned it into the greatest positive the world has ever known – the resurrection!
Thus, the words uttered by Jesus to Martha have always expressed the essence of my faith. It was easier for me to recite those words “I am the resurrection and the life” as the basis of my faith, than to deal with the agonizing death of Jesus on the Cross. I had much rather skip the unpleasant crucifixion story and fast forward to the triumphant story of the resurrection. I did not want to linger at the Cross with Jesus and His mother - to share their pain and suffering.
Then one day my faith was put to the test; my belief had to shift from theory to practice; what I had so readily proclaimed, in sermon and in song, had to be transformed, in my thinking, so that I would be forced to go back to the Cross and bear Mary’s burden with her.
On that fateful day in 2004 – a week prior to our annual remembrance of the crucifixion – I faced an unimaginable change in my life – a change as abrupt as the change in the weather recently when an unexpected tornado hit downtown Atlanta – a change so unthinkable that it shattered the core beliefs of my faith - those that I had taken for granted. My youngest son died.
How could this have happened? Like Martha, I railed at Jesus, “If you had been there, my son would not have died.” Not only did the bad news from the coroner scar my brain with psychological shrapnel, as if a hand grenade had exploded inside my head, but I found myself echoing the words of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”