Summary: Easter Sunday - in the midst of a series.
Intro: In the mid 1950’s, a Methodist minister in the UK, W E Sangster, noticed some symptoms in his throat and legs. He was found to have an incurable muscle disease that would eventually take away his voice, and his ability to swallow. So Sangster threw himself into his work, figuring he could still write and he would have even more time for prayer. Gradually, his legs became useless. He lost his voice completely, but he could shakily hold a pen. Just a few weeks before he died, in a letter to his daughter, he wrote about his experience. “It’s terrible,” he said, “to wake up on Easter morning and have no voice to shout, ’He is risen!’ - but it would be still more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout."
So where are you at on this today? We’re going to ask you to think it through.
Charles Colson, known as Pres. Richard Nixon’s Hatchet Man, was arrested and imprisoned in 1974 for his role in the Watergate scandal. Around that time in his life, he was challenged by the message of Jesus and became a committed follower, establishing the Prison Fellowship ministry. Listen to what he wrote about the idea of Jesus’ resurrection:
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
Peter Kreeft raises the same issue: “Why would the apostles lie? Liars always lie for selfish reasons. If they lied, what was their motive, what did they get out of it? What they got out of it was misunderstanding, rejection, persecution, torture, and martyrdom. Hardly a list of perks!”
One of those apostles was John, an old man, exiled to an isolated, volcanic island, because of his Christian faith. While he’s there, the Lord gives him a vision of supernatural proportions. He obediently records it, and we know it today as Revelation, the last book of the Bible. He records messages for the churches of Asia Minor. He describes a scene of the very throne of God:
Revelation 5:1-4 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.
And with great anticipation, John sees there a scroll in the right hand of God. It’s obviously very important, but no one is authorized to take it and open it. So John is in tears. Whatever important message is inside the scroll, whatever wisdom, or insight for life, will just stay unread, unknown.
I’m seeing an awful lot of people living right there. They know there’s something important to look at, but they’re not permitted to. There are some answers to the big questions out there, but you can’t be sure if they’re good answers. And there’s a lot of weeping - inward and outward - by people who are wishing that SOMEONE would help them hear that there’s a plan for their lives, that there’s more than just random luck or disaster involved here.
Here’s good news for you:
1. A Divine Plan is Unfolding Right Now, and Jesus the Lamb is the Main Agent
Who knew that a lamb would have such a central role in understanding the meaning of life? But it’s true! God has had a plan from the very beginning, so we get glimpses of it very early on in the Scriptures. And all along the way, there’s this important role for the Lamb.
Genesis 4, Abel brought the firstborn of his sheep to give as an offering to God.
Genesis 22, Abraham explained to his son that God would provide a lamb for their sacrifice, and He did.
Friday night, we looked together into Exodus and the way that God required Israel to sacrifice a Passover Lamb to save the lives of their 1st-born children.
From that time forward, God had Israel, a nomadic, sheep-herding nation, constantly offering lambs as sacrifices - every one of them a reminder that our relationship with God was damaged by our sinful choices. Little lambs, cute, cuddly, bouncy, innocent, killed by the thousands, for centuries. Each drop of their blood was a blunt illustration of how sin results in death, and how without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. For centuries, God patiently worked with the nation of Israel, because He was unfolding a plan.