Summary: This Easter message is designed to show visitors our life-changing and community-transforming the church is. The goal is to lead them to Christ AND get them to return next weekend.
[This sermon is contributed by Hal Seed of New Song Church in Oceanside, California and of www.PastorMentor.com. Hal is the author of numerous books including The God Questions and The Bible Questions. If you are interested in The Bible Questions Church-wide Campaign, please visit and watch Hal’s video at www.PastorMentor.com.]
Message segues out of a Willow Creek Drama on Acts 2, “And every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.” Reach front as final actress says, “Every day.”
But not this day.
On Easter Sunday morning,
- the Disciples were hiding they had seen Jesus crucified, and were fearful they would be next.
- The Jews who had traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival were still sleeping that morning.
- The people of Jerusalem, who had jeered at Jesus and clamored for his death 3 days earlier, were snug in their homes, unaware of what was about to happen.
- The priests, who plotted Jesus’ death, were at peace. The threat He had presented to their leadership was quelled… or so they thought.
- On Easter Sunday morning, just before sunrise, there was no hope, and there was no church. (look around at the empty stage)
The people of Jerusalem lived in occupied territory. Their land was ruled by the Romans. The Romans governed them, the Romans taxed them, the Romans enslaved them and their children. It’s estimated that in 33 A.D., as many as 90% of all people living in the Roman Empire were slaves.
Once there had been hope. For 3 and ½ years, a prophet named Jesus of Nazareth had roamed the cities and hillsides proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. People flocked to hear Him. People were stunned by His teaching. Hope was lit in human souls, for a better future and an outrageous eternity.
Then came Friday. Jesus nailed to a cross, and hope was nailed there with Him.
Read the speeches of Jesus in the NT sometime.
When Jesus cast a vision for this kingdom of heaven people were so smitten by the idea sometimes they could hardly breathe.
Then read about Good Friday. When Jesus Christ breathed His final breathe on that cross, it was like the wind was taken out of the lungs of the world.
When Jesus walked across a field, or climbed a hilltop, people were drawn to Him like a moth to a flame. His words were powerful. His demeanor, irresistible. His descriptions, life-giving. His promises… almost too good to be true.
One time, when a large group of people turned away from Him, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Will you be leaving too?”
To which they said, “Are you kidding? Where else would we go? You alone have the words of life!”
If you’ve ever seen a stock chart of a growing company, the story of Jesus and His church looks very similar. The stock starts out low and then spurts forward gaining value and shareholders. Then it regroups a little before gaining more value and more followers. Slope by slope by slope the stock progresses forward. The story of the church is very similar.
There are 4 upward curves to the story of Jesus, and each high is significantly higher than the one before it.
The first upward move takes places when Jesus Christ starts out by the river Jordan, a solo act. He’s baptized by John in the Jordan and begins to attract followers. First a little group, then a bigger one, then a bigger one, then a crowd.
When the crowd realizes that Jesus is serious about the life He’s promising them, some of them fall away. It’s too much for them. They can’t handle the idea of full commitment to anything, even if it means full fulfillment of all their hopes.
So there’s a little dip.
And then a huge regrouping begins that climaxes on Palm Sunday. This second high is far higher than the first one.
By the time Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowd cheers, throws their coats down in front of Him so that He can walk on them, like they would for a conquering king, and then starts shouting, “Hosanna” to Him. “Hosanna” means, “Lord, save us.” At the fever pitch of this moment, they worship Him as the Savior of the World.
…Which rattles the Jewish leaders. And starts a downward curve.
These Jewish leaders begin to think that if Jesus gets any more popular, He’s going to dethrone them from their positions of authority. So they plot His destruction.
And the dip of all dips ensues.
On Thursday evening, they capture Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, prosecute Him in six trials between midnight and 6 a.m., and by 9 a.m., they have Him nailed to a Cross.