Posted by: Tim | April 8, 2012

Easter Message 2012

Happy Easter!  Here is the manuscript for today’s Easter Message, “Seven Words for Easter”. Hope it is an encouragement to you! (Note that the words in bold are the headings and points from the sermon notes/outline.)

Introduction

Today: Seven Words for Easter

• A closer look at seven words from Romans 5:6-11, that teach us about the meaning of Easter

It is good to be celebrating Easter together. While the world makes a bigger deal of Christmas, probably because there are more presents involved, we need to recognize that the biggest gifts of all are celebrated at Easter, the gift of Jesus Christ to die in your place on the cross, that you might be saved from your sin. The gift of Jesus Christ gives us the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus. Gifts under the tree at Christmas are nice, but the gift of Jesus and of eternal life take the cake.

Maybe you are here today and you don’t consider yourself to be a follower of Christ, and maybe you have wondered what Easter is really all about. Today’s message will explain what Easter means, and what Jesus work on the cross means. It is my prayer that you will understand clearly the message of Easter, and that you will be able to place your trust in Jesus today.

Many of you here today are believers, and it is my prayer that a deeper understanding of Easter will strengthen you in your love and knowledge of the Lord, and better equip you to share the good news of Jesus with others.

In this message we will be looking at seven words that explain the meaning of Easter, each word based on a theme from Romans 5:6-11. For each word, I will introduce the word, give an illustration from the Easter story of this word in action, and then further discuss what the word means for you today.

Now I would like to read the passage for our message today, Romans 5:6-11, as well as the story of Resurrection morning from Luke 24:1-9 (Note: All Scripture quotations are from the ESV, English Standard Version of the Holy Bible, published by Crossway).

Romans 5:6-11  6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Luke 24:1-9 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Let’s pray.

 1. Substitutionary Atonement (6-8)

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

a. “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas” – The substitute for Barabbas is a substitute for you.

                        • Matthew 27:15-26, Luke 23:18

b. Jesus made atonement for your sin by dying in your place as a substitute

                        • Jesus’ death satisfied God’s wrath for your sin

                        • Atonement = “God’s work on sinners behalf to reconcile them to himself” (New Dictionary of Biblical Theology)

The first word in our message today is really two words, “Substitutionary Atonement”. Now these may sound like big theological words, but stay with me, because these two words are central to understanding the meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:6-8 reads,

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Substitutionary Atonement is all about Jesus dying in your place for your sins, to make it possible for you to be right with God.

To illustrate substitutionary atonement, let’s look in the Bible at the story of Barabbas. Jesus was captured and handed over to Pilate, the Roman ruler in Jerusalem.  Pilate couldn’t find anything wrong in Jesus, so he offered to release Him, as it was tradition to release a prisoner at Passover time. But the chief priests and the crowds demanded that Pilate instead release Barabbas, a known criminal who had led an insurrection and was a robber and a murderer. Pilate was afraid of the crowd rioting, and agreed to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus.

Now Barabbas’ name has an interesting meaning. It is the combination of two words: ‘Bar’ which means ‘son of’ and ‘abbas’ which many of you will recognize as meaning ‘father’.  So Barabbas’ name is literally, ‘son of father’.

And Jesus, the son of God the Father, who had never sinned and deserved no punishment, became the substitute for Barabbas, the “son of father”, who had committed many sins and deserved his punishment. Barabbas was allowed to go free, while Jesus paid the ultimate price – the Son of God substituting for the son of father.

And that is a vivid picture of the substitutionary atonement that happened through Jesus dying on the cross.

For it is not just Barabbas who was a sinner, but every single person who ever lived. Every one of us has sinned against God by breaking His laws in one way or another. And God’s penalty for sin is death. So it should be not only Barabbas, but it should be you and I and everyone else on the cross, paying the penalty for your sin.

But Jesus pays the penalty for you, as your substitute. So instead of you dying on the cross, He dies on the cross, and you receive the benefit, when you trust in Him for the forgiveness of your sins.

That is the heart of what happens on the cross – substitutionary atonement, and that is the first word of Easter from Romans 5:6-11.

 2. Love (8)

8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

a. “Mary” – Jesus lovingly speaks Mary Magdalene’s name, just as He lovingly speaks yours.

                        • John 20:11-18 (esp. v16)

b. God’s love for you is displayed in Jesus’ sacrificial death for you

                        • Jesus died for us when we were ‘weak’, ‘at the right time’, and ‘while we were still sinners’

The second word of Easter from our passage today is love. Romans 5:8 is one of my favourite verses in the Bible. It reads:

8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God is a God of love, and He lavishes His love on us by sacrificing His Son for us. And there is a story on Resurrection Sunday that captures the love of Jesus for His people. On the resurrection morning, some of the women who were followers of Jesus went to the tomb. They found angels in the tomb who asked them the question:

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen.

Then in John 20:11-18, we read the story of Mary Magdalene:

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”–and that he had said these things to her.

There must have been something about the way Jesus said “Mary” that made her realize it was Him.  To me this is a powerful picture of Jesus’ love for one of His followers, lovingly speaking her name and calming her fears. And I believe Jesus does the same thing for you and I, lovingly speaking your name – “Bill”, “Jenny”, “Dave”, “Lisa”, or whatever your name might be, for our God is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him.

God showed His great love for you by giving His own Son to die for your sin. And remember, when He did this you were a sinner; an enemy of God in rebellion against Him. Yet He treated you not like an enemy but like a beloved friend. Our God is an amazing God of love, and we praise Him for loving sinners like me and like you.

3. Justification (9a)

9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

a. “I find no guilt in him” – Pilate declares Jesus to be righteous,  just as God declares us to be righteous in Jesus.

                        • John 18:38, 19:4, 19:6

            b. You are justified by the blood of Jesus that was shed for you

                        • Justification = righteous-ized – ‘declared righteous’

The third word of Easter is Justification. Romans 5:9 says,

9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

The word justification means to be ‘declared righteous’, and we see justification portrayed in the story of Pilate and his interaction with Jesus, before the crucifixion.

The chief priests had dragged Jesus before Pilate, demanding that He be killed for breaking their religious laws. Pilate then questioned Jesus to determine if He had done anything warranting the death penalty.

But Jesus had not done anything wrong, and Pilate quickly realized it. Three times in John’s gospel, in John 18:38, 19:4, 19:6, Pilate makes the declaration as follows:

“I find no guilt in Him”

In making this statement, Pilate was declaring Jesus to be righteous, and it was absolutely true. He was justifying Jesus. Now despite his declaration, Pilate would bow to the power of the mob and crucify Jesus anyways, but that does not change the fact that he justified Jesus, declaring Him righteous.

And that is what God does for you when you put your faith in Jesus, except that God will never bow to the mob or to anyone else and act against His declaration of your justification.

Now when Pilate justified Jesus, he did so because Jesus was truly righteous.

But when God justifies you and I, He does it not because we are truly righteous in ourselves, but because He identifies us with Jesus, who is truly righteous in Himself. When you trust in Jesus by faith to save you from your sins, God looks on you and instead of seeing sinful-you, He sees perfect-Jesus’ blood covering you, so He can legitimately declare you righteous through Jesus. Christ’s righteousness becomes your righteousness. That is justification, and that is another amazing word of Easter!

4. Salvation (9b)

9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

a. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Jesus saves the criminal on the cross, just as He saves you from your sin through faith in Him

                        • Luke 23:39-43

            b. Jesus’ work on the cross saves us from God’s wrath for our sins

                        • Jesus is our propitiation – He took God’s wrath on Himself

                                    ▪ Romans 3:24-25

The fourth word of Easter is Salvation. Romans 5:9, again says,

9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Salvation builds on justification. Because you have been justified by Jesus blood, you shall be saved by Him from God’s wrath. For because of your sin, you face God’s wrath, unless you can somehow be saved from it. And that is what Jesus did. He made a way for you to be saved from God’s wrath.

The Easter story that describes God’s salvation clearly is the story of the thief who hung on the cross beside Jesus. Listen to the story from Luke 23:39-43.

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The criminals on the cross were being justly punished for their crimes.  The one criminal mocked Jesus, but the other criminal recognized his own sins, and recognized that Jesus had done nothing wrong.

And then he made a humble, last ditch request of Jesus. He asked,

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

From a purely human standpoint, Jesus was in no position to help anyone. But this criminal was asking in faith for Jesus to save Him, believing that Jesus’ kingdom would come, despite the fact that Jesus was dying there beside him on a Roman cross.

And this criminal’s humble plea is the same thing that you and I must do. Admit that you are guilty of sin, and recognize that Jesus is without sin. Then cast yourself on His mercy, ask for His grace towards you.

Jesus responded with more than the man could have imagined.

He said, ““Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Not in some distant future, not next month, not next week, but “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus saved that man, and that man died and was with Jesus in Paradise, which is a picture of heaven.

That man no longer faced the wrath of God for His sins, for that is what salvation is, being saved from the coming wrath of God, and receiving eternal life with Jesus forever.

Let me ask you, have you ever cast yourself at Jesus’ mercy, trusting Him to save you? He saved the criminal that day, and He will save you too if you admit your sin and put your faith in Him today.

5. Reconciliation (10-11)

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

a. Peter, do you love me?”  – Peter is reconciled to Jesus just as you can be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus.
                        • John 21:15-19

            b. Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins allows you to be reconciled to God

                        • Your relationship with God is restored

The fifth word for Easter is Reconciliation. Romans 5:10-11 says,

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a powerful word, for it involves things being made right between two parties who were previously unsettled in their relationship.

In your situation and in mine, you were God’s enemy, though He had done nothing wrong to you. In fact, He was lovingly seeking for you to be reconciled to Him. And if you place your faith in Jesus, you can be reconciled to God. Because of Jesus’ death for you, because God loved you, because you have been declared righteous, and because you are saved from God’s wrath, you can receive reconciliation. You can be in right relationship with God.

Romans 5:1 puts it this way,

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What an amazing thought – you can have peace with God through Jesus Christ!

A dramatic picture of reconciliation is seen in the story of Peter who had denied Jesus three times, soon after saying he would never fall away from Jesus. In John 21, after the resurrection, Jesus met with Peter and spoke to him. Three times He asked Peter, “Do you love me?”, and then calling Peter to “Follow me”, He reconciled Peter to Himself. Peter’s relationship with Jesus was restored, despite His previous failure, and he followed Jesus the rest of his days, to eventual martyrdom.

It is wonderful that you and I can have our sins forgiven and that you no longer need to fear God’s wrath, but it is even more wonderful that Jesus desires for you to be in relationship with God. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, you can be in meaningful, personal relationship with the God of the universe. That’s reconciliation!

6. Life (10b)

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

a. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”  – God raised Jesus to new life, just as He gives all who trust in Jesus new life

                        • Luke 24:5-6

b. God raised Jesus from the dead and you can share in Jesus’ resurrection life

                        • Jesus came to give us life – John 10:10b, Romans 6:4-5

 

The sixth word for Easter is ‘life’. Romans 5:10 says,

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.       Romans 5:10

On Easter Sunday, we remember not only Jesus’ death for our sins, but His resurrection from the dead by His Father. For Jesus did not stay dead after the crucifixion, for God the Father raised Him back to life, and He was seen alive by hundreds of witnesses, some who are the authors of the New Testament and testify to seeing Him alive.

Jesus is indeed alive today, living in Heaven at the right hand of God the Father, and the resurrection life that He received from His Father is also available to you when you believe in Jesus.

Jesus came to give you a better life than you now have – He called it the abundant life and He wants for you to walk in this newness of life, just as He did when He was resurrected. You were created to live with the life of God in you – what an amazing thought! When you believe in Jesus, you not only receive eternal life, you receive new life starting right away, as Jesus begins to work in you to transform you to be more and more like Himself.

The invitation to believe in Jesus is not only for the forgiveness of sins, as great as that is. The invitation to believe in Jesus is an invitation to new life in Jesus.

7. Joy (11)

11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

a. “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy  – The disciples’ joy in seeing Jesus is our joy in walking with Jesus by faith.

                        • John 16:20-22, John 20:20

            b. Easter is a day of joy

                        • We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Let’s now review the words we have looked at today:

  1. Substitutionary Atonement – Jesus died for your sins as your substitute
  2. Love – God loved you when you were a sinner against Him
  3. Justification – God declares you righteous if you have faith in Jesus
  4. Salvation – Jesus saves you from God’s wrath for your sins
  5. Reconciliation – You are reconciled to God through faith in Jesus
  6. Life – You receive the resurrection life of Christ inside of you
  7. Joy

And it is no wonder that the seventh and final word for Easter is Joy. Romans 5:11 states,

11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.                                                 Romans 5:11

Before He was crucified, Jesus promised the disciples in John 16:20:

You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy

And when the disciples saw Jesus alive they were filled with joy. We now have the whole New Testament that explains all of these things in ways the disciples must have only been beginning to understand. Their joy was rooted in seeing Jesus alive and realizing that everything He had said was true, and that they were standing with God in the flesh.

But we now understand these seven words of Easter through all that God teaches us through the Bible, and we can rejoice in all that He has done for us.

You can experience the reality contained in these Seven Words for Easter by putting your faith in Jesus Christ today.

The message of Easter is that you can receive all these benefits through faith in Jesus:

  1. Jesus dying as your substitute
  2. God loving for you
  3. God declaring you righteous
  4. Jesus saving you from God’s wrath
  5. God reconciling you to Himself through Jesus
  6. God giving you resurrection life inside of you
  7. Living with joy in all that God has done for you

Please understand that you do not receive all these benefits by being a good person, or by going to the right church, or by just passively sitting around and hoping that God will somehow give them to you.

No, God is very clear that there is only one way to receive the benefits of these seven words of Easter in your life.

The way is through faith in Jesus Christ. That means trusting Him to save you from your sins through His work on the cross. Instead of striving to be good enough, you accept that you never can be good enough, and you trust in Jesus who was good enough and who died as a perfect sacrifice for you. It means surrendering to Him as Lord of your life, trusting him by faith to save you.

You can become a follower of Christ by praying and asking Jesus to save you, calling out to Him for mercy and grace like the criminal on the cross did, and Jesus will forgive you and receive you, no matter what you may have done.

Jesus will save you and give you eternal life, starting right now.

And for many who have already put their faith in Jesus today, look at these seven words and ask God to rekindle the joy and praise in your heart for the great salvation that you have in Jesus. Pray for opportunities to share it with others you know, especially at this Easter season.

                       

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