Faith Church

THE FORGIVENESS OF JESUS – The Empty Tomb | Sermon from 4/21/2019

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This past week we have all seen devastating pictures from the fire at Notre Dame. The stories that have come out of Paris are filled with passion and drama as people prayed and sang on the streets outside the cathedral, and as priests and rescue workers raced to save art work and artifacts like the crown of thorn. Perhaps one of the most enduring images from the week is this one. notre dame cross

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, to me there are two words here – Power and Victory. We see the power of the cross which endures through all things, and we see the victory of the cross which can redeem all that is lost. For me, the Easter story can be summed up in two words, Power and Victory. Let’s first talk about POWER.

When Mary and the women arrived at the tomb, they went to prepare Jesus’ body for a final burial. Jesus had been quickly wrapped in grave clothes when he was laid in the tomb, so the women were taking spices to properly prepare and wrap Jesus’ body. On their way to the tomb they started asking themselves how they were going to roll away the stone that had sealed the tomb.

Tombs in Jesus’ day were sealed with a stone disc, which would be rolled in front of a doorway, or with a stone plug that would be pushed into the grave opening. Because the scriptures use the word rolled, we tend to think of a large disc, but there are some who say that the stone plugs would have been more common. It doesn’t really matter what kind of stone it was, there was no way a few woman would have been able to move any stone. Estimates for the weight of these grave stones is ½ to 2 tons, that’s 3,000 – 4,000 pounds. But when the women arrive at the tomb, the stone has been rolled away. It took real power to move that stone, so the first thing we see in this Easter story is power. tomb-with-stopperrolling-stone-near-carmel1

The gospel of Matthew shows us the kind of power we are talking about. Matthew 28:1-4.

For Matthew, the only explanation of how the stone could have been moved was that it took an earthquake. It took a power that literally shook the ground to move this stone and that kind of power only comes from God. Easter is a story about the power of God that can open a tomb, but it didn’t just move stones, it also raised the dead because when the women arrive at the tomb it wasn’t just open, it was empty.

The power of God not only opened a tomb but it emptied the grave, it raised Jesus from the dead. Matthew 28:5-7.  God not only had the power to open the grave, he had the power to empty it. While Jesus had shown the world his power by walking on water, turning water to wine, healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, and raising other people from the dead, to raise himself from the dead took a power that had never been seen before.

So Easter is a story about power, the power of an open tomb and the power of an empty grave, but the power doesn’t end there, now the power of God begins to touch the hearts and lives of people, and the first person to experience that resurrection power was Mary. Mary had been possessed by 7 demons and Jesus had been the one who had driven them out. When Jesus healed her, Mary’s life was suddenly filled with meaning and purpose. Jesus gave her hope, and dignity, and a joy that she had never known, but when Jesus died, all that hope, and dignity and joy died too. In many ways, Mary’s life was now empty, but the resurrection of Jesus had the power to fill it up again. When the risen Jesus appears to Mary, her life is filled with the power of hope, and joy and life.

Matthew 28:8-10.

So the power of Christ’s resurrection opened a tomb, it emptied a grave,it raised Jesus from the dead and it filled a woman’s life with hope and joy, but the power of the resurrection was just beginning. Jesus told Mary that he was going to go meet his disciples and as you might guess, when he arrived he filled them power.

John 20:19-21a.

When Jesus was arrested, the disciples had scattered,but after his crucifixion they had regrouped and were all together, but they were together in fear. They were afraid of the Jewish leaders because if those leaders had conspired to put Jesus to death they would have no problem rounding up Jesus’ followers and killing them. They were afraid and they were empty because all that they had trusted in, hoped for, and believed in with Jesus was gone. They were beginning to question everything. Was Jesus’ teaching true? Was his way of life and love the way they should still be living? Was there any power in Jesus?

With just 4 words, Jesus fills the disciples with power. Peace be with you. And with that peace came comfort, and hope, and the assurance that Jesus was alive. And if Jesus was alive it was a game changer, their fear could now give way to faith, and their confusion could become confidence because there is real power in Jesus, and there is power in his teaching and in his way of living and loving. With Jesus there is once again power to experience all the fullness of God and the kingdom of God.

So the story of Easter is the story of power; power to open a tomb, empty a grave, raise Jesus from the dead, give hope to the hopeless, faith to the fearful, confidence to the confused, and peace to those in pain. Easter is the story of power, and the power that we see on that first resurrection day has not stopped touching hearts and lives.

Today, we are able to see more in our lives than the sin, and the struggles, and the sorrow that surrounds us because we can tap into the power of Christ’s resurrection. When confidence overshadows our confusion, we tap into the power of Christ’s resurrection. When we face death and remember that it has been defeated, we tap into the power of Christ’s resurrection. The same power that opened a grave, emptied a tomb, raised the dead and spoke words of lifeto people 2000 years ago is still bringing us life today and it is a power that will never be overcome.

It will never be overcome – which leads us to the 2nd word of Easter, VICTORY. There is victory in the resurrection of Jesus. First and foremost we see the victory of life over death. When Jesus rose from the grave, he didn’t just defeat death for himself, he defeated death itself. The Apostle Paul said 1 Corinthians 15:53-57.

It is the victory of the resurrection that allows us to stand at gravesides and not weep but give thanks because we know that death is not the end of life. It is this victory of the resurrection that fills our lives with hope when those we love have died because we know that their life goes on, and that our lives will go on,which means that we will be reunited, and together we will experience life eternal.

Clearly Easter is the story of the victory of life over death, but that is just one victory we see in the empty tomb. The resurrection of Jesus also shows us that the teaching of Jesus, and the life he lived, is victorious. The resurrection is the validation that everything Jesus said and did was right, and true, and that his way is THE way we should live our lives.

The resurrection of Jesus tells us that Jesus’ teaching and example about humility and loveis the more victorious way to live our lives. It is better to love others than it is to love ourselves. It is better to give than to horde, care for others than to care for ourselves, and to serve others than to serve ourselves. The resurrection shows us that the way of Jesus’ living and teaching is the better way, the victorious way, and the way we need to live if we want to be victorious in life.

The resurrection also tells us that the forgiveness of Jesus is powerful and victorious and available for ALL our lives. The underlying message of Jesus’ life and teaching was forgiveness. Before he was born, an angel told Joseph that Jesus was being born to save people from their sin. Jesus was coming to forgive, and every step of his life he showed us the power of forgiveness.

Jesus accepted and loved people that others refused to, and in that love he offered forgiveness. Jesus looked at those who were sick and first forgave their sin and then proved he could forgive by healing their bodies. Jesus taught his followers to forgive others and to extend God’s forgiveness to all people. When he taught his followers to pray, he made forgiveness the centerpiece of the prayer, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

The power and victory we have in the forgiveness of Jesus is made clear to us in one sentence that we often overlook in the crucifixion story. Mark 15:37-38. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

The curtain referred to here is the curtain that separated the most holy part of the temple from the rest. The people believed that God dwelled behind that curtain. The curtain separated God from men and women, our sin separated us from God, but when our sin is forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross, the curtain is torn in two. The curtain is no longer needed because we are forgiven, our relationship with God has been restored. We are redeemed and now all of life can be filled with power and victory.

The torn curtain itself is a symbol of God’s power because it took divine power to tear the curtain in two. The curtain was made from one piece of woven cloth, stronger than anything we might imagine.No person would have been able to just tear the curtain in two, and no one would have been able to tear it from the top down because you wouldn’t have been able to get up to the top. Like the open tomb and empty grave, it took power to tear the curtain in two, and it was the power of God that did the tearing. God tore open the Temple because it was no longer needed for sacrifices because in Jesus there is forgiveness for our sin, once and for all.

The torn curtain is a symbol of power and victory because with sin and death defeated, God can now enter our hearts and lives and offer us life abundant, and life eternal. Because we are forgiven, God has come to dwell among us and in us. Because we are forgiven we can experience a victorious life.

The victorious life is where we not only find hope in the midst of disease, depression, despair, divorce, destruction, division, and desperation and every kind of darkness we face, but where all of our relationships are restored because we are forgiven and we have the power to forgive others. The victorious life is one where we are able to experience a right relationship with God, restored relationships with one another, and an ongoing relationship with the world where we give of ourselves to help others see and experience the power and the victory found only in the forgiveness of Jesus.

Easter is not just a day to celebrate the power and victory that is ours in Jesus, it is the day to start living a new life filled with the power and the victory of Jesus. At Faith Church, we believe that the victorious life God wants for us is experienced best as we deepen our relationship with God, grow closer in our relationships with one another in the church, and reach out to share the power and victory of Jesus through our ongoing relationship with the world.

If this is a life you want to live, we invite you to take a next step either later today or during the week to come. In the bulletin you will you find a next step for each of these three relationships and each step is one very intentional way you can begin to experience the power and the victory that can be ours because of the forgiveness of Jesus.


Next Steps

The Power and the Victory of Easter

 

At Faith Church, we believe that the victorious life God wants for each of us is experienced most fully as we deepen our

  •  Relationship with God
  •  Relationship with one another in the church
  •  Relationship with the world

 

Experience the power of this victorious life by taking a next step in your faith today.

 

Relationship with God

Evaluate your current relationship with God and discover a next step by taking this faith assessment: threerelationships.com/assessment/.

 

Relationship with the Church

Experience new and vital relationships with others in the church by joining one of our small groups. A current offering of small groups, Sunday School Classes, and Bible studies can be found at: bellefontefaith.com/groups

 

Relationship with the World

Serve those in need in Jesus’ name (and with the church) by taking part in this Saturday’s Serving Our Seniors. Sign up today at: bellefontefaith.com/sos

 

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10:45 am: Contemporary Worship Service with Nursery and Children’s Church

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