Monday, April 27, 2015

Sermon on Acts 4:1-12, for the 4th Sunday of Easter, "No other Name"

In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead. Amen. What was life like for the apostles in the early days after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven? After the miracle of speaking in tongues at Pentecost, the apostles continued to boldly witness to Jesus Christ. In Acts 3, Peter and John meet a crippled beggar at the gate of the Temple—and having no money to offer him, they instead heal him in the name of Jesus Christ, to the amazement of all who were present. It opened a door for many to hear, listen to God’s Word, and believe. Today’s passage tells us the number of believers quickly grew to about 5,000 men, plus women and children.
But along with the phenomenal number of followers turning to Jesus Christ, and awakening of faith by the Holy Spirit, there was also intense opposition. And the most forceful opposition came from the religious leaders themselves. The captain of the Temple, the commander of the Temple police, placed Peter and John under arrest, lest disorder break out. And a slew of religious leaders, from the chief priests, elders, scribes, the high priest, the Sadducees and others, gathered for this hearing. Noticeably, one significant religious group—the Pharisees—are not named. Probably because the leaders were chiefly upset that the apostles were teaching the resurrection of the dead. Pharisees and Sadducees disagreed in a big way over this point. The Sadducees believed there was no resurrection of the dead, while the Pharisees did believe it according to the Old Testament Scriptures.
So all the trouble really centered on this question—is Jesus Christ of Nazareth—the One who had been crucified, just a short while ago—was He alive again? Peter and John were under arrest, not for any crime, not for any violation of the Temple laws—but as they testified, for doing the good deed of healing a man in the Name of Jesus Christ, and for teaching in the Name of Jesus Christ. The healing was widely witnessed by the people, and could not be denied, and the religious leaders demanded to know by what authority Peter and John did this. They were ready to strip Peter and John of their freedom and place them under arrest for an act of kindness and for proclaiming the power of Jesus, by whom this man had been healed.
Today things aren’t much different. The Good News of Jesus Christ, the Gospel—the news of His death on the cross for our sin and His resurrection from the dead—this is perceived as threatening and unwanted by many today. It may be the religious guardians of one or another religion that reject that Jesus is the One and Only Way to God, or who realize that Jesus contradicts their own preconceived ideas about God. Or it may be those who are so heavily invested in some other religion or search for God, that they would stand to lose power, status, or their pride, if it meant turning to Jesus Christ and confessing Him as Lord and Savior. Or perhaps the leaders and politicians of our nation, who see Christian values as threatening a politically correct society that believes that man determines his own truth.
Who else might feel “threatened” by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if not the powers-that-be? It may just be the ordinary person—even you and I—who trips and stumbles and crashes over the claim that we are rebellious sinners, who have gone astray from God, and whose sins put Jesus there on the cross. No one likes to “face the music” and admit that we stand among the crowd of sinners worldwide, who bear the responsibility for nailing Jesus to the cross. No one likes to hear that our own sins, which we constantly try to write small against the background of what we think others do—no one likes to see our own sins magnified and hung on display on the cross. There we see that only the very hand of God, only the very death of God in Jesus Christ, was sufficient to wipe away that guilt. But that we need this salvation is a hard truth to face. Instead of “owning up” we want to “pass the buck.”
But what Peter and John’s accusers, and all others who resist this Gospel miss—is that the encounter with Jesus Christ—the proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead—this is not an “ugly encounter” that leaves us humiliated, broken, and forsaken. Rather it is an encounter with Jesus, our Good Shepherd—who knew the cost, knew the pain, knew the sacrifice—and paid it all willingly, for the sake of turning sinners to Himself. Jesus experienced the humiliation, the brokenness, and forsakenness of the cross, so that our debt was cleared. He welcomes even those enemies who persecuted Him, to turn from sin and believe in Him. To receive from His nail-marked hands, a welcoming embrace. Jesus took all the ugliness of sin upon Himself, so that our encounter with Him would be to meet and know God’s love.
Life after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead won’t be easy. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. There are pains and crosses and sufferings and losses. But there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved. Whatever troubles line our path—there is only One Name in whom we must trust, to carry us safely through the valley of the shadow of death. The Name of Jesus Christ. That Name is powerful because even death could not defeat Jesus. That Name is powerful because God has made Jesus the Shepherd of His flock, to lay down His life for them, and to call them each by name. That Name is powerful because in Jesus’ Name, we are promised the forgiveness of our sins. That Name brought healing to a lame man in the Temple. That Name covers you, because you are baptized into Christ Jesus, and all who have been baptized into Him are baptized into His death and resurrection, and clothed with Jesus’ innocence. You wear the innocence of Jesus as a spiritual garment, through your baptism. You are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus, and have God’s approval because you trust in Him—not from anything you’ve earned or done.
Jesus, His apostles, and you and I today, experience and see people using Jesus’ name in vain, slandering it, and attempting to defame both Jesus and His followers. Jesus is risen from His grave, but the Bible tells us not to be surprised that we share in His sufferings. But in whatever ways the Name of Jesus is used dishonorably—we as Christians live to give honor and glory to His Name by confessing His Name before others, by calling on His name for our forgiveness and salvation, and by giving thanks and praise to His Name in our words and actions. Peter writes: 1 Peter 4:16 “if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” Whatever the world may say of Jesus or us, we give glory to God’s Name, and rejoice when we suffer dishonor for His Name’s sake (Acts 5:41). Or as we sing after communion, in the liturgy: “Thank the Lord and sing his praise; tell everyone what he has done. Let all who seek the Lord rejoice and proudly bear his name. He recalls his promises and leads his people forth in joy with shouts of thanksgiving. Alleluia. Alleluia.” We proudly bear the Name of Jesus, because it is the Name above all Names, and because there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
This Bible teaching is wildly unpopular in the world, because it smacks of exclusivity in the Name of Jesus, while our world is always pushing toward inclusivity. But in a wonderful paradox, the Christian faith is at the same time, completely inclusive of all people, and yet the most exclusive of all faiths.  That requires some explanation. It’s the most inclusive, because as we heard two weeks ago in 1 John 2—Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. Jesus died for all, and the debt of all sins worldwide is truly paid. There is absolutely no reason, your sins, your race, your gender, your status, your wealth or poverty, your intelligence, or anything else that should prevent you or anyone else from being saved. All who call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved—Acts 2:21. And there is the exclusivity. There is salvation in no one else. God has opened the Way to all, and that Way is Jesus. But those who reject Jesus, as the Name given to us, by which we must be saved—they reject the gift. They reject the salvation that could freely be theirs.
Again, there is the stumbling block for our world today. To see our need for a Savior. To see our own sin and its deadly cost. And to willingly receive that free gift of Jesus Christ, who paid the cost in full. It puts us in a place of humility, of need, and of dependence. And if you’ve already given up on your own efforts to please God or achieve His favor—it’s marvelous good news to know that it all comes free of charge, without cost, without regard to your sins and failures—but only with regard to God’s awesome, incredible, saving love for you. A love that stops at nothing to call you and reach you. The love that held Jesus to that cross for you. But if you’re still clinging to your efforts, or trying to please God on your own—you and your pride face an impossible task. So lay aside your pride, cast down your sins before the cross of Jesus, and believe that its already fully won and freely done for you. In the Name of Jesus! In the Name of that powerful, redeeming, and Only Name. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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Listen to audio at:

    1. What healing had Peter and John done in the Temple, in Acts 3, and how? How had people responded to this miracle?
    2. How did the question of Jesus’ resurrection become so central to Peter and John’s defense? Acts 4:8-12. Why couldn’t the Sadducees and leaders deny it? Acts 4:13-22.
    3. Who feels threatened today by the Good News of Jesus Christ—the Christian Gospel? Among the “powers that be”? Among everyday people? Why is the Gospel rejected? 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:14. What is the feeling when sinners finally own up to their responsibility before God? Acts 2:37; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10
    4. Describe the encounter of repentant sinners, with the free and full grace and mercy of Christ Jesus. Luke 15:11-32.
    5. Life in Jesus Christ is not easy, and comes with its crosses, persecutions, and trials. Who is powerful to carry us through them all? How certain can our confidence in Him be? Psalm 23; John 10. How do we bear our suffering as Christians? 1 Peter 4:16. How do we honor and glorify Jesus’ Name? Colossians 3:12-17; Hebrews 13:15-16
    6. How is the Christian Gospel inclusive? 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:4. How is it exclusive? Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Acts 2:21.
    7. What must be overcome by God’s Word, to break down the barrier to us receiving the Gospel? Describe how incredible God’s gift of salvation is to you. Why do you treasure it? With whom can you share it?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sermon on 1 John 1:1-2:2, for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, "Walking in God's Light"

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The apostle John speaks a message to you, over nearly 2,000 years of history. A message that is intended to bring you fellowship with God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son. A message that brings you fellowship with the apostles and the early Christians, down through 20 centuries of history to us today. And long before that, Abraham and all the saints who believe in the One True God. This message that brings us fellowship with God and with one another is also a message that is aimed at bringing us joy that is complete.
What’s John’s authority to speak this message? He and the other apostles speak to us as eyewitnesses; who were there in the flesh, seeing, hearing, even touching the very Word of Life, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. In concrete, tangible ways, they lived, walked, ate and drank with our Lord Jesus Christ, before and after His resurrection. So he writes not from hearsay, but what he and the others saw with their very eyes and heard with their ears. Neither does he speak of clever philosophies and abstract religions that have no connection to this material world of flesh, blood, and stone—but he speaks of Jesus Christ, who by His rising from the dead, proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that He was God’s Son, our Risen Savior. These are the credentials of John and the apostles—they were there and saw Jesus’ resurrection for themselves, and would all go to their graves proclaiming the same truth and living by it.
This message from Jesus, handed down and taught by the apostles, is “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” Does this describe the way that people think of God today? Hopefully for all Christians, we affirm this without question, that God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him. Darkness embodies the sin, the evil, the death, lies, deception, and suffering that fill our world with so much misery and devastation. None of this is from God or has any place in Him. But does the average unbeliever think this way about God? I think it’s easy to find people who question in themselves, or question openly, whether God is ultimately pure good, or that there is no darkness in Him. With so much suffering in the world, one of the most common questions about God is how can He be good, if evil exists? The question assumes either that God hasn’t or doesn’t do anything about the evil in the world, and that in order to be good, He must do so.
But in Christ Jesus, God has shown Himself to us. He has made an open declaration of who He is, and what He is like, so as not to leave us guessing or wondering. And this self-declaration of who God is, is not merely a grand speech, with no actions to follow it up. Rather the “word of life” is made known to us. Jesus, a living person, living out the perfect, holy, righteous, truth-speaking, compassionate, merciful, self-controlled, loving, self-sacrificial life that God intended for Him. A life that walked completely in the light—not by avoiding sinners, but by meeting them and cleansing and redeeming them. Jesus showed in deed, not in word only, but with His humility, His suffering, life, and death, that God is pure goodness and Light, and that there is no evil or darkness in Him. The worst indignities that could be done to Jesus could not provoke Him to anger or hatred against His enemies, but love was written on His life. Again, not mere words, but words and deeds, life and example.
So if we know and see Jesus, if we can even comprehend what He experienced for our sins, the pains of the cross—we can see that God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him. God’s Light shines down on, in, and through us. We, still today, are the sinners whom Jesus meets in our darkness, in our sin-blindness, and to whom He brings healing, hope, and life. John opens His Gospel with the same light and darkness theme, and says that Jesus is the life and the light of men; the light that shines in the darkness and is not overcome. He is the One who gives us new birth, so that we can become children of God. Not by our finding Him, but by His finding and rescuing us. God’s Light, Jesus’ Light, now shines on us so that we walk in light, and no longer in darkness.
Back to our 1 John passage, verse 6-7, he says that “if we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” “Walking in” something describes our way or pattern of life. Jesus says sinners flee to the darkness in order to hide their sinful actions. That’s not just a problem that is corrected by modern streetlights and plenty of physical light to drive away the darkness—but a deeper spiritual issue of running from God’s light, not wanting for Him to see or know our sin. So we can’t say we have fellowship with God—call ourselves a Christian—if we walk in the darkness. If we do this, he says we lie and do not practice the truth.
There is a hard lesson here in hypocrisy—that when our words and deeds go in opposite directions, this is deadly to our faith. It’s interesting that John says we lie and “do not practice” or literally do not “do” the truth. Normally we would say lying is not speaking the truth. But notice the strong connection between our words and actions. The truth we live should reflect the truth we speak. Christian life is not polishing up the exterior while nurturing pet sins and hidden wrongs inside, but Jesus’ light and life is to shine through our whole being. Our talk must not be “cheap talk” but “authentic living” in doing as well as in speaking (Schuchard). Just as Jesus walked in the light, so are we to walk in His light.
Do you need light to see? Or to walk in safety? Do you produce that light? Are you the source of the light? Yes you do need light to see and walk, but no, you are not the source of light. In the same way, to walk in the light, and not the darkness, comes from God’s Light shining down on, in, and through you. John has no illusions that we are sinless in and of ourselves or that we produce the light. Our walk in the light relies on Jesus cleansing us from all sin. He knows the reality of forgiveness that shines down on us from Jesus. This is how we walk in the light. God is the Light, not us.
The way that we walk in truth, is expressed in the next verses, are familiar from our weekly confession of sins. 1 John 1:8–10 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Walking in the truth means confessing our sins. Confessing our sins is to speak the same reality about our sin that God speaks—that our sin is damnable and wrong—that it’s not justifiable or excusable, but deserving of God’s punishment. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us. It’s one thing to just admit we are sinners, as though that were any news—but another thing to say that my choices, my words, and my actions are hurtful and wrong, and that they break God’s eternal law. That my actions are in need of correction. Confessing our sin is saying with the Psalmist, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4). Confessing is saying that God is true, His judgment is blameless, and we are in the wrong.
But the amazing thing is that this painful confession, this humbling of our pride and perpetual need to be right, or get the last word—this confession to God doesn’t end in a walk of shame, or further humiliation from God, or His scornful, “You should have known better”. Rather, this confession, telling the truth on our part, ends with God being faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It ends with God’s declaring us innocent, because the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins. In other words, this confession ends in absolution—the word of forgiveness! It ends with God setting you free from the paths of darkness, the chains and guilt that enslaved you.
There is a world of difference between abusing God’s grace as a free pass to continue sinning, and ignoring the wrongness of our actions—and someone falling at Jesus’ feet for mercy, and asking His continual, daily, side-by-side help to fight and wrestle against the sins that  we still struggle and wrestle against. It’s the difference between saying we want grace but living as though we don’t, and saying we want grace and living in total dependence on Jesus. Live in that total dependence on the God who is faithful and just, and bring your sins constantly before Him in confession, to receive His forgiveness. John goes on, “my little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” We daily strive not to willfully continue in sin. But there is no illusion that we can come to a complete stop in sinning. Sin is a reality in our life till our dying day, and then it will be gone forever when we are raised and glorified with Jesus. But for every fall, for every stumble along the way, Jesus is our advocate, our comforter, and defender. He speaks for our forgiveness, and for our reconciliation with God.
And more than just speaking for us, more than just words, He dies for us. He takes our sins to His cross, and buries them in His grave. He is the propitiation for our sin. That big, rare word contains a load of good news—that Jesus has turned away God’s wrath from our sins, and sacrificed Himself for what we have done. He has done this not just for a special set of people, but for all the people of the world. All of the sins of the world He took upon Himself, and all who believe in that gift, who look to Him and receive His Word of Life, will live forever in His life. The cross of Jesus, you see, is God’s greatest—not the only, but the greatest—intervention in the evil of this world. It’s when He willingly offered Himself up as the sacrifice for our sins, and created a way by which He can rescue us from the evil and sin that is so pervasive in our lives. He opened up the way to forgiveness and mercy and climbs down from heaven to bring it to us. Week by week He blesses us with those old but infinitely good words of forgiveness. Week by week He brings us His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Why? So that you may know and receive the good news that His salvation that is for the sins of the whole world, is also given for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:

    1. 1 John 1:1 echoes John 1:1, the opening words of John’s Gospel. What does the “from the beginning” tell us about Jesus and about God? Cf. Genesis 1:1; Romans 1:28.
    2. In describing himself and the other apostles as those who had “heard, seen, looked upon, and touched”—what is he saying about their role in relation to Jesus? They were ____ of these things. Luke 1:2; 2 Peter 1:16; cf. Acts 1:21-22 for criteria for replacement of an apostle.
    3. The eyewitness message that the apostles proclaim leads to having what? 1 John 1:3. What does this kind of community and support then produce in all of us as Christians? 1 John 1:4.
    4. What does it mean that God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him? What realities are represented by light or darkness? Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 27:1; Luke 1:79; 2 Corinthians 6:14; John 3:19-21. How does darkness affect sight? Spiritual understanding?
    5. What is the difference between walking in the light, and walking in the darkness? How is confessing our sins part of walking in the light? Vs. 8-10. If we do confess them, what does God do?
    6. Is John writing to people who don’t sin or have stopped sinning entirely? 2:1-2. What is the difference then, between a person who walks in darkness, or who walks in light?
    7. In 2:2, the word “propitiation” means that Jesus, as our sacrifice, has turned away God’s righteous wrath from our sins. He has been held accountable for all we did wrong. How wide and how far does that sacrifice extend, to cover sins?

Monday, April 06, 2015

Sermon on Psalm 16 and Mark 16:1-8, for Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of Our Lord. "Path of Life"

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! You may or may not know that the Scriptures link up two very important events in salvation history—the Exodus, which happened about 1,400 years before Jesus’ birth, and then Jesus’ own death, burial, and resurrection. A second exodus. There are all sorts of parallels between the two events. Moses was raised up by God to rescue the Israelites, just as Jesus, greater than Moses, was raised up by God to rescue all humanity, Jews and Gentiles. The first exodus was from a physical slavery to the Pharoah in Egypt. The second exodus is from our spiritual slavery to the power of sin, death, and the devil. Scripture describes the Israelites being led across the Red Sea as being “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea”, just as it speaks of us as being baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. God accomplished a great deliverance for His people, when they were trapped and seemingly helpless, walled in by the Red Sea. If you know the story, you know that the Israelites were terrified of the oncoming chariots and soldiers of the Pharoah, and they despaired.
We get a taste of that same despair when we see the women gathering at Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning. The second exodus, led by Jesus, seemed to have ended in defeat. In Mark 16, we heard about how they went to the tomb at sunrise, to pay their respects, to give their buried teacher and Lord the honor that was denied them after His death. On the way they realized that they couldn’t move the great stone that sealed the tomb. As darkness still lingered in the early morning light, fears, doubt, and sadness hung over them like a cloud. Can you imagine how the Israelites would have despaired if, when Pharoah and his armies were bearing down on them, walled in by the Red Sea, that Moses, their leader was suddenly struck dead by the enemy? No doubt their despair would have given way to utter defeat. As frightened as they were, before they saw God’s salvation unfold—they still clung to the small hope that Moses would deliver them. But if He died?
If Jesus’ disciples, following the new and greater Moses, the One who came to lead us from the captivity of sin, faithfully follow His leading, but then see their leader, cornered, captured, and killed by the enemy—what hope would survive? The disciples, to a man, to a woman, behaved as if all hope was lost. All was solitude and gloom. If Jesus is still in that tomb, all is lost. We are not set free. We are still dead in our transgressions and sins. In this frame of mind, with no other prospect than to show honor to His dead body, the women arrive, sorrowfully, but lovingly to carry out their duty. Pay the small honor that they could.
And then, as though parting the Red Sea waters, God miraculously intervenes to rescue, when all hope seemed beyond lost. The stone is moved back from the tomb. What else but alarm and shock would overcome them when they do not find Jesus inside, but an angel dressed in white, greeting them and announcing: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” The tomb was empty! Jesus was gone! But where? On His way to Galilee? As He told us? Can it be? Now that we had all but given up, is rescue still in sight?
Death had struck its blow. It’s fatal blow against Jesus. Sin stung in all His wounds like the poison that it is. Death struck it’s blow and the world had gone reeling. An earthquake shook the land as Jesus died on Good Friday. The Temple curtain was torn in two. People cowered in fear, not knowing what was happening. Death had done its worst, and Jesus, the hope of mankind, was laid into His grave. But a second earthquake that Easter morning declared that it wasn’t over. Death was through, and had done its worst, but today Life would speak from the grave. Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, has risen! Christ has Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! He was alive and waiting to greet His disciples in Galilee. They had forgotten His promise, forgotten that He told them three times, that He would die, and in three days be raised again. Hope and Life were back on their feet, as Jesus was alive again. And death has no more answer to Jesus—it’s done its worst, its power is broken.
Psalm 16, which we recite earlier, is one of the oldest prophecies about Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a Psalm that King David wrote, some 1,000 years before Jesus, expressing His hope in the face of death. He wrote these words, about His confidence in the Lord: Psalm 16:8–11, “8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Contrast this confidence in the face of death, to the fear or uncertainty that faced the Israelites, the first disciples, or even us. We too face death, never knowing when our own end may come. But this Psalm speaks to us of the confidence that is ours if we set the Lord always before us.
Jesus had this unshakeable confidence, which was why the worst that sin and death threw at Him, could not rattle His trust in God. Those words: “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption,”—they describe Jesus. Jesus knew that the grave would not “finish Him.” He knew that His body would not see decay, but that God would uphold Him. And rising from the tomb that Easter morning, Jesus’ confidence in God was vindicated.  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Jesus had walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but He knew the path of life. Jesus, by His innocence and by God’s mighty deliverance, had passed the boundary of death, and navigated His way back to life. He was leading the way out, just as God had planned—just the deliverance that humanity, enslaved to sin and death needed.
Remember that parallel? First and second exodus? Here’s another—the word exodus means “a way out”, or exit, or departure. For Israel, in the first Exodus, God miraculously made a way out from Egypt, as He delivered them from Pharoah. Moses parted the Red Sea waters by God’s almighty hand, and what seemed like certain death opened up to a way out and into life. Jesus leads our exodus. He exited, or departed by death—which seemed certain defeat to all His followers. But He knows the path of life. As sure a guide as we could ask for, His exodus into death opened up for us the way to eternal life. Jesus desires to set your feet on that level path. He desires to be set before you at all times, so that you will not be shaken.
Do you fear that now, or on some day yet to come, that death may have you cornered? That your sins have caught up to you, your guilt will cover your head in shame, and hound you to your grave? Do you fear that cancer, or heart disease, or tragedy may spell your ruin, and that death will finish you? Then look to the cross, look to the empty tomb, look to Jesus! He is your deliverer and Lord, and He has gone this way before. The enemies of sin, death and the devil, their accusations of guilt and shame, their weapons of fear and doubt—Jesus has faced them all and finished them. His deliverance was not a narrow escape from death—but a full encounter with death. Heart stopped, life gone, eyes closed in death. Buried, in the tomb. But three days more and Christ has Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Your enemies, your fears, your guilt and sin are nothing to match our Jesus. He is alive! He stands at your right hand so that you may not be shaken. With Christ beside you, you can defy death, and know that you can gladly follow after Him, because He makes known to us the path of life.
Our heart is glad, our whole being rejoices, and our flesh dwells secure. Our security, our rejoicing, and our gladness this day, is that death is overthrown. Jesus, God’s Holy One, is risen from the dead, never to die again. He waits for us in heaven, with fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore awaiting us. Do not be alarmed! Do not let the dread of sin and death defeat you or cause you to despair! The tomb is empty, Jesus is risen! Did He not tell us He would do this? Today, Easter, life begins anew. Our journey is on the path of life; we are headed for the Promised Land. Death no longer haunts our tracks, but Jesus leads us on to life. Live with the sight of Jesus’ victory in your heart and in your mind. Live with the confidence that your sins have been forgiven, and that whenever death comes, it going to be but an exit into life eternal. Live with the solid confidence that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Amen.
Sermon Talking Points
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Listen to audio at:

1.      What connections does the Bible make between the Exodus, and Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection? How is it like a New Exodus? Luke 9:30-31 (see footnote on v. 31). 1 Corinthians 10:1-6. What kind of slavery are we in, from which Christ sets us free? John 8:31-36
2.      Why were the women so despairing on coming to the tomb? Where were the disciples, and what were their emotions that morning? What would it mean for us if Jesus were still dead and in His tomb? 1 Corinthians 15:12-20.
3.      When the angel stood at the tomb, reminding the women that Jesus had told them in advance of His resurrection, and where to meet Him, when had Jesus said this? Mark 14:26-28. What was happening when Jesus gave this promise?
4.      What awesome signs surrounded Jesus’ death, pointing to the extraordinary event that had taken place? Mark 15:33, 37-39; John 19:34; Matthew 27:51-54. What similar signs occurred on Easter morning? Matthew 27:53; 28:2-4.
5.      How does Psalm 16, especially verses 8-11, predict Jesus’ resurrection? How does it describe it? See Acts 2:22-34. What confidence does Psalm 16 express in the face of death? What is the source of this confidence?
6.      Where did Jesus’ journey take Him? What “path” did He know, that allowed Him to travel that journey without fear?
7.      What fears, guilt, or sins face you? Does death seem near or far? Where is your confidence and hope? Where does Jesus reign for us? Acts 2:32-36. What awaits believers in Christ Jesus? Psalm 16:11. How does this affect how you will live?