I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out what to preach. The story of the ressurection is such a powerful story that I don't know what I can add.
So I shan't add anything. I'm simply going to retell the story and let the power of the story speak for itself.
Long before the beginning of history, there was God. God existed in three persons, all so completely in synch with one another that they pretty much functioned as a single entity.
Being the creative beings that they are, God began to create a world around themselves. Each took on different responsibilities. Yaweh, the authority of the three, served as the architect, planning and designing this world. Jesus, counted by Yaweh as His heir acted as the foreman, determining how best to fulfill Yaweh's designs. Myokodon, the Holy Spirit, carried out the actual work of creation.
Before long, the world was complete. God populated his world with servants, and it was good. But his servants were not really satisfying companions. They did what they were told. They had a will of their own, and could choose to serve Him or not to. But there would always be an almost robotic element to their nature. They would never truly understand love. Not in the great depth that was God's central nature. Nor were they meant to be.
God began work on a second world. One which would be every bit as nice as His first world, Heaven, but whoich would also be home to many new races of beings, including one very special race which would be modeled after Himself.
Of God's existing people, the angels, many became jealous. The archangel, Lucipher, refused to be second to a physical being. He got it in his head to elevate himself to the ruler of everything instead. He would become God.
A great civil war ensued. A third of the angels rebelled, and in a time we do not know how long, were defeated. The most destructive of these evil angels, now known as demons, were locked up in a new realm- the abyss. The rest were exiled into endless wandering until the time of their judgement.
The war over, God began his work on the new world. He spoke the words "let there be light." In an infinitessimal fraction of a second, light energy came into existence, focussed in an area smaller than a quark. This light exploded in a big bang, transforming, according to the laws of physics which Jesus had laid out, into quarks, electrons, nutrinos, which then gathered into protons, neutrons, mesons, and finally into atoms. From this mass of atoms, the three worked hard to create a universe. Vast, whirling pools of plasma gave rise to stars and planets. Those stars and planets formed galaxies. And on one planet, they created complex machines out of these atoms. Machines that were alive.
Yaweh planned it all. Jesus directed it step by step as the Holy Spirit created microbes, followed by lower-order vegetation, then true plants. Then came birds and fish, and finally, the animals of the land. But one animal in particular would have special significance. The king of the animals, the human, would be the one who was like God in many ways. God created two of them and gave them only one rule. They must not eat from the tree of good and evil.
Enter Lucipher. Having possessed one of the most beautiful reptiles on Earth, Lucipher persuaded the humans to disobey God's command. Desiring to be more like God, the humans ate the forbidden fruit. The result was cataclysmic.
By their act of rebellion, the human race was cut off from God. The world of which humans were in charge began dying. Humans themselves were now no better than the demons. The prison which God had been working on to hold the demons would now have to be expanded to hold the human race as well. But all was not lost. God knew this would happen. While it hurt Him deeply, all was going according to plan.
Humankind, unlike the demons, were now capable of understanding right and wrong. They were capable of choosing right. But they could never restore themselves on their own. They would need help. They would need a perfect being to become one of them, to take their hands in his own as he performed the ultimate act of repentance for them. There was just one problem- Of all the created beings, the ones who knew right and wrong were tainted by sin. That left only three people, all of them God. It was Jesus who volunteered to carry out His Father's plan to save the human race.
Many centuries passed. God instituted a system of sacrifice to help people to understand what was to come. It was only by the shedding of blood that sin could be forgiven. Only by death could justice be satisfied.
The human race was as contrary as could be. At one point, it was necessary to cleanse the entire Earth, save eight faithful individuals. Yet in every generation, there were always some who chose to give their hearts to God. These faithful humans, upon their death, would be sent to Paradise, a pleasant place of waiting. They could not yet enter the presence of God because the one true sacrifice had not yet been made for them. They were still guilty in God's eyes, and being holy, He could not accept them yet.
Then in the first century, Jesus went into action. He allowed himself to be transformed into a human embryo. Nine months later, He was born as a human baby. Having laid aside His Godhood, He was exactly like any one of us. He would have to re-learn the knowledge that He had put aside. He would grow up as an ordinary human, yet as He did, He kept himself innocent and pure, never sinning.
When He was thirty years old, Jesus began to tell others about His Father. He explained to them that HE alone was the means of reconciliation between God and man. He was the Son of God and Son of Man.
The people whom God had chosen to be His representatives to the world did not like this. They had been so conditioned by now not to follow other Gods that they didn't accept the REAL God when he was standing right in front of them. So they conspired to kill their creator.
Jesus knew what was going to happen. He'd been preparing for this from eternity past. That didn't do anything to alleviate the fear. Jesus was going to die the most tormentuous death which the human race could ever devise. That was why He had been born in this particular era. He warned His disciples what was about to happen, then went to the garden of Gethsemane where he waited to be taken.
In the middle of the night, Jesus was arrested. He was tried illegally six times. Thrice by the jews, once by the Roman authority, then by Herod, then again by the Roman governor. He was pronounced innocent, yet sentenced to death all the same.
During His trials, Jesus had suffered abuse that would have killed a lesser man. He was whipped, beaten up, spat upon, mocked... at one point, the roman soldiers drove a crown of poisonous thorns into his head. They placed a robe over his back, which became stuck to his wounds by the blood which soaked into it. They then tore the robe from his back, laying it open again. By the time the trials were over, Jesus had been abused so badly that He did not even look human any longer.
Despite losing blood fast, Jesus was forced to carry His own cross to the place of His execution. Unable to carry it all the way, he was helped by Simon of Cyrene. When they reached Golgatha, He was stripped naked and tied to the cross. Unsatisfied with mere tying, the Romans drove nails into his hands and feet. They then raised Him up to slowly die of a combination of dehydration and suffocation as his own weight slowly crushed his lungs.
For hours, He hung there on the cross, where even his fellow condemned mocked Him. Yet God's plan to save the world would not be denied. Even there in the very depths of torment, one of the thieves dying there with Him turned his heart to Jesus and found the gift of salvation.
When Jesus' work was finally fulfilled, He shouted with a loud voice "IT IS FINISHED!" and was gone. The universe went into mourning. The sun turned black. The earth shook. The bedrock beneath Jesus' feet cracked.
I am told that hidden in a cave directly beneath the cross of Christ, the prophet Jeremiah has hidden the Ark of the Covenant. When the rock cracked, the blood of Jesus spilled down onto the ark, and remains there to this day. Where priests had sprinkled the blood of beasts to atone for sin, the blood of Jesus now served as a permanent atonement sacrifice.
The veil of the temple, which seperated the Holy of Holies from all of mankind was ripped in two. No longer would it ever be needed. The price had been paid.
That evening, Jesus entered Paradise. There was a great rejoicing such as has never been heard before. The wait which had lasted thousands of years was over. That day, Jesus explained to everyone that the sacrifice had been made for their souls with His own blood. He then gathered His people to Himself and took off. It was the first rapture. Paradise had been completely emptied and its people taken to Heaven by Jesus Himself.
But on Earth, Jesus' people were in mourning. They had just seen their God die before their very eyes. What they did not understand was that Jesus wasn't done yet. His sacrifice was finished, but there was one more thing to do. They had forgotten His promise that He would defeat death.
I'd like to add that there is absolutely no doubt that Jesus was dead. A Roman soldier had pierced His heart with a spear, drawing seperated blood and water. This is an indicator that Jesus' heart had literally burst. He was not comatose. He was not swooning. He was dead. But just to be on the safe side, a company of at least twelve soldiers were stationed outside the tomb to make sure no one stole the body.
Now those who would wish to cover up the events which followed would have us believe that the disciples stole the body while the soldiers were sleeping. The very idea is ridiculous. Roman soldiers did not sleep on duty. To do so was to condemn oneself to death. The idea that all twelve soldiers were sleeping at the same time is laughable.
On Sunday morning, Jesus rose from the grave! He conquored death and returned to life! Today He is known as the furstfruits of the dead because He defeated death for us, and like Him, we too are made immortal.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life!
And it gets better. Just as Jesus came and took His own out of paradise, so He is coming to collect His people from the Earth. This is a promise clearly given in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.Jesus is coming back for us. Like the people of Paradise, we don't know when He's coming, so we'd better be ready. If Jesus were to return for us today, do you know for sure that he'd take you, too?
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Revelation 3:10 tells us that an "hour of trial" is coming upon the whole world, and that only those who have been faithful will be kept from it. I urge you all to be ready for Christ's coming by accepting Him as your saviour.
If you have not received Jesus Christ as your saviour, we invite you to do so this very day. It's very simple. All you have to do is ask. As soon as I'm done here, just come and talk to me, one of the elders, or any of the Christians here, and we'll help you to take that step.
For those of us who are saved already, we have the blessed assurance that Jesus is alive! No other religion can make that claim about their leader. Mohammed is dead. Budha is dead. All the founders of the world's religions are dead. But our Jesus is alive! His body is nowhere to be found because it's not dead! And because Jesus lives, we too have the assurance of eternal life in Heaven with our loving God and with one another.
Pastor Oren Otter
April 15, 2006