My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, April 19, 2010

“A Blind Man’s Last Chance” - (04/18/10)

            Many of the books of the Bible have a key verse that summarizes the content of the book and helps us visualize the book as a whole.  For example.
  • Key verse of Matthew = 1:1, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.”
  • Key verses of John = 20:30-31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
  • Key verse of Acts = 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
  • Key verse of Mark = 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  This verse from Mark is beautifully illustrated by the story that immediately follows it, the story of the healing of Blind Bartimaeus.
This story is recorded three times in the NT: in Matthew 20:29-34; in Luke 18:35-43; and here in Mark 10:46-52.  In each account there are details added that give us the full picture.  I will supplement Mark’s text from the other two.

Verse 46: And they came to Jericho.  And as He was going out from [old] Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 
  • Mark focuses his whole story on two men—Bartimaeus, the blind beggar of Jericho, and Jesus.  [Matthew relates that there were actually two beggars that Jesus healed.  Luke only mentions one.  However, neither writer includes their names.  Mark, on the other hand, chooses to focus his attention on just one of them, and gives his name.]  What do we know about this man, Bartimaeus?  Not much.  We know his name, his father’s name, the town he lived in, and his general situation.  And just what was Bartimaeus’ situation?  He was in big trouble!  He was blind.  He lived in total blackness.  He couldn’t see anything.  That meant He was limited to supporting himself and perhaps a family on what he could make by begging along the roadside.  His situation was desperate!
  • Darkness is often used in the Bible as a metaphor for evil, and physical blindness as a picture of spiritual blindness.  A good example is Acts 26:16-18 where Paul gives his testimony before King Agrippa.  Here he quotes from the words spoken to him by Jesus on the road to Damascus: But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”  
  • Jesus was just passing through Jericho.  He had no plans to stay there.  Look at the beginning of the verse—He came… and He went.  On His way to Jerusalem He first passed through the area of the ancient walled city of Jericho.  That had long been destroyed leaving only ruins, and no one actually lived there.  This story took place between the old city and the much newer Roman city.  That’s why Matthew and Mark’s accounts say that it happened as He was “leaving Jericho” and Luke’s account says that it happened as he was “coming into” Jericho.  The NT town of Jericho was located 15.5 miles from Jerusalem.  It sat in the Jordan Valley just to the northwest of the upper end of the Dead Sea at an elevation of 1,000 ft. below sea level (the Dead Sea is at 1,300 ft. below sea level).  Jericho was well known for its rich palm and balsam groves that yielded lucrative revenues for the Romans [thus, Zaccheus the tax collector in the story that follows in Luke’s Gospel].  Jerusalem, on the other hand, sits at 2,625 ft. above sea level.  That means a climb of 3,625 ft. in 15.5 miles, or an average grade of 4.4%.  (The climb up Haleakala from the airport is an average of 5% grade, just to give you an idea.)
  • It says there was a “great multitude” with Him.  Remember, this was just one week before the start of Passover and there were hundreds of people on the road, all making their way up that steep mountain to Jerusalem.  Besides the large group of people following along with Jesus there were many others who just happened to be there at the same time.  They all witnessed what happened next.
Verse 47: And when he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 
  • Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging.  How did he hear that Jesus was passing by?  We don’t know.  How did he know who Jesus was?  Again, we don’t know.  But somewhere or other he had heard about this one that many people said was the Messiah, and was able to do great miracles.  When he learned that it was Jesus who was passing by he began to shout as loud as he could: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  He used a title that specifically referred to the Messiah.  He was not just being polite or politically correct.  He was making a theological statement about who Jesus really was.  [See Matthew 12:23.]  Bartimaeus recognized that this was his great chance.
Verse 48: And many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he began crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 
  • The crowd around him tried to shut him up.  They “sternly” told him to shut up and to quit yelling.  The text uses the imperfect tense, which carries the meaning that they kept rebuking him repeatedly.  In that moment Bartimaeus had to make a choice: to listen to the crowd that was telling him to sit and shut up, or listen to that small voice in his head that told him this was his last chance.  So, he shouted all the more and all the louder: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  [See the publican’s prayer in Luke 18:13.]  This shows us the courage of Bartimaeus.
Verse 49: And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.”  And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, arise!  He is calling for you.” 
  • “Jesus stopped.”  Those are beautiful words.  He was busy, but never too busy to hear the cry of faith of someone in trouble.  The other beautiful words here are, “He is calling for you.”  Jesus was calling Bartimaeus in that moment but He is still calling men and women today.  In fact, He may be calling to you today.
  • In this verse we see a second group of people—the ones who encouraged him to quickly make his way to Jesus.  The verb they used means “to be of good cheer, to be courageous.”  When a person is considering following Jesus there are always two crowds: the first group that says, “Don’t be a chump.  This is just a passing fancy.  Sit down and have another beer.”  Then there is the group that will encourage you to go after Jesus, saying, “Quickly, He’s calling for you.”  The question always is, “Which group are you going to listen to?”
Verse 50: And casting aside his cloak, he jumped up, and came to Jesus. 
  • You can see right here who he chose to listen to.  The verbs used here suggest that Bartimaeus acted with great haste.  He sprang up!  Immediately upon hearing that Jesus was calling for him he threw off every impediment and leaped to his feet.  He was blind but obviously not weak.  This was the opportunity of a lifetime and he was not about to let it slip away from him.
Verse 51: And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” 
  • “And answering him…”  This refers to Jesus answering Bartimaeus’ cry for help.  The Lord heard and now He answered.
  • The Lord’s question: “What do you want [lit. wish, thello] Me to do for you?”  The answer seems obvious to us but Jesus wanted Bartimaeus to verbalize his need.  The same is true of us today.  God wants us to tell Him what we need.  He invites us to come to Him and ask.
  • In this verse we see Bartimaeus’ petition.  His answer to Jesus’ question begins with “Rabboni.”  [The same word that Mary Magdalene used at the Resurrection.  Cf. John 20:16].  This is an Aramaic word for teacher/master that shows great respect.  It is a strengthened form of the word “Rabbi.”  Literally it means, “my teacher, or my Master.”  Bartimaeus said, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”  Bartimaeus used the Greek verb anablépo, which is a compound word from blépo, “to see” with the preposition ana, which here means “again.”  Literally he says, “…in order that I may see again.”  This leads us to conclude that Bartimaeus was not born blind but lost his sight through an illness or an injury.
Verse 52: And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and began following Him on the road. 
  • In this verse we witness Bartimaeus’ salvation.  Jesus made it clear that Bartimaeus’ healing was in response to his faith, demonstrated by his persistence and eagerness and his recognition of Jesus as the Messiah.  Jesus said, “Go; your faith has healed [literally, saved, sodzo] you.”  I think that both senses of the word are true here.  He was healed and he was saved, both through the power of Jesus.
  • The miracle occurred immediately: “And immediately he saw again.”  The text repeats the same verb used in verse 51, which means “to see again.”
  • Matthew’s account adds a tender detail in 20:34, Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him. 
  • Luke’s account gives another precious piece of information in 18:43, “Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.” 
  • All three accounts say that Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the road.  That is, he followed them into the new Roman Jericho.
  • Can you imagine his joy and the joy of his friends and loved ones when he went home that night with a whole different future, telling the story of his meeting with Jesus?  I’m sure there was a party at his house that night!
            The healing of Bartimaeus was the last healing miracle of Jesus’ ministry.  What if Bartimaeus had decided, “Well, He’s busy so I won’t bother Him today.  I’ll catch Him next time He comes to town”?  the fact is, Jesus never passed through Jericho again.  This indeed was Bartimaeus’ last chance!
            Before He headed on toward Jerusalem Jesus made only one other stop-off.  It was to talk to another man, a tax collector by the name of Zaccheus.  Luke records that meeting in Luke 19.  He sums up the miracle that occurred in Zaccheus’ life in verses 9-10: And Jesus said, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’”  This sums up beautifully what happening in both Zaccheus’ and Bartimaeus’ lives.  Salvation came to their homes.  They had both been lost but were now found.  Their encounters with Jesus had changed them completely, eternally.

To sum up…
·       Bartimaeus recognized his dire situation. (v. 46)
·       Bartimaeus saw his chance. (v. 47)
·       Bartimaeus ignored the crowd and exercised courage. (v. 48)
·       Bartimaeus responded to Christ’s call. (v. 49)
·       Bartimaeus made his plea to the Lord. (v. 51)
·       Bartimaeus received his healing and salvation from Jesus. (v. 52)
·       Bartimaeus went home rejoicing because of the grace and mercy of God.

This is the simple blueprint for every person who wants to come to Jesus.  Today Jesus is passing by here.  But He may never pass this way again.  Don’t miss your chance today to experience the healing and salvation that He came to give you.  Trust Him today with your life.  The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”  Those words were true for Blind Bartimaeus and they will be true for you as well.

            What did God show you from these verses?  What about Bartimaeus’ life reminds you of your life before you came to know Jesus?

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Servanthood Explained & Demonstrated" - (04/11/10)

I can hardly imagine what it must be like to be a prisoner sitting in a jail cell waiting to be executed. Your mind would surely be racing full speed and your emotions would be stretched as tight as a piano wire. Every sound would be torture, causing you to think, “Are they coming for me? Am I next?” It would be terrible, knowing that death could come at any moment.

Yet this was the experience of Christian martyrs like Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, William Tyndale, Jan Hus, Thomas Cranmer, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They all had the experience of knowing that their days were numbered and that within hours or minutes they would give their lives in a great cause.

Jesus too knew what that felt like. In fact, from the moment He came to earth He knew that it was just a matter of time until He would end up nailed to a cross, because that is why He came. Toward the end of His 3½ years of public ministry He spoke often of what awaited Him. In a sense He was on death row awaiting the day when they would come for Him. Oh yes, He was free and walking about, but He still knew what was coming and yet He went about His daily business of preaching and teaching and healing and representing His Father.

In our text for today though, we see Jesus within just a few days of His execution. Yet rather than flee from the danger, He resolutely set His face like a flint to go to Jerusalem where He knew it was all going to take place. We have just finished the remembrance of Passion Week with its Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter. The events of those last days of Jesus’ life are still fresh in our minds. But now we are going to look at them again through the lens of Saint Mark and his Gospel. Turn with me to Mark 10. We’ll begin at verse 32.

Verse 32: They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again He took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to Him.
  • “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way…” This was true on more than one level. Jesus was always leading the way for the disciples. It was always Jesus who determined what they would do and where they would go next. Now He was taking them to Jerusalem. However, that in itself was not unusual because it was the time of the Passover Feast. The roads were jammed with people traveling to Jerusalem for the Feast. The disciples probably thought that this was just going to be another nice religious experience like they had known many times before. However, Jesus had something very different in mind.
  • The NIV is a little confusing here. “…with Jesus leading the way…” is better rendered as you have it in the NASV, “…and Jesus was walking on ahead of them.” This in itself was unusual and was a surprising change from His usual practice of walking along with His disciples.
  • “…and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.” His aloofness bothered them and they could sense that something was wrong. We see two emotions displayed here among Jesus’ retinue. The disciples were astonished. Why? Because they knew that Jesus knew that the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus and they were astonished that He would go to Jerusalem anyway and run the risk of getting caught. The other followers were afraid for Him, and perhaps a little bit afraid for themselves as well. They were afraid of what might happen, and as it turned out, with good cause.
Verses 33-34: “We are going up to Jerusalem,” He said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock Him and spit on Him, flog Him and kill Him. Three days later He will rise.”
  • Jesus’ words here make it clear that He knew exactly what would happen. None of it came as a surprise to Him. In these two verses He gave to His disciples the Cliff Notes version of the whole death, burial, and resurrection story. Look at the elements:
    • He will be betrayed—He already knew what was in Judas’ mind.
    • He will be betrayed to the priests and teachers—He already knew who would pay Judas to betray Jesus.
    • He will be condemned to die—Jesus already knew how the vote would turn out.
    • He will be turned over to the Gentiles—Jesus knew that the Jews would turn Him over to the Romans for sentencing and execution.
    • He will be mocked, spat upon, beaten, and killed—Jesus gave a blow by blow description of what He would suffer at the hands of the Roman soldiers.
    • He will rise from the dead on the third day—Not the second or fourth day, but the third, in fulfillment of prophecy.
  • Jesus made it clear that He knew exactly what was up. In fact, He was not a victim of the circumstances; He was instead orchestrating the circumstances. He was in charge.
Verse 35: Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”
  • Here we have a rather sudden change of subject. There may have been a space of time between the last conversation and this one as the group walked along the road together.
  • James and John had obviously been thinking about this for a while. They had probably discussed how they might broach the subject with the Master. Maybe they had flipped a coin to see who would ask Him the question. They might have even talked about the fact that it would be better to get Him alone before they dropped their request on Him.
  • These guys were not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Anybody with half a brain can see through this approach. “We want You to do for us whatever we ask.” If your kid said that to you what would be your response? Would you fall for that one? I don’t think so. How naïve did they think Jesus was?
Verse 36: “What do you want Me to do for you?” He asked.
  • The natural response to their question—a noncommittal answer.
Verse 37: They replied, “Let one of us sit at Your right and the other at Your left in Your glory.”
  • Here it comes. “Lord, when You set up You Kingdom and have Your golden throne moved in, can we have our thrones there with Yours, one of us on each side of You?” At a king’s right hand was the place of special honor and at his left hand was second in importance. James and John wanted to be Jesus’ #1 and #2 men.
  • Matthew records this same conversation in Matt. 20:20-24. However, he adds an interesting bit of information: “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” He asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at Your right and the other at Your left in Your kingdom.” How interesting! That verse creates more questions for us. Was this whole thing their mother’s idea? Was she the one pressuring them to ask this favor from Jesus? Or did they put her up to it, thinking that Jesus couldn’t say no to a sweet little old lady? Either way, in both Matthew and Mark’s Gospels the blame fell squarely on the two brothers. They should have known better than to even ask such a thing.
  • What does this question reveal about James and John?
    • They themselves are naïve.
    • They have an overinflated view of their own importance in relation to the other disciples.
    • They are selfish and me-oriented, looking out for #1.
    • They have no concept of what it means to be a servant of God.
  • Jesus could have hammered these guys but instead He used this as a teachable moment to help mold them into something usable. I’m glad that God doesn’t hammer us every time we say or do something stupid. Jesus showed great patience with these guys and He continues to show great patience with us as well, though that does not give us an excuse to continue being stupid. James and John eventually began to show some character and maturity, but it took a while.
Verse 38: “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
  • Weren’t they paying attention to what He just said up in verses 33-34 about being tortured and executed? What were they thinking? Jesus said, “You don’t know what you are asking.” By that He meant that they didn’t understand the ramifications of their request. Their concept of the Messiah led them to think only in terms of His kingship, power, and glory. They missed out on the “Suffering Servant” part altogether. But to get to go with Him where He was going they would have to suffer what He was going to suffer. That’s what He meant by “drinking the cup with Me” and “being baptized with Me.” He’s talking about the cup of suffering and death.
Verses 39-40: “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at My right or left is not for Me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
  • Their response shows an obvious naïveté. This is the same attitude Peter showed later on in Mark 14:29-31 after Jesus told them once again what was going to happen to Him. In doing so He quoted from Zechariah 13:7 which says, “I will strike down the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” Peter took offense at that statement and piped up: “Lord, even if all fall away, I will not.” 30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown Me three times.” 31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with You, I will never disown You.”
  • There is an old adage that goes, “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.” In this case, James and John, along with all the other disciples, would end up drinking from the cup of suffering and most of them would end up being baptized with the baptism of a martyr’s death. The Bible only mentions the deaths of two apostles, James (the brother of John, of the sons of Zebedee), who was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I in 44 AD (cf. Acts 12:2), and Judas Iscariot, who committed suicide by hanging himself. The details of the deaths of several of the apostles are pretty well documented while others are very sketchy, either by Church tradition or early Christian historians. However, we believe that all of the Apostles died as martyrs, with the exception of John who apparently lived to old age. At least two of them, the brothers Peter and Andrew, were crucified.
  • In verse 40 Jesus once again demonstrated that He was not like the secular rulers. “To sit at My right or left is not for Me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” Earthly rulers give out political plum jobs to their buddies and cronies as rewards for toeing the political line and playing nice. Jesus made it clear that it doesn’t work that way in the Kingdom of God. According to the Bible God is “the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” but He does not base His rewards or decisions on political favor or friendship.
Verse 41: When the ten heard [about] this, they became indignant with James and John.
  • The NIV does not give us a good translation here. In the original text the word “about” is not there. Apparently the other disciples had been listening in on this conversation between Jesus and the BarZebedee boys and their momma. What is interesting is that the other disciples blamed James and John, not their mother. This leads me to believe that the idea may have originated with the two men, and their mother just got dragged in as an accomplice.
Verse 42: Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
  • “Jesus called them together…” This whole thing probably ended up with yelling and name-calling and lots of anger on both sides. But Jesus, the Prince of Peace, restored the calm. “He called them together.” And then He used the failure of James and John to teach a life-lesson about what it means to be a servant.
  • Jesus points to the way the Romans rule their citizens, and especially their conquered subjects. The Romans ruled with an iron fist. They believed in the adage, “Might makes right.” These guys had all witnessed the brute power of the Romans and understood their concept of authority to rule. It was the authority of the conqueror to rule over the conquered by means of fear, intimidation, and the sword.
Verses 43-44: Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
  • “Not so with you.” What Jesus means here is, “It shouldn’t be so with you.” We know that sometimes the disciples didn’t live up to the highest ideals, and sometimes neither do we. Jesus was showing them the more excellent way.
  • Notice that He recognizes that some people are driven by the desire to be “great” or to be “first.” That is natural. It is the desire that drives competition in all spheres of life. Every athlete wants to win the gold medal. Every CEO wants his company to succeed and pull out in front of the competition. Within bounds this desire is healthy and normal. However, when it comes to interpersonal relationships within the family of God Jesus introduced a new set of rules to live by.
  • To paraphrase He said, “If you want to become great make yourself small. If you want to be first, make yourself last. If you want to stand tall, kneel. If you want to be served, become a humble servant.” These are the topsy-turvy rules of the Kingdom. The rules of God always set the rules of men upside-down.
Verse 45: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
  • He illustrates His lesson by using Himself as an example. “For even the Son of Man…” Jesus was God in human flesh—the God-Man. He has existed eternally with the Father, and the Bible says that “the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily.” Angels bow before Him. Demons flee from His holy presence. He created the world and all that it contains. He is the Owner and Master of everything. Yet, when He came to earth He took on the form of a humble servant. He limited Himself. He set aside His rights and His radiant glory. Here He tells His disciples, “I did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give My life as a ransom for many.” This is the key verse of the Book of Mark.
  • Notice again the first few words of the verse: “For even the Son of Man…” If anyone ever deserved to be served and waited on it was Jesus. He had every right to exercise His authority and to demand His privileges. However, He set those rights aside to model what servanthood looks like. He became a servant so that He might serve us by dying in our place at Calvary.
Human beings are not humble by nature, and that includes Christians. Servanthood does not come naturally. We are a selfish, clawing, back-stabbing, me-first race. We like being served. We aren’t so crazy about serving others. We like being first. We hate being last. We like to be honored but we don’t like to be humbled. It’s just how we are. By our physical birth we inherit these sinful, selfish traits. However, when Christ comes into our life He begins a process of change and renewal that counteracts what we inherited from our earthly parents. First of all He regenerates us, making us into a new creation, a child of God. Then by the work of God’s Spirit and through the instrumentality of His Word the Lord begins shaping us and molding us with the purpose of conforming us to the image of Christ. The Bible calls this lifelong process, “sanctification.”

Part of that sanctification process involves a complete change in our values. Always being first ceases to be of first importance. Sitting on the top of the heap is not as vital as it used to be. Instead, we learn to dive to the bottom of the pile because that is where the real work takes place. Getting the credit for success is no longer as important as passing on the praise to others. Serving others, the way Jesus served, becomes the new norm, the lifestyle to be appreciated, valued, and admired.

So why does our flesh balk at the idea of being a servant to others? What can we do to learn this spiritual virtue? What would the world be like if Christians practiced more humble servanthood?

Monday, April 5, 2010

"What's In YOUR Easter Basket?" - (04/04/10)

Almost every year on Easter my wife, Ramel, prepares Easter Baskets for all of our grandchildren. She has great fun going out and buying candy treats and little gifts for the kids. She finds little toys that she carefully wraps up in brightly colored paper. Or sometimes she puts things in those colorful plastic eggs. Then she gathers it all up and puts the stuff in little baskets, one for each child. Later, usually after our Easter lunch, the kids get to open their Easter Baskets. The fun is to watch their faces as they unwrap each candy or gift because each one is special little treat.

Today on this Easter Sunday God has given to each of us an Easter Basket filled with wonderful things. And He has made enough Easter Baskets for every person to receive one. All that is required is that we reach out by faith to receive the gift basket that He offers us.

So what’s in your Easter Basket today? Easter is the celebration and remembrance of our Lord’s Resurrection. It is the centerpiece of the Christian faith. It is the event that forever sets Christianity apart from every other religion on the planet. We don’t worship a dead leader—some dead guru buried in a cave. No, Jesus is alive! He rose on the third day just as He foretold that He would. The Bible says that He is now in Heaven seated at the Father’s right hand making intercession for us. Moreover, He will come again to gather His Church to be with Him forever. This is the blessed hope of every Christian.

Many passages in the NT speak about the significance of Christ’s resurrection but none as clearly or as powerfully as Paul’s analysis in I Cor. 15. Turn in your Bibles to that passage. Here the apostle Paul goes into the ramifications of Christ’s resurrection—what it means to each one of us. Let’s unpack this Easter Basket item by item. There are seven that I want to highlight this morning.

1. The Good News is proclaimed (vs. 1-5) – 1 “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 “…and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.”

2. Christ’s Resurrection attested by many witnesses (vs. 5-8) - 5 “…and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born [i.e. out of due time].”

3. Our Christ is alive (vs. 13-14 w/ v. 20) - 13 “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

4. Our faith is verified (v. 14 w/ v. 20) – 14 “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”

5. Our witness is vindicated (v. 15 w/ v. 20) - 15 “More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised… 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”

6. Our sins are forgiven (v. 17 w/ v. 20) - 17 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins… 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”

7. Our future is secured (v. 18 w/ v. 20) - 18 “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost… 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep!”

I said a few moments ago that the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the centerpiece of Christianity. It is the fulcrum point on which everything balances. Take away the Resurrection and the rest will fold up like a cheap lawn chair. In other words, if you can prove that the Resurrection did not happen and that Jesus merely died and stayed dead like every other martyred religious leader in history, then you can, and should, discount everything that Christianity teaches, because it is all based on a lie, a historical inaccuracy. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then you can forget anything He ever said because He didn’t know what He was talking about. He was just spouting a bunch of religious hogwash.

However, if Jesus indeed accomplished what He said He would do, if He rose from the dead on the third day just as He said He would, then you cannot afford to ignore Him or anything He said. He declared that the proof that He was indeed God in the flesh, come to be our Savior was that He would rise from the dead. Listen to His words recorded in Mark 10:33-34. He said this to His disciples just a few weeks before His crucifixion: “We are going up to Jerusalem,” He said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles, who will mock Him and spit on Him, flog Him and kill Him. Three days later He will rise!” How much clearer could He have made it for them, or for us?

I’ve explained to you what is in your Easter Basket, item by item. These are the wonderful gifts from God that are all bundled together with the most wonderful gift of all, the living, resurrected Savior, Jesus. Today, each of us is faced with a decision to make: What will you do with Jesus? There are three possible responses:
     1. You can ignore Him and go on about your business. However, the Bible says that you will die in your sins and be separated from God for all eternity.
     2. You can shake your fist at Him in anger and tell Him that you hate Him and all He stands for. However, again, the Bible says that you will die in your sins and be separated from God in hell for all eternity.
     3. You can open your heart to Him and receive the gift of life He came to give you. If you do, the Bible says that you will be with Him forever.

About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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