Knowing Jesus: “The Truth about Jesus (Part One)” The Gospel of John

pulpitLook on the internet or into the local newspaper and I believe a discerning believer will quickly spot a problem in the American pulpit. The “church page” that lists messages and sermon titles shows the spectrum of topics you can be informed and moved by on any given Sunday across your town. Here is what you will quickly see…Beloved, the message of the church in the modern era is becoming blurred. We are taking on too many objectives and being pulled from essential focus. We are becoming convinced that there are many messages the church needs to adopt, to help us make it through life in these days. I want to challenge you with a simple idea today:

Key Principle: The lost people around you won’t ever get a better presentation of Jesus than the one you can show through your transformed life! Make sure your life shows Jesus, and your words point them to Him!

So that I don’t sound too unsympathetic, let me say that I DO understand why the church is being tempted to get too diverse and complicated in its message. There are good reasons:

We are trying to stem off a wave of moral attacks as the next generation seems to have little resistance to making right from wrong. Desperate to enjoy as many of the pleasures of physical life while quelling the symptoms that stem from the abuses against their body and their relationships – the church is trying to put boundaries in an increasingly boundary-less society. People now believe that second hand smoke is wrong because it harms another, while killing the unborn is absolutely acceptable if the conditions of conception were not fully favorable. The church is trying to put moral logic back into the community by teaching Biblical ideas about right and wrong to those whose minds have been dulled by excessive entertainment and self-centered responses. Because the choices on the sin menu have increased in the public’s acceptance – we feel the pressure to say more on each subject.

We are increasingly being pressed into the “topic of the month” club – as marketing has now “wed” the worship service. January has “Right to Life” Sunday, followed by one hundred emails as to how we can use History Channel’s new series on “The Bible” to reach our neighborhood. This follows a long line of movies marketed to the church demographic like “Fire Proof” and others. Slick marketing campaigns like “Thirty Days of Whatever’s Hot” roll through one church after another. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with them – they bring in people. At the same time, the systematic instruction of the Word suffers when people aren’t learning how to live out their faith with a diet that is big on fast food Christianity. You cannot eat Chinese food today, Indian food tomorrow and Italian food the next – without eventually wearing out your digestive system. You also cannot jerk around your learning all over the Bible constantly if you don’t really have a handle on its backbone storyline – and most believers simply don’t have that anymore.

• At the same time, our family structure in modern life needs assistance. We are facing the pummeling effects of “Open Divorce” in America – a policy that has decimated the commitment of the individual’s word that is the foundation of the most basic human relationships. Family is being redefined and destroyed right in front of us – and the outcome appears to be that we have chopped deeply into the chief securing place for our children and their formation for identity. We have a generation that appearsto be  lacking in initiative, but is fully self-assured at the same time. Many people come to church hoping that God will give answers to the suffering experience in the home.

• As bonds of society have become strained, many who feel crippled with the inability to find friends arrive at the church doors hoping they will find a connection with people they are desperately seeking. As a result, one new series after another is offered to us to help people make friends and keep them in the church. Since the Bible DOES speak to relationships, many are willing to come if we will address them.

• Many are finding the challenges of modern life difficult to cope with, so many packages are offered to a Pastor to bring various psychological techniques of counseling into the pulpit. People are hurting, and churches feel the strain – and want to help.

I am not dumping on you, but trying to help you grapple with a basic problem we face that we didn’t use to know much about. There is nothing wrong with preaching and teaching to family, relationships, personal struggles, or great moral issues of our time. There is nothing wrong with any of them IF WE KEEP OUR CENTRAL MESSAGE ABOUT WHAT GOD TOLD US TO, that is.

What WAS the message of the Church at its beginning?

You may be surprised that their message was a simple one. It had little fanfare – but was life altering and powerful. It was the simple message that God sent a solution to the gulf that kept us from a personal relationship with Him because of sin – He sent Jesus.

The early church was transfixed with the person and work of Jesus – and how it could change the worst of them into God’s man or woman.

It wasn’t the ONLY thing they spoke about – but it was the MAIN THING when they addressed the subject of FINDING GOD. They scanned and STUDIED the old scrolls of the Law – but never without a desire to understand how God wanted to TRANSFORM them through the Messiah.

The early believers shared what they KNEW OF JESUS in their own lives! They placed that experience above the need to find catchy ways to draw a crowd. Many had a resolution worth having – to know Jesus in all His fullness. Paul mentioned it to the first believers at Corinth long ago in 1 Corinthians 2:1 “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Listen to the remarkable claim Paul made about his presentation:

• I didn’t come with a powerfully prepared and dynamic presentation – I just told you the truth about the testimony of God’s work in me.

• I decided the ONE THING I would dig deeply into – that above any other thing – was KNOWING JESUS, and diving deeply into His sufferings on my behalf.

• I didn’t feel strong, talented and accomplished – I felt weak and feeble. I couldn’t do much that would persuade you in high sounding words – but I could show you how God was incredibly changing ME.

Where I lacked power, God showed His power. Where I lacked polish – God pulled things together – and you found it irresistible.

Paul wanted to know Jesus in depth, to really understand what a walk with Him was like in daily life, and what He was like in death.

Beloved, no amount of glitz and glitter will draw in what simply living for Jesus and telling others about Him will. In all its simplicity, modern believers look for better presentation formulas – perhaps because we want to dump the responsibility of sharing Messiah onto the Sunday morning agenda.

Let me say it again ever so clearly:

The lost people around you won’t ever get a better presentation of Jesus than the one you can show with your transformed life! No preaching could do more. No movie could reach people better. Make sure your life shows Jesus, and your words point them to Him!

Three years ago, our lessons brought us through John’s Gospel until chapter 13, and that is where we left off in our teaching. I want to pick the story up, but it will require a few weeks of review to get us back into the story as John told it by the Holy Spirit’s nudging. This is just the first installment, taken from the pen of the Apostle John. I want to renew the study by a couple of weeks reviewing the early chapters, on our way to the second half of the book.

Let’s start by reminding ourselves that it was clearly John’s purpose to report Who Jesus is and what Jesus brought to us:

John 20:30 “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 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.”

The problem John faced was that he lived longer than the other Apostles. Most of them were fading off the scene by the time he was tapped by God to get the work of Jesus onto parchment. He was a local Pastor – a Bishop- over the church at Ephesus. His congregation was mixed – Jews who found their Messiah and former “pig eating pagans” that surrendered to Christ. They were ONE in Christ, but TWO in the community. Some were KOSHER KIDS, and others we “JOHNNY COME LATELY” in their walk with God.

Because Greek speaking Gentiles were given to philosophy and WORDS – John needed to provide some AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL WORDS of Jesus – when He spoke of Himself. Because Jews required signs and defined a person by their work – John needed to include the WORKS of Jesus to help them see Who Jesus is. As a result, the backbone of the book is found in the WORDS – the seven “I Am” sayings, and the WORKS – the seven “I Do” actions of the book – all that speak of WHO JESUS IS.

Let’s not get fancy in this lesson – let’s make sure we understand what the Gospel writer said about the IDENTITY of Jesus.

• Go into any public University and the common scholarly understanding is that Jesus was a GOOD MAN – but just a man.

• Sit down and chat with your neighbor and if they are nominally Christian they will tell you that He was a great teacher – and a positive influence. He was a nice guy. He did loving and warm things. The surprising part about that analysis is that a close look into the Gospels reveals a Savior that was at times very sharp-tongued and even used whips to make His point when necessary.

John would have none of this. Jesus wasn’t a GOOD GUY – He was GOD’S ONE WAY TO HIM.

To make his point, John wrote, “Seven I AM sayings” of Jesus:

Here is what Jesus said about Himself – Jesus “in His own words” about His identity. Jesus LEFT SEVEN STATEMENTS to explain Himself:

First, He said: “I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger.” (John 6:35). I am what you NEED.

Every Christian needs to be clear in their presentation of the Savior – Jesus is neither LUXURY nor OPTION.

• He wasn’t simply the example of a good man – He was the one who extinguished Hell’s flames from wrapping me in agony.

• He is bread to the starving man who has lost the strength to work or harvest.

The people gathered to Jesus, and because it was Passover, they needed to eat only bread that was prepared in the proper way – unleavened from a Jewish home. They were a few hours walk from home in the shadow of Gentile cities that could not provide properly prepared bread. When Jesus said it, they understood. There is no religious requirement that supersedes the need for taking Jesus into your life – like you ingest bread. Any list you have ever heard given by a church, synagogue, temple or prayer hall places a distant second to Jesus. The list may help you be a better person – but it won’t save you. Jesus came to do that, and He is not placed beside a set of religious options. Let me say it plainly: You need Jesus if you want a relationship with God – period.

Second, He said: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12). Without Me, you are in the dark.

If you may think you have life together without Jesus –you CAN’T EVEN SEE the POINT of life. Jesus was sitting in the Temple precinct, teaching people in morning before the sun got too hot in Jerusalem to think straight. Some scribes and Pharisees dropped a woman to the pavement of the court of the Temple, and asked Jesus about sending her out to have her stoned. It seems she had been caught in the act of adultery – and they were testing Jesus’ resolve – since He was known to have forgiven others who had a long list of moral failures. Jesus noticed the conspicuous absence of the other party. He answered them with a simple claim: “If you are going to stone her, let the one without sin cast the first stone.” On first appearance, Jesus sounds like He is letting her off the hook – but He is not.

I would be wrong if I didn’t point out that the passage isn’t found in all the best ancient manuscripts of the Bible. Though the church historically recognized the story to be considered Scripture, we know that it is missing from the earliest and most reliable manuscripts – and it may not be. It is mentioned by some second century references, but doesn’t show up in the manuscripts until the fifth CE, and the so-called “Pericope adulterae” is one of a tiny handful of  suspect passages.

In any case, what could Jesus mean by His statement? Likely Jesus is acknowledging a tradition in which the offended party casts the first of the stones at the accused. Such an action would deter flippant accusations against a spouse. At the same time, Jesus didn’t seem to see a guilt free husband in this case. Perhaps all He wrote on the ground were some lover’s names from the men who were charged up to cast stones. One by one, they found themselves as CAUGHT as she was. They dropped their stones and walked off. Jesus would have upheld the Law, but not some hypocritical “set-up” based on the Law of God – because He is the LIGHT. He sees what others cannot. He knew the hearts of the men – and their hearts were not in the same place as their religious costume and righteous indignation.

Jesus peels off all the layers of religiosity and hypocrisy and demands that we see ourselves, and others, through the standard of truth. No one comes to Jesus feeling GOOD about themselves. We stand before Him GUILTY because we were born estranged from God since the day of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden – so says the Word. Again, directly to the point, Jesus wanted to make it clear – I see the truth, and nothing gets past Me. Don’t be mistaken into believing your good deeds will balance you out – He knows how little you have really paid attention to God in your life.

Third, He said: “I am the Door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9). I am the access to get to God.

Jesus was in NO WAY EMBARASSED about His uniqueness. This makes people in the world squirm – but Jesus was frankly very UP FRONT about His position as gateway to God.

People came up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles as God commanded in Deuteronomy 16:16. Thousands came into the city. It was a time for teaching, celebrating, and seeking God for the much needed rains of the coming season. Jesus walked by a man who was born blind, and His disciples wanted to know whether the man was that way for his own sin, or for the sin of his parents before him. Jesus said, you limited your understanding of this malady – the answer is “none of the above”. The man was born that way so that they would ask Him about it on that particular day, at that particular street. God wanted a demonstration, and God was using this man’s life to pull it off.

Jesus healed the man. He spit on the ground, put mud in his eye, and told him to go to the Pool of Siloam in the southeast part of town – the pool that was at the center of every prayer for that time of year. The pool has recently been excavated and is made up of a series of stairways that allow people to get close to the water as the level gets lower and lower waiting for new rainwater from the storm sewers of ancient Jerusalem. The water was probably low, because they were early in the rain year. Down the steps he went, blind and muddy-eyed. When he washed, he COULD SEE.

There was one problem, though. It was the wrong day of the week! That blind man had the audacity to be healed on Sabbath! Can you imagine? How could he go running around all sight-filled and what not on the Sabbath? Didn’t he know better. Healing is a Sunday to Friday morning deal – no Sabbath healing! What was the response of his family and neighbors? Act like they don’t know what happened, but admit that it was truly a man who was born blind. What was his response? Tell the leaders that it didn’t make sense to HIM that a DEVIL or a BAD GUY would bother to give him sight. Their response – they threw him out!

Jesus came back into the scene at that point. He waited until the leaders had shown their true colors – then He told them THEY were the real blind men. As He continued, He let them know the truth – He is the DOOR TO GOD – not their rules, their Temple or their religious instruction. He was there to MAKE ENTRY POSSIBLE – while they were busy finding ways to keep the number in the Kingdom down – like people hogging a lifeboat. Jesus didn’t come to make going to Heaven difficult – quite the opposite. He wanted to make it clear that it is NOT WHAT YOU KNOW – BUT WHO YOU KNOW. Without the door opening, you cannot get in.


Fourth, He said: “I am the Good Shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” (John 10:11). There is NOTHING I won’t do to reach for you.

The blind man found himself on the outside of the religious establishment – because he got healed at a time not approved by the Sanhedrin. His whole life, people passed him by – few stooping down to a blind child to speak to him. Nobody ever asked HIS OPINION on anything that was important. In came the Savior and Jesus proved His love in ACTION.

Do you honestly believe the man cared about the day of the week when he could see the sun set that night for the first time?

Jesus walked into his dark night of a life and rubbed mud on his eyes. Washing spit and mud in a public pool, a blind man saw the city of Jerusalem for the first time. He saw beautiful women drawing water. He saw bearded old men and smiled. He saw shops, colors, and for first time he saw himself in the pool’s reflection. He saw his parents and his neighbors. He probably combed his hair himself for the first time. ALL BECAUSE JESUS CAME TO HIM.

Jesus is not in the business of finding ways to keep you away from His Father or His Heavenly Kingdom – He is a shepherd. He gathers, He protects, He calls, and He defends. He isn’t HAPPY about any sinner – great or small –heading into a LOST ETERNITY. If He was, no one would have nailed Him to a tree. He had the power to walk away – but there was no other way to pay the penalty for sin and settle the judicial account before the Father.

Fifth, He said: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” (John 11:25). You can finally find real LIFE.

In the last months before His arrest and Crucifixion, Jesus got news about a dear friend in Bethany that had died from a sickness. When word was sent from Mary and Martha that Lazarus was ailing, Jesus said: “It won’t take him, this is for the revealing of God’s glory!” Wow! What a way to look at an illness! Like the blind man that stumbled through life awaiting the coming of Jesus – so Lazarus would have to wait to see Jesus and have God work a miracle. Jesus delayed, and came after Lazarus breathed his last – or so it seemed.

Jesus told the disciples to get it together – they were going into the “mouth of the lion” of Judea – where learned and powerful men were plotting against Jesus. The men didn’t see the urgency – so Jesus told them flatly- “Lazarus is DEAD! Now let’s go!” Thomas, in a moment of verbal sarcasm, was caught on the record mumbling, “Great, boss – we can all go DIE with him!” I’d be willing to wager he wasn’t the only one thinking what came out his mouth. On his way up from Jericho, Jesus probably stopped off an Ein Shemesh to refill the water skins – and there Martha met Him.

Jesus told her that Lazarus’ death wasn’t the END of this story – He had a plan. She couldn’t grasp the essence of what He was saying, and He made the point very clear: I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. Life and death aren’t bigger than I am – I am bigger than they are! Real life is found KNOWING ME. One hundred years here and then eternal separation from God isn’t life – it is a SLOW DEATH SENTENCE. Jesus wanted her to grasp that HE wasn’t shaken by death – because He is the MASTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. Because I know Jesus, my body may die (as a penalty for the Fall), but my spirit will get a new one later. I am not a body that houses a spirit – I am a spirit that is temporarily using this body.

Sixth, He said: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” (John 14:6).

Near the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth before the Cross, He was having a teaching time with His men. It was His last night with them – and the arrest was coming in hours. Jesus told the men that He was going away, like a bridegroom leaves to build on to the father’s home – but He would surely return. Some of the men didn’t want to let Him go – they didn’t like the idea of the separation. Thomas – Mr. Happy himself, asked where Jesus was going and how they could join Him or at least keep in contact with Him. Jesus said they did not need to LEARN THE WAY because they had MET THE WAY. Jesus openly admitted to them that He was THE way, THE truth and THE life. If that wasn’t exclusive enough, He added – NO ONE comes to the Father, but by me – no one, no way, nada.

Was He clear? Do you really think you can SATISFY God without His Son? Do you think Jesus meant to say, “No one comes except by me and being a reasonably morally good person?” DO you think He really meant that Sunday School pins, AWANA badges, church attendance, Bible knowledge, and other things we do provide ANOTHER WAY into the Kingdom. The more you read Jesus – the more His words are unmistakable. You need a relationship with HIM – or you cannot get in.

Oh, and one more thing – John reminded…

Seventh, He said: “I am the True Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1). Drawing from my strength, your life will become FRUITFUL.

Ezekiel the priest sang a sad lament (Ezekiel 19) in the captivity of Babylon that the VINE of Israel – the princes and ruling family of Israel – was decimated and fruitless. He longed for a TRUE VINE that would come to lead the people home to God and the land. Jesus picked up the anthem and exclaimed: I am the TRUE PRINCE. I can make your life bear fruit again. I can bring us home and bring us peace.

Are you wondering what your LIFE will leave behind? Are you wondering about the FRUIT OF YOUR LIFE? Are you hoping there is MORE to life than just your short one hundred years on this planet? Jesus has an answer for you. I CAN MAKE YOUR LIFE FULL OF FRUIT THAT MATTERS. One thousand years from now, what you drove today won’t matter. What you made last week won’t be remembered. What you have done in your life will only count if it has eternal value. Remember that!

The Conclusion

John wrote what is called by some “A Defense of Jesus Christ.What a funny way to look at the Gospel of John. After all, how EXACTLY do you defend Jesus? I suppose it is like defending a roaring lion, you LET HIM OUT and He will show His power to anyone who encounters Him. How will He show it? In the LIFE of the surrendered believer.

If you truly encounter Jesus…You won’t think like the people around you. You won’t act like them. You will have a purpose that makes the toys of this life much less interesting. You will have a relationship that grounds you when others are knocking themselves out to find an identity and acceptance. You will have assurance in the nights of their uncertainty. Your life will be His portrait! Don’t forget the lost people around you won’t ever get a better presentation of Jesus than the one you can show with your transformed life!

Oh, dear ones! Oh that the church would but stick to the script of the early church, that the power of Jesus would return and renew her!

The Easter Story: "The Column" – John 20:1-17

One of the many incredible and undeserved joys of my life is that of travel. I have traveled to many of the world’s finest places, and in the process I have had my breath taken away by some undeniably beautiful pieces of art and architecture, vistas of gorgeous landscape and some lofty tones of musical joy. I have to admit that “awestruck” is not a word I use often – but on occasion it is the only one that truly conveys a feeling. I was standing in an imposing and ornate Cathedral in Europe a few years ago. The baroque ornamentation was spun in every direction, and the sheer artistry took my breath away. Yet, though the art was impressive, it wasn’t until the guide stood our small group beside a vast column that towered several stories above us that I was truly struck by a powerful scene. She simply said: “The entire roof above you was placed there more than eight hundred years ago and weighs many tons – but it is all held up by this single column. Remove this – or even badly damage it – and everything above you will crash to the ground.” We all stood there and looked up. It took three hand holding tourists just to reach our arms around the vast column, and though it was not decorated with the ornamentation of the rest of the cathedral, it was the single feature of the architecture that left us awestruck.

Christianity has such a column – a story that that holds all the rest of our message in place. If there were a single picture of it – a “Nike swoosh” type logo – it would a single hand hewn and rounded stone. That simple stone has evoked awe for more than two thousand years! It held no great cathedral with its might – but it held together a movement of men, women and children spread throughout the earth. That stone was barely two feet tall. It was a small covering door – a stone that sealed in the body of a dead man. This simple cover once held a great Teacher inside – but it was miraculously and powerfully rolled open on a day that is now celebrated by followers of Jesus around the world. God moved a stone and created a breach in the seamless hold of death. God authored hope by moving a rock. From Heaven, He commanded a lifeless body to be restored to life – and the Resurrection displayed His undeniable approval of the payment Jesus made for sin. The sacrifice was accepted. The door of that tomb was the opening to the world beyond our world. When God rolled that stone back- His power broke through a veil that man could never before breach. Death was done! Sin, and its ultimate effect of death was conquered. Eternal life was now available to all who believe …

Men have tried to deny it, to say it was a mere fabricated story – but an empty tomb has shouted them down! Even more, the changed lives of sin sick men and women wouldn’t let the transforming power of God be drowned out in the world’s attempts to harness a relationship with Christ into a mere religion. Christianity was never meant to become a simple ethical system. It wasn’t meant to become a list of do and don’ts that keep people feeling small and outside. It’s chief symbol was a door – because it was a deliberate invasion into the former darkness of separation and death.

Christianity is not a religion. It is the transformation that comes from a relationship with Jesus. It is the act of choosing to believe in, know, love and follow the Person of Jesus. But that only happens when we truly grasp Who Jesus is and why we needed His sacrifice. That only happens when we trust Him, so that His Resurrection power can change us. The truth is, without the Resurrection – it might be hard for any of us to really believe Jesus. Maybe an illustration will help:

We stood at the cave and I admit I was really afraid. There were bats that lined the top crevices of the cave, and guano that lined the bottom. The entry was lit for a few feet, but then there was utter darkness. Crawling back into the close and tight quarters of the cave, we had no idea if there was a huge hole – a drop within. I was afraid and the whole venture of the cave seemed foolish and perilous. What changed my mind? When my dear and trusted friend explained that he had been all the way in there before me. Because he went in and came out – I could rest in the experience. So it is with death. I have a trusted friend that has already been there, and come back – and He said that if I trust Him – I will be fine.

In other words, we can’t be a Christian without encountering, trusting and then following Jesus. We don’t just learn from His example – we leave the docks of the world and get in the boat with Him at the helm. That’s Christianity –Jesus steering my life because I trust Him to do it. Remember the column of that cathedral? The story of Jesus is our column. His life, His death, and His Resurrection are the key events to God being openly revealed to us.

Key Principle: The story of Jesus – His life, His death and His resurrection- is the single column that holds up the whole structure of the message of the Gospel. Every part of the story is essential, and in its totality the Gospel stands.

The great news is found in His story. What is it? Death is not a victor, nor a mystery… the door to the tomb stands open. For that reason an open tomb door has become our best SYMBOL. His sacrifice on the Cross saved us, but the announcement of His Resurrection is what evokes awe in us – because God showed acceptance of the work to save us. God is on board with opening the once sealed door of death, and the sting of eternal separation in death is gone.

I recall being at the funeral of an unsaved man. His wife asked my Pastor to come, and he brought me along to watch and see how it was done. The woman loved her husband. She was inconsolable. She cried out over and over.. “He’s gone! He’s gone! How can I go on?” I will remember that scene of despair all of my days.

With that kind of pain at stake, we need to be certain about what we are saying. Is our understanding truly the Gospel taught by the Apostles? I mean, how can anyone look at death and think its power to sting has been undone? Doesn’t that seem like escapism – an unrealistic look at life? I can see how one could arrive at such a conclusion. After all, it seems that even now we cannot do anything to escape the shadow of death. Many people try to ignore it. It is the “elephant in the room” of many sick and aging people. This week one of my friends went into his living room, sat back in his lounge chair, and drifted out of this life. How do I KNOW he is not gone forever? One of our other friends got a call that his sister left this life – she was found in her home. While I was preparing this message, yet another call came in with another sister that slipped into death up in Ocala.

Chuck Swindoll wasn’t wrong when he said: “Death doesn’t seem defeated. Every major paper still has obituaries. The idea of death haunts us, even when we don’t want to think of it. Death seems like the card that trumps all other life cards. It still seems inevitable, inescapable and undeniable. What the philosopher Euripides said still seems to ring true: “Death is the debt we all must pay.” An Old Persian proverb said it this way:  “Death is the camel that lies at every door.

Even when we look in the Bible, we must admit the Biblical writers recognized the power of death in our lives. They weren’t silent on the subject. The salt in the wound caused by sin was evident in the poetry of Gen 3:19: “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”

Can you hear the echo of the Bible that promised death?

  • Rom 5:12 ”Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…”
  • Heb 9:27 “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…”

It is easy to see why someone would believe that death was a door shut for all times. According to what we read from God’s Word, the future of every man and woman is, well, dust – from the original curse. Can we not hear it is the trembling tone in the voice of Job, when he sat in an ash pile covered with boils all over his body? He lamented in the shadow of the grave stones of his children. He sat beside his three hope draining friends, and his discouraging wife. While Job’s eyes were yet swollen from visiting the ten fresh graves of his children, he sat in brokenness and offered this painful insight in Job 14:1: “Man, who is born of woman, Is short-lived and full of turmoil.”

Who could argue with him when he compared life to a flower that quickly withers and inevitably heads to death in 14:2? Who can dispute that the number of days was fixed by God above, as Job argued in 14:5? Who could argue that life doesn’t feel like that temporary worker that we pass by once or twice on the job – and then they are GONE (14:6). We feel it. What Job says seems to painfully resonate with us. We can hear his logic when he saw more hope for a tree when it was cut down than a man– at least the tree would live again in the new shoots (14:7). In the sheer weight of the pain of loss, he struggled to see such hopefulness for men. He said this: Job 14:10 “But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he?” A few verses later, he asks the PENTRATING question that every thinking person must one day confront (Job 14:14): “If a man dies, will he live again?“ You could conclude that the Bible promises death at the end of life – but that wouldn’t be an account of ALL OF THE BIBLE.

You see, there is a problem: the story of Jesus didn’t end in death. Something happened – and that is the central feature of the GOOD NEWS. The tomb was left open and the grave was left empty. The stench of death was replaced with the fresh smell of a new spring day. Job’s question was answered by an invasion of God’s power. Can the dead live again? Well, in fact, Jesus taught that He had the power over death – and He could open the grave. He was having a conversation with a friend after her brother had died during His absence from them. John 11:21: Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. … 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

What a great question. Let me ask you: Do YOU believe this? Do you believe that you will never die? Was Jesus serious? Does such a promise really exist, and if it does, what must I do to gain assurance that I shall have life beyond life?

Turn for a moment in your Bible to John 20 and watch Jesus DO what He talked about. Talking about defeating death is one thing – dying and then living again is another! Watch God deliver on the promise of power over death through the open door on Jesus’ tomb. If you look very closely at the story of Jesus – you will see many truths about the Resurrection:

Truth: New life doesn’t come until you meet Jesus.

John 20:1 “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.

  • First, His Resurrection was set at a time of new beginnings: it was the “first day” of the new week (20:1a).
  • Second, the scene of the Resurrection began in darkness (20:1b). The term comes from a root word for indiscernible.
  • Third, the first encounter with the Resurrection was not seeing Jesus – but seeing the symbol – the stone rolled back (20:1b).

It is very possible that you are encountering this Resurrection story today in the same way. You have seen the SYMBOLS of Jesus – the Cross on many a church, the dove or fish on someone’s car. You know SOME PEOPLE have been impacted by an encounter with Jesus – but YOU haven’t really had such an encounter. You are still in the dark, and your new day hasn’t begun…stay TUNED – there is more to the story!

Truth: Meeting One who died seems really unlikely.

John 20:2 “So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

  • Confronted by the seemingly impossible, we look for someone who can help make sense of it all! She looked within her life experiences and concluded – SOMEONE MOVED HIM. Of course He didn’t move Himself – He is DEAD!

I admit it. The Resurrection is so CONFOUNDING! It requires you to believe that there truly IS a GOD in Heaven, and that He truly IS engaged in our world. Is that really so hard to believe? When you look at the vast heavens in their splendor and organization – do you really see only chance and chaos? When you examine the film of cells knit together in the womb of a mother, do you really not see the hand of a skilled designer? Maybe you have encountered some evidence of God’s power – and you have come running to someone you believe may be able to help you find the truth. If that is the case, I can only thank you for coming to us to hear about Jesus.

Truth: Religion won’t get you what you are really looking for.

John 20:3 “So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4“The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there…”

  • Peter and John took off running because they had some teaching, but hadn’t yet encountered the transforming power of Jesus yet.

People like Peter and John are all over our world. They know something of what Jesus said. They may know some things He did. They were warmed in their heart by the profound stories of sheep, fish and trees. They were moved by the selfless example at the Cross. The truth is, however, they haven’t yet encountered the transforming power of the Risen Christ. They are full of religion and eager to find truth – but they haven’t touched the power of the Resurrected One.

It is simply not enough to know about Jesus – you must meet Him and recognize Him for Who He is – the Lord above all. If your encounter with Jesus leaves you fully in charge of your life – then you know nothing of Jesus as He truly is. You have met a “Hallmark Card” Jesus – not the One in the Gospel account. Jesus demands ownership so that He can remake you and I to be His very own. In becoming His, we die to self and live to and for Him!

Truth: God has been holding a spot for you for ages.

John 20:7 ”…and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.

  • The cloth was rolled up and set aside.

Ask yourself why John was struck by that. This was not the scene of a hasty stealing away of a broken body. Someone took the time to unwrap Him. Someone took the time to roll up the wrapping that had been on His head, and placed it neatly on the burial preparation bench. This was the evidence of a plan at work.

If you took the time to look carefully at the feasts of Israel – only one was always to be on the Sunday following Passover – it was the feast of FIRSTFRUITS. God planned as far back as Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16 to have Jesus raised on the Sunday after Passover – and He became the first fruits of the Resurrection pictured there. Paul made that point carefully in 1 Corinthians 15. It is worth recalling – this wasn’t a haphazard event. This wasn’t God catching up to what the enemy did at the Cross of Jesus. Oswald Chambers reminded long ago: “The Cross didn’t happen to Jesus – this was the reason He came.” God planned the death, and God planned the Resurrection.

God took thousands of years to work out salvation’s plan – and He wasn’t in a hurry. He knew from the moment right after sin that a Son of Man would get a bite on His heel from the enemy – but in doing so He would CRUSH THE ENEMIE’S HEAD. He promised that in Genesis 3. The plan took time – was organized – and was never haphazard. God had the napkin folded and set aside.

Truth: You will need a map to get there.

John 20:8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.”

  • The evidence of the empty tomb was enough to get the men to believe that SOMETHING had happened – but only the Scripture could really make sense of it all.

Maybe you are encountering this message today and they believe that PERHAPS something unusual happened to Jesus. You may even believe He was an incredible teacher. Still, you haven’t truly encountered His personal touch. Here is the truth: Knowing about Jesus may make you historically informed. Knowing what He taught may make you morally ethical. Neither of those is KNOWING HIM. Maybe you would ask: “How can I know Him?” Keep reading, the answer is on its way…

The basis of the whole event is God performing according to the promises He made in His Holy Word. The Bible set the whole story in its meaning. John ended this very chapter with the words “these are written that you might have life.” The Scriptures hold the plan, and the plan reveals the Person. Jesus will transform the person that takes His Word as truth. If the Bible is a paperweight on your desk or a doorstop in your apartment – it will not yield the antidote for your sin sickness – For it is like an unfilled prescription left on your coffee table while the deadly poison ravages your body.

Truth: You will have to really want to meet Him.

John 20:10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes. 11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;

  • A casual look toward Jesus and return to your home will produce no lasting change.

Jesus is not a curiosity – He is a Savior. Yet, sadly, many will come for a brief and casual glance in His direction today – and then head straight back to their busy lives. By this afternoon, they will be heavily dosed in ham and sweet potatoes – and cutting into the cakes and pies. The holiday will be much more about home and food than Heaven and surrender.

Truth: When you ask Him, He will show you the truth.

John 20:12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. John 20:13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” John 20:14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.

  • A close and earnest look gave Mary a chance to see that Heaven really was ready to encounter her!

Salvation is about God’s acceptance of those who shook their fist in His face. It is about being embraced by the One that we ran out on. It is about finding forgiveness that opens our heart to surrender to One who will take us back. It is never given to the proud. It is never open to the self-sufficient. It can only be found by peering beyond this world through the veil of the physical and into the world of the spiritual. If you and I strip off our arrogance and admit our rebellion – Heaven will show itself. When Heaven opens – you will find God has been planning for your return and has a place ready for you!

Truth: When you hear Jesus call your name, you will know His voice.

John 20:15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”

  • When you open your heart to Jesus, and you ask Him to meet you – He will meet you. He will know you, and you will know Him.

You were made to worship your Creator. You were made to bring Him pleasure – and He knows what you need. Every joy you have ever experienced was created in His mind. Every beauty you have ever known was whipped into being by Him. He is not aloof, He is patient. He is not angry, He is knocking. We shook our fist at Him, and He laid down His hands and let us drive nails in them – because His Father wanted us back home.

The truth of the Resurrection is that DEATH HAS LOST ITS STING!

Kevin was always extremely allergic to bees and their sting. The doctor warned Tom and Alice that if he were ever stung, it would be seconds before they saw his life begin to slip away. They were always aware of the danger, and they tried to teach Kevin how to be aware without being paranoid. On a fishing trip near the mountain cottage, Kevin panicked in the boat next to Tom. A bee was buzzing around the center of the tiny rowboat. Tom reached out and cupped his hand over the bee. A moment later, Tom let the little yellow insect go free. “Dad, what are you doing?” Tom quietly stilled Kevin: “Don’t worry son. He can’t hurt you – He stung me and now he cannot sting you.” What Tom did for Kevin, Jesus did for me.

What about the promise that we shall not die?

  • Philippians 3:20-21: (NIV) But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior …who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
  • 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you…”
  • Paul, writing to believers in Jesus promised them: 1 Cor. 15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, … 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death… 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”

Jesus is Alive. He has conquered death.

  • Armies have marched against this message – but the truth of the Resurrection is a stubborn foe.
  • Forgiveness for sin is available – but my stubborn insistence on self-determination can hold me back from surrender.
  • Jesus overcame the external enemies and opened the tomb door – but I must open the door of my heart. I must be willing to let Him inside. I must cede control and let Him be King of ME.

The story of Jesus – His life, His death and His resurrection- is the single column that holds up the whole structure of the message of the Gospel. Every part of the story is essential, and in its totality the Gospel stands. Why not wrap your arms around that column today, and feel its strength. He has long been ready to meet with you. Are YOU ready to meet with Him?