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WHY JESUS CAME AND WHY HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD

A SPECIAL SERVICE AND SERMON

FOR

RESURRECTION SUNDAY

CELEBRATED ORIGINALLY AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

11 APRIL 1993

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Mark 9:22-24
John 3:16-17, 36
        20:1-23
James 2:19
1 John 4:18

Homily:

God came to earth as a man, in the body and form of His only begotten Son, so that He could better understand the feelings and temptations placed upon our human bodies.

Not that God didn't know, but that He would understand how we felt, and that when deciding upon whether or not our belief and relationship in Him was true, we would be without excuse; for we also were then able to relate to Him in bodily form, and not just have to believe in His spiritual presence.

He did this because He loves us, and wanted to do everything He could to lead us away from sin and into heaven.

And Jesus Christ's death did even more. It paid the price of the sins of all truly repentant sinners.

Listen to what Jesus Himself tells us in John 3:16-17.

Preparation Verses: John 3:16-17

16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

17. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.

Hymn: Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

Homily:

Sometimes we struggle with our belief, or the degree of our belief, or with understanding that God doesn't equate our simply knowing of Him, or of His Son, as true belief.

Jesus partly explains this in John 3:36.

36. "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey [or believe to the point of obeying] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides in him."

A great many people say they believe, but their lives don't reflect that belief.

James explains this point in another way in 2:19.

19. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

The devil and his demons believed, but not unto obedience; thus, they shudder at what awaits them, for they also know the truth, as we do, but didn't follow it.

Jesus came so that we wouldn't make the same mistake.

Jesus died to pay the price of our unbelief or disobedience, if we in turn would receive Him into ourselves through our belief leading to obedience.

And Jesus rose from the dead to prove to every believer and unbeliever, alike, that everything He said was true.

As we read in our responsive reading for this morning, even those with Jesus didn't believe unto His resurrection.

But once they came to know that He was alive, they never doubted again.

What about us? Is there some unbelief in us?

Perhaps we're like the woman, who, up to a few years ago, when she came to me and said, “All of my life I thought I was a lamp to the Lord, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized I didn’t have any ‘oil’.”

She believed, and she had tried to be a "good Christian," but her relationship was never complete until she received the “oil” leading to eternal life.

Perhaps some of us are as the father of the boy, possessed of an evil spirit, who was brought before Jesus, as recorded in Mark 9:14-24; but let's just listen to his conversation with Jesus beginning at verse 22.

22. "And it [the evil spirit] has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"

Do you hear his unbelief in the midst of his plea for help?

23. And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can!' All things are possible to him who believes."

24. Immediately the boy's father cried out and began saying, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

Jesus Christ arose from the dead nearly 2,000 years ago. He lives! It's all true.

But if there is still some unbelief within you, or if you are not doing as you know the Lord desires you to do, then take a few moments and confess your heart to the Lord, as did the father of the boy.

Confession and Assurance:

The Lord's Prayer:

Homily:

Let's return to the resurrection story, as recorded in John 20:1 and following, so that the belief of each of us might be strengthened.

Jesus' disciples, both men and women, were very much like us.

They believed, but their belief needed strengthening.

As we look at their lives, then, see ourselves, now.

And to encourage us on this spiritual journey, let's first sing the Hymn: Worship Christ the Risen King.

Scriptural Reading: John 20:1-2

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.

2. And 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 taken Him."

Homily:

Jesus had told them all, that He would rise from the dead on the third day, but they took that as a figure of speech, and not a fact.

They believed, but not far enough.

Scriptural Reading: John 20:3-10

3. Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they were going to the tomb.

4. And 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. Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there,

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.

8. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed.

9. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

10. So the disciples went away again to their own homes.

Homily:

I suppose that all of us, when we leave here today, are going home, too; or, perhaps, out for something to eat and then home.

I pray we are not going home because of our unbelief.

We have more Scriptures than did Peter and John.

We have Scriptures that tell of this day, specifically, which they obviously didn't have; so, our belief should, in effect, be greater than theirs.

But is it?

And just in case you have heard the story, that someone stole the body, consider this: If the body of Jesus had been taken, they would have taken it with its wrappings; but the wrappings were still in the tomb.

Perhaps this is the reason why John believed.

But not everyone left the tomb site.

Note what happens when we're not in so much of a hurry to go home.

Scriptural Reading: John 20:11-18

11. But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;

12. and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.

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."

14. When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.

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.' ''

18. Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her.

Hymn: Christ Arose

Homily:

Even if Mary had trouble with her belief, she nevertheless didn't leave. She sought an answer.

And the grace and mercy of the Lord came to her, and she, too, came to fully believe.

Any one of us could be confused about a specific piece of doctrine, or about some issue of faith, or even be troubled about being in church, for whatever reason.

We can turn around and leave, and not come back, in which case we will miss the blessings that comes from staying in His presence.

But even when we decide to go to our own homes, Jesus will follow in the hope of bringing us back to His home.

Scriptural Reading: John 20:19-23

19. When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."

20. And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

21. Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you."

22. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

23. "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."

Homily:

Thus these disciples also came to truly believe.

But here we come to really understand where the power of our belief unto obedience comes from, and where that woman's “oil” came from.

First of all, Jesus said to them, "Peace be with you."

When we have peace, we also have an assurance that everything is all right, or that things will shortly work themselves out to a point where we are satisfied with them.

We also have peace when we come to understand that the Lord is in control, and we wholly trust in His decision.

And peace is present where love prevails, for perfect love casts out fear, and we cannot have peace where there is fear. (1 John 4:18)

18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

Next, Jesus breathes on them, and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit."

To receive the Holy Spirit is the same as what we have been discussing about receiving Jesus. We must receive Him by believing unto obedience.

In other words, we have to begin to listen to our conscience, which is the work of the Holy Spirit, and not the desires of eyes and body and pride.

With the Holy Spirit within us, we come to more fully understand the love of our God towards us, that Jesus came to save the whole from its present corruption, and He died for us when we were yet sinners.

And with the Holy Spirit within us, we too, rise from the deadness of our sins unto everlasting life, even while we are still alive here on earth.

Just as Jesus Christ rose from the dead to prove that everything He said was true, so we will rise to be with Him forever and ever; that is, if the Holy Spirit is truly within us.

The Holy Spirit is our power to overcome the world.

The Holy Spirit is our power to believe unto obedience.

Then Jesus tells His disciples and us to apply His love to others, and not to be hard of heart.

If we love ourselves to the extent that God loves us, we will learn to love others while they, too, are yet sinners.

Thus, we can forgive them, and hopefully spread God's love, for God will also forgive them.

But if we don't forgive them, their sin is retained in them, and in the hardness of our own heart, which is not believing unto obedience.

Jesus Christ rose from the dead to prove to us that His way is the only way.

The power of God's forgiveness raised Him from the dead.

And that same power has been given to us.

So, go forth this morning, and for the rest of your life, with this resurrection power with you and, without any limits, share this love and forgiveness with others; and we will indeed change the world.

Amen.

Hymn: Thine Is the Glory

Your Comments are welcome

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