As it’s Easter Sunday, it was no surprise that the sermon was on the great news of Jesus’ resurrection.
In order to have a resurrection, there needs to be a death. Jesus really did die. Death by crucifixion was designed to be painful. Why was the tomb empty? The Jewish enemies and religious leaders didn’t challenge the apostles when they said Jesus had risen from the dead.
Why does it matter?
Jesus said he was going to rise from the dead and he did. There is no one else who has done that. He has risen, as he said. What Jesus says can be trusted. He speaks the truth because he is the truth. God so loved the world (John 3:16) even though we are all sinners (Romans 3:23) and he shows his love for us (Romans 5:8). God’s judgement on our sin was dealt with. We all have a choice between wages (that we deserve) and free gift (that we don’t deserve).
The resurrection really does matter. When the apostle Paul was in Athens, he found lots of idols. He told them how God commands all people to repent as he’ll judge the world (Acts 17:30-31). One day Jesus will be the judge. He will judge with justice. We often say we want justice for our nation but what about God’s justice for us? It’s not just feeling sorry, it’s choosing to go his way.
Jesus is risen from the dead. He’s alive. What choice are you going to make?
What does heading to the cross look like?
Heading to the cross is hard
Jesus begins by telling the truth about himself. Without the death of a single seed there can be no harvest crop. The death of Jesus is God’s solution to man’s biggest problem. The Bible says we are dead in our sin. We can’t live in sin and live with God at the same time. Jesus says his soul is troubled (v27). He knew that his death was the only way to deal with the problem of human sin. He then makes this picture of himself also a picture of us (v25-26). Jesus calls us to hate our lives, deny ourselves, take up our cross. follow him, and serve him. It is hard to serve Jesus and others when you feel people are taking advantage of you.
Heading to the cross is glorious
If the seed dies, it will produce many other seeds (v24). If we hate our lives, we will keep our lives for eternity (v25). What are we willing to sacrifice for Jesus? If we follow, we will be with Jesus our King (v26a). If we serve, the Father will honour (v26b).
Heading to the cross is triumphant
It’s through Jesus’ death that God is glorified. Jesus says the last judgement will be dragged from the future into the present. At the cross God passes his punishment on sin and instead of placing it on us, he places it on Jesus. This is the time for judgement on the world and for when Satan will be driven out. Death will not hold Jesus. Satan won’t see it coming. The Christian will have the power within them to say no to sin. Jesus says it’s also the time he will draw all people to himself.
Like the Greeks, are you wanting to see Jesus? The death of Jesus on the cross was God announcing “here I am”. We see the hard road Jesus took to be the only sacrifice good enough to rescue us from the clutch of sin and death. We see God’s glory revealed and we can be sure of our future. God invites us to know life forever in his name. Will we allow the cross and the death of Christ to change our lives?
In this passage is Jesus’ mission statement as he begins his earthly ministry. Throughout the life of Jesus on earth, he went to the poor. He was anointed to preach good news to the poor. Jesus often spoke about spiritual blindness. All kinds of things can oppress people in their lives. Jesus came to release the oppressed. Why did Jesus stop reading the scroll before “the day of vengeance of our God”? John 3:17.
How should we look at Jesus?
By seeing what people said about him. Firstly we need to hear what his Father said when he was baptized and during the transfiguration. We also need to look at what Jesus himself said – Luke 2:48 & John 4:34.
Why did Jesus come? To seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Though Jesus knew that going to Jerusalem was going to mean his death, he was determined to go. Everything in his life was pointing towards it. When he went into Gethsemane, he’s contemplating the agony he’s going to face (Luke 22:42). It’s impossible for us to imagine. We don’t know what it’s like to be perfect as our hearts are full of sin.
What the crowds said
Mark 7:37 – people were overwhelmed with amazement. They recognised that he has done everything well. Luke 4:22 – all spoke well of him. When Jesus received the approval of the crowds, he wouldn’t entrust himself to them (John 2:23-25).
What his enemies said
At the time when guards were sent to arrest Jesus (John 7:40-48), they were asked why they didn’t bring him in. They said no one ever spoke the way Jesus did. Even his enemies had to recognise that. In John 8:42-47, Jesus challenges the Pharisees on belonging to the devil. He asked them if they could prove him guilty of sin. They didn’t. Jesus’ sinless perfection is vital to the whole gospel story. He didn’t come to call the people who thought they were righteous. He came to call sinners.
What his family said
On one occasion they said he was out of his mind (Mark 3:20-22).
What his disciples said
When Jesus was bringing some hard teaching, some people left. He asked his disciples if they wanted to leave too. They said he had the words of eternal life (Mark 6:66-69).
What do you say?
There’s no neutral ground. Either Jesus is who he says he is, or he isn’t. Jesus doesn’t just call us to believe (John 5:24), he calls us to follow (Matthew 4:18-20).
What does it look like to love someone? Loving is the high cost of following Jesus. The whole of the Old Testament is summed up by love (v27). Jesus said the same thing lots of times. Love is hard and costly. If you’re a Christian what does it look like to love God in a particular situation, and what does it look like to love this person in this situation?
Love comes from God
1 John 4:7-8 says love comes from God. God is the source of every good thing. We can love others because we’re made in the image of God. God’s love is like a never ending fountain. It’s not only Christians who love. Whether you’re a Christian or not, you can love because God made you. If we want to love others, we need to stay under the fountain of God’s love.
Love is a choice
Jesus told this parable of the good Samaritan. How many people do we pass by without a second thought? The priest and Levite were sticking with their law. There might be all kinds of reasons for why they walked past. Do we do the same? Love is a choice. Are we going to do the more costly thing of loving that person or just walk by? We don’t often think love is a choice. The security of love means choosing to love. If we choose to love, emotions will follow. The opposite is also true. God calls us to make this choice.
Love is self-sacrificing
Human love is self-serving but heavenly love is self-sacrificing. Do we choose our friends or partners based on what they can do for us? 1 John 4:9-10 says God sent himself as a sacrifice so we can be united with him. Look at the cross of Jesus. If we are to be followers of Jesus we are to love in the way that he loved. We are loved because we are secure in the love of Jesus. Jesus has already loved us, so we can love others. It means putting others before ourselves. That’s what God calls us to. Our call is to keep choosing to sacrificially love others.
What might it look like to choose to love others in the situations we find ourselves in? There are countless ways in which we can practically love others, even if it’s costly.
There are situations when we bottle speaking up about Jesus. We might think we don’t know enough, or someone else would be better. We might think Jesus isn’t what they need, or we’ll be rejected, or there’s too much pressure. There are times when we don’t speak, even though we know we should.
The gospel can be summed up in a verse such as John 3:16 or Romans 10:13, but the whole Bible speaks of it. The Bible tells us that we’re stuck and can’t bridge the gap between God and people ourselves, but Jesus can. That’s why he came. We can’t save ourselves but Jesus offers to save us.
We can give the reason for the hope that we have and we need to know that God has put us in our places for a reason. We need to remember that Jesus is the answer and that true love casts out fear. It’s not all down to us. Sometimes people will hate us for sharing the gospel, but that’s very rare. They might not accept it but at least recognise that we care.
In Acts 5, as people are meeting at the temple, others are watching them. They hear the gospel, become Christians and join them. Some people don’t like that (v17) as the gospel is ultimately offensive. Peter and the apostles obey God instead of man. Whatever a human being might do, God is for them and is giving them eternal life.
Speak because you are secure in God’s love and because you are secure in God’s people. We don’t know how people will respond, but we are called to speak. Jesus calls us to share the gospel and to invite people to follow him. It might lead to hatred or rejection but it might lead to people following Jesus for themselves.
It’s good to want justice. Christians are to be forgiving because we have been forgiven much, much more. If we don’t know how much we have been forgiven, we won’t think we need to forgive others very much. Forgiveness sees that other people are the same. The specifics may be different but we all hurt each other. Being unforgiving to someone is saying they are less than you.
The Bible says that all of our relationships give us a glimpse of how we relate to the God who made us. Forgiveness of anything significant is never easy.
Forgiveness is a choice, so choose to forgive
The servant had a choice. They chose to forgive. When it’s something small, it’s easy. When it’s something bigger it can be harder to choose to forgive. The Bible gives us the perfect example to follow in Jesus. Every human being is rebellious. We live in God’s world and live as though he’s not there. God, through Jesus, chooses to offer forgiveness. If you don’t forgive others, you haven’t grasped the forgiveness Jesus has offered you. As Christians we should ask for forgiveness when we do wrong. We should take responsibility.
Forgiveness costs, but it is a price worth paying
When we are sinned against, there is a cost. When we forgive, we are taking upon ourselves the cost of that betrayal. That’s what the servant does. He has a choice. When Jesus went to the cross, it was his choice. If we won’t forgive, Jesus won’t forgive us. There is a warning.
Forgiving is ongoing, so keep working at it
When God tells his people he will remember their sins no more, he’s saying he doesn’t hold our sin against us. Jesus’ forgiveness means that he walks with us as we deal with the consequences of our sin. Both parties have to work at it.
Forgiveness comes from God, so keep your eyes fixed on Jesus
We all sin in our own ways. God tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are all offered unconditional forgiveness through Jesus on the cross. At the cross, Jesus offers forgiveness to all people.
Christians should be characterised by generosity, with their love and with their money. They’re called to imitate Jesus, who gave up his very life.
Don’t give to impress others
People often give to charities publicly so that people will think they’re generous. Jesus says we should be interested in pleasing God, not people. We should be giving in secret. Don’t we all live much of our lives trying to impress others? The temptation is to try to show off with our money. Christians should do all that we do to be seen by the Lord God. It is okay to talk to other Christians about our giving. Sometimes we like to use this as an excuse to be selfish and to not be accountable. The point that Jesus is making is that we should always do it for God, not to impress others.
Give generously to show your love for God and his church
Old Testament tithing is a good starting point, but the New Testament talks about generosity. That is the pattern we should follow – extravagant generosity. We are to have faith that the Lord will provide. Jesus says in v19 not to store up treasure on earth, but in heaven. That is the truth that shaped the widow who gave all the she had. It’s to shape all Christians in all contexts and in all situations.
Give generously to grow your love for God and his church
The very act of giving is what we grow our love for God and his church. If you give generously to your church, you will see your love grow for the people there. It might mean not having holidays you want, or the car you want. As we give generously we are depending on God, not on our savings. Do you rely on Jesus more than on money? If so, you’ll be a generous giver, because you’re living more for heaven than on earth.
There is a chasm between us and God but the gospel is good news. Jesus bridges that gap. We can be forgiven and become friends with God.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.”
All relationships are costly. Following Jesus is costly. Real relationships are worth the cost. Following Jesus is about a relationship with the God of the whole earth and is always worth the cost.
Fast because you depend on Jesus
We should fast and pray. Fasting is choosing to go without something. Is it something that we don’t really do? The New Testament assumes that we fast. The Bible talks about fasting as a way of deepening your relationship with God. Jesus says “when you fast”, not “if you fast”. He says to do it in secret, and it doesn’t have to be food. Do I really depend on Jesus for all my life?
Fast to train yourself
If you can fast and resist the temptation, you are disciplining yourself to say no.
Fast so that you can pray
The point of fasting is so that instead of eating (or whatever it is), you use the time to pray. Praying is talking to God. All Christians should pray.
Pray because you love Jesus
We pray because we love Jesus. We don’t have to worry about the right words to say. There are examples of how to pray, but we can talk to God in any way we wish. If we never talk to God what does that say about our relationship with him?
Pray because you need Jesus
We think we can get through the day on our own. The way we live and the way we pray can show that we don’t need Jesus. We can pray for others, but secretly think we don’t need Jesus’ help ourselves.
Pray because you trust Jesus
Do you believe that God’s will for your life is better than yours? If we’re praying “your will be done” maybe Jesus will change you. We might begin to realise that where we are is God’s will. Jesus knows what he’s doing. He went to the hardest place to rescue us. Make praying a daily pattern, such as your routine (walking for example). Pray and fast even when you don’t want to. We need to talk to Jesus even when it’s hard. Whatever it is that stops you from talking to God, don’t let it.
Patience is a virtue. Most of us know what it’s like to be impatient. We can sympathize with Jairus. He was a respectable man, a synagogue ruler. We discover that he’s desperate (v41). He was a man with authority whereas Jesus was a carpenter. However he fell at Jesus’ feet as he needed him to do something viral for him. Why was Jairus so desperate? His only daughter was dying (v42). Jesus is the only hope he has for her. He has to come quickly, or it’ll be too late. Jesus is delayed by a sick woman in the crowd.
The miracle of the woman (v43-48)
This woman has been ill for 12 years. She’s squandered her money on doctors and is also desperate. She is miraculously healed. Jesus is aware of what’s happened. He turns round and searches the crowd for who has touched him. Jesus wanted to explain to her that her healing was a result of her faith in him. Identifying herself to Jesus wasn’t an easy thing to do. This woman gets more than she bargained for. She now knows what’s really important. It’s a life-changing relationship with Jesus.
The miracle of the young girl (v49-56)
Imagine the reaction of Jairus to the delay. He’d be frantic. Any doctor would in this situation go straight to the little girl who’s dying. Jesus takes time out in order to speak with this woman. He won’t be hurried and is in control of this situation. Jesus’ comments to Jairus are astonishing (v50). He’s telling Jairus to give more, to take his faith to a deeper level. Even though his daughter is dead, he’s telling him to trust him even more. Jairus had hoped his little girl would be healed, but she was raised from the dead. Jesus said the girl wasn’t dead, but asleep. What he says in verse 54 is a comforting statement. It’s a term of endearment. Death is no more than sleep. For who has the final word? Jesus. Death has no mastery over her. No wonder those around her are astonished.
The miracle for you
What impact should these two miracles have on your life today? What’s true for this sick woman and for Jairus’ daughter can be true for you as well. The sick woman learnt that Jesus is someone she must know. That can be true for us, too. Jairus learnt that Jesus’ way of looking at things is different from ours. Look to Jesus, not to yourself. Jairus’ daughter learnt that death is not the end. Jesus can and does conquer death. If you trust in Jesus, death itself will be just like falling asleep. It’ll bring you into the very presence of Jesus him.
How do you know where God wants you to live? How do you know who God wants you to marry? We can think of God’s plan as a bullseye. We can be afraid that we’ve been picked the wrong path if we don’t find plan A. What are we missing? You’re right to want to please God in the decisions you make, but there might be a healthier way to view God’s guidance.
Luke 24:46-47 summarises the two books Luke wrote. Paul is faced with a dilemma:
Should I stay or should I go?
The disciples pleaded with Paul not to go. Agabus is also opposed to Paul’s decision to go to Jerusalem. At least six different groups of individuals are saying the same thing. Paul’s answer:
Don’t go breaking my heart!
Paul is on one side and a whole group of Christian people on the other. In the end, Paul is undeterred by his friends’ pleas. He is compelled as he is following the task that God has given. The one thing that matters to Paul more than anything is the gospel being preached as Jesus instructed (Luke 24:47). It matters more to him than being in prison, or dying. Were the other Christians wrong? Agabus doesn’t get everything right. They did say Paul would suffer, and he did. Perhaps they were concerned about his welfare and safety. Is that wrong? No. For Paul, he thought it best to obey Jesus’ words. He chose Jerusalem over his own comforts.
How do we make decisions?
We seek wisdom from friends, which can be helpful or unhelpful. Are they pointing you to Jesus? We can ask God for a stamp of approval. Is there anywhere in the Bible that God says he’ll guide you in those ways? These suggestions treat God as a Magic 8 ball. If we view God in that way, we expect an answer. We’re not robots. Our simple human nature is a bit like Adam in the garden of Eden. We like to avoid responsibility in making decisions. We can blame others if things turn out badly.
God is able to speak in whatever way he chooses, and there are occasions where God does speak directly by the Holy Spirit, but it’s not the norm. The primary way that God speaks is through the Bible. There’s nothing new that God needs to say to us. We should turn to the Bible when making decisions.
- God is sovereign. Whatever decision you’re faced with, nothing is outside of his control. We’re never in plan B. We’re all in his sovereignty.
- Obedience – we must obey God. Would a decision cause us to sin?
- Wisdom – we should be wise. Is the decision a wise, God-centred decision?
- Freedom – there are some things that God hasn’t spoken about in his word, but we should trust him. We don’t need to be anxious.
A better question: is the one thing that matters to you most, what matters to God? Be humble and prioritise the gospel. At the heart of gospel decision making is humility. In the decisions we make, are we prepared to do the same as Paul?