Millions are a captive audience on Easter. Will the preachers say what they need to say? Experts say no. They claim the euphoria of having a crowd will dull the edge of truth. They claim that someone who has been a motivational speaker all year won’t suddenly become a spiritual reformer.
If they’re right, Easter will be the greatest missed opportunity of the church year. What needs to be said? I will brave an answer, not out of arrogance, but out of a broken heart. I would shed the typical formality and begin this way:
This morning I need to explain how our nation flipped so suddenly, and began calling evil good, and good evil. This also happened on the day Jesus died. Pilate was doing everything he could to free Jesus…when things took a dark turn.
Pilate told the crowd he would give them a choice to release a prisoner. He was certain they would free Jesus.
Many in that crowd heard Jesus teach and their souls were lifted to heaven. Some gained freedom from their dark past. Some in that mob had been healed or their children were healed.
Nevertheless, a demon-driven change came over the people to get Jesus on the cross. Those who cried “hosanna he that comes in the name of the Lord.” Now scream, “crucify him, crucify him!”
But it is not enough for them to condemn the innocent; they must also release the criminal. Having called good evil, they must not call evil good. Who was their choice? In Matthew 27:16 Barabbas is called a “notorious prisoner.” In Mark 15:7, echoed in Luke 23:19, he was “in prison with the rebels who had committed murder.
Those same evil spirits have fueled the change that has come over our nation. Many of our citizens have now gone against all of their former values.
It was not God’s will for the disciples to defeat the mob and save Jesus from the cross. However, now that He won, we have the right and responsibility to do it.
So, I ask you why then—why are we letting them destroy everything that made us great? Why do we passively sit back and watch a movement—that claims to be working for justice—create even more injustice?
They make railing accusations: “you are a woman without a mind—you are man without a soul—you don’t deserve to live because of who you voted for. Even though you are law abiding, we will take what you have because someone else abused what you have. My need for self-expression outweighs your right to be a child.”
When they tell us they want to silence the church—when they tell us their opinion is the only one allowed—when disagreeing will cost you your rights, your job, and even your life—when they burn buildings, protect killers, and convict innocent people—the church should have no response? Do we sit back and just lose our freedom of religion and speech?
How can we remain silent about the great evil in our nation, on the very day we celebrate Christ’s victory over evil? He did not just win, He devastated demonic power.
I am not talking about politics…I am talking about evil. I am talking about evil your children will live under. I am talking about evil that will make it impossible to preach the Gospel in our nation. We should ignore this?
Jesus did not just die for our sins—He died to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 says, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
I will go so far as to say that victory over evil is the central theme of the Easter story. The resurrection of Jesus was an attack that disarmed Satan. Colossians 2; 15 “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
It is the calling of the church to enforce the power of the Cross, and the Resurrection, on the works of Satan. This is what it’s all about. Today—above all days—we must realize it!
God is looking for people who will rise up, based on the authority won on Easter, and declare to the powers and principalities in heavenly places, “you must take your filthy hands off of our nation!”
I would tell the relatives and guests that becoming a Christian means forsaking all to follow Christ…and by doing so, they would receive power—power unlike anything they had ever experienced before.
Since Easter was an explosion—celebrating it should also be an explosion! If only we would repent. Then we could truly celebrate. If only the people of God would surrender on Easter. The power of the resurrection would overtake us. Great shouts of Hosanna, tears of joy would overwhelm us. And an inward fire to rise up to change our nation. Hallelujah!
Let today be the day the song is not just words: “There is power in the Name of Jesus, to break every chain. There’s an army rising up to break every chain.”
A question to every man who ever failed: Why did Jesus put the man’s severed ear back on? We know Peter took a sword and cut it off. We know why. We can also guess that Jesus healed Malchus’ ear out of compassion. But there is something way deeper going on here. What does that have to do with every man who ever failed? Everything.
Peter failed in spectacular fashion. He bragged he would stand with Jesus even if everyone else fled. He fell asleep in the Garden. He assaulted the priest’s servant. Though he was warned about it in advance, he went ahead and denied Christ 3 times.
Saturday, the day after Jesus died, wouldn’t hurt so much if Peter didn’t love Jesus. That he abandoned Christ began to torment him. It could for the rest of his life. But right now, he doesn’t believe there is a rest of his life.
Saturday: his day to hide like a hunted animal. A day to let it sink in that there is nothing left to live for. He was a hair’s breadth away from the fate of Judas Iscariot. Worst of all, he lost his destiny.
Destiny is a mysterious thing. The same force that can inspire a man to greatness can—in his failure—torture him. The pain level depends on the size of the destiny. In his case, it was massive.
Peter was minding his own business when Jesus interrupted his whole life. Fishing all night, Peter caught nothing. His hands are red and sore from handling the heavy nets. Every muscle aches. He has nothing to show for a brutal night at sea.
The strange teacher says, “Let your nets down again for a catch.” Peter halfheartedly does as he is asked. The enormous catch terrified him. He begs Jesus to keep his distance, “I am a sinful man.”
That’s when he heard the words about his destiny. “Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men.” On Saturday, he’s just a fisherman again. It sticks in his throat to say it.
They say that regret is the cancer of life—if so, this Saturday, Peter is terminal. He could have prayed Psalm 69: 1 “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, Where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, Where the floods overflow me. 3 I am weary with my crying; My throat is dry; My eyes fail while I wait for my God. 4 Those who hate me without a cause Are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me…”
“I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing” simply means that in the quicksand of despair, nothing that used to help you snap out of it works now. All of your comfort is gone. There is nothing to grab to save you. You will sink until you vanish.
Now it’s dawn on Sunday. Peter can’t know that at that moment, an angel is talking about him. Mark 16: 7 “But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” The angel added the words “and Peter.” Why? Because God knew Peter would have disqualified himself if the invitation was “for disciples only.” Wouldn’t you love to have seen Peter’s face when they told him the angel’s message?
So why did Jesus put the ear back on? He knew Peter’s destiny, and Peter couldn’t be in prison on the day of Pentecost. Jesus knew his destiny…like He knows yours.
One of the greatest cruelties—if not the greatest cruelty in history—was done to Mary Magdalene. She was once sold on the streets. She knew the special insanity of demon possession. She knew the yawning blackness of total despair.
Jesus rescued her. Jesus cast out 7 vicious devils—devils she thought would never leave. Once deemed human garbage she is now redeemed, and rooted into a family of indescribable love. Things would never be the same. Her nights of remorse, her days of futility, her shame, her emptiness were all distant memories.
For 3 years, she lived a life she could have never imagined. Crisscrossing Judea, hanging on Jesus’ every word, weeping gloriously over every miracle. Each morning she awakened a more powerful and joyous woman of God! She thought that this would go on forever.
People use the phrase “nothing could be worse…” They use it before describing something unimaginably terrible. I will use it this way: Nothing could be worse than to be in hell, and then taste heaven, only to return to hell.
Then on that fateful Friday it all went horribly, horribly wrong. How could the one who called the dead back to life, and silenced a storm at sea be arrested? How could one who gave words of exquisite beauty, love and wisdom, be tortured and killed. No one wanted to save Jesus more than Mary. No one felt more horror and helplessness than she.
That night, profound hope had given way to even deeper bitterness and disappointment. If only I had never met him. If only he had left me to die in the streets. She slept only after exhaustion became more powerful than sorrow. Too wounded to go on living. Maybe too tired to commit suicide.
Mary matters to me today because her testimony is the best one I can think of on this Good Friday in such a dark time. Mary’s miracle is the one America needs now! Here’s why…
When the first shafts of Sunday morning light stirred her awake, she dreaded it. If ever a heart was broken beyond repair—if ever a soul would rage against the approach of hope—if ever a woman just wanted to go back to sleep and never wake up, it was Mary.
That is why she was shocked when she felt an odd energy. She soon felt an even stranger impulse… to go to the grave of Jesus? How could she return to the only spot on earth that could open her wound wider?
What overruled her despair? What fuel is driving her so completely against her common sense and her broken heart? Paul answers that emphatically! “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”- Romans 8:11
Do you know any therapist capable of rebuilding the ashes and rubble in her soul? Can any drug, any teaching, any relationship, reassemble her heart the way this gentle but powerful influence could?
We all know about the power of the resurrection. It was the greatest display of power the universe has ever known; even greater than the alleged “big bang” that birthed the universe. It sent shock waves through the principalities and powers of darkness. It shattered hell and stripped Satan of the keys of death. Jesus set the captives free in the bowels of the earth and “led captivity captive.”
But the first burst of resurrection power was much gentler. She was the first human to feel the power of the resurrection. Her eyes which were red and sore from sobbing are now refreshed and clear. Her arms which hung limp from heartsick lethargy were now responsive, strong, and full of purpose. She sat up and found hope pumping through her veins. She did not know why!
A notion gently but firmly seizes her. She was to go to the grave. She got going! Washing up, brushing her hair, and quickly getting dressed; all the while the expectancy of some indescribable something is building in her soul. Before she knows it she is out the door and charging toward her worst fear. Only she is not afraid.
She found the tomb vacant. She turned and saw Him whom her soul loved. Many awesome things happened that Easter but none more wonderful than Mary reunited with her Savior.
In the genetically altered, politically charged, drug addicted, violent purgatory that is America, Mary Magdalene stands as a poignant figure. She is the best testimony I can think of for our national dreams that have gone up in smoke. Our culture has wearied itself with perversion…hunted everything natural and replaced it with a disfigured counterfeit… it has marched, protested, boycotted the very color and life out of everything—everything is a cause to take offense.
What happened to Mary is why there is nothing better than the Gospel. America! This is what you need!
Mark 16:9, “Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.” HE APPEARED FIRST TO HER! He never forgot her. He knew she was suffering the most so He healed this precious soul first!