EASTER IN A PANDEMIC

No one had ever died like this before. Stephen Mansfield, the author of the book, Killing Jesus, wrote, “Then comes the first strike of the flagellum. It is devastating. The lictor does not slap the leather against his victim. Instead, he swings the flagellum so as to partially wrap its straps around the victim’s torso. Then, once the jagged bits of the leather have bitten into flesh, the lictor yanks the flagellum in reverse. Skin tears. Blood gushes. Pieces of muscle and sinew, even chips of bone, fly into the air. The body is torn apart.”

Even those used to administering such brutal scourging, had never witnessed bloodshed like this. Perhaps they even wanted to stop, but the blood lust of demons provided the moral depravity necessary to drive them on. By morning, He was not recognizable. By afternoon, He was nailed to a cross.

The angels grieved and wondered, “Is the human race worth this?” But something even more terrible lay in store for Jesus.

He became sin. The entire weight of mankind’s iniquity was placed upon Him. And then something even worse happened. A sensation Jesus had never known before—an agony transcending everything He had yet endured. His Father’s presence left Him. His humanity screamed, “Why have You forsaken Me?”

Yet, Jesus remained on the cross, enduring greater suffering than anyone has ever known. Why? Because He chose to suffer for you and for me. He stayed there, knowing He could pull the trigger of global destruction, call 80,000 angels, and in an instant, be safe and pain-free, in heaven. But He chose to remain on that cross, until the price was paid in full.

All through history, Satan had been working toward this moment, ever since the prophecy that a redeemer, the Seed of Adam and Eve, would someday come and bruise his head (Gen. 3:15). The devil did everything imaginable to sabotage God’s plan of redemption. But, in the end, his own evil arrogance was his undoing. He should have known that he could never have brought about the death of the Son of God, unless the Father was involved.

Jesus’ last words were, “It is finished.” Satan took that to mean, that Jesus had surrendered. It was his worst miscalculation.

Plans backfire. But as a description for this debacle of the devil, the word ‘backfire’ isn’t even in the same universe. This was a mistake of such cosmic proportions, that it will take eternity to unpack just how mistaken Satan was.

Even Paul couldn’t grasp its enormity, all he could say was that “…none of the rulers of this age realized; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). The rulers of this age would never have fulfilled so many prophecies In fact, you can imagine the devil muttering for the millionth time, “I never should have done it.”

While Satan was saying, “What have I done?” there was a miracle taking place at the tomb. The enemies of Christ remembered something the disciples didn’t. Jesus had told them that He would rise again. His enemies knew that if someone came and stole the body of Jesus, it would keep the young movement alive.

The Romans positioned soldiers all around the tomb, and they hammered a Roman seal into the stone. That meant anyone violating that seal would be killed. It also meant that the Roman guards would be killed if the body of Jesus, which they were supposed to be guarding, was stolen. That fact not only destroys the argument that someone stole the body—it proves that Jesus rose from the dead.

If they wanted to destroy the narrative that Jesus had risen from the dead, the Jews and Romans had only to produce His body, but they couldn’t. And the reason is that Jesus truly had risen from the dead. Over two thousand years later—after every conceivable argument has been leveled at the Easter story, it remains irrefutable, and will always remain so.

What does that mean to us in the 21st century church, sequestered on this Easter Sunday?  It means so much, that I will barely be able to scratch the surface in this message. First, it means that many things that we only think matter do not matter. God raised Jesus from the dead, and nothing else really matters. No one can argue Christianity isn’t true. Dwell on that for a moment.

The stone was rolled away. Jesus rose from the dead. The Roman seal was broken, the soldiers were stunned like dead men, and then they were paid to lie about what happened. It doesn’t matter that on this Easter Sunday, we can’t meet in church buildings, because we can meet God in power. He is risen!

It doesn’t matter what the government, or the scientists, or the politicians do and say.  He is risen!

We need to stop apologizing for something that is an historically proven event. It really happened. No need to be nice and sweet in telling the world about Jesus Christ, or being in fear that they’ll reject us. We should be bold, because the resurrection is not some inspirational story to warm the soul, like soup. It is an ironclad reality that is to be declared with conviction!

It doesn’t matter what the devil has said. His lies don’t count. His threats don’t matter. Jesus is risen!

Sure, we are at home today, but the angels anticipated that. Sure, we see the pastor on a screen instead of in person, but the Holy Spirit is ready for that. We have lost nothing that matters. The fact that Jesus is risen is the only thing that matters.

Pastor, do not get on Zoom and console the sheep—fire them up! Do not be the therapist this morning, be the lion who shouts, “GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN YOU, THAN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD!”

Don’t preach to us about ‘making the best of this situation.’ Don’t keep saying, “It will be over soon, and we will be back to normal.” We have lost nothing that matters, in the light of eternity. The fact that Jesus is risen, is the only thing that matters!

HE IS RISEN!                                                                              

HE IS RISEN, INDEED!

MARY MAGDALENE THE DAY JESUS DIED

One of the greatest cruelties—if not the greatest 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.

Then Jesus rescued her.  Jesus cast out seven vicious devils—devils she thought would never leave.  Once deemed human garbage, she is now redeemed and planted 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 now all distant memories.

For three 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 back 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 the 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.  She must have thought, “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, and perhaps too tired to commit suicide…

Mary is of special importance to me today, because her testimony is the best one I can think of as we commemorate this Good Friday, in such a dark time as the one we are living in.  Mary’s miracle is the miracle 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 coming over her.  She soon felt an even stranger impulse—to go to the tomb where Jesus lay!  How could she return to the only spot on earth that could reopen her wound?

What overruled her despair?  What fuel was 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 of her soul?  Can any drug, any teaching, any relationship, reassemble her heart the way the gentle but powerful Comforter 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, theoretically, began the universe. The resurrection sent shock waves through the principalities and powers of darkness.  It shattered Satan’s power and stripped him of the keys of death and Hell (Rev. 1:8).  Jesus set the captives free in the bowels of the earth, and “led captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:8).

But, the first burst of resurrection power was much gentler. Mary was the first human to feel the power of the resurrection.  Her eyes, which were red and sore from sobbing, were now refreshed and clear.  Her arms which had hung limp from heartsick lethargy were now responsive, strong, and full of purpose. She sat up and found hope pumping through her veins. She wondered, “Why!”

A notion seized her, gently, but firmly.  She knew she was to go to the tomb, and she immediately got going!  Washing up, brushing her hair, and quickly getting dressed. All the while the expectancy of an indescribable ‘something’ was building in her soul.  Before she knew it, she was out the door, and charging toward her worst fear.  Only, now, she was not afraid.

She found the tomb vacant. Then 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 today, 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…hunting down everything natural and replacing it with a disfigured counterfeit. It has marched, protested, and boycotted the very color and life out of everything—to the point that everything is a cause for taking offense.

What happened to Mary, is proof that there is nothing better than the Gospel.

America!  This is what you need!

“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” (Mark 16:9).

JESUS APPEARED FIRST TO MARY!  He had never forgotten her. He knew she was suffering the most, so He healed this precious soul first!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MARY MAGDALENE THE DAY JESUS DIED

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 day 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!