Pastor Jeff Needleman
This Changes Every Thing (Video and Script)
Easter Changed Everything
Can you think of an event that changed everything in your life? I can think of several… the day Alice and I committed to each other. And the day that I truly began to believe in and have a relationship with God. Those days changed my live because they changed everyday that came afterwards. And these changes defined my life! Those days changed everything!
Today is Easter, but this year our Easter celebrations are changed! I hear Easter & I think of celebrating with family, Easter dinner, bunny wabbits, Easter Baskets, Egg Hunts, Hats & Parades… & my usual eggceptional Easter Egg Groaners- which I’ll passover this year! & of course those eggceptionally awesome chocolate malted Robin’s Eggs! But not this year. No egg hunts, parades, or large church services. This year the Coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. But I want us to understand that - Easter too has changed everything. Everything! Easter was a pandemic of it’s own type… brought to wipe out the virus of sin to the benefit of humankind! Sadly, with all the distractions of life, it’s easy to forget that Easter has nothing to do with anything but Jesus! It’s easy to focus on the holiday instead of the Holy Day. The holiday is all about fun, food & family, but even Christmas is only important because of Easter. After all, it was for the sake of the Resurrection that Jesus was born! Easter is only & all about Jesus & His resurrection. Easter, the most significant day for us as Christians. It’s not about chocolate bunnies but about our gratitude for what Jesus did for us! What did He do?
I’ll keep it brief this morning, just bits & pieces because we all know His-story. If you haven’t watched my videos from last week, especially the one about Selection Day- Palm Sunday, please do so, because there is much imagery not explained in the Easter story. The week following Palm Sunday was busy & eventful as Jesus cleansed the Temple for the 2nd time & healed the blind & lame.
He delivered a sermon on the Mount of Olives & He argued over His authority with the Sanhedrin… the Jewish political & religious leaders who felt their authority & power were threatened by Jesus. On Thursday, Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples, which I spoke of in the 3 videos of Christ our Passover. At some point, Judas Iscariot left the Passover Seder to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin.
Now, too quickly the Palm Sunday cheers of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem had turned into Friday jeers as private agendas & selfish desires transcended the truth of who Jesus truly was. The people jeered at His selfless agenda & desires for them…& us! They wanted a conquering King, not a Suffering Servant who came to offer what they really needed. So they turned their backs on Him when He didn’t deliver what they ordered. Jesus was betrayed, & not just by Judas. His own family members. His Apostles, including those with whom He was closest, denied Him. The legions of people whom He healed & fed spiritually, emotionally & physically- turned viciously against Him in His final hours. & Sadly we’re all guilty of this- with each other & with the Lord. After dinner, Jesus & the Apostles went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray as Jesus awaited His hour of suffering. It was here that Judas & the minions of the Sanhedrin caught up with Jesus & dragged Him before the chief priest Caiaphas, & his father-in-law Annas. This was the 1st of 6 trials He’d face.
In an illegal & sham trial filled with false witnesses, Jesus is tried for blasphemy- for claiming to be God. In this we find prophecy fulfilled from: Ps 41:V7 &V 9; NIV All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me… and Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
Next, Jesus is thrusted back & forth between the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate & the vicious King Herod. He is brutally scourged to the point of death with a whip tipped with glass and metal shards. & in response to public prodding, Pilate pronounces Jesus’ death sentence & then washes his hands of his guilt.
The Roman soldiers mock & jeer at Jesus & then ram a crown of thorns around His head. They force Him to carry the heavy crossbeam on which He’ll be crucified along the Via Dolorosa, (which means the road of suffering). & there on Golgotha-which is translated as the Place of the Skull, more prophecy is fulfilled.
We read in: Mt 27:35-38 NIV When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
As Jesus’ family, friends & followers witnessed the agonizingly painful crucifixion; we see the story go from Cheers to Jeers to Tears. He was unjustly sentenced to be executed as a criminal, but even though spikes were excruciatingly hammered through his nerve bundles, He asked His heavenly Father to forgive them!
After Jesus dies on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin- but also a secret follower of Jesus had Christ's body placed in his own tomb. A large stone covered the entrance & soldiers sealed & guarded Jesus’ burial place. But… but…as we read in…
Mt 28:1-7 NLT Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene & the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, & sat on it. His face shone like lightning, & his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, & they fell into a dead faint. 5 Then the angel spoke to the women. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn't here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly & tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, & he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you."
"He is risen, just as He said." This fulfilled yet another prophecy shared by King David in Ps 16:9-10: NIV Therefore my heart is glad & my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
You see, although Jesus Christ died & was buried in the tomb, that’s not where the story ends, it’s where it begins for us! By His suffering, death & resurrection, our salvation is secured. And that changed everything! His death & resurrection was of no benefit to Himself, it was for our gain!
We know the rest of the story. Jesus fulfilled His earthly mission & the divine purpose appointed Him from the creation of the world to redeem us by his blood sacrifice. So, we’ve gone from Cheers, to Jeers, to Tears, back to Cheers, because -He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Now it’s difficult to understand the depth of what Jesus did for us until we understand what He endured for us! His death was the most painful known to humankind. It was humiliating & embarrassing, messy, undignified, degrading, bloody, gory, gruesome, & excruciatingly & agonizingly painful. But it was not His sin that led to that brutal death… it was ours! So let’s not make Easter a holiday- but keep it a Holy Day! As we go into the future, let’s not gloss over what He endured on our behalf with little bunnies & baby chicks! Jesus gladly gave His all for us, so let’s not forget to include Jesus in all areas of our life because everything He did was for us!
There’s so much more to the Easter story & so much more I want to share with you but time doesn’t allow! I’ve questioned why did Jesus have to be fully God & yet fully man. Why did He have to die & have to be resurrected? What was the purpose of all this? Jesus himself made the purpose clear in Mt 20:28 NIV The Son of Man came- to give his life as a ransom for many.” God wants to be in a relationship with each of us & Jesus’ death & resurrection is the path of restoration that spans the gap created by sin- Sin – that awful word we hate because it describes our law-breaking behaviors & pulls our covers. But no man’s sacrifice could cover the immensity of that. Only God could. And that’s why Jesus had to be fully God and fully man. The crucifixion was Jesus’ plan from before creation! Rev 13:8 explains that Jesus was the Lamb who was slain from before the foundation of the world to save us from eternal punishment for our wrongdoings & be welcomed into Heaven! Easter isn’t about bunnies- It’s about our great eggscape…it’s about a sacrificial lamb that took our place!
Jesus’ resurrection accomplishes our spiritual birth and spiritual resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection transforms us and frees us from our slavery to sin, spiritual death, and the devil. That transformation is available to all who want to enter into a relationship with the Sovereign God of the universe… & who wouldn’t want Him on their side?
Before we close I want to share a story of an elderly couple who lived in the upcountry of Scandinavia. In their living room was a beautiful mantel over the fire place. Placed 3” apart on the mantel were 2 simple but beautiful statuettes of an old man & an old woman that looked remarkably like them both. Each statuette faced directly outward into the room.
Even though in love, they did have fights & would find themselves not speaking to one another. Neither wanted to be the 1st to open their mouths… a little P&E going on here me thinks. But when one did forgive & was ready to be back in the relationship they turned their statuette inward towards the other. When the remaining spouse turned theirs inward they would be back in a loving relationship.
Listen -Jesus’ statuette is always turned inward- towards you -Always! Won’t you turn yours inward? He awaits us patiently! Its easy to turn your statuette to face Jesus. It’s why Jesus came. It’s why He died. It’s why He was resurrected! Without those events that changed everything we remain enemies of God… enslaved to things that don’t benefit us at all. But Easter changed all that… He is Risen! He is risen Indeed!