Monday, April 06, 2015

The Declaration

My Sunday School lesson for Easter!

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** April Fools!

So who fell for one of those this past Wednesday? What were some of the best ones you saw or heard of?

CNN detailed some of the best on the web:

- In the most inevitable development, Honda announced the all-new HR-V Selfie Edition. With 10 cameras across the interior and exterior, the HR-V Selfie Edition allows drivers to snap self-portraits while the car is in park.

- Virgin founder Richard Branson announced that the British company's U.S. operations would move to the heartland city of Branson, Missouri. He claimed Virgin would name its latest plane "Jolene" in honor of the song by Dolly Parton.

- Tesco has revolutionized the supermarket shopping experience by introducing "trampoline inspired bouncy aisles" to help you shorties reach the top shelves.

- Reverse April Fools - A dealership in New Zealand put an ad in the paper claiming that the first person to come in and "ask for Tom" would be able to swap their old car for a new BMW. One woman gave it a try and came away with a new car.

- Cottonelle unveiled a new version of toilet paper for left-handed users.

- Researchers used the Large Hadron Collider in Europe said that they had discovered the Force.

--- What makes us fall for April Fools? It is kind of like email spam, the temptation to open messages the say something like, "Don't pass up this unbelievably amazing too-good-to-be-true offer!"

It's the Fear of Missing Out. What if there is big money waiting for you just a click away? What if this story is true?

If you have been burned, what these scams also do is to make us distrust all claims, even legitimate ones.

--- 2,000 years ago there was a group of women who came upon a scene that they couldn't believe, and it changed the world for eternity.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

*** The Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

--- We’ve been studying the minor prophets this spring, men who wrote over 500 years before Jesus walked the earth and yet foresaw His life and work through divine revelation.

--- In today's lesson, we fast-forward to about A.D. 30 and the fruition of all of those prophecies. The ancient empires of Assyria, Babylon and Persia are gone. The Roman Empire is the superpower in control of Israel.

--- Jesus knew all along He would have to die and accepted it according to God's will:

John 10:17-18 - 17 This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.”

THE EMPTY TOMB (LUKE 24:1-3)

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

*** The third day.

--- Jesus' body was taken down from the cross on Friday and placed in a cave-tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. His followers rested on the Sabbath Day as the law commanded. Before sunrise of Sunday, a group of women returned to anoint Jesus' body with fragrant spices similar to those placed by Nicodemus on Friday.

*** They observed their final Sabbath.

---The Sabbath as the disciples understood it would now be changed. With the resurrection and the new covenant, no longer would the strict laws of observing the Sabbath need to be followed. --

*** The unexpected.

--- The stone had been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. The soldiers, who were supposed to make sure it didn’t happen, had been left unconscious with fear. In fact, they were so afraid of the angels “that they shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:4) Throughout the Bible, when angels appear to people to encourage them in the Lord, they say not to fear. Not so with the soldiers!

--- By the way, the angel did not roll the stone away to let Jesus out, he rolled the stone away to let the people in. Jesus could walk through walls.

*** The women can’t believe what they’re seeing.

--- The soldiers were gone, the tomb's open and Jesus isn't there. The emotions would have been numerous: Surprise, dismay, confusion, anger, fear, anxiety and grief. In fact, they didn't even know what they were supposed to see. While they were observing the Sabbath, the chief priests and Pharisees had imposed upon Pilate to secure the tomb with a Roman seal and with guards.

THE RISEN LORD DECLARED (LUKE 24:4-8)

4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” 8 And they remembered His words.

*** Like a rhinestone cowboy!

--- Not dressed in “bedazzled” clothes, but "dazzling," two men show up out of nowhere with the brightness of lightning. The term translated dazzling is the same word found in Luke 17:24 to describe the brightness of a lightning flash. In other words, standing close to these beings was like standing next to two lightning bolts! Matthew as well as John explicitly referred to them as angels (see Matt. 28:5; John 20:12).

*** The women bowed, knowing these were supernatural beings from God.

--- The angels asked “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” That was a big tipoff that things weren’t what they seemed.

--- “He is not here, but He has been resurrected!” Remember, the last the women saw of Jesus, He had been taken off the cross after being tortured by the Romans, stabbed by a spear to make sure He was dead, and wrapped and placed in a tomb.

*** They remembered the words of Jesus.

--- There are several instances of Jesus telling His followers about his fate, including Luke 18:31-34 - Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” 34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

--- Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His followers three important things about His impending death:

1. It would be necessary. It was part of God’s eternal plan (see Isa. 53:4-12).

2. It would be ugly and brutal. The Romans had not invented this form of execution, but they had perfected it. It was a slow, excruciating, public death designed to strike terror in its victims as well as in onlookers.

3. It would not be final. To be sure, it would be real. He would truly die, ceasing to breathe and giving up His spirit, yet He would rise on the third day.

SURE WITNESSES (LUKE 24:9-12)

9 Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened.

*** The disciples were shocked!

--- The women hurried back to where the remaining 11 disciples were staying to tell them what they had seen and heard.

--- It is remarkable that the first witnesses were women. Teachings of Judaism in this period did not allow women to serve as witnesses even in minor legal proceedings. So why did God choose these women to be the first to proclaim the Good News? (He affirmed the value of all people, women and men, in His plan. Think of the ways God has used Christian women in our church!)

--- Imagine the scene, the women rushing in, excited and still in shock, their faces could even have had a little glow from the effects of the angelic encounter. Thus the disciples ... didn't believe them.

*** Nonsense!

--- Jesus hadn't been shy about telling His followers what would happen to Him, and what would happen three days later, so why didn't they believe it at first?

*** QUESTION - What do these passages say about the faith of Jesus’ disciples at that time? (The disciples had deep respect and devotion for Jesus because of all they had experienced and learned during the approximately three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry.)

*** Run, Peter, run!

--- Peter was surely still feeling very guilty about denying Jesus three times. He also knew that what the women were saying seemed crazy, but needed to be investigated.

--- John ran with Peter, as told in his gospel. They saw an empty tomb and the burial cloths were the only things in there. Where Jesus was, they still didn't know. But Peter knew the truth.

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Opening day for the baseball season is this week! (Go Sox!)

When Spring Training began in mid-February, every team invited about 60 players to participate. By today every team has to set their final roster with 25 players on each team. The other players will be assigned to minor league teams or released.

Imagine the emotions felt by those last few players to be told they did not make the Major League team roster.

In our study today, we find an angel and others declaring the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Consider the emotions expressed as the news of Jesus’ resurrection was shared.

If you were one of the final players to make the team, who would you tell first? How would tell them?

Think of how would you react to making the team compared to how we react to the resurrection of Jesus. Our reaction to the resurrection should be greater than our reaction to other good news we may receive. Consider who you need to tell and how you will tell them about Jesus’ resurrection and what it means to them.

*** Faith in Jesus means we trust Him today as the resurrected and living Lord.

--- Jesus’ resurrection means that one believes God has the power to raise the dead to life. Just as He resurrected Jesus, God will resurrect those who place their faith in Jesus as Savior.

--- 1 Corinthians 15:14-19, Paul explains the importance of the resurrection: 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

*** Jesus death on the cross for our sins means we can be forgiven.

--- Think of the sin in your life that haunts you. Just that one thing you did. The one that if anyone in here found out about, you'd crawl under the chair to hide. Now know this: Jesus defeated sin on the cross and in his resurrection. You are forgiven. Now forget it. He has.

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