Easter 2004
Beyond the Passion: The Rest of the Story
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 11, 2004

 

Main Passage: John 20:1-18 (NLT)

 

After our Good Friday service this week, Shera and I along with a few of you went to see The Passion of the Christ in the theatre. We had spent the morning reflecting on the crucifixion and everything that involved, and it seemed appropriate to go and see it played out on the big screen one more time.

It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen The Passion. I’ve seen it twice now, and Shera has seen it three times. But watching it on Good Friday of all days, the specific day of the year that we set aside to remember what Jesus did that day, it was especially moving. And as I sat there watching the movie, horrified at the torture Jesus endured, and realizing that what I was watching really happened, I couldn’t help but be awed that what Jesus did He did for me.

Because I’ve done things that have hurt God. We all have. We have all rebelled against Him in some way. You and I have committed the sin of treason against God, and as a result we deserve the death penalty. God is a God of Justice, and that justice demanded that sin be punished. But God is also a God of Mercy. And it was that mercy that lead God to become the man, Jesus, and He died to serve the death sentence in our place. That’s the extent of His love for you and for me.

I also remembered while watching the movie that when Jesus died on the cross He was 33. I’m 33. So in a sense I identified with Him a bit more and the reality of it struck home with even more power.

But it’s not just me. This movie, The Passion, has had a tremendous effect on many of the people who have had the opportunity to see it. Let me read you a short perspective I received in my email this week from Tony Perkins. Tony is the president of the Family Research Council in Washington, and this is what he said about The Passion:

FROM MY PERSPECTIVE
by Tony Perkins

In the weeks leading up to its release, critics called The Passion of the Christ anti-Semitic and said it would spawn violence and ruthless attacks. Some police departments even went so far as to send their hate-crime units to view the movie as preparation.

Well, there have been no reported attacks on Jewish people or anyone else, for that matter. In fact, there have been numerous reports that the movie has had the opposite affect.

A neo-Nazi confessed to two decade-old bombings in Norway after watching the death of Jesus in The Passion. In the states, a man in Arizona walked up to police and confessed to a half-dozen burglaries after watching the movie, and, in Florida, a fugitive from a bank robbery that happened two years ago turned himself in to police after watching Gibson's film. And now, in Texas, a man has confessed to killing his girlfriend –after the death had been ruled a suicide—saying he had been moved by his experience viewing The Passion.

This stunning turnabout gives a whole new meaning to a movie being rated "R": Warning, this movie may cause you to repent.

The movie has had a tremendous impact on the people who have seen it in theatres. And it also had a tremendous impact on the people who worked on the movie and visited the set. Several of the cast members expressed that their own faith was strengthened as a result of working on The Passion. There were reports of miraculous healings happening on the set. Jim Caviezel who plays Jesus was even struck by lightning and had no side effects other than his hair looked like Don King’s for a while.

Over the past two months I’ve listened to a lot of people and I’ve read a lot articles about The Passion, and for the most part the response has been positive. But there have been several criticisms. Several people have complained about the extreme violence. In fact, several church leaders in Europe right now are warning people to stay away for that very reason. But the truth is, the Roman justice system was brutal and crucifixion was a nasty business. We talked about that on Friday, and if you missed it you can read about it on our website. If anything, the actual crucifixion was worse than what is portrayed on the screen.

Another complaint has been that the movie is anti-Semitic. But after seeing the movie twice I would say it’s more anti-Italian. Because it’s the Romans who actually carry out the crucifixion. Some of the Jewish religious leaders framed Jesus and set Him up, but the Romans did the dirty work. Besides, even though several Jews pushed for Jesus to be executed on the cross, there were several others who begged for His release. Plus, all of His followers in those early days were Jews.

But there is one complaint I’ve heard which may hold some merit. Personally, I think Mel Gibson did a terrific job portraying the last 12 hours of the life of Christ, and that’s exactly what he wanted to do. But several people I’ve talked to complain that they wish Mel took it a little bit further. The wish Mel had gone beyond the Passion… beyond the suffering… and told the rest of the story. Granted, Mel does deal with the Resurrection in a brief and I think very well done scene, but there are many questions left unanswered.

So this morning, on this Easter Sunday, that’s where we’re going to spend the majority of our time. Beyond the Passion.

Kim read for us earlier about what happened that Easter morning. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb where the body of Jesus had been buried. Previously, Mary had been possessed by seven demons. According to tradition, although it’s not mentioned anyplace in the Bible, she was also a prostitute. But then she met Jesus, and all that changed. He freed her and called her to follow Him. In Mary, we see a person who had been at the far end of the pendulum away from God, but after encountering Jesus she swung to the other end and became a devoted follower of His. In fact, some of the Apocryphal writings portray her as being just one of the guys… one of the disciples.

Now, before anyone asks, no, Mary and Jesus were not lovers. And they did not have children together. There are some books out there right now that claim that, and they’re even talking about upcoming movies that will make this claim. Don’t believe it. There’s no indication that Mary was anymore than a very grateful follower of Jesus. Did Jesus love her? Yes. As much as He loves you and me today.

Mary was present at the crucifixion. And now, just days later, she’s present at the resurrection. It’s early in the morning and Mary is taking spices to the tomb. Kind of like you and I might take flowers today. And Mary wasn’t alone… the other Gospels reveal that there were several other women with her. On her way, Mary’s thinking about the huge stone that had been rolled in front of the tomb and the guards who had been stationed there to watch the tomb. Strange. Any other time, guards at a tomb would be there to keep others out. But these guards are stationed there to keep Jesus in. Just goes to prove, you can’t keep a good man down.

As Mary’s on her way, she wondering if she’ll be able to get the guards to roll the stone away for her, but as she comes close, the guards are no where in sight. And then she sees it… the stone is rolled away. She immediately concludes, “Someone has stolen the body!” So she runs back to town to tell the disciples.

When Peter and John hear, they run as fast as they can to the tomb. They want to know what happened to the body. So they run there only to discover that Mary was right… no body… the grave clothes still lying there… without a body in them.

Then it all begins to gel for them. Things Jesus had said to them start coming to mind… Riddles He had told them…

Matthew 12:40 (NLT)
“For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so I, the Son of Man, will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.”

Mark 9:31 (NLT)
"The Son of Man is going to be betrayed. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead."

John 2:19 (NLT)
"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

They didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about at first, but suddenly they put two and two together, and they realize that Jesus was talking about Himself! He had risen! So they went home.

But Mary wasn’t with them. She was hanging around outside the tomb. Only after Peter and John were long gone did she bend over and look inside. And when she did, she was amazed at what she saw. Two angels, all dressed in white, sitting there. She still didn’t understand. Then she noticed a shadow behind her. She figured it was the gardener. So she says, without really looking at Him, “Sir, if you’re the one who took Jesus, let me know where you took him… Please.”

Then she heard Him say, “Mary.” As soon as she heard the voice, she knew. She wielded around in wide-eyed wonderment, astonished to see Jesus… alive. He had risen!

POWERPOINT SLIDES

Did this really happen? And if so, so what? What does it mean? What difference does it make? Those are fair questions. After all, it’s not everyday that someone rises from the dead. So what proof is there? Let me give you five proofs. And you can use your notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along.

 

Proofs Jesus Rose From The Dead:

 

A. The change in the disciples.

John Stott is a best-selling author, a professor, and perhaps the leading theologian in the world today. And he says;

“Perhaps the transformation of the disciples is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection… When Jesus died, they were heartbroken, confused and frightened. But within less than two months they came out of hiding, full of joy, confidence and courage. What can account for this dramatic transformation? Only the resurrection, together with Pentecost which followed soon afterwards.”
~ John Stott

And this bizarre group of mostly uneducated men went on to change the world.

 

B. Eyewitness accounts.

Acts 1:3 (NIV)
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Notice it wasn’t just a one time shot like “Surprise! Here I am!” and then He’s never seen again. No, it says he gave many proofs that He was alive. It says for 40 days He continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. He didn’t just show up once. For forty days He’s walking around the streets of Jerusalem and all kinds of people are seeing Him. How would you like to be those religious leaders who put Jesus to death? “You know that guy you just crucified? He’s back!” If I were them, I’d be freaking out!

Do you know that there are eleven times recorded in the Bible that Jesus appeared to people after his death? And there were probably many more times not mentioned in the Bible. He appeared to individuals, to the disciples, and one time appeared to a group of over 500 people. Some people today claim that these were all hallucinations. And I could understand that if Jesus only appeared to individuals. It could have simply been wish fulfillment. But he didn’t just appear to individuals. He appeared to groups of people, too. And hallucinations are not group events, at least not outside of the 1960’s. And the truth is that having 500 different people experience the same hallucination at the same time would be a greater miracle than the resurrection itself!

That’s why about half the city became believers. Archeologists and historians tell us that within twenty years of the resurrection, Jerusalem, a city of about quarter million people, had between 100,000 and 125,000 believers. Why? Because so many people had seen Him. That’s the guy we just put on the cross! That’s the guy the Romans killed. He claimed He was God, and look! He’s back.

 

C. Modern-day accounts.

We’ve already talked about the change that happened in the lives of the disciples. But do you realize that Jesus is still changing lives today? Many of us here know that to be true by personal experience. We have a relationship with Him today. Our lives have been transformed. And that power to change is only a reality because Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today.

 

D. The Roman and Jewish leaders couldn’t disprove it.

They tried to, they desperately wanted to, but they couldn’t. They couldn’t produce the body, they couldn’t show that the body was stolen, they couldn’t say that he was in a different grave, they couldn’t explain why the highly-trained guards failed, and they couldn’t explain away the appearances. They had all the motivation and power in the world to squash this new religion, but they simply weren’t able to do it because they couldn’t disprove it.

 

E. The disciples were willing to die for their beliefs.

Do you realize the disciples had nothing to gain? They would be beaten, imprisoned, persecuted, and killed for their beliefs. Now, I am aware that there have been plenty of people throughout history who have died for their faith, whether what they believed was true or not. We’ve seen this in recent days with terrorists and suicide bombers. This is true:

People will die for their faith if they believe it’s true.
But this is equally true:
People will not die for their faith if they know it’s false.
Nobody knowingly dies for a lie.

If the disciples had fabricated the Resurrection story, they wouldn’t have defended it to the death. At least one of them if not all of them would have come clean. But they didn’t. They staked their lives on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

 

Easter means that I can have confidence in Jesus, because he is who He says He is. The proof is there: He is risen! And that proves He is the Son of God.

Romans 1:4 (NLT)
And Jesus Christ our Lord was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from the dead by means of the Holy Spirit.

So what does that mean for you and for me today? Four things…

 

What Does Easter Mean for Me?

 

1. I can be forgiven.

This past Friday in our Good Friday service, we took part in communion together… the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a practice which Jesus Himself began and instructed us to do also. It’s a symbolic re-enactment of the last supper Jesus had with His disciples. During that last supper, Jesus took a glass of wine and used it as a metaphor when he told his followers:

Matthew 26:28 (CEV)
This is my blood, and with it God makes his agreement with you. It will be poured out, so that many people will have their sins forgiven.

What was Jesus saying? He was saying that through his death the price would be paid for our sins. We would be spared and forgiven.

But throughout the years many people have promised things only to be incapable of delivering on them. Think about some of the promises that have been made to you that haven’t been kept. Think about promises like…

“You car will be ready in an hour.”
“This won’t hurt a bit.”
“You have a 1 in 9 chance of winning at Roll Up the Rim.”
“This won’t take long.”
“True friends always.”
“Till death do us part.”

Did people mean to break those promises when they made them to us? No, they were just incapable of keeping them. Jesus promised that he would forgive me for the wrongs I have done… for my sins. How do I know that he can keep that promise?

The Bible says…

1 Corinthians 15:17 (CEV)
Unless Christ was raised to life, your faith is useless, and you are still living in your sins.

But the fact is Jesus did rise from the dead. He is who He says He is. And that means that He does in fact have the power to forgive. He can forgive me, He can forgive you. It’s one of our basic human needs and one of God’s greatest gifts.

His forgiveness is real. It’s freely offered to you. But you have to decide, will you receive it?

 

2. I am given a second chance.

Jesus Christ comes to earth, lives a perfect life and dies on the cross for my sin and for yours. It’s all been paid for. Every sin you will ever commit. Even the ones you haven’t done yet. The ones you haven’t even thought about – next week, next year, ten years from now. They’ve already been paid for.

When Jesus Christ was hanging on the cross, just before He died He exclaimed, “It is finished.” He did not say, “I am finished” because He wasn’t. He came to life three days later. He didn’t say, “I am finished.” It said “It is finished.” The payment for all your sins has been made.

John 19:30 (NLT)
… He said, "It is finished!" Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus said, “It is finished.” In the Greek, that is actually one word: tetelestai. Tetelestai literally meant “paid in full.” When a person had paid off a bill they would stamp tetelestai on it. It’s paid in full. You can forget it. When a person would serve their time in prison and their sentence was commuted they’d stamp on their prison papers tetelestai – paid in full. You’re a free man. You can go. You’re not in prison any more.

When Jesus, on the cross said, “It is finished.” He was saying “Tetelestai! Paid in full. I have paid for all the things you’ve ever done wrong so you can go to Heaven.”

I realize it’s one thing for Jesus to say that, another for it to be true. How do we know that our account is paid in full? Because of the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:21 (NLT)
So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, Adam, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man, Christ.

Jesus dies and rose from the dead to offer you a second chance. But you have to decide, will you take it?

 

3. The Power of God is available to me today.

Here’s a little secret just for your benefit. The power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, it is available to you to help you with your problems if you invite Jesus into your life. The Bible says…

Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT)
I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead…

That power is available to you if you believe in Him and trust Him with your life. But you must decide, will you trust Him?

 

4. I can have hope.

What is hope? It’s not just wishful thinking. It’s a guarantee of what’s to come.

“Hope is enjoyment of the future in advance.”
~ Anonymous

With the resurrection of Jesus we who know him personally can have hope. And what I mean by that is that we can live with a confidence and an expectation that we are never alone and that once this life is over we can spend forever in eternity with Him, and forever is a long, long time.

1 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT)
Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

That wonderful expectation is eternal. That hope is sure. But you must decide: do you believe it, or not?

 

Let me ask you, what would you say is the most famous verse of the Bible?

PARTICIPATION

John 3:16. You’ll seen this verse at any football game. You can be watching a game in person or on TV, and suddenly you notice some guy, usually with coloured hair, holding up a John 3:16 sign in the end zone. What in the world is John 3:16?

John 3:16 (NKJV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

That verse is often called “The Gospel in a nutshell.” Look, it’s right there in the verse…

[PowerPoint (God… Only… Son… Perish… Everlasting… Life)]

What does the word “gospel” mean? It’s just the old English word for “good news.” Gospel just means good news. And the Good News is that you can have the hope of Eternal Life. That’s what Jesus came to offer.

Take another look at that verse…

I want you to notice first of all there are 25 words in this verse – John 3:16. The middle word, the thirteenth word is the word “Son” talking about Jesus Christ. The first half of the verse is all about God the Father. “For God so love the word that He gave His only begotten.” Then there’s “Son” in the middle. And the last twelve words are all about man. “That whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” That in itself is a picture. Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth to be the bridge between God the Father and man.

In the movie The Passion of the Christ one of the most significant scenes to me is when Pilate, the governor of Judea, walks out in front of an entire mob and he asks the single most important question in history. He asks, “What will you do with Jesus?”

I’m asking you that question right now. What will you do with Jesus? It is the most important question you will ever be asked in your life. It not only determines the rest of your life on earth but where you’ll spend eternity. What will you do with Jesus?

Let me explain something to you. You don’t have to have all of it figured out, all your questions answered, all your doubts resolved before you begin a relationship with Jesus Christ. I didn’t and I still don’t. After 26 years I still have a lot of questions. I still have a lot of things I don’t understand. I still have doubts about different things. But it hasn’t stopped me from having a relationship—a friendship—with God and enjoying that.

One day a guy came to Jesus who had a sick daughter. He said, “Lord, I want You to heal my daughter.” Jesus looked at him and said, “Do you believe I can heal her?” The guy said, “I want to believe. Yeah, I believe. Help me with my doubts.” Jesus said, “That’s good enough!” And Bam! He healed her.

You can come to Jesus Christ this morning and say, Jesus I want to believe. Help me with my doubts!

So where are you at? Is this a day of celebration for you? Do you already know Jesus, and is this a day you celebrate His resurrection? Or have you never experienced His forgiveness in your life and come to know Him personally? You can meet Him today.

I’m going to ask you to close your eyes for a minute. Just out of respect for the person next to you. If you’re here and you don’t know Jesus personally but would like to, just slip up your hand. Here’s what I want you to do… I’m going to say a prayer, and you can say it after me. You don’t have to say it out loud, you can say it in the quietness of your heart.

Say, “Dear Jesus. I may not understand it all but I want a relationship with You. I want to thank You for loving me. I want to thank You for coming to earth for me. I want to thank You for giving Your life for me so I could go to heaven. I want to accept Your free gift of forgiveness and salvation. I want to trust You with my life. You call the shots from here on out. I want to learn to trust You and to love You and to fulfill Your purpose for my life. Amen.


 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2004 SunriseOnline.ca