Posts tagged easter
I can’t think of any bigger understatement than saying, what we celebrate this weekend is ‘significant’. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus absolutely changed everything! When Jesus died and rose again – three days later – it reversed the centuries old curse of sin and death that was over all humanity.
Jesus fulfilled hundreds of impossible to fulfill prophecies about the messiah that had been written centuries before but the most amazing of all was that after three days in a grave, he was alive! What did this mean? In the history of the world no one had ever lived and died a sinless life. Jesus – God in the flesh – did. In that instant the sin that we’re all born into was stripped of its power. Things on this Earth would never be the same. As John ends his account of Jesus life he says, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” His resurrection proved he was who he said he was.
What does this mean today? It means absolutely everything! What Jesus did made a way to be free from the power that sin once held over us. Where sin makes us strangers and even enemies of God, Jesus death and resurrection makes us sons and daughters of God. This type of reconciliation had never been known and now it’s accessible to anyone who believes. In Romans 5:10-11 the Apostle Paul says, For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Not only did Jesus resurrection set into motion the reconciliation available to all who believe but we now get to be agents of his reconciliation while we await the restoration of all things. The book of Revelation tells us of this day that will come: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Resurrection, Reconciliation, and Restoration; this is the good news of the Gospel of Jesus! This Easter and in the days following let’s not only be reminded of the power of what Jesus did but let’s be actively living in the reality of it.
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Easter has come and gone. The community outreach events are completed. The music hit home. The preaching connected. God showed up. People were changed. Everything you’ve worked towards and focused on the last several weeks has come to fruition. Now what?
You knew this moment would happen, but the hustle and bustle of preparing for the most important service and sermon of the year consumed your every waking thought. Now it’s Easter Monday and the next Sunday sermon is only 6 days away. Maybe you had the forethought to plan the next series, but haven’t had the time to actual prepare.
Consider your Easter Sermon. What was the main point (beyond the obvious)? What are some secondary points that could be used as a sermon series? Could you take the bullet points from your Easter sermon and create a series of sermons to drive the point home? Were there things you left unsaid because of time constraints? Perhaps you can take that sermon and use it as a launching pad into the next few weeks or months. You spent a lot of time preparing for that Easter sermon. Use those resources to your benefit.
Consider your Calendar. What is coming up next on the calendar? Some of the obvious answers would be Pentecost Sunday and Mother’s Day. But what else could you bring a biblical perspective to? What about Tax Day, Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo, or Memorial Day? Okay, maybe Tax Day is a stretch. Take a look at your local calendar as well. Is your church celebrating a significant event? What is going on in your community in the upcoming weeks and months? What can you point out and use as a bridge to your community?
Consider your Context. What are the issues going on in your community right now? Are there social justice issues that need to be addressed from a biblical perspective? Are there positive outcomes in the local government or law enforcement that you can affirm? What are the heart concerns of the community? How can you speak to these issues? Take a few minutes to feel the pulse of your context.
Consider your Church. How’s your church doing? Are there aspects of disunity, bitterness, or un-forgiveness to be confronted? On the other side of this, who do you need to say “thank you” to? Who needs to be encouraged, affirmed, strengthened, and appreciated for all the hard work they did on Easter Sunday? How can you champion the volunteers in the nursery, Sunday school, small groups, greeters, ushers, worship team, and all of the various aspects that it takes to make a service happen?
Consider Christ. Perhaps the most overlooked sermon prep tool is prayer. How is Jesus speaking to you? What is Jesus saying that needs to be preached? How can you point people to Jesus and use their felt needs as a starting point? We have to remember that Christ is more concerned about people than we are. It’s easy to fall into the trap that we alone are responsible for bringing the Word of God to people. However, it’s Jesus who said that He will build His church (Matthew 16:15). Let’s remember to ask God for His help in bring His Word to His people.
Question: What are you preaching/teaching after Easter?
This Sunday commemorates Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem and is called Palm or Passion Sunday, depending on your tradition. All four gospels record this significant and prophetic event and I highly recommend you read them for yourself. You can find them in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. As I reread each account myself here are four things that stick out about this historic event that we still commemorate today.
Jesus Fulfilled Prophecy.
Not only was Jesus the long awaited King that the Jews had been longing for but his very entry into Jerusalem was just how it had been prophesied over 500 years earlier.
Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
I can imagine that Jewish theologians had been trying to reconcile their picture of a King (think David or Solomon) with the idea that he would ride in on a little colt, his feet barely off the ground. Yet here he was, having given his disciples an awkward command on how to get the colt, fulfilling prophecy that had been written centuries earlier. This was a plot twist that I don’t think even Hollywood could dream up.
What’s with the Palms?
The imagery of palms was a part of the Jewish culture and often reflected honor and nobility. 1 Kings chapter 6 and 7 record how Solomon had them as part of the sacred carvings of the temple. In Mark’s account of Jesus entry, people are spreading palm branches out on the ground along with their cloaks in what I imagine would be a sort of ancient red carpet that probably helped keep the dust down.
The significance of this honor paid to Jesus also foreshadows what is to come. In Revelation 7:9 there’s an incredible description of worship that – you guessed it – includes palm branches. So we see here Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah and also pointing forward to an even greater scene of worship that is to come.
The chances are pretty good that at some point you’ve sung a song at church with the word ‘Hosanna’ in it. As Jesus made his entry there was definitely some worship going on but what does Hosanna actually mean? It was a desperate cry from an oppressed people living under Roman rule that means ‘Oh save’ or ‘Save us now’. He would certainly save them but not quite how they imagined.
Where’s the Victory?
The Jews had been waiting and their King was finally here! Sure he was riding on a baby donkey and didn’t have a sword, armor, or an army but he was there none the less. As the shouts of Hosanna went out, everyone anticipated what this long awaited Kings next move would be. How would he save them? Would he be like David and his mighty men? Would he be like Solomon with wisdom and riches? “Save us now”, they cried!
One week later, many of these same people who had shouted ‘Hosanna’ would be shouting ‘Barabbas’ . They would trade their long awaited King for a thief and a murderer. He hadn’t fulfilled their image of a King or brought about their idea of salvation and so they turned on him.
But God in his sovereign grace had a plan that included a vastly different idea of what salvation was to look like, one that we’ll be celebrating this coming week. I’ll leave you with these words from Revelation 7:9-10:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ” Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
That’s my King!
As Easter Sunday fast approaches you may be looking for media to help enhance the feel of your gatherings such as video illustrations, images, or graphics. Last week we talked about some great books for Easter and this week I thought I’d point you to a few sites for finding graphics and video. If you know of any other great sites for video illustration, graphics, or images, please share them in the comments section.
Whether you’re looking for simple background loops or powerful video illustrations, Bluefish.tv has some very affordable and downloadable videos that can be easily embedded into presentation software. Click HERE to see some of their Easter resources.
Sermon Spice has great quality videos, worship backgrounds, and service countdowns. They are also easily embedded into most presentation software and their large library all but ensures you’ll find what you’re looking for. Click HERE to see some of their Easter resources.
Photos and Graphics
If you’re looking for free and royalty free images stock.xchng is a great spot. Nearly all of the images and graphics have a free license which allows you to use them in your presentations, website, and handouts. It does require a free registration to download images and you’ll have to be creative with your search criteria but you can’t beat the price.
Share Faith is a one stop shop for graphics, powerpoint, backgrounds, images, video loops and more. Their yearly membership is very affordable but if you want to try them out first they offer a free 10 day trial.
In a few weeks, millions of people all across the Earth will be asking these questions and more, as people gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Some will be reaffirming their faith in this history changing event and others will be skeptically pondering whether it’s even true. Whether you’re a pastor preaching on Easter Sunday or not, much like the Christmas season, this time of year focuses us on the events which happened 2,000 years ago that have huge implications for our life today.
Whether you’re preparing a sermon, having conversations with friends, or teaching your kids, here are some great resources that help unpack the reality of what Jesus did for us!
Resurrection: The Capstone Arch of Christianity
Hank Hanegraaff offers a detailed defense of the Resurrection
Evidence for the Resurrection
Presents evidence and logic for conversations about the Resurrection
No Wonder They Call Him Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross
Max Lucado takes you through the drama of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
Death By Love: Letters from the Cross
A compilation of heartfelt letters written from a pastor to his people that explains Jesus’ work on the cross
Christ’s Words from the Cross
C.H. Spurgeon discusses the seven words that Christ uttered from the Cross: Forgiveness, Salvation, Affection, Anguish, Suffering, Victory, and Contentment.
Make sure and download the free Bible Study App and take your books with you wherever you are across all your devices!
By Olive Tree Staff: Molly Van Ryn
I still remember the first Lent that I was really considered old enough to give something up on my own. It was jr high, and like just about everything at that age it quickly turned into a contest. For weeks lunchtime conversations revolved around Lent: who was giving up the hardest thing, who had been successful the longest, who had fallen off the wagon and whether they were going to try again. Most people gave up some sort of food, like candy or soda. Some brave souls even went so far as to give up television, to exclamations of “No way! That’s so hard! You’ll never make it!”
I don’t remember what I gave up that year, or whether I carried it through until Easter. But I vividly recall the jockeying for position. The people who were giving up something that was perceived as more difficult exuded a sense of smug superiority, only to be replaced by people who had picked something easier and stuck with it. I learned a lot of lessons from that about setting realistic goals, but hardly any about being in relationship with God, or what the season of Lent is actually about.
Since then, my relationship with Lent has evolved. There was the year that I realized that not all Christians participate in Lent in the way that I always had. I was just beginning the long journey of understanding how many ways there are to be Christian and starting to take ownership of the path I had chosen. This was the year that I first did Lent as a conscious choice, instead of just as something that everyone did. Then there was the year I came to the conclusion that I could add a spiritual discipline to my life, such as a more dedicated time of prayer in my day, instead of picking something to give up. It was immensely freeing to have this whole other set of options I hadn’t considered before. It really helped me to focus on the idea that Lent isn’t about getting rid of bad habits, a sort of 40 days of self-help, but an opportunity to grow closer to God and focus on preparing myself for the celebration of His passion.
I look forward to Lent these days. It’s no longer about picking the most difficult thing I can think of. I don’t feel particularly comfortable anymore telling people what I’ve chosen to do for a given year, unless I want them to help keep me accountable. But there is something very meaningful to me in having those 40 days of discipline set aside each year. It is an annual reminder to evaluate my relationship with God, to dust the cobwebs out of the corners of my prayer life and be mindful of ways in which I am not prepared to receive the gift that was offered on the cross. It gives me a reason to set aside resources that I might otherwise consider indispensable to the other areas of my life, a boost to drop the excuses I surround myself with. And I know that there is a community around me, waiting and anticipating as Easter approaches.