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Watch 2022 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - A King Like No Other

Andy Stanley - A King Like No Other

Andy Stanley - A King Like No Other
TOPICS: Easter

So I absolutely love Easter. Sometimes people say, "Well, Andy, you know, when Easter rolls around, it's the same story all over again," and I'm like, "Yeah, but I absolutely love, love, love this story". But the thing is, to understand the full implications, in fact, to understand the personal implications of the Easter story requires us to pause in the very, very early moments of the story, the early moments of the story that we tend to rush by whenever we read the story, the early moments when sometimes people read the story to us, or perhaps the early moments when you've heard the story preached about or taught about in church.

So I wanna take you for just a moment back to that moment, that moment when Jesus has just been crucified. He's hanging on a cross. People are staring. There's a large crowd. In the back of the crowd are the disciples that have not fled the city. In the back of the crowd is his mother. In the back of the crowd are the women who followed him from Galilee, but let me tell you who wasn't there. When Jesus was crucified, there were no Christians, there was no church, there was no Bible, and there were no believers. When Jesus was crucified, all there were left were dozens of Galileans who were broken-hearted, overwhelmed with sorrow, confused. Their leaders, their religious leaders had conspired with Rome, their enemy, to murder, to falsely accuse and try and crucify the best person they'd ever known, someone who was not supposed to die, someone who they had come to believe was God's ultimate and final Messiah, God's final King. And yet, in less than 24 hours, he was arrested, he was tried, and he was crucified, and they were in shock, because this was completely unexpected.

In fact, they thought, his closest followers who were in Jerusalem at the time, they thought they were on the verge of winning, because he just four days before this, four days before this, they had come into the city of Jerusalem, and as they got closer and closer to the city, the crowds that followed Jesus and his disciples had grown and grown and grown. By the time they get there, there are people outside the city walls who are welcoming Jesus in as if he's a conquering hero, as if he's some sort of military general who's just brought glory to their city and glory to their nation. And then it becomes, at first it's religious, it's, "Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna!" and then it becomes political, "Hosanna! Blessed be. Blessed is the one who comes to the name of the Lord, and blessed is the King".

And there's so much momentum, and there's so much excitement, the men and women who have been following Jesus for, in some cases, for two or three years are realizing, "This is moment we've waited for. This is when he is gonna take off his rabbinic robe and proclaim himself as King and the Messiah, the long-awaited Messiah". They were on the verge of winning, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, it's over, and he's hanging on a cross. Now, it's important to know that the goal of crucifixion in ancient times was not simply death. There were quicker and much easier ways to kill a man. The goal of crucifixion was twofold. It was terror for the community, to keep the community under control, and it was oblivion for the person who was crucified. The goal of crucifixion was that basically it's like you never, ever, it's like you never even happened, and the remains of a crucified body were taken off and put in a dump and were ultimately probably rotted, and then whatever was left were eaten by wild animals. But for a price, for a price, you bribe sometimes a Roman centurion for the body of someone who'd been crucified.

The G writers tell us that Nicodemus, who was a well-known Pharisee in the city of Jerusalem and Joseph of Arimathea, who was a well-known citizen in the city, actually bypassed the centurion and went straight to governor Pilate and asked that they'd be given the body of Jesus for a proper burial, and the Gospel writers tell us that they take Jesus' body to a cave that had been recently renovated to provide, to serve as a tomb for a family. They prepare his body for burial with spices, and they wrap him in linen, as was the Jewish custom, and they were gonna seal him in this tomb, and the way things went, they would come back years later, or family members would come back years later, open the tomb, remove the bones, put the bones in a box called an ossuary or a bone box. In fact, anytime places are excavated in Galilee and all the way down to Jerusalem, even today, there are thousands and thousands of these ossuaries or these bone boxes that they dig up. So the goal would be to take Jesus' bones, put it in an ossuary, and his family would take it. We keep ashes. They kept bones.

So Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea prepared Jesus' body for burial, and the reason they did is because they had hoped, they were secret followers of Jesus, but because of the reputation in the community, they were torn as to how public they could be about the fact that they actually believed that Jesus was sent from God, and that he was Israel's Messiah, God's final King. But clearly he was not, but he was a good man, and he did not deserve to be treated and he did not deserve the fate of a common criminal. So they did what they could, and they headed home before the sunset to celebrate the Sabbath. Meanwhile, 1500 miles away in Rome, Tiberius Caesar, the most powerful man in the world, has no idea what's going on in what he would consider the armpit of the Roman empire down in the area known as Judea.

Saul of Tarsus, who would later become the Apostle Paul, who would write about half of the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus is somewhere in Jerusalem, celebrating Passover and the Sabbath and rejoicing with his friends, who were all Pharisees, because he was a Pharisees, that this troublesome rabbi had finally been taken off the scene. They wouldn't hear from him again. Thomas, the disciple Thomas with that unfortunate nickname, Doubting Thomas, has fled the city along with some of Jesus' other followers, because if they could take the leader of the movement, certainly they could come for his followers as well. Meanwhile, Peter, James, John, and a few others are huddled together somewhere in the city of Jerusalem, trying to figure out how to get out of the city, what to do next, and where to go. Peter considers going back to his father's fishing business, and some of the guys in the room would probably have gone along with him. Matthew, poor Matthew. He has no job prospects at this point. Then across town, the women are gathered.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Gospel writers tell us, are gathered with women, and for those of you who are moms, can you even imagine? We can't, we shouldn't even dwell on it for too long. Standing at the back of a crowd and watching your son stripped naked and nailed to cross. Mary, the mother of Jesus, no doubt is in shock. So what you have in this moment, and the reason we're pausing here, is you have confused citizens, you have frightened ex-disciples, you have broken-hearted women, you have a broken-hearted mother, but one thing you would not have found in that moment. You would have found no Christians, no believers, no followers, nobody. They write themselves into the story as unbelievers. Nobody, included Jesus' mother, believed that Jesus was the Savior of the world. He couldn't and he wouldn't even save himself. Certainly he was not the long-anticipated King of Israel.

And it's important to know that nobody in this group, according to their own testimony, nobody was planning to keep the dream alive. They were all just gonna to go back to work, try to get out of the city safely, try to get back to normal, but nobody's gonna keep this dream alive or the Jesus movement moving, because why bother? Now, this is often overlooked, and if you're someone who used to be a person of faith and you walked away or drifted away or behaved yourself away or just lost interest, or perhaps somebody talked you out of it, this is really, really important. The centerpiece, the centerpiece of Jesus' ministry, believe it or not, was not his teaching. The driving force of Jesus' ministry was not his teaching. In fact, his teaching was incredibly impractical. Much of his teaching was offensive. Pay your taxes? Oh, that's a great way to start a movement, isn't it? Pray for your enemies, pray for who persecute you, lust equals adultery, turn the other cheek and forgive regardless? I mean, who's gonna do that? Who's gonna follow someone who teaches that?

Jesus didn't come to leave us with a collection of insights, short stories, and parables. He didn't ask people. This was the problem. He didn't ask people to trust his ideas or to follow his instructions. He instructed his followers to follow him and to put their trust in him. It wasn't his ideas and insights that got him crucified. It's who and what he claimed to be. He claimed to be a King. He claimed to be Israel's Messiah. In fact, read the Gospels. It's so fascinating. At one point or more than one point, he claimed, this means nothing to us, but this was so offensive in the first-century in Judea. He claimed to be greater than Moses. It's like, "wait, wait, wait. You can't be greater than Moses. Moses gave us the Torah. Moses gave us the Law. If you're claiming to be greater than Moses, you're claiming to be greater than the Law". And Jesus said, "I'm greater than the prophets".

The prophets, you can't be greater than the prophets. God sent the nation the prophets. And then the ultimate offense. He claimed to be greater than the temple, the entire structure, the entire system that represented how to make things right with God. Jesus said, "I am greater. One who is greater than the temple has come". The implication for the people who heard was this. If you're greater than the temple, then the temple no longer has a purpose, to which Jesus would smile and say, "Just wait". On one occasion, as you know, he looked at his disciples, and said, "If you've seen me". This is what will get him in trouble. "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father". The point being that Peter and the boys, they did not follow Jesus because of what he taught. At times, they followed Jesus in spite of what he taught. They followed him because of who they came to believe he was, who he claimed to be. But as we pause in this moment, they were wrong. The Holy One of God, the Messiah of God can't be killed. Can't be killed by a foreign power.

So when Jesus died, the Jesus movement died right along with him. It's important to know as well, because this gets confusing in our modern culture, Jesus was not a reformer. He didn't come to reform something or to change something or to make something better. He was very clear about this, and again, it's why he got in so much trouble. He came to establish something brand new, and the temple leaders nor did Rome want anyone establishing anything brand new. They wanted to manage what was, and Jesus said, "I'm beginning something brand new". He gathered his guys together up in Syria, and he says, "I'm beginning something new, a brand new congregation, a brand new assembly, a brand new movement, and on this declaration that I'm the Christ, the Son of the living God," that Peter had just made. He says, "On this declaration, I will create, I will establish my ecclesia, my church, my movement, my gathering, my congregation". And he says, "And guys, when you guys pass away, it will go on, and when I pass away, it will go on. Not even the gates of Hades will stop what we are beginning together".

He didn't come to reform something or change something or make something better. He came to create something absolutely brand new. Politicians and activists in our world often try to co-opt Jesus for their thing. Read the Gospels. Jesus did not leave that option open to us, and his first-century followers, those who were there for it, at the middle of the action, they understood this. So when Jesus breathed his last, his ecclesia, his movement did as well. Rome had won. In fact, the disciples actually write themselves into the story as a group of people who recognized that Rome had won. They all unfollowed Jesus. They flee when he is arrested, they keep their distance during the crucifixion, and they gather in the city, or they flee the city, to decide where to go and what to do next. But there were no Jesus followers when Jesus was crucified. There were no Christians. There was no church. There was no Bible.

And to the point of the Easter story, when Jesus died, when he breathed his last, everybody, everybody, including his mother, expected Jesus to do what dead people usually do, stay dead. So Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea prepared his body. They prepared his body to stay dead on Easter morning, and on Easter morning, no one is standing outside the tomb, counting down backwards from 10. 10, nine, eight, seven, right? Nobody's out there. In fact, in the Gospels, it tells us that the women who loved Jesus get up just as the sun is rising, the Sabbath is coming to an end, and they get up in time to go to the tomb to re-prepare Jesus' body for burial, because they assume that Jesus is going to stay dead. And when they get there, the reason they went back is because the text tells us that they were there when Joseph of Arimathea and when Nicodemus prepared Jesus for burial, and apparently they didn't think the men did it right, so they came back the next morning to redo it. Ladies, do you ever reload the dishwasher? Yes, you do, right? Re-dress your children for school, right?

So back to that moment in time. No Christians, just an empire. There's a relieved Roman governor. Pilate is so relieved. Passover was always a time where the patriotism, you know, surfaced in unhealthy ways in the city of Jerusalem. They'd gotten through another Passover. They'd gotten rid of this troublesome rabbi. Everything's going back to normal. The relieved Roman governor, sad Galileans. The empire and temple had conspired together to rid themselves of this radical rabbi, potentially avoiding a bloody uprising. So, crisis averted, and now everything and everybody goes back to normal. Get the picture?

Now, hit pause right there, and I want us to fast forward 350 years to a specific date, February the 27th. February the 27th in the year 380. On February the 27th in the year 380, the Roman Emperor Theodosius I actually issues what is referred to as the Edict of Thessalonica. He passes a brand new law, and this brand new law makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire, but not only does it do that, it actually ends state support for the pagan priesthood, that now the pagan priesthood that has been supported by Rome all these years loses financial support, and all of that financial support shifts to the church and Jesus, and Christianity is declared the official religion of the Roman empire. To which, when you hear those two things, you look at what happened after the crucifixion of Jesus, then you hear about this. Our response should be, what?

Wait, wait, wait, let me get this straight. Rome crucifies the leading figure of a Judean cult with the help of his own people, and then Rome considers the same rabbi, this crucified rabbi, Rome considers this same rabbi a God, and not just a God. He replaces the entire Pantheon of Roman gods? Jesus wasn't even Roman. Jesus had never even been to Rome, never stepped foot inside the city. And then I want us to hit pause there, and I want us to fast forward to today, to us. Today, there there is no Roman empire, but today the city of Rome is full of crosses, but the crosses don't represent Roman crucifixion. The crosses in Rome actually represent a single crucifixion, the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, and in our modern times, the cross is no longer a symbol of suffering and shame and terror and oblivion. The cross represents, well, today, it represents hope and salvation, compassion, and no one in the first century would ever believe this.

In our world, the cross represents the love of God. And today, 1500 miles from Jerusalem, excuse me, from Rome, back in Jerusalem, Jerusalem is filled with thousands and thousands of Christian tourists from all over the world who want to walk where the leader of this cult ultimately walked, this Galilean rabbi once walked. Now, if that's all you knew, okay, if that's all you knew, troublesome rabbi crucified by Rome, then considered a God by very the empire that crucified him, and now hundreds of millions of people believe that he's divine and gather in places like this, larger and smaller all over the world, especially on a day like today to worship him. If that's all you knew, and by the way, all of that is historically indisputable. But if that's all you knew, crucified, you know, rallied around, you know, deified, and worshiped all over the world. If that's all you knew, then the question to be asked, the question you have to ask, the question I would encourage you to wrestle with if you walked away, drifted away, or thinking about walking away, the question to wrestle with is this.

What happened? Not what was written. What happened? Because something extraordinary must have happened to bring all of that about. Clearly there's more to the story. Clearly I have left something out of the story. Clearly something caused all of those changes to happen in a relatively short of amount of time, and what happened is why we're here. What happened is why we gather on a day like today. What happened is actually recorded for us by Matthew, who was there, Mark, who got his information from Peter, Luke, who investigated and then talked to everybody, John, who was there, James, the brother of Jesus, who is a part of these events, and the Apostle Paul, who steps onto the pages of history as somebody who hates Christians and has decided to put the church out of business, becomes a Jesus follower, and writes about half the New Testament. They all tell us what happened that connected those dots. I will read a portion of John's explanation. Here's what he said happened.

"Early on the Sunday, on the Sunday morning, following Passover, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb," Jesus' tomb, and she was with some other women, we know from the other Gospel writers. "Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance". So she came, she runs back into the city, and she knows where John and Peter and the other disciples are gathered, trying to figure out what's next. "So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one that Jesus loved". That's how John described himself. Oh, yeah, I'm the one that Jesus loved. We don't know what's going on there, but it's very interesting. The one that Jesus loved. You know, I don't even need a name. Just the one that Jesus loved. You know who I'm talking about. So she comes running back to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one that Jesus loved, and she says, listen to this. She says, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him".

They have taken... She doesn't walk in and say, "It's a miracle. He must be alive. The body's missing". She draws the same conclusion any of us would draw. The tomb has been opened and someone has taken and stolen the body. We don't know who took the body. We do not know where the body went, but nobody in this moment assumes a miracle, and they write themselves into the story as confused by an empty tomb, because nobody expected, nobody. Nobody expected a miracle. Nobody expected a resurrection. Nobody writes themselves into the story as the hero and the diehard. "I knew it. We knew it. We held out". Nobody. They all expected Jesus to do what dead people do, which is, of course, to stay dead. Luke chimes in and says this when she reported what had happened. Luke tells us, "But the men did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like nonsense".

Wait, wait, wait, you went to the wrong tomb. Wait, wait, wait. There's no way during Sabbath that somebody broke into the tomb and stole the body. You are confused. I know we're all broken-hearted. It's very emotional time for us. We just think you probably went to the wrong tomb. And Peter says, "I'll check it out," and John says, "I'll go with you," and then something interesting happens. So Peter in the other disciples started for the tomb and both were running. You know what? I think they left calmly, like, "Ladies, you stay here. We'll figure this out," and they begin to walk, and they begin to think, and they begin to walk, and they begin to think, and suddenly there's energy, and the next thing they know, Peter takes off running and John takes off running, and John includes this interesting detail.

John, the one that Jesus loved, he would want me to remind you. "So Peter and the other disciples started to the tomb, and both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter". John includes that. It mean, it's his Gospel. Just wanted to make sure I document that for all time, and all of history. It's one of those details that, when you read the Gospels, you think this must be true. Why would anyone include that? Why would anyone make that up? Anyway. And so John, because he outran Peter, he gets to the tomb first, and he bends over, and he says, John says, "He bent over and he looked into at the strips". He looks into the tomb at the strips of linen lying there, orderly. It wasn't a mess. It wasn't chaos. Somebody had folded things, and it was an orderly context. "And then Simon Peter came along".

This isn't in the text, huffing and puffing behind him, and Peter, because he's Peter, "Went straight into the tomb, and he saw the strips of linen lying there and how they were lying there as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head. And finally John, the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first," he keeps saying that, "also went inside". This is so powerful. And John tells us that he saw, "And I believed". Later that afternoon, Jesus visits, very much alive, with his apostles in the city, and here's what the Gospel writers tell us, and here is what history tells us. They immediately reengage with the message and the mission of Jesus, but they did not reengage because of what he taught, and they did not reengage because of something they believed. They reengaged because of what and who they saw. They reengaged because something had happened. It turns out he was everything he claimed to be and more. He was, in fact, as he told Mary and Martha after Lazarus had died, "I am the resurrection in the life". It's not a category. It's not something you read about our study. "Look at me, Mary and Martha. You are looking at resurrection and life," which made no sense to them.

And suddenly, all of these things that Jesus taught and all of these things Jesus claimed, and all of these things Jesus said about himself, suddenly all the dots connect, and his movement reignites in a moment, because he was, in fact, God's final King, who came to die for his subjects instead of requiring his subjects to die for him. It was, in fact, an upside-down kingdom, and now they understood and they reengaged. And the interesting thing about the Easter story, and this is what I wish I could say to every single human being on planet Earth.

The resurrection of Jesus is not a Bible story. The resurrection of Jesus is the story. It's the story, and it intersects with your story, and it intersects with my story, and it intersects with everyone's story, because not only does the resurrection of Jesus, you know, resolve one of history's greatest mystery, that is, how did the teaching of Jesus survive the first century? How did the church survive the first century? Why is there a church? I mean, the resurrection of Jesus, it really does resolve history's greatest mystery, but it resolves another mystery as well. It resolves a personal mystery. It resolves the mystery of how can you know where you stand with God? And how does God view you? And how does God view your failure? And how does God view your sin? How does God see you? How does God feel about you?

The resurrection of Jesus resolves that mystery, because Jesus taught on all of those things, and he was the only person who ever lived who could speak with authority on the topic of how does God feel about the human race? How does God feel about me? How does God feel about you? In fact, John, who, by the way, is the one that Jesus loved, and beat Peter to the tomb. John, as an older man, he gives us his account of the life of Jesus. We just looked at part of it. And in that account, he makes the statement that became one of the most oft-quoted, often-quoted statements in all of the world, certainly the most quoted verse out of the New Testament or the Bible in general. John is the one who says, "Let me tell you how the life and death and resurrection of Jesus resolved the greatest personal mystery, of where we stand with God". He said, "The best way I can describe it is this".

After being with Jesus for those three years and being there for all of it. "For God so loved the world," meaning God so loved the people in the world, that he did what you do when you love someone. He gave. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. I realized he was my friend and my rabbi, but then on the backside of this story, I realized that my rabbi and my friend was a gift from God for me. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever places their trust in, places their weight on, places their confidence in, places their faith in, whoever believes in him shall not be lost to God, but will have eternal life". And in spite of what you may have heard, and in spite of how Christians have treated you, or perhaps how the church has treated you, John would say, "Wait, wait, wait, wait. But I'm not done".

And here's something else he said that we never hear much about. He said this. He said, "For God to loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever puts their faith in him or believes in him shall not parish or shall not be lost to God, but shall have he eternal a life, for, I'm not finished, for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world". So if you grew up on a version of Christianity that left you feeling condemned or that in fact condemned you, John would say, I don't know where you got that. I don't know who told you that. That's the wrong version. "For God did not send his Son to the world to condemn the world, but that through him, the world might be saved, that the world might be saved through, by means of him," him being Jesus.

The crucifixion of Jesus made absolutely no sense until the resurrection. The resurrection is why the story was told, because everything up until that point wasn't all that remarkable and wasn't necessarily worth repeating. Many people had been crucified by Rome. The resurrection of Jesus isn't a Bible story. It is the story. It is the reason that we have the Bible, and not only did the resurrection make sense of Jesus' crucifixion, it made sense of everything that Jesus said, and it made sense of God's love for the whole world. His secret ambition, his ambition from the very beginning was to die, so that we could live.

His resurrection means that he is who he claimed to be, a Savior, peace with God, a reason to believe, a reason to follow, a reason to believe that he is a King worth following, because after all, no other king, no other king would wash our feet. No other king would wash anyone's feet. No other king would prepare a table for his enemies. No other king would lay down his glory for the least of these. No other king would touch disease, would touch a leper's skin, open his arms to let the outcast in, respond with mercy in the face of my sin, respond with mercy in the face of your sin. No other king would have put up up with the mockery and be led to slaughter, and then to stand there before Governor Pilate and refuse to speak, take up a cross, and choose to die with thieves, take up a cross and give his life for you and for me. That's why we celebrate. That's why Easter is a big deal. It's the end of the end of the story that makes it a story worth telling, the story of a King who was like no other king.
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