James Meehan - The Difference Between Knowing and Feeling
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So I've been thinking a lot lately about how important it is for us to not just know about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, but to actually understand and feel the significance of it. Because when all we do is know about it, it's just some information, but when we begin to feel the significance of that event, all of a sudden it becomes more than just something we know about and it becomes this story that we're invited into. Now, the example I'm gonna give is going to fall short on so many levels but I think it's kind of like having a conversation with your friend and they're telling you all about that new movie that just came out and as they're describing it to you, you're like, yeah, I'm gonna guess that sounds okay, right? And then you actually go see the movie and all of a sudden you're like, oh snap, why didn't you tell me that? Like, that movie is way better than what you described.
Your description, straight up trash, but the movie, come on somebody, was fantastic. I say all that to say, I'm gonna try my best to help you feel the significance of the greatest event in history. But what I know is that no matter how hard I try, my description of those events will absolutely fall short of how significant it really is. But I'm gonna try anyways. And what I want you to do is I want you to put yourselves in the shoes of somebody who would have been living in the city of Jerusalem 2000 years ago, who would have watched Jesus arrive at the city, who would have watched him during that last week of his life, leading up to his eventual death and resurrection. But before we get to that, here's my question for you. Do you still have hope that the future will be brighter and better than the past? Do you still have hope that your future could be brighter and better than your past?
Now, imagine with me that you are a citizen in the city of Jerusalem, the capital city of your once great nation that is now a shadow of its former self. Your once great kingdom, that like so many others before it has fallen under the rule of the Roman Empire and you and your family, you're preparing for the Passover, which is the most significant holiday of your culture. It's kind of like the equivalent to our Christmas. And as you're preparing for this Passover, you're remembering the significance of this holiday because it's a holiday that celebrates the Exodus. The story of when God through the prophet Moses delivered His people out of slavery in Egypt. And then he created a new nation out of those people. And as a kid, you loved these stories of Passover, the stories of Exodus and hearing incredible things that God did to free people from slavery. But that was a different time and a different place. Because today you, your family, your friends are living under the rule of the Roman Empire.
And so now every year at Passover, it becomes another painful reminder that God who seemed to have a really big problem with the Egyptians enslaving his people, seems okay with the fact that the Romans are now oppressing His people. And you begin to wonder, God, do you even care? God, are you even real? And maybe there are some of you today who you're wondering does God still keep His promises? Now, as you and your family are preparing for the Passover. All of a sudden you hear this voice from outside your home, shouting, "The prophet is coming. The one who raised that man from the dead". You step out of your home to investigate the commotion. And what you see is this big ol' crowd of people that are heading out to the city gate. So you follow this crowd. And as you follow them outside the gates of the city, what you see is some 30 something year old guy riding in on a donkey. But what shocks you is the response of this crowd. Because people are shouting, they are praising God and for some reason, they are claiming that this rabbi is somehow the King of Israel.
And you hear somebody next to you whisper the question, could this be the Messiah? When you hear that your initial reaction is to scuff because in your mind, there's no way that this ragged rabbi on a donkey could be the Messiah, the chosen one of God because the Messiah is supposed to be the son of David. He's supposed to be a second Moses and the son of David, right? Like David was the greatest King in the history of your nation. David was a man after God's own heart. He killed a giant. He won one military victory after another. And when you look at this rabbi, you're like, yeah, you're nothing like David. David was a conquering king and you're showing up on a donkey. And in the thought that this Jesus could somehow be the second Moses, to you is even more ridiculous, right?
Moses is the greatest prophet in your people's history. Moses spoke to God face to face. Moses was the one who God used to go toe to toe with Pharaoh and win. And when you look at this Jesus, you imagine him going toe to toe with Caesar. And you already know that if this Jesus were to challenge Caesar, he would end up just like all the wannabe messiahs before him, crushed, killed, and humiliated. But as you look around, you realize that there is something striking about this Jesus, because he in stark contrast to the Roman rulers of your day. Instead of arriving on a white horse, He shows up on a donkey. Instead of being surrounded by Roman soldiers He shows up with his 12 disciples. Instead of carrying himself with that all too familiar Roman arrogance, He carries himself with this quiet confidence.
And even though he doesn't ask for it, this crowd of people as they are praising God, and they're shouting that this man is the King, they begin taking off their cloaks, lying them on the ground for his donkey to walk on. And you're not sure what to think of all of this. So you turn to a man next to you as you get more curious and ask him the question you say, hey, tell me about this rabbi. Why is it that people believe he's the Messiah, the chosen one of God? And this older gentleman he looks at you and he says that there's something special about this guy. The hand of God is on Him. Everywhere he goes, people follow because he teaches with an authority that is unlike anybody has ever seen before. Wherever he goes the blind see, the deaf hear, demons are cast out and the dead are raised. And at that last statement, you're like, all right, that's too far.
There is no way that you actually believe that this guy is raising people from the dead, right? That is ridiculous. And this man looks at you again. And he says, I believe it, because I've seen it. I saw him raise Lazarus of Bethany from the dead. And when he did, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. And as you're looking into this man's eyes, you feel this confident, hope inside of him. And you can just tell that it's contagious because all of a sudden you feel this flicker of hope start to build inside of you. As you begin to wonder could this man possibly be the Messiah? Could he be the one that God was sending? Could he be the son of David sent by God to rebuild the kingdom of Israel? Could he be the second Moses called by God to free his people from Roman occupation? And over the next several days, you see more and more of this Jesus, you hear the words that he teaches. And over the next several days you hear the rumbles about him grow louder.
You see people support for him grow stronger. And then your favorite part of the whole week is when you watch Jesus call out the hypocrisy and the corruption of the religious leaders, right? Because the chief priests had basically taken their religious position and they started abusing it to gain political power and economic privilege for themselves. And these were the very people that were meant to represent God to others, the very people called by God to care for those in need. And the only thing they cared about was filling their own pockets. And man, it felt good to just watch Jesus put them in their place, especially because of their hypocrisy, their corruption, and their just lack of integrity and actually willingness to follow the laws of God is a big part of why you started wondering if God even cared you started questioning if God was even real, because if he was then why would he let those people represent him? Wouldn't he do something about it?
And that hope, that hope just kept growing. But then on Friday morning, everything changed. You wake up to hearing an argument in hushed tones outside of your home. And as you step outside to investigate what's going on, one of the people tells you that sometime late in the night, the chief priest, they had Jesus arrested. And now they're taking him to the Roman governor to be put on trial. So you and some of your friends, you go to investigate you go to this trial to see what's happening. And as soon as you arrive, you realize that this whole trial is a complete farce because the chief priests have packed the crowd with people that are loyal to them and want to see Jesus dead. And you watch in horror as this Roman governor hands Jesus over to be crucified.
And there's this little part of you that is still clinging to the hope that maybe this Jesus is gonna get out of this situation that maybe God's gonna show up and perform a miracle, perform a sign just like he did so long ago. But the logical side of your brain knows that that's ridiculous. The realistic side of your brain reminds you of what happens every time somebody challenges Rome. And that flicker of hope that started to burn, you feel it starts to go out. Some of your friends just decide, you know what? I'm gonna go home, I'm done with this whole thing. But you decide to stay because you wanna see this thing through. And honestly, partially why you stay is to sort of punish yourself for being foolish enough to even hope again.
So you stay and you watch. You watch as this Jesus is beaten. You watch as Jesus carries that heavy wooden cross to a hill called Calvary. You watch as hammers are nailing, as nails are hammered into His hands and His feet, you watch as He is lifted up on this cross for all to see. And the message is loud and clear, this is what happens to anyone who challenges the power of Rome and the greatness of Caesar. And as you watch this Jesus breathe his last breath, you feel your hope die with him. So, what about you? When did your hope die? When did you stop believing that your future could be brighter and better than your past? Because hanging on that cross 2000 years ago, hope died. But on the third day on Sunday morning, hope was raised to new life. Because what I need you to understand is that without a crucifixion, there would be no resurrection. Without a crucifixion, there would be no resurrection.
And what we learned 2000 years ago on that fateful day is that there are times where God will let the old die so He can raise the new to life because it was through the sacrifice of Jesus that God made a way for us to be redeemed of our sins. Here's what we have to understand, is that I think that there's this beauty in the cross that sometimes what God is wanting us to do is to let our expectations die, to let our false ideas of who He is and how He works die. So that we can begin to discover who He really is. Listen to me, without a crucifixion, there would be no resurrection. And when Jesus showed up to Jerusalem so long ago there were people who had these expectations, these hopes and these dreams of who the Messiah was going to be and what God was supposed to do. But while Jesus was hanging on that cross, their hopes, their dreams and their expectations died with him.
But on Sunday morning, when Jesus brought, when Jesus rose from the dead when God brought hope back to life, here's what we learned. We learned that our God is a God revealed through suffering. That our God is a God who suffers for us and he's a God that suffers with us. That our God is a God who will take the worst things in existence and he will use them for His perfect plans. That our God takes all things and He uses them for good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose, that our God, our God used a tool of destruction to bring about salvation because without a crucifixion, listen to me, there would be no resurrection. And there are some of you where maybe you find yourself in a place today where you recognize that there was a time in your life where you had hope, where you believed that God could do infinitely more than you could ask or imagine where you really did believe that your future could be brighter and better than your past, but then something happened. Your hope was shattered. Your faith was killed.
And maybe you stopped believing in God altogether. But without a crucifixion, listen to me, there would be no resurrection. And I believe that there are some of you that are here today and you are here because right now God wants to bring your hope back to life in the same way that 2000 years ago, Jesus rose from the dead. I believe that Jesus is asking you, He's inviting you to hope again because our God is a God who will enter into the darkest places to shine His light. He's a God that through the cross, made a way for all of us to be reconciled to Him. And He's inviting every single one of us to partner with Him to bring heaven to earth.
Without a crucifixion, there would be no resurrection. And the beauty of the story of Jesus is that it's not a story that ends in death, it's a story that ends with new life. It's not a story that ends with a crucified criminal, it's a story that ends with our resurrected King because without a crucifixion, there would be no resurrection. John 20, starts this way, "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene, she went to the tomb and she saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one that Jesus loved, she says to them, 'they've taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don't know where they've put Him'" Later it tells us that:
"Mary stood outside the tomb crying. And as she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and she sees two angels in white. They're seated where Jesus's body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, 'woman, why are you crying?' She says to them, 'they've taken my Lord away and I don't know where they've put him.' And then at this she turns around and she sees Jesus standing there but she doesn't even realize it's Him. And so He asks her 'woman, why are you crying? Who is it that you are looking for?' Now she thinks he's the gardener so she says to him, 'sir, if you've carried him away tell me where you've put him and I'll go and get him.' And then Jesus says to her one word, 'Mary.' And then she turns to Him and she cries out in Aramaic 'Rabboni,' which means teacher. And then Jesus says, 'hey, don't hold onto me because I haven't yet ascended to the father' and said, 'I need you to go to my brothers. I need you to tell them that I'm ascending to my father and to your father, to my God and to your God.' So Mary Magdalene, she goes to the disciples with the news. She says, 'I have seen the Lord.' She tells them all the things that He said to her. And then on the evening of that first day of the week when the disciples were together, the doors locked because they're afraid of the Jewish leaders. Jesus, He comes to them He stands among them and he says, 'peace be with you.' Then He shows them his hands and his side. And the disciples are overjoyed when they see the Lord again, Jesus says to them, 'peace be with you as the father has sent me, so I am sending you.' And then a week later, his disciples, they're in the house again. And Thomas is with them. And even though the doors are locked, Jesus comes and He stands among them. And He says, 'peace, be with you.' And He says to Thomas, 'put your finger here and see my hands, put your hand in my side, stop doubting and believe.' And then Thomas says to Him, he says, 'my Lord and my God.' And then Jesus says, 'because you you've seen me, you have believed, but blessed are those who have not seen and yet still have believed.' Now Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. And that by believing you may have life in His name".
Here's my last question. Are you open to the idea that the same God who freed his people from slavery and who raised Jesus from the dead, is still working today. Are you willing to hope again?
Heavenly Father, I thank you so much that you are a God that brings dead things to life. God, I thank you that 2000 years ago through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, through His sacrifice you made a way for us to experience a relationship with you.
What I know is that there are many of you right now Who you find yourself in a place where you're struggling to hope, where the weight of life is bearing down on you. But what I need you to know that our God is with you and He is inviting you to put your trust in Him so that He can give His strength to you. And there are some of you that you realize, you know what? I've been trying do this on my own. And right now I'm just asking God to give me strength. If that's you, would you raise your hand, type it in the chat, let us know that you're asking for that strength from God so that we can pray with you.
Heavenly Father I ask you right now that you would strengthen those who are in need. That God, you would remind them that no matter how hard life gets that you still love them. They got even in the darkest of times that you are still with us working in this world for our good. God, I pray that you would remind these students that they can put their trust in you and you will give your strength to them.
Now, still in an attitude of prayer there are others of you who find yourself in a place today where you are so far from God that even this idea of hope just seems ridiculous. Because when you look around the world, what you see is hopeless. But what I need you to understand is that our God is in the business of bringing good things out of bad things. And that no matter how hard your life is, no matter how dark your life seems, that our God is reaching out to you, He's inviting you into a relationship with Him. And I believe that today is the day that you finally choose to put your trust in Him. Here's what we've got to understand is that in the beginning, God created everything and everyone with and for a purpose. Our purpose as people is to live in relationship with Him, to partner with Him. But the problem is, is that every single one of us, we've done things to hurt ourselves and others we've sinned. And that sin has separated us from God but God was not okay with that.
So, 2000 years ago, He entered into history in the person of Jesus. He lived a perfect life. He died a blameless death on the cross for our sins so that anybody could be forgiven. And then on the third day, guess what? Jesus did not stay dead. God raised Him from the dead so that if anybody puts their trust in Jesus they would be made new. They would be made whole and they could experience life with God and that is exactly why you're here right now. Because God has been calling you to Him. And today is the day you say, "yes, God, I'm giving my life to you".
If that's you and you're saying, "Jesus, I wanna be made new, I wanna turn from my old ways. I want to hope again. I'm putting my trust in you. Jesus, I give you my life." If that's you raise your hand right now type it in the chat, click on the link in the chat. Let us know about that decision. I need you to know that that's the most important choice you could make in your life. And as people are making that decision, I have to have you understand that heaven is rejoicing. That our God is celebrating because you, you are the reason he died so long ago and came back to life. For this moment right here and right now and as you are beginning this relationship with Jesus we're gonna all pray together because here at Switch, we are a family. And even though you made that decision on your own, you don't have to pray alone. So repeat after me, everybody everywhere.
Dear Jesus, forgive me of my sins. I'm turning to you. I'm letting go of my old life. I need your love. I need your mercy. I need your grace. Help me to hope again. in Jesus name, amen, amen and amen.