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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - God's Grammar

Mark Batterson - God's Grammar

Mark Batterson - God's Grammar
TOPICS: Easter

Some of you, I see some blue sweatshirts, and that tells me that you're double dipping. How many were out at the Easter sunrise this morning? Look at that. You are twice as spiritual as the rest of us. Hey, do we have a couple of pictures, I wonder? As we're finding those, what a moment to gather on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to declare that Christ is risen. And so, yeah, we can praise God one more time for that. And I might just add, as we were worshiping today, I noticed a few tears in a few eyes. Because this is such a special day. But here's why there's a few tears in my eyes. You sing a little bit, when you sing about the resurrection, you sing a little bit different when you have someone you love on the other side. And so praise God today that we can celebrate death is not the end. We have a new beginning in Jesus Christ.

Well, ready or not, here we go. 2,000 years ago, the Roman empire was the most powerful kingdom on earth. It numbered 60 million people, one quarter of the planet's population. It reached as far north as Britain, as far south as Egypt, as far east as Turkey, as far west as Portugal. You could even say that all roads led to Rome. Now, at the peak of its power, Caesar Augustus, the same Caesar who declared that a census should be taken declared himself pontifex maximus, or chief priest of Rome. He renovated 82 Roman temples. He reinstituted animal sacrifice to Roman gods. And it was upon his death in AD 14 that he was actually declared the son of God. The inscription on Roman coins said, "Caesar is Lord".

Now, juxtapose that with this, that same year, AD 14, Jesus would've been a teenager in a small town called Nazareth, population about 400 in an obscure outpost of the Roman empire. Now, Jesus never went to college, never wrote a book, never held office, didn't have a YouTube channel, not even on TikTok. In his teens and 20s, he worked as a craftsman. When he turned 30, he went to the Jordan River and he was baptized by a man named John. And when he came back up out of the water, he disappeared into the wilderness for 40 days. And when he came back, when he came back, whew, he started doing unbelievable miracles. He started telling these unforgettable stories. But three years later it was over. They killed him on a cross. And he had 12 disciples and about 120 followers.

And so my question is, if you were placing bets in the first century on Caesars Sportsbook... Work hard on this stuff. On what would last the longest, on who would have the greatest impact, Caesar or Jesus, Roman empire, or this thing we call Christianity, it's no contest. You bet the farm on Rome. But 2,000 years have come and gone and Caesar is a salad. I don't know anybody who worships Julius or Augustus or Marcus Aurelius. The Roman empire is long gone. But 2,000 years later, on this day, a couple billion people from every nation, tribe, people, language all around the planet will celebrate something we call Easter. How does that happen? How is it that history is divided into BC and AD by his birth? The short answer, Christ is risen. And you can talk back to me today. Christ is risen.

What a joy to welcome you to National Community Church. And we have an extended family all around the world. And so if you're online today, just pop in that chat where you're from. Special welcome. And if you're in the house, man, what a joy. We are honored that you would spend your Easter with us. And so if you have a Bible, you can meet me at the empty tomb, Matthew 28. We'll get there in a moment. How do you fall asleep after a day like that? When she closed her eyes, all she could see was his silhouette. A crown of thorns on his head. Hands and feet nailed to a cross. But it was his face that she would never forget. He wasn't angry. He wasn't scared. His face said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. His name was Jesus. Her name was Mary Magdalene. And it all happened so fast. He had gone to the garden to pray. It was just after midnight when religious leaders came with swords drawn. His friends deserted him, his enemies condemned him under the cover of night. The mob mocked him.

Roman soldiers flogged him. And by noon he was hanging on a cross. And when Jesus gave up his spirit, so did Mary. All of her hopes and dreams died that day. Her heart ached like a broken bone. Her mind raced like a jackrabbit. All that was left was unanswered questions. How could they do this to someone so good and so kind? The only thing harder than falling asleep was waking up the next morning and realizing it was real. But she knew what she had to do. It would be the hardest thing she had ever done. She would go to the grave and she would grieve all over again. And that's where we pick up the story.

Matthew 28, verse 1, "After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. But then the ground started to shake. And an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, and going to the tomb, rolled back the stone". I like this part. "Sat on it. His appearance was like lightning. His clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. Then the angel said to the women, 'Fear not.'" Would you turn to your neighbor today and say it like you believe it? Fear not. Fear not, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. He has risen just as he said.

Now, the title of the message this Easter is God's Grammar. And you'll probably forget most of what I say, but I hope you remember this. Don't put a period where God puts a comma. Many years ago, when I first started writing books, I attended the STORY Seminar in New York City with legendary screenwriter Robert McKee. Now, his students have won 63 Academy Awards, 164 Emmy Awards. And for two days we talked about neurotology. I don't even think I knew what that word meant, but it's the science of story structure. And so we talked about text and subtext, set up and payoff. We talked about inciting incidents which are the defining moments in a story that flip the script. Let's have a little bit of fun on Easter. Name that movie. Houston, we have a problem. Talk to me, Goose.

"Top Gun".

Show me the money!

"Jerry Maguire".

If you build it, he will come.

"Field of Dreams".

You can't handle the truth!

"A Few Good Men".

Luke, I am your father.

Hopefully everybody gets the last one. Everybody gets an A on Easter. Those are the inciting incidents. Those are the tipping points and turning points that change the trajectory of the story. Now, hold that thought, and kind of wide-angle lens. The Bible is a big book. Actually, it's 66 books. Old Testament, New Testament. And it was written by 40 human authors. Poets and prophets, farmers and fishermen, doctors and tax collectors, and kings. It was written in palaces and in prison cells. And it covers every subject under the sun. You have history and prophecy, tragedy and comedy, musicals and documentaries, and a few soap operas. All those subjects, all those authors, all those years, yet it reads like one story. How is that even possible? Because the Bible is God-breathed. You don't just read the Bible. The Bible reads you.

And can I tell you today, it's as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago. The Bible is a big book, a lot of text, but there is one subtext. There is one set up and payoff. There is one inciting incident. There is one defining moment, the moment that changes millennia, and it is an empty tomb. That's it. Everything that predates it points forward. And everything that postdates it points back to an empty tomb. From a virgin's womb to an empty tomb. It's almost like the story of Scripture is redefining what is possible until all things are possible. One of my earliest movie memories, this might date me, is the 1978 version of "Superman" starring Christopher Reeves. And I remember this scene where Lois Lane driving through the Nevada desert, her car is swallowed by an earthquake, but Superman can't get there in time to save his secret crush. And so Superman gets super angry. Do you remember this? And he flies around the earth at supersonic speeds in the opposite direction of the rotation of the earth, thus turning back time and saving Lois.

Now, the science behind that scene is suspect. Because if Superman had done what he did, he might've saved Lois, but the rest of us would've died from whiplash. Science aside, super cool concept. Now, am I in the right room? Have you ever said something, done something that you wish you could unsay and undo? Come on, let me see those hands. We're all in this thing together. In the words of that theologian named Cher. "If I could turn back time. If I could find a way. I'd take back the words, I said and you'd stay" Why do you clap for me singing terribly? Are you laughing with me or at me today? I love the lyrics. Unfortunately, the arrow of time points in one direction. Which means some things in life are irreversible. And I have learned this from personal experience. I'll share a few lessons. You cannot unrun a red light. Especially the ones with traffic cameras that send you a picture in the mail. You cannot unbake cookies. Set a timer. You cannot uncut hair.

Once I had a barber say, oops. And you cannot untear ligaments. I learned that lesson twice playing basketball in college. Those are sobering moments, especially in the big things in life when there is nothing you can do when something happens that seems irreversible. What's done is done. And then along comes Jesus. 34 miracles recorded in the gospels. I mean I kinda like even just the first one, turning water into wine. Feeding 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Heals a man who hasn't walked in 38 years. Heals a man who was born blind, then says to a man, four days dead, "Lazarus, come forth". With each miracle, seems to me like God, like Jesus is teaching God's grammar. No, no, no, no, no. Don't put a period where God puts a comma. Wait, wait, wait, wait. It's not over until God says it's over.

When you have a setback, you do not take a step back because I am preparing your comeback. I like the way Oswald Chambers said, "Sometimes it seems like God is missing the mark because we are too shortsighted to see what he's aiming for". This is hard to say today, but it's true. Without a crucifixion, there is no resurrection. And that brings us back to Mary Magdalene in Matthew 28. Let me talk about text and subtext for a moment. Jesus had 12 disciples, and those disciples did amazing things. All but one was martyred for their faith. So this is not dis on the disciples day. The last time I checked, all of them deserted Jesus when he was arrested. Do you know who did not? The women. Ladies, you can make a little bit more noise than that. I mean, this feels like your moment. It was women who formed a hedge fund to support Jesus financially. It was women who walked the Via Dolorosa. It was women who stood by Jesus in the shadow of the cross. And wouldn't you know it, it was women who were the first ones to the tomb.

Mary Magdalene will forever be the first eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Like, the early church called her the apostle to the apostles. Put that on your LinkedIn profile. Like, unbelievable. How does that happen? How does that happen? Here's my take. Why would these women risk their lives for a dead man? Because as I read the gospels, yes, unbelievable miracles. Yes, unforgettable stories. But it's the way he loved people. In a day and age when women were relegated to second-class status, no one honored women like Jesus. No one empowered women like Jesus. And Mary Magdalene is exhibit A. I mean, come on, besides Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene is like the lead actress in the story. And so here's what we know about Mary. Are you ready for this? There's a lot of traditions that kind of swirl around, some true, some untrue.

What we know for sure is that Mary was once possessed by seven demons. In other words, she was broken in seven places. She was broken in seven pieces, but Jesus did what Jesus does. He put her life back together again. He healed the places where she hurt. He restored her dignity. Then he did what he does. He invites her into a bigger story, into a better story that we call the gospel. There is a Mary among us. I don't know the specifics, but you're broken in seven places. Your heart aches like a broken bone. Mind races like a jackrabbit. Death by a thousand disappointments. Somewhere along the way you gave up your spirit. There is a Mary among us. But there is also a God who gives beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. There is a God who makes sidewalks through the sea. There is a God who says to the storm, "Peace, be still".

And there is a God calling your name today and saying, "Lazarus, come forth". There is a Mary, but there is a God. Mary thought her life was over. She was going to the grave to grieve. But how many of you know that is when and where God can show up and show off his power, his love, his goodness, his grace. Thank you, Jesus. Well, what a joy over these 27 years for Lora and I to pastor this thing called National Community Church. And I'll be honest, out at the Lincoln Memorial, I had a little flashback this morning, 'cause our first Easter, 1996, we had 43 people in a DC public school half a mile from here. And y'all, I was over the moon, because that was like twice as many people as we normally have.

And you know, so over these years, pastored about every kind of person under the sun, every number on the Enneagram, every combination of letters on the Myers-Briggs, pastored some people you would clone if you could, and a few EGR, extra grace required. But no one at the nine o'clock service. For sure. And it is my observation that there are two kinds of Christians, and I say this with a degree of fear and trepidation, so I hope you hear my heart as I delineate the difference. I think there are Good Friday Christians and I think there are Easter Sunday Christians. And what I mean by that is this. Good Friday Christians, oh, they know the power of the cross, praise God. They know that their sin is forgiven and forgotten because of what Jesus accomplished on that cross. It's at the cross that the ancient curse is broken. At the cross, the power of sin is canceled. How crazy that a cross, a device used by the Romans to torture people to death becomes a symbol of life and love.

So the last thing I wanna do on Easter is diminish the power of the cross, but here's the catch. Lots of people died on Roman crosses. According to archeologists, about a thousand crucifixions every year in Judea in the first century. So Jesus crucified between two thieves was a normal day in the Roman empire. Can I tell you what's not normal? Lots of people died on Roman crosses. Only one of them predicted their own death and resurrection and then pulled it off. It is the empty tomb that validates Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. But let's be honest, a lot of people still living like Jesus is still nailed to that cross. The only thing nailed to the cross is our sin.

So praise God for Good Friday. Praise God for the cross. But we are an Easter people. When Jesus walked out of that tomb 2,000 years ago, all bets are off and all things are possible. And the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. Let me close with this, with a question. Are you living like the tomb is empty? 2010, Green Bay Packers won the NFC Championship. And a few minutes after the game, I tweeted that I would preach for tickets. And I was half joking, but a pastor in Texas took me up on it. And so I flew to Dallas, Texas with my youngest son, Josiah. And I preached that morning. We went to the game that evening.

And here's the deal, the Super Bowl that year coincided with his birthday. That's the kind of dad I am. But then it dawned on me, it dawned on me, well, what if they lose? And so the game was awesome in real time, but it was nerve-wracking. I mean, there was even this moment in the second half when the Steelers scored a touchdown and Josiah started to cry. And it is one of my proudest moments as a parent, train up a child in the way they should go. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV, flew home, and my wife Lora had recorded the game.

And so the next day I watched the entire game all over again. Totally different experience. Much more relaxing. Why? Because I knew the outcome. Because I knew the final score. Because I knew who won. Can we quit living as if the outcome is undecided? We know the final score. We know who won the victory over sin and death. Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. And my hunch is you're with us today in person and online 'cause you're an Easter Sunday Christian. You got up because he got up. And so can we get up and just give God some praise? Don't put a period where God puts a comma. In Jesus' name, amen and amen.
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