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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - Easter Celebration at NCC

Mark Batterson - Easter Celebration at NCC

Mark Batterson - Easter Celebration at NCC
TOPICS: Easter

I own a sport coat, see! Ah, what a joy to be together? Aren't you grateful? God gives us two families, biological family, and a spiritual family. And I wanna say just a happy Easter to our family, and it's an open invitation. If you're a guest, what a joy to have you here this morning? We're gonna jump right in. 100 years ago, James Allen Francis published a poem that went all around the world, titled "One Solitary Life," and it reads like this. "He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was 30. He never wrote a book, never held an office, never went to college. He was only 33, when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. He was nailed a cross between two thieves.

Executioners gambled for His clothing, the only property He owned on earth. He was laid in a borrowed grave. 19 centuries have come and gone, and today Jesus is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that have ever are marched, all the navies that have ever sailed, all the parliaments that have ever sat, all the Kings that have ever reigned, have not affected the life of mankind on earth as powerfully as that one solitary life". Hold that thought. "In the first century AD, Rome ranked as the most powerful empire on earth. It reach as far north as Britain, as far south as Egypt, as far east as Turkey, as far west as Portugal, numbered 60 million people, one quarter of the planet's population, all roads led to Rome".

Juxtapose that with this. Jesus spent thirty years of His life working as a craftsman in a small village called Nazareth, population 400. He only spent three years traveling and teaching, He only had twelve disciples, all of whom betrayed Him, denied Him, or deserted Him, and let's be honest, none of them were first-round draft picks! If you were placing bets with Caesar Sportsbook, in the first century, on what would last the longest, the Roman Empire or this thing we call Christianity, you bet the farm on Rome! When Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross, it was game over. 2,009 years have come and gone, and Caesar is a salad. You can't name six Caesars unless you majored in history. Did you know that the inscription on Roman coins said, "Caesar is Lord"? But I don't know anybody who worships Julius, or Augustus, or Marcus Aurelius?

The Roman Empire is long gone, so let me flip that ancient coin. 2,000 years later, 2 billion people from every nation, tribe, people, language, are proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. How does that happen? How does a man who lived in an obscure outpost of the Roman Empire, who was crucified on a Roman cross, who never wrote a book, never held office, never went to college, never had a YouTube channel, win that bet? How is it that human history is divided into BC and AD by His birth? The short answer? Christ is risen. And you can talk back, right? Christ is risen indeed. There's a problem solving principle and philosophy called Occam's Razor: the simplest explanation is usually the best one. Lots of people died on Roman crosses in the first century, Judea, according to archeologists, about 1,000 crucifixions per year.

So Jesus crucified between two thieves, was par for the course. Lots of people died on Roman crosses, but only one person predicted their own death and resurrection, and then pulled it off. Can we make a little noise today, can we give Him some praise? Ah, well, welcome to National Community Church, whether you are in person, you're online, such a joy to... If you're online, put putting the chat where you're from, love to see that, and such a joy to gather. Just a invitation back next week, is that okay? We kick off a new series called "Genius". We're gonna look at seven kinds of genius. And I think genius is the place where gifts and passions, what we do best and what we love most, intersect. It's the place where history and personality, where we've been and who we are overlap. And next week, I wanna talk about the genius of suffering.

So if you're in a season of suffering, I believe that God wants to redeem it and recycle it for His purposes, and we'll talk about it next week. Well, you can open your Bible to Matthew chapter 28, we'll meet at the empty tomb, Matthew 28:1. "After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb". Women were the first to witness the resurrection. In fact, Mary Magdalene would become known as the apostle to the apostles. Put that on your LinkedIn profile, right? And so I think it took some courage. They were putting their lives at risk, and so just a little shout out to the women, okay? Let me set the scene. One week earlier, Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey, and it turns into a ticker tape parade. We call it palms Sunday, but it was the beginning of Passover, the population of Jerusalem, about 50,000 people, but it would quadruple, or quintuple, during these pilgrimage feast, if people from all over the ancient world would come to the city, like DC, when those class trips and field trips show up right about.

Now, I went running on the mall this week, I'm like, where did you come from? Jerusalem would swell to about a quarter million people, and you can feel the surge of adrenaline in the city, Jesus is at the peak of His powers, Jesus is at the peak of His popularity. I mean, come on, people are throwing down Palm branches and singing His praises. Is it all right if I do a little bit of teaching this weekend? Because here's what they were singing, Psalm 118. It was part of the Hallel, which is where we get the word Hallelujah, and it was these Psalm that were sung during the Passover. Now, we love Psalm 118:24, "This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and... be glad in it". The very next verse says, "Lord, save us".

It's three words in English but it's one word in Greek, Hosanna. That's what the people shout as Jesus enters the city. But I wanna dig a little deeper, connect a few dots. On the Passover, every Jewish family would sacrifice a lamb as a way of celebrating and commemorating their exodus out a of Egypt. Now, the sacrificial lamb was chosen four days before the Passover on Lamb Selection Day, and it's no coincidence that the triumphal entry happens on that very day. The sheep that were sacrificed on the Passover belonged to a special flock that was born and raised in Bethlehem, at a place called Migdal Eder, the Tower of the Flock and those sheep were considered sacred because it were set aside for sacrifice, and they were raised by Levitical shepherds.

Now, sheep are fragile creatures, they're easily injured, and that would disqualify them from being used in sacrifice because they had to be without blemish. For that reason, when those sacrificial sheep were born, those shepherds would bring them into caves called mangers, where they would swaddle them in specially-designated temple clause, and then they would be laid in feeding trough to be examined for blemishes. This might sound familiar. When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to these Levitical shepherds, that they would find the Messiah wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger? It painted a prophetic picture in John 1:29, John the Baptist, and we think they're probably second cousins. I don't address my second cousins! He says, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world".

And then John, the beloved, in Revelation 5, "Then I saw lamb looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne and circled by four living creatures and elders". It is no coincidence that the lamb of God was born in the same way, in the same place as these sacrificial sheep, as these Passover lambs. Are you picking up what I'm throwing down? Once a year, the Levitical shepherds would lead their sheep from Bethlehem, about five miles to Jerusalem, they would enter Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate, they would walk down the Via Dolorosa, and those sheep would be sold for sacrifice. Every Jewish family would purchase a Passover lamb, take it to the temple, and they would wave palm branches, and they would sing Psalm 118, they would join in a festival procession, and then these lambs would be sacrificed on the horns of the altar, and the priest would proclaim, "It is finished".

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Lamb Selection Day, it was a sign to the Jewish people, it was a sign to those Levitical shepherds, people were wanted to crown Him king, yes? They wanted Jesus to overthrow Rome, but the line of the tribe Judah came as a sacrificial lamb. Jesus is aiming higher, He's dreaming bigger, He's thinking longer than an earthly kingdom, He came to break the curse of sin, and set us free. Jesus doesn't enter Jerusalem on a horse as a conquering king, Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey as a suffering savior. Are you still with me? Four days later, the world turns upside down. Jesus is betrayed by Judas, He's arrested by a religious mob, He is crucified on a Roman cross. And they go from the thrill of victory 'cause you gotta get into the emotion of the story.

We suffer from something called hindsight bias, we know how it ends, and so it takes away the element of surprise, but they go from the thrill of victory, this triumphal entry to, not just hitting bottom then the bottom falls out of the bottom, they go to the agony of defeat in four days flat, when Jesus was crucified on that cross. It was end of story because death was undefeated. The women are going to the grave to grieve, but there is a God who turns graves into gardens, there is a God who gets beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. It's not over until God says it's over, don't put a period where God puts a comma. It wasn't game over, it was game on. These women are going to the grave to grieve but God has a supernatural surprise up His sovereign sleeve.

Verse two, "Suddenly there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone," and I liked this part, "Sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, his clothes were as white as snow, the guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men". 2000 years ago, the city of Jerusalem was shaken by two earthquakes, three days apart. We don't know what they registered on the Richter scale but they change the course of history.

The first earthquake happens when Jesus is on the cross, at the ninth hour, He gives up His spirit, and it's almost like creation is groaning and grieving for its creator. And it's a solar eclipse, right? It gets dark from noon to 3:00, and then those tectonic plates begin to shift beneath Calvary's crossing, and at that moment, Matthew 27:41, "The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth shook, the rock split, and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life".

Have you read the Bible lately? This is unbelievable stuff. Now, it was the curtain of the temple that separated the Holy place from the Holy of Holies. Won't be a quiz, but it was 30 feet tall, 60 feet wide, six inches thick. It was so heavy that it took 300 priests to carry it. That curtain was reconstructed every year, and its strength was tested by horse is pulling in opposite directions. And if it passed that test it would be rehung in the temple. Now, only one person, the high priest, was allowed behind the curtain, was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and he could only do it one day a year, on the Day of Atonement. And that is when and where how the Jewish people would experience atonement, add two hyphens, at-one-meant with God, their sin is forgiven, relationship is restored.

Notice that that curtain is torn from top to bottom, which is curious. And when that curtain was torn in two, the dividing all of hostility, Ephesians 2:14, the sin barrier between God and man is destroyed, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, why? Because we have atonement with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus built a bridge called grace. Have you walked across that bridge? I love that bridge, come on, a bridge called grace, God's righteousness at Christ expense. "Whosoever will may come". And maybe it's because of where we live, but there's no toll, you don't need a fast pass, okay? That grace bridge is built for you, each one of you.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made Him who had no sin to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of Christ". Its almost like God, the Father, says, "Here's the deal. Why don't you take everything you've done wrong, all of your sin, and why don't we transfer that over to my account, and then I'm just gonna go ahead and pay that in full"? What did Jesus say on the cross right before He gave up His spirit? "It is finished," just like the priest coming out of the temple and announcing that the sacrifice had been made. It's three words in English, it's one word in that original language, tetelestai, and it's an accounting term. It referred to the last installment on a debt owed. I owed a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt, He did not owe.

That word archeologists have found written across ancient receipts, "paid in full". And as amazing as that is, then God, the Father says, "That's not it, why don't we go ahead and take everything Jesus did right, His righteousness, why don't we go ahead and transfer that to your account, and why don't we call it even"? Wait, what? Is that good news? And that's why it's called the Gospel. And so that first earthquake, it tears the curtain in two, the curse is broken at Calvary's cross, sin is defeated once and for all, but that doesn't seal the deal. There is a second earthquake that rolled back the stone, death is defeated three days later at an empty tomb. The empty tomb is where heaven invades earth, the empty tomb is where eternity invades time, the empty tomb is where life defeats death. 34 miracles recorded in the Gospels that Jesus did. That very first miracle, changes the molecular structure of water, turns it into wine, that's what I'm talking about.

Jesus feeds 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. Oh, and there's more leftover than He started with, five plus two equals 5,000 remainder 12, right? Oh, and then the man born blind, no synaptic connection between the optic nerve, visual cortex in the brain. This is nothing short of synaptogenesis. What about the guy who was four days dead? Jesus says, "Lazarus come forth". Does some amazing miracles but He saves the best for last. 2000 years ago, the world woke up to an empty tomb and that changes everything. I woke up this morning very early, and maybe it was the early wake up call. And the first thought that fired across my sit-ups is, Christ is rise. I just started tearing up. I'm just so grateful, aren't you? Mm!

Hebrews 12:27 says, "Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, so the unshakable things remain". That sounds like an earthquake. I think we find ourselves in a Hebrews 12:27 moment. I've a friend and mentor, Bob Rhoden, who says, "What's happening is not what's going on". There's a lot happening these last few years, right? I mean last year, we had register, we barely had gatherings at Easter because of a pandemic. We've got racial tension, we've got political polarization, we've got a third of Americans saying, "I'm anxious, I'm depressed". And that's the tip of the iceberg, there is a lot happening.

The question is, what's going on? Here's what I think is go... I think God is shaking false securities, shaking false identities, false assumptions, false narratives, false idols, false ideologies. Why? So that the unshakable things remain. We have a tendency, especially in the Western first world, to trust in temporal things, to trust in material things, and I think the last couple of years has shaken our confidence in these manmade things, and I think that's not a bad thing, why? Because it reminds us that we do not trust in horses, in chariots, but in the name of the Lord are God.

And His name is Alpha and Omega, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Jehovah Rapha, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi. He is Wonderful Councilor, Prince of peace, Mighty God, He is the way, the truth in the life, He is the resurrection and the life. And I wanna say this, especially if you're a guest, it is not about the name over the church door, it's about the name that is above all names. And at that name, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess to the glory of God our Father, "His name is light, His name is love, His name is all that is good, and true, and right, and beautiful". Can we just give Him some praise today. We bless you, Lord, oh God. Verse five, "Then the angel said to the women, 'Fear not, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, He is risen, just as He said.'"

I wanna close with this. On April 14th, 1755, General Edward Braddock sailed his British ship up the Potomac River, and he anchored at a spot that's about a stone's throw from the Lincoln Memorial. Now, if you like history, that's where he picked up a 23-year-old recruit named George Washington, who would serve as his aid to camp. And so if you drive west on Constitution, the on-ramp right where it turns into the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, just peak to the left, not too long, 'cause people drive crazy in this city, you'll see a non-descript stone well with a small historical marker. There's a manhole cover on top of it, ladder inside of it, and 16 feet below the surface is the oldest landmark in the nation's capital. It's called Braddock's Rock, and it served a critical function in the earliest surveys of this city.

Every principle Meridian that divides West from East, every baseline that divides North from South was measured from Braddock's Rock. It was the initial point from which everything was measured. If you look on old maps, it's called The Key of Keys. Hold on to that. If we were to do a little word association, and I said, "Christian," I bet, lot of different thoughts, lot of different ideas, probably some different reactions, some positive, some negative, in one sense, Christianity has a complicated history, but in another sense, it is as simple and as unbelievable as an empty tomb. That's what sets Jesus apart. No one else died for my sin, no one else from the dead, and that means there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved, He is the name above all names.

Now, we have a moral code, it's called the great commandment, and then all, even one, of that sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Love your enemies, pray for those who perse you, bless those who curse you, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give the shirt off of our back". We make no apologies for that unique ethic, don't always live up to it, but that's a standard that Jesus set. But here's what I want us to understand. This thing called Christianity is not about behavior modification, this is not about God making bad people good, this is about God bringing dead people to life.

He said, "I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly and the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us". And anything less, anything else, is dead religion. This is a relationship with a risen savior. And so that rock that rolled away on the third day, is Braddock's Rock. That is ground zero, that is our center of gravity, it's the foundation of our faith, the locus of our confidence, the epicenter of everything we believe when all else fails. The tomb is empty and that is our key of keys to questions. Do you believe it, and are you living like it? The resurrection isn't something we celebrate one day a year, it's something we celebrate every day in every way. And so if the tomb is empty, I say, "Let's live like it in Jesus name," Amen.
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