The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Death Means New Life’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Easter Sunday, 4/21/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.
I love Spring. As I type this, I’m looking out over the quiet side street where we live, listening to birds call as the sun rises. Our neighborhood in Brooklyn is full of new life, as trees that have stayed patiently dormant for the winter sprout crisp, green leaves for Spring. Perennial trees are flowering and swaying in the wind, their branches dancing with joy at the thought of coming back to life.
Spring means new life. It is no coincidence we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ every Spring, as signs of new life fill the air. The world and everything in it cries out to remind us that, no matter how long your “winter” has been, there is new life coming!
Hope Was Lost
When Jesus died on the Cross, life as the disciples knew it was over. Have you ever felt like all hope was lost?
The disciples had been following Jesus for three years. Peter and Andrew were fishing when Jesus called them to follow Him: “They immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Matt 4:20). James and John, brothers whom their father had been grooming to take over the family business, did the same (Matt 4:21-22). Matthew was “sitting at the tax office” when Jesus called Him (Matt 9:9); but he immediately left that business because he knew anything to be gained by chasing riches paled in comparison to the wealth he would inherit following Jesus.
The disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus; but in one moment, on the Cross, it seemed like all hope was lost:
Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.
So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”
And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. – Lk 23:44-49
How could Jesus be dead? He had promised the disciples for three years straight that He would be King. He had asked them to leave everything and follow Him. He had promised them that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for [His] name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold” (Matt 19:29). So, as Jesus died on the Cross under the infinite weight of the sin of the world, the disciples had to be wondering: where is our hundredfold return?
But Out of Death…
The disciples wouldn’t understand the purpose of Jesus’ death until they saw the way He rose. The promise of the Gospel is this: out of death always comes new life. It doesn’t matter how hopeless your situation seems; because Jesus Christ is the Author of hope.
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. – Lk 24:1-4
My prayer for you this Easter is that, as you revisit the details of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, you would find something unexpected. These women who were disciples of Jesus, came to mourn His death; but instead, they found they had nothing to mourn. The stone had been rolled away from the tomb! They didn’t show up to find everything neat, dead, and in order, as they expected. The body of Jesus was not there, because He had risen from the grave!
Angels – messengers from Heaven – met the women in that place of fear and despair. They challenged their perception that their hope was lost, and encouraged them to remember everything Jesus had told them was going to happen:
Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ” And they remembered His words. – Lk 24:5-8
The angels’ cry to these women at the tomb was: stop looking for dead things where God says there is only life! Stop trudging through your hopeless situation as if Jesus hasn’t already promised there is going to be breakthrough! Stop looking for your future in your past; because what’s waiting for you is not certain death, but everlasting life!
Didn’t God already tell you He was going to do it? Didn’t God already promise that every hope and dream you’ve ever had in His name will be fulfilled? The disciples came for a funeral; but they left celebrating a Resurrection. And doesn’t your Bible say that God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore? So if Jesus did it in their lives, won’t He do it in yours?
Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened. – Lk 24:9-12
To those who had not seen the evidence, the story of the Resurrection seemed like an “idle tale.” So, my challenge to you this morning is this: do you really believe in the Resurrection? Do you really believe that everything that looks dead in your life is coming back to life? Because if you do, you are going to have a level of fearlessness and boldness you’ve never experienced before!
Not all the disciples believed. Some needed proof. And Jesus didn’t punish them for that. He showed up and proved He had been raised from the dead. But He also made clear that we have an incredible opportunity to choose to believe, even if we have questions and doubts:
Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – Jn 20:24-29
To “believe” in Jesus means to put your confidence in Him (Strong’s G4100). Are you willing to believe in the Resurrection, even if you have questions? Are you willing to believe in the Resurrection, even if you have doubts? Are you willing to believe in the Resurrection, even if you have fears?
“Blessed,” Jesus says, “are those who have not seen [the Resurrection] and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29). Your breakthrough – your blessing! – will come when you make a decision to believe that a resurrection is coming in your life, even if you have yet to see the evidence!
The promise of the Gospel is that death does not exist when Jesus is present. So, where do you need a resurrection?
Do you need a resurrection in your relationship with God? I’ve been there. I grew up in church; but in high school and college, I drifted away from following Jesus. I made a decision that there were certain things I wanted to do that didn’t line up with Jesus’ plan for my life.
But I’ve experienced a resurrection. I gave my life back to Jesus over ten years ago now, and I have seen life in places where I only saw death. I have seen life in my marriage. I have seen life in my career. I have seen life in my family: all because I made a decision to believe, even through the doubt and the fear. With Jesus, out of death always comes new life!
Do you need a resurrection in your relationships with other people? I’ve been there. Before I met Jesus, I was a terrible friend. I would promise to be there, and never show up. I would pledge my best, and deliver my worst. I was such a bad friend, that I didn’t even get invited to one of my best friend’s wedding when he got married.
But I’ve experienced a resurrection. God has made me faithful instead of fearful. He’s made me one to stay, instead of run. He’s made me a good friend, a faithful father, and a loving husband. With Jesus, out of death always comes new life!
Do you need a resurrection in your career? I’ve been there. I worked my entire life to get to Wall Street. I went to an Ivy League school to study applied economics and management. I got through a grueling analyst program and became an associate at a major investment bank. But then, after almost five years of faithfully serving a company that demanded everything of me, I was laid off. I was hopeless. I wanted to leave New York. Everything I had worked for was gone!
But I’ve experienced a resurrection. God brought me into something new called ministry. I would have never asked for it, or even known how to prepare for it. But it is life to me! I knew what it felt like to just work a job; and now I know what it means to walk out a calling. When you have Jesus, out of death always comes new life!
So, where do you need a resurrection? The Gospel promises that anywhere you have experienced death, Jesus will bring new life. All you need is one touch from Him to change everything:
Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jn 11:38-39
Mary didn’t believe a resurrection was possible. So Jesus had to remind her of everything He had promised:
Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” – Jn 11:40-44
Wherever Jesus is, death cannot be. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been stuck in the same situation. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been lost to feelings of doubt and despair! Jesus will come into your life, and change everything in just one moment.
Are you ready to live your life for Him? Scripture says that, “… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). If you’ve never given your life to Jesus, pray this simple prayer with me:
Father, I admit that I am not perfect. But I declare I don’t have to be. Jesus was perfect; and Jesus is perfect, for me. I receive the gift of salvation, and I believe in the finished work of the Cross, in Jesus’ name!
If you just prayed that prayer, you are saved. Find a local church, and get plugged in! Today is the day your new adventure in Christ begins.
© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.