Good morning everyone!
My name is Saju Joseph and I am one of the Pastors at the Gathering Community Church.
This morning I’m extremely happy and humbled to share with you the Easter message. If you’ve visited us for the first time, or hearing the name Easter, or heard this word before but don’t really know what that means, it is the day when all the followers of Jesus around the world celebrate his Resurrection – The rising up of Jesus from the dead.
You see, 2020 years back Jesus, an innocent man was brutally killed and hanged on the cross because he was exposing the sinful hearts of men and women at that time and publicly calling out their sins, asking them to repent and believe in the Kingdom of God. He questioned the authority of the so-called leaders, teachers & kings. He even claimed He was the Son of God, he displayed a power that no one could understand. And therefore he was put to death out of anger and jealousy, but what we know from the Scripture is in fact that Jesus willingly gave himself to die on the cross.
What happened to Jesus was the fulfilment of a prophecy that was made thousands of years back, that the Son of God will come down to earth as a pure and holy lamp, offering himself as a permanent sacrifice for all our sins so that we can be forgiven and united back into the loving relationship with the Heavenly Father who created us and loves us.
Brothers & sisters, the Resurrection of Jesus is the proof, the evidence that he was who he claimed to be, the Son of God who came to die and restore us.
This morning as we all are experiencing this threat of a plague called COVID-19, the Resurrection message of Jesus should fill our hearts with Joy.
Let me give two reasons from our passage today why the Resurrection message of Jesus should make you happy and joyful.
1. The Resurrection of Jesus gives us HOPE.
The passage that was read this morning is a small portion of a letter written by one of Jesus disciples Paul writing to a church in a place called Thessalonica. And as he is reminding the church of the Resurrection of Jesus he is urging them to live as people filled with hope and not sorrow.
Turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15, he writes “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no HOPE. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this, we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep”
It was a time when people were thinking deeply about death, the death of their loved ones, maybe their friends, maybe their family members, maybe a friends and was wondering what must have happened to the souls who already died and what will happen to them when they die.
What Paul is telling them is that since we know and believe Jesus not only died but also rose again from the dead, we have a Hope that one day we will get to meet all those who have fallen asleep. What he also meaning to say, is that there is life after death, now whether you will be with God in heaven or whether you be with the Devil in Hell is decided while you are alive on this earth.
God has done and is doing everything today to draw our attention to Him so that we can know the truth, this morning if you are listening to me it is no coincidence but God has orchestrated this moment for you to hear this good news of Jesus. We are all sinners in our flesh, enemies of God, unholy people who’ve sinned against Him and have no hope in ourselves to make it right on our own. The condition of the world today is not because God has inflicted it upon us, but it is because of our own sinful choices we’ve made to harm ourselves.
God the righteous judge who proclaims death penalty over you and me for our sin and rebellion, which is what we deserve, he also loves us dearly and because he loves us he sent his only son Jesus to die in our place, giving us an opportunity to simply humble ourselves…
Brothers & sisters, God is asking you and me to humble ourselves before him, he is not asking us to do a task we are not capable of doing, he is not asking us to climb a high mountain to feel closer to him, in fact, he came down from his highest position to us so that he can be saved.
God is calling us to simply humble ourselves, repent of our sins and fall at the feet of Jesus in worship. And today, he gives you and me the opportunity to decide whether after a death we want to be on God’s side or on the Devil’s side.
Brothers & sisters, if you have never heard this message before, I believe its not a coincidence that you are hearing it, I believe he is calling us and giving us an opportunity once again to make it right while we are on this earth. Will you respond to God’s loving grace in faith. Will you.
It is only to those who’ve responded to Jesus in faith, Paul is writing “do not grieve and feel sorrowful, for yourself and for those who’ve been taken away, because we know Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep”.
You know what this truth should do in your heart right. It should wipe out all the fear and anxiety you are feeling because of what is happening all around the world.
Even if this world has to end with this pandemic, we have a hope that we will be with Jesus and come back to a new earth and rule the earth with Him. That’s a promise from heaven.
2. Because Jesus rose from the dead we will get to witness and participate in one of the greatest events in history.
In verse 16-17 Pauls writes “16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
I want you to think of the excitement you experienced as a child when your parents told you that they are planning to take you an Amusement Park like Esselworld, Imagica or Disney. For some us, even now as an adult this news will bring a huge amount of joy and excitement.
This event mentioned by Paul here, even though it is written in a very sober language if we could close our eyes and visualise it for a moment.
By the way, can I ask you to close your eye right now and just listen to me? I believe you’ve closed your eyes. – “Now imagine our Lord Jesus descending from heaven, through the clouds, with the voice of an archangel (I’m sure it’s gonna be the most beautiful voice ever), with the sound of the trumpet of God” … keep your eyes closed, take a moment and let that thought capture you.
You may open your eyes now.
Do you remember the other day when the whole of India came out on their balcony and Terrace and on the roads with all their dubba, batli, tumbler, plates and spoons and made that horrible noise, for some it may have sounded like music but not for me.
Now can you imagine hearing the sound of the trumpet of God on the arrival of His Son Jesus on earth? – Wouldn’t that drive us crazy?
And even though the Amusement park has many rides, this ride to heaven in the clouds I believe will be the most thrilling ride of all. Wouldn’t that take our breath away to see this beautiful earth as we are flying towards heaven without any thread attached on us – Just like superman. Taken away forever to be with our Lord Jesus.
Brothers & sisters, this privilege is again only for those who have truly repented of their sins, any fake repentance said or made just to please men will not help you make it to heaven in this manner. Only repentance that evokes an undying faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Will you once again take some moments today and search your heart and be assured that you have truly repented and put your faith in Jesus.
All this made possible because Jesus didn’t just die a horrible death like humans do, but he rose again from the death and the scripture tells us that he is now sitting at the right hand of God the Father praying for our souls, to justify us and to sanctify us.
Meanwhile, for us to stay strong and know his will for our lives while we are on earth he gave us a gift, the gift of His presence, the Holy Spirit, who takes responsibility to lead us into all godliness and to transform us into the image of Son Jesus.
So, brothers & sisters, in the meantime here’s what we are asked to do.
Verse 18, Paul writes “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
We are called to encourage one another, since we have found comfort from the Lord and from each other, now to bring comfort to others. Since we have found joy, now to bring joy to others. Since we have found hope, to bring hope to others.
And how do we do that? By pointing them to Jesus – our friends, our relatives, our neighbours, our loved ones – point them to Jesus in this tough times, tell them the good news of Jesus, tell them because,
Jesus is risen from the dead that they can have hope, they can live, there is no fear of death, only joy for eternity.
Let’s bow our heads and pray.