I have a question for you. What part of Jesus’ story is the good news? Is it the way he was born? Is it the way he lived his life, perfect and loving? Is it the super cool miracles he performed for those who stood around him, sometimes asking him for healing and change? Is the good news the things that he taught, making him not only the very nature of God, like we talked about last week, but a prophet speaking into the lives of Israel and those who listened? Is it the fact that he has created some of the greatest holidays we have today, and we get amazing food as a result?
I guess what I’m asking is, was Jesus just a good guy? An excellent magician? A brilliant teacher? An incomparable storyteller? Or is there something more to his life to where the apostles boldly claimed, “This is good news.”
In Luke 23, the entire Jewish Sanhedrin brought Jesus to Pilate, who was the Roman Governor at the time. They made their case:
“This man has been leading people astray by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government (a lie) and by claiming he is the Messiah, a King.” They led with a lie. Jesus never said not to pay taxes to the Roman government, but they knew Pilate wouldn’t care much about Jesus claiming he was the Messiah. The Romans didn’t care about Israel’s spiritual life.
Pilate came out though and asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus response? “You have said it.” There was always something simple and direct when Jesus answered an accuser, and he had many of them. In my 20 plus years of pastoral ministry, I find that whenever someone tries to talk me into their own rightness or goodness, they are probably in the wrong. Jesus never had that problem. All he said was “You have said it.”
Pilate came back and told the accusers, “I find nothing wrong with this man.”
But they became insistent that he was causing riots and leading revolts and stirring up problems in Jerusalem and Galilee.
When they said Galilee, Pilate’s ears lit up. Galilee was not in his jurisdiction. That was in Herod’s area, another local governor. So he sent Jesus to Herod with roughly the same outcome. So Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate talked to Jesus again, and then went before the council again. he said, “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and I don’t see it. I find him innocent. So I’ll have him beaten and then I’ll release him.
Then they created a uproar themselves, screaming to kill Jesus. And release Barabbas. According to the gospels, there was a prevailing Passover custom in Jerusalem that allowed or required the governer of Judea to commute one prisoner’s death sentence by popular acclaim.
Barabbas was named as one the Jewish council wanted released. there could be many reasons for this. One of those reasons was that Barabbas was a zealot who hated the Roman Government and started riots on his own against them. In fact, Mark and Luke refer to Barabbas as one who was involved in a statis, or riot. And in John, the disciple uses the term lestes, which is the term Josephus the Jewish Historian used when referring to revolutionaries.
At any rate, Pilate argued with them because he wanted to release Jesus. They screamed “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
He fought back and said, “this guy is innocent” and they screamed louder and demanded his crucifixion.
And Pilate gave in to their demands. he sentenced Jesus to die.
Most heroes are remembered. They are celebrated. They are looked at fondly and most of the time, change happens as a result of their heroic actions. Jesus was set to be one of those people. he was beaten. He was crucified. he was killed on a cruel cross. He was going to be a martyr at the hands of the Roman Empire. The same empire that tried to kill him when he was a baby, now had apparently won.
Until Sunday morning rolls around. Women, a few of his Jesus followers came to visit his tomb, and when they arrived, they were greeted by two men in shining clothes. The women were afraid, but the men said, “Why do you seek someone who lives here where their are dead people? Jesus isn’t here. He is risen. That started a collection of meetings Jesus had with his followers, telling them and showing them he was alive. He is alive.
Over the years, this story has been told and retold and there seems to be some sort of power, not within the story, but within the person who embodies the story. The idea of resurrection and redemption, of grace and forgiveness. Of beauty and victory over sin and darkness.
This ideal of Death, burial, and resurrection is not metaphorical, but it is real. This story is the good news the apostles talked about and gave their lives for, and it what we are called to believe in, repent from our sins, and share with the rest of the world. If we cannot do that, you are not a CHrist follower. I don’t say that in a judgmental way, but to let you know what the bottom line for a Christian is.
You accept, repent, and share this good news.
It is important for you to know what the good news is that we represent as a church and that you represent as a believer. This good news is not just any good news in general. I’m a fairly positive person. I like to think positive thoughts and make sure people are feeling good about life as they live it. I like to smile and I like when there’s a positive vibe in church. I like Strawberry frosted donuts with sprinkles on them.
However, when we say that as a church it is our role to spread the good news with the love of Christ, we don’t mean, “Let’s all be happy and get along.” Of course I like when people get a long, but there are going to be differences in the world. Jesus himself said he did not come to bring peace, but the sword. Now I’m not going to dissect that part of Scripture today, but I do want to focus on one part of the creed that we mentioned earlier, because I believe it can help mature you in your own faith. That to me is important. Here it is: “he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. Paul says a similar thing in 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4. Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
Now hear me out. Paul when he wrote this, was not saying that the reason we know that Christ died for our sins was because the gospels tell that story. And he wasn’t saying that the reason we know Jesus was buried and rose again was because Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John shared that information with the church. In fact, those authors probably hadn’t written out their stories yet, and if they had, they certainly had not been collectively referred to as the Scriptures.
No. Paul was telling the church in Corinth that he and others had dove into the Old Testament Scriptures and what they found was that Jesus death, his burial, and his resurrection, was always going to happen. It’s not only foreshadowed in the Old Testament, but it’s the purpose the collective writings of the Old Testament were written. That somehow the good news is interwoven in all of history. In Paul’s present, his past, and we can only assume and believe in his and our, future.
Here’s what I mean: When you and I dig into and study and read the Bible, we don’t just read a collection of stories that might teach us how to live, but we immerse ourselves into a world where the Holy Spirit of God can connect with our hearts and minds, and can then move in us to see and understand what God wants for our own present and future. Then we can act appropriately
Think about how you live right now, especially if you’re not in the Bible much. You probably say that you believe in Jesus and that he did a great thing for you, and that is good news. But perhaps you never or rarely read through Scripture. Then you never or rarely have access to better understand what God wants, so then sometimes or most of the time, the things you say God wants, might not be the things that God wants at all, but what you want.
Paul was familiar with what was happening with Jesus because Paul was familiar with the Old Testament Scripture. Now here we are, and we are blindly following after God, trying to be good instead of trying to be with God.
Let’s be with God in His journey instead of just focusing on ours all the time. How can we make sure we’re with God? First of all, check yourself. When most of your communication is defensive or complaining, you are not on team God, you are on team YOU. Remember, Jesus answer to Pilate was simple and direct, not obnoxious and defensive. If you want to walk with God, and share the good news of Jesus, check yourself. And when you find the junk in your spiritual trunk, repent and get rid of that stuff. We have to start talking about the word repent more. Because Christians are not perfect, and they are called to repent of their sins. You can’t tell others to repent if you’re not willing to do it. One of the reasons Christians aren’t calling people to repent is because they are too prideful to do it themselves. My mother in law has a shirt that says Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Trust me friends, that can happen spiritually too.
Also, if you want to make sure youre with God, start reading Scripture instead of reading the room. Here’s what I mean by that. When you check yourself, and you repent of your junk, then you begin to get into Scripture and allow God to move you the right way and the right direction. When we ignore repentance and when we stay away from reading scripture, we choose to ignore God and to just follow what everyone thinks. Now hear me out, it is possible to make the same mistake blindly following a pastors interpretation of the Bible. But what I’m trying to help you understand is that God does have a desire for you to be holy and act justly and to walk humbly. If you just follow the crowds in church or in culture, you’re following the popular opinion of whoever else is influencing you. A Christ follower follows Christ. Anything else is following peer pressure. Get into the Bible. The term pro life has been thrown around every political season since the 80’s. And each political party now says they are pro life, and each one has a platform that, isn’t honestly, pro life. When we read scripture though and allow the Spirit in to help us speak truth to injustice, we become prophets instead of mouthpieces for candidates.
Finally, if you want to make sure you’re with God, you have got to work on obeying Him. This is the part that gets pastors in trouble all of the time, because they start bullet pointing at all the ways other people have to obey God. Thats not what I’m going to do. I believe the Spirit of God works through the believer and the believer’s readings Scripture to speak to the believer and call them to obedience. Once again, if you’re living a Christian life thats more about how you want to live it out, you’ll just justify doing everything you want to do and act out how you want to act everything out. You can justify anything. And you will.
Here’s some steps of obedience for the believer. Surrendering your heart to Jesus. Being Baptized. Loving your neighbor. Repenting of your sins. Taking care of one another.
A Christ follower is obedient. Not to a pastor. Not to a ministry. To Jesus.
This week, my family buried my grandmother. She was 87 years old. When I heard people talk about her at the viewing line, I was astounded at how she was 87 years old and how she continued to doing the things she was doing in her church far after her and my grandfather had retired. She made scores of calls a day, starting with her kids, and told people she was praying for them and that she loved them. She was obedient.
Live your Christian walk WITH GOD, according to the Scriptures. Check yourself. Read Scripture. Obey the one you claim to follow. Jesus Christ. he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven. thats good news!