It is Easter Sunday and it is the perfect timing, really! We have been studying through the book of Luke for 2.5 years, and two weeks ago, Ricci preached from Luke 22-23. This passage is leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, where Jesus is betrayed by one of his best friends, arrested by armed men, disowned three times by another friend. Later, Jesus is beaten and mocked by Roman guards, then brought before Herod and Pilate, who sentences him to be crucified to please the crowd.
That’s where we finished last time.
1. Who are You?
In the passage above, we see the march towards the cross – Jesus has previously been beaten, whipped and flogged, and now he is heading to the cross! Throughout this, we see different people coming into contact with Jesus.
The first is Simon of Cyrene (v 26), who I would call the accidental follower.
He had travelled in from the country for the Passover festival, most likely saw the crowd, popped his head up to see what all the commotion was about, and all of a sudden he is carrying Jesus’ cross – what terrible luck!
He is like so many who are accidentally associated with Jesus – not by choice, but by accident. So many people are associated with Jesus because of geography, where you were born, the family or culture they came from.
If that’s you, then your association with Jesus is all by accident. Don’t leave it at this point, but ask the questions, dig deeper into his word and search for the truth! Don’t just be an accidental follower!
The second group of people – the Spectator followers (v 27) – where a large number of people who followed Jesus throughout this procession. In verse 35, it says that they “stood watching”, just watching! They were watching it like it was just a spectacle, people just watching the drama unfold, simply observers.
Spectators have a lot of opinions! When it comes to sports spectators always think they know best! To the spectator, it seems all so clear. However, there is a reason we are spectators and not a player or a coach, and that’s because we aren’t any good, and we don’t really have a clue!
And when it comes to Jesus there are a lot of spectators and observers! Everyone has opinions about Jesus! But the fact is very few people actually go to Jesus and his word to find out the truth. Instead, they are just standing at a safe distance, and repeat the things they have heard someone else say. Well, I heard there are lots of contradictions in the Bible! I see, such as? Well, I don’t know! I heard, as long as I just have a mental belief in God, I’m ok! Have you actually gone to investigate this in God’s word?
Let’s run to Jesus, and not just be a spectator follower!
The Third group is also in verse 27, where we have women who are mourning and wailing for Jesus. And these are the Emotional Followers.
As they followed Jesus to the cross, they are mourning and wailing for him. As Jesus hears them, he addresses them in a warm but also challenging way, “Don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves!” Jesus is saying you are the lost ones, who need this! It is your sin that is the reason I must go through this, this will be the remedy for your sinful life!
Being a Christian isn’t about emotionalism, but it is about truly following God. Yes, there will be emotions involved in following Jesus, but it has to be about so much more than that. We can’t just follow Jesus out of emotional decisions but it must be a firm allegiance to Jesus!
The fourth and final person is the Blank-Slate-Follower.
In verse 47 we have this Roman centurion who is overseeing the crucifixion of Jesus and the two criminals. He knows most likely very little about God, nor is he a believer to any extent. He would’ve heard some stories, sure, but no real preconceived ideas about Jesus. He is a Roman soldier there to perform his job as, all of a sudden, the sun goes dark – not for a minute but for 3 hours. Then there is an earthquake. In short, all sorts of crazy things happened!
He would’ve seen hundreds of crucifixions before and how people died, pleading, swearing, cursing in agony. In contrast, he saw the way Jesus died. The centurion saw him praying (v34) and asking God to forgive the crowds for they didn’t know what they were doing. He saw Jesus having a Bible study with one of the other guys on the cross next to him. In other gospel accounts, we see Jesus caring for his mother. With all that said, Jesus was unlike any other person the centurion had ever crucified! This is what blew this man away and he praised God. In Matthew, he says, “surely he was the son of God!” This “blank slate” found faith in Jesus!
So, who are you? Who will you decide to be today? Don’t just be the accidental follower, the spectator follower or the emotional follower!
Make a decision today to be a blank-slate-follower. Wipe away any preconceived ideas and things you heard from your friend, family or priest and come to God’s word with fresh eyes, an open mind and heart. This will transform you like nothing else!
2. Resurrection Power
So Jesus dies on the cross, he gives up his spirit. This would’ve been such a deflating moment for his disciples. In their minds, the cross wasn’t this moment of victory.
We can be similar in the sense that the resurrection and its power generally aren’t our focus. The cross gets so much more emphasis. Why? Because it’s vivid, in your face, it’s heart-stirring, convicting and jaw-dropping! And rightfully so, it should be. It’s central and key! It’s so important, and we shouldn’t deemphasize it. But if that’s it, if it’s just the crucifixion, if he didn’t rise from the dead, it just like any other crucifixion that happened. Jesus was just some inspirational guy, with a saviour complex!
But the resurrection is what changes everything!
And so praise God that Jesus did, in fact, raise from the dead! When they went to the tomb, they found the large rock rolled away. The Roman guards fled and Jesus was nowhere to be seen! And it obviously doesn’t end there but Jesus later appears to over 500 people.
Because He has risen, He is not in that tomb, everything changes on the face of the earth – forever. The resurrection is key!
So we need to be a people all about the resurrection of Jesus, and let the power of his resurrection transform our lives! Because a crucified Jesus wins my affection, BUT a resurrected Jesus demands my allegiance, my ambitions, my agenda, my awe and my all! When you map out the implications of the fact that Jesus actually rose from the dead you can demote all other prophets and religious figures because Jesus is the only name that rose from the dead like that!
If he rose, and he did, everything he says is of paramount importance to our lives!
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
1 Corinthians 6:14
By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
When we focus on the power of the resurrection we…
A) Move from Guilt to Grace
Often when we fall into some sort of sin, we want to have something that will help us really make sure that we repent and move from that sin, back on track towards God. So we often try and use the cross for that. How? To increase our guilt! We focus on the thought “As I watched that pornography, as I lied to my boss or spouse, Jesus was having the flesh torn from his body. I was crucifying Jesus!”
We can get stuck in something that is nothing more than what modern physiologist call associative conditioning. We try to associate more pain guilt to a behaviour so that we want to stop. By using this negative reinforcement we are using the cross in a humanistic manner. If I can heap more pain on that behaviour that I want to extinguish, perhaps I will not do that thing again.
If all we are trying to do in order to live a better life with God is heaping more pain upon our bad activities then we are going down an insufficient path. We can’t use the cross as behavioural conditioning, in fact, the Bible speaks about this in
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
The power of associating pain fades after time and it won’t last! Instead, we need to have complete mind change! Let’s look at the passage of scripture just after that.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
That’s the vast difference! The way you see sin and temptation completely changes when you realise Jesus rose from the dead!
There is an afterlife! There is redemption; the new heaven and earth are now guaranteed! It’s really coming our way! Jesus rose! I’ve been made righteous! I get to view my existence from a brand new perspective! It’s amazingly freeing!
Because our life is about resurrection power, rather than just about crucifixion guilt!
Also when we focus on the resurrection, we go from
B) Problems to Providence
The women were quite grieved, as they came to Jesus’ tomb. In their grief, they just thought of all that Jesus went through. What are they going to do with Jesus gone? All the events without a focus on the resurrection became quite hopeless.
All your problems become really big because you focus on them and the more you focus on them the bigger they get! You are looking at the bills, at the medical report, the school report, the emails, and it’s all you have unless you realise that there is a resurrected Christ!
With the resurrection in mind, you can go through all of these issues and realise that there is great providence. God is in control and he works all things out for good for the age to come! All of our problems are refining us, for life to the full in the age to come!
Your journey to God, your testimony, will without a doubt have a bunch of crazy things that happened in your life. Things that overwhelmed you. Thanks to the resurrection you now see those problems with grand godly perspective! You see these problems as things refining you! When our focus is on the risen Jesus we view everything from the perspective of God’s in control rather than our problems.
In fact, the bigger the problem, the bigger God is probably working!
When we focus on the resurrection, we get…
C) Not Just Subtraction but Addition
A lot of people say I don’t get grace. A big reason is because of our idea is that he took all of our sins, he took them on his body in the tree. And so by me giving my life to him, it is my chance for that to be wiped away, to receive forgiveness or subtraction!
Subtracting = removing debt and guilt of sin!
But the reality is if that’s all that grace means to you, just subtraction of all that mess, sin, guilt, and that the defiling activity is no longer on you. Well, guess what, you begin to do moments after grace has been applied to your life? You begin to pile up the defilement again.
This can be very frustrating and leave us no longer motivated by grace anymore. Therefore, we say, “let me go back to the cross and feel really bad about it all again! Maybe if I don’t sin for long enough, I will feel better!” This can very quickly turn into a works-oriented attitude. Why? Because the cross becomes all about subtraction and the only addition to our lives can come from us and our works! That’s a scary unintended consequence to end up in but when you’re about the resurrection and its power – it’s about addition, not just subtraction!
The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
This is for us! We see subtraction and then addition. Justification is righteousness! Whose righteousness? His! My sins are given to Christ, his righteousness is given to me! When you get the resurrection of Jesus, repent and get baptized you walk with the righteousness of Christ! This is who we are!
He became sin offering, so we might become the righteousness of God. That’s who you are. You walk around with Jesus’ righteousness!
So, you aren’t just walking around saying “I hope I don’t add more sin to my life”… but instead, you are beaming with righteousness, Jesus’ righteousness. How can I mess around in the dirt and muck of sin? I need to cherish, value and protect this righteousness that I have been given!
Each morning we need to recalibrate righteousness. we need to leave each time with God recognizing that we have Jesus’ righteousness! Don’t leave your time of prayer and his word until you realise that you are walking around with the very righteousness of Jesus! We have this epic righteousness! The very righteous of Jesus!
Lets focus on the Power of the Resurrection!
3. Conclusion & Communion
As we close out here, who are you today? An accidental follower, here by association or even forced? Or are you an emotional follower who feels it emotionally, but hasn’t connected with God on that deep commitment level yet? Or are you a spectator follower who is sitting back with opinions but not running to God to find the truth? Instead, make the decision to be a blank-slate-follower. Come to God with fresh eyes, an open heart and mind!
And as we take communion on this amazing Easter Sunday – Jesus has risen! There is power in his resurrection! Let that thought dwell in your heart – “He is not here, he has risen!”
Based on that ask yourself the following two questions every day: “So what?” and “What now?”
You can’t walk away from Jesus’ empty tomb without making a decision, a decision that will change the rest of your life and eternity!
He has risen!
Let’s let the power of his resurrection change our lives!
More by Matt Ricci
More from the The Gospel of Luke series