(These notes have been adapted from chapters 2 and 4 of the book Redemption by Mike Wilkerson)
Happy Resurrection Sunday! What a reason to celebrate!
Jesus has risen!
He has risen indeed!
Jesus has risen!
He has risen indeed!
Jesus has risen!
He has risen indeed!
What I want to do before we continue celebrating the victory we have in Jesus is to paint a picture as to why this is so good (what Jesus has done for us). Jesus came because there is a deadly disease that kills (physically and spiritually) 100% of it’s victims. SIN! We can see the results of sin against God from the first moment it entered the world with Adam and Eve. The moment they became guilty of sin, they also felt shame. They felt their nakedness, and they hid. The resulting distance from God is a picture of shame, being separated from the presence of a holy God.
While the problem of sin and shame certainly includes sinful behaviors, it also includes sin’s effects: the damage done by others, and the filth of a sin-contaminated world. The world is simply not the way it’s supposed to be. Old Testament writers used the word shalom (the way things ought to be) to describe the world of universal peace, safety, justice, order, and wholeness that God intended (see Isa. 32:14–20). But sin wrecks the order and goodness of God’s world. Sin vandalizes shalom (explain).
Sin’s effects are truly and utterly devastating. Just take a look around you or right at you. There is a never ending problem in humanity, and it seems that the more technologically advanced we become, the worse the picture of humanity becomes. Year after year, decade after decade, century after century, sin has devastated mankind.
But (thank God for “buts”!) know this: God’s plan of redemption is much, much greater than the devastation of sin. The end of the story is already written, and it’s really, really good news. God will wipe away every last trace of sin’s vandalism and He will re-create shalom. Revelation 21 gives us a glimpse of that new creation where there is no more pain, tears, or death. No one in that new heaven and new earth is broken or ashamed; no one will want to hide; no one will feel contaminated:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:1–5)
Does this sound too good to be true. Well, it is if it was left up to man to accomplish. In Mark 10:27 Jesus says to His onlookers about healing and delivering a demon-possessed boy and says: “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Let’s look really briefly at the Israelites and the crossing of the Red Sea. This was an impossible and hopeless situation. The Israelites placed their hope in God to deliver them from the iron, oppressive grip of Pharaoh only for God to lead them to a dead end called the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s angry army was trailing behind the large group of slaves and their death seemed certain.
The Israelites panicked and said: “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”(Ex. 14:11-12).
They were encamped by evil on all sides. Behind them, a known enemy, filled with more wrath than ever, was advancing. Ahead of them was a sea that they couldn’t cross. They were trapped. But Moses patiently and confidently spoke to them: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Ex. 14:13-14; see Ps. 78:53).
The Israelites did not hope in vain (Ex. 14:19-31). God, by his angel and a pillar of cloud, moved behind the camp and hid them from their enemy. He was their refuge.Then, at the Lord’s command, Moses raised his staff and God drove back the sea, parting the waters and making a safe path for the people to walk through the sea on dry ground. As the new day dawned and the Israelites emerged safely on the far side of the sea, the Lord’s gaze pierced through the pillars of cloud and fire and fell dreadfully upon the Egyptians, striking terror in their hearts. He bound up their chariot wheels, which threw the fleet into chaos and panic. And just as they turned back, realizing the Lord was fighting for Israel and they had no hope, God turned the waters back upon them and drowned every one. The Israelites looked on as their enemies washed up dead on the seashore. Surely then they remembered Moses’ words: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Ex. 14:14).
The old life of slavery was gone and a new life with God had begun. God’s people had gone through a sort of death and resurrection. In fact, one commentator notes that many Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Easter with the Song of the Sea in Exodus 15:1–18. God had employed the forces of creation—clouds, fire, wind, water, earth; to redeem His people and to ensure their safety from their accusers.
We often find it impossible to keep trusting God as circumstances worsen in our lives or in the lives of those we love. We think and say things like the Israelites: “This does not fit my picture of redemption! God, where are you? Have you taken me out here so that I will die?” We are tempted to believe that God has forsaken us and that all hope is lost. Or some naive Christian tells us that if we merely had more faith; if we just learned whatever lesson we’re supposed to be learning, then the pain would stop.
But Jesus experienced worse pain than you or I will ever know. We may fear the worst; abandonment by God, but Jesus actually faced it; and He didn’t stop believing.
Did Jesus’ cry of faith fix his circumstances? No. He spoke despairing words in the face of death—and then He died. How could He cling to the hope God had promised Him when He was facing certain death? Jesus knew what Scriptures spoke of, including Psalm 16:10, which says, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption,” A promise of resurrection! Yes, He would die; but He would also be raised to new life. Because Jesus faced the worst (abandonment by God), you and I will never have to. We can cling to these same promises. We can face seeming (or certain!) death: emotionally, spiritually, and even physically, knowing we will not be put to shame. One way or another, God will deliver.
Like Jesus, our hope in God must extend beyond the desire for relief from present suffering to a deeper, ultimate relief. While it is not wrong to ask God to change our circumstances, our hope must remain in Him whether He changes them or not. As we cry out to him, He becomes a refuge to us, a hiding place for safety and comfort. On this side of heaven, we will not experience ultimate comfort and refuge; there will still be pain and danger. Yet while we continue to hope in his promises for ultimate refuge, we can know him as a true refuge now. Even if we should die suffering, clinging to this hope as Jesus did, we can be sure of the same resurrection.
What picture of redemption have you painted for God to follow?
Like the Israelites, what in your life have you become cynical about (pessimistic, deeply distrustful)?
Where in your life do you experience despair; utter loss of hope?
Wherever you are at with the answers to those questions, your only certain hope is to turn to Jesus and look at Him. Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame of it for our sake, bearing all of our guilt, and then gloriously conquering death!
Now Jesus is salvation for those who trust in Him.
He is deliverance from our shame.
He is our promise of certain and eternal comfort and refuge.
With us, this is impossible. With God this is a reality! This is gives us much reason to celebrate! May shalom be a reality to you today in Christ Jesus our Lord!