Rejoicing in the Risen Savior

Bible Book: Acts  2 : 22-41
Subject: Resurrection; Easter; Life in Christ; Salvation; Invitation, God's
Introduction

Easter has become a strange time of year, with such a mixture of the sacred and the secular that the lines of paganism and Christianity are blurred for all but the most knowledgeable people. For example, what does the word Easter mean? It comes from a Latin word (estre) which means "goddess of light”. It is a purely secular term which referred to an ancient Anglo-Saxon religious recognition of the spring solstice. The days were growing longer and that meant more sunlight through the coming months. The people called the time of spring "estre" in honor of a pagan goddess of light. Very few people even know what the word means when they use it.

To the Christian, however, the word Easter has come to refer to that time when we celebrate the risen Christ. Pray tell then, what do eggs and rabbits have to do with Easter? There are several stories in history as to the meaning of eggs and rabbits at Easter.

Eggs are a symbol of fertility. Spring is the time when the animal world is very productive. Thus, eggs came to be a symbol of fertility and springtime. The egg has nothing to do with the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Is wrong for children to hide Easter eggs or have Easter baskets containing Easter eggs? Certainly not, but it is important for children in Christian homes to be taught the real meaning of Easter. If this is not done, the child may grow up very confused as to the real meaning and purpose of Easter.

You can use the Easter egg very effectively as a Christian witness. Jesus is the Light of the World. When He died on the cross the Light of the World was shut up in a tomb. On the third day He rose from the dead to bring the light of life to all who would come to Him. Open a boiled egg to show your child the yellow center. Point out that Christ was hidden in the tomb for three days, but the Savior rose from the dead. The yoke of an egg is yellow like light and shaped like the sun. Let that yoke represent Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, who has risen with healing in His wings. Perhaps, then, your child will grow up to remember that every Easter egg is a picture of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

But what about rabbits and Easter? It is reported that Egyptians used the rabbit as a symbol of birth in their hieroglyphic alphabet. One does not have to guess why they chose the rabbit, which is a very prolific reproducer of its kind. The rabbit is a symbol of life, fertility and productivity. I know of absolutely no correlation between a rabbit and Christ, with the exception that Christ is the greatest producer of life, since He gives Life Eternal to all who come to Him.

Actually, it is important for us in the Kingdom of God to keep the focus on the real meaning of Easter - the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! A bank in Binghamton, New York, had some flowers sent to a competitor who had recently moved into a new building. There was a mix-up at the flower shop, and the card sent with the arrangement read, "With our deepest sympathy."

The florist, who was greatly embarrassed, apologized but he was even more embarrassed when he realized that the card intended for the bank was attached to a floral arrangement sent to a funeral home in honor of a deceased person. That card read, "Congratulations on your new location!" A sentiment like that is appropriate for Christians who die, because they move to a wonderful new location with Christ. They go to be with Jesus, and the sorrows and heartaches of this earthly existence are gone forever.

To see just how important this was to the early church, I want you to turn with me to Acts 2:22-42. Here you will note that the first sermon delivered in by a New Testament preacher was a message on the resurrection. That day many people placed their faith in a risen Savior and it made all the difference in the world and in the world to come!

I. We Rejoice in the Fact of the Risen Savior

A. Falsehoods regarding the Resurrection

Many false accounts have arisen to discount the resurrection of Jesus and I want you to hear them. Those of you who will be going to college need to listen up. You are going to hear this junk in the classroom. It will be presented as academic scholarship, but in reality it is deceitful dribble that Satan throws out to trip you up and hold you down.

1. The Swooning Theory – Jesus was in a coma, came to, and lived for some days.

2. The Spirit Indwelling Theory - Jesus lives in our minds. This teaches that He didn’t really rise from the dead but He lives in our hearts.

3. The Spirit Inspiring Theory - Disciples felt his presence. This posits that the disciples sensed His presence even though He wasn’t among them.

4. The Story Theory - Disciples made up the resurrection. Here we have the idea that the disciples just simply made up the story of the resurrection – in other words, they were all liars.

5. The Stealing Theory - Disciples stole His body. Yet another idea is that the disciples stole His body and the story of His resurrection simply became a folk tale that got circulated by wild-eyed fanatics.

B. Facts regarding the Resurrection

1. They Knew Who He Was - Jesus (vs. 22)

Here we note that the disciples knew who Jesus was when they saw Him. They didn’t just experience an ethereal impression of His being among them – they saw Him and knew Him.

2. They Knew What He Had Done (vs. 22)

They knew of His miracles and signs. They saw them during His ministry. If they had not seen such miracles during His life and ministry, they might have doubted Him being alive after His death even when they saw Him. It is more fascinating that they actually believed He was risen, since such a thing was so unnatural. They knew what He had done, and that helped them accept His risen body when they saw Him.

3. They Knew How He Had Died - Nailing Him to the Cross (vs. 23)

They knew he really, actually, physically died at Calvary. They understood that He was not just unconscious when He was taken from the cross. They witnessed His death.

4. They Knew He Was Resurrected - Raised.

We are all witnesses (vs. 24, 32b). All of them saw Him and confirmed His resurrection. Listen, you might get two or three people to keep a deep, dark secret, but even that is unlikely. However, the eleven disciples (taking Judas out of the equation) saw Him and maintained their testimony to the death. Some of them suffered horribly for their faith. Not one ever hesitated to claim He was indeed risen from the dead.

If Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain, we are false witnesses, we are still in our sin and there is no life in heaven beyond the grave! Indeed, if there is no resurrection, we are among all men most miserable!

But He is risen. Over 500 witnesses saw Him after he was resurrected. In the Gospels, Acts, Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Peter and Revelation the resurrection is mentioned. It is the theme of the New Testament, because it is a fact of history and a joy in eternity!

An agnostic professor once said to a little girl who believed in the Lord Jesus, "There have been many who have claimed to be Christ. How can you be sure who told the truth? Which one do you believe?" Without hesitation the youngster replied, "I believe in the One who rose from the dead!"

II. We Rejoice in the Force of the Risen Savior

A. The Devastation of Death (vs. 24)

One night during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Ruth Dillow was at her home in Kansas when she received a telegram from the Pentagon that her son had stepped on a landmine in Kuwait and was dead. It was, of course, a terrible shock.

Three days later, however, Mrs. Dillow got a telephone call. The voice on the other end said, "Hi, Mom! I'm alive." At first, Mrs. Dillow couldn't believe her ears‑‑it was the voice of her 21‑year‑old son whom she had been mourning for three days. She said, "I jumped up and down. I was so overjoyed!" [Clergy Journal, Mar 1992. Page 17.]

That's a little like the joy the disciples felt on that first Easter when they heard His voice and saw that He was alive. It is a bit of what the true Christian experiences on Easter morning when we wake up to realize our Lord who was dead is now alive

Before Columbus discovered America, Spanish coins had stamped upon them the outline of the Straits of Gibraltar Underneath was the Latin inscription NE PLUS ULTRA‑no more beyond. But when the great explorer returned from his voyage, new coins were issued which read, PLUS ULTRA‑more beyond.

Likewise, when Christ went through death, some thought He would never come back; however, three days later He arose victorious. Without Jesus there is no more beyond, but with the risen Christ as your Savior and Lord, there is MORE BEYOND – MUCH MORE! In fact, He grants more in this life and the best yet to come when He calls us home to be with Him. My life in Christ, has been since the day I received Him, PLUS ULTRA – more beyond!

B. The Validation of God's Word (vs. 25)

"After hearing George Whitfield preach in May 1750, John Thorpe and three friends went to a tavern and began mimicking Whitfield. At Thorpe's turn, he grabbed a Bible, jumped on a table, and shouted, 'I will beat you all!'

"But his eyes fell on 'Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.' Thorpe was suddenly struck by his sinfulness, and he stopped the charade and began preaching in earnest. Two years later he became one of John Wesley's itinerant preachers." [Christian History, Issue 38. Page 13.]

My friends, Jesus is alive. He can convict and save today. He brings peace, healing, joy and meaning to life. If you are here today simply because it is Easter Sunday, and you have never really trusted Him, this is your day to know the risen, living Christ. Our faith is not about religion, but rather it is about a living, indwelling, all-conquering Savior. He is will give you abundant life now and eternal life beyond the grave.

C. The Exaltation of Jesus (vs. 33)

Jesus will never be crucified again. He will never be in the hands of sinful man again. He bears the scars of His sacrifice for us, but He will never be scarred again. He is exalted and given a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. One day we will sing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!" When He came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He rode a donkey but when He comes again, He will ride the great white horse of victory. Let us exalt Him now in preparation for exalting Him in glory one day in person.

D. The Operation of Holy Spirit (vs. 33)

Jesus said that it was expedient for Him to go away so that He could sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter to be with us. He has poured out the Spirit into and upon those who are His. You see, when Jesus was on earth, He could only be in one place at a time. After His ascension, He can be in the life of every believer at the same time. He is here with us who believe upon Him and He is on the other side of the world with those who believe in Him there. The sun never sets on the Son of Righteousness.

E. The Invitation to Salvation (vs. 34f)

Through the resurrection we are invited to the Savior. He knocks at our hearts door. He calls us to be saved. Only a risen, living Savior can redeem a lost people. That is what I believe He wants to do today. He will knock on the door of your heart today. It is up to you to say, “Yes,” to His invitation.

“I hate that once I put up a wall,

When Jesus came to my door to call.

I’m glad He didn’t give up on me,

But called and called till the light I could see.

Now He dwells in my heart,

And from Him I will never depart.

He kept on calling and He never swayed,

Until His call I humbly obeyed.

Listen, dear friend, His calling your name!

Open and you’ll never be the same.

He’ll give you a peace that you’ve never known,

And prepare you a place in His heavenly home.” (J. Mike Minnix)

III. We Rejoice in the Faith of the Risen Savior

A. A Faith that Produces Conviction for Sin (vs. 37)

There is no substitute for the conviction of sin. One cannot come in contact with the risen Christ without the experience of conviction. Look at Paul on the Damascus Road. He heard Jesus say, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." In other words, Jesus spoke to Him of His sinful nature and behavior.

Every person who is saved has been through the experience of conviction. You see, Jesus is alive. He comes to you in person! He speaks to your heart and mind. He tells you of your sin just as a good doctor tells you when you are sick. He doesn’t tell you of your sin to condemn you but to offer you the perfect cure for sin (John 3:17). He loves you, died for you and rose for you. But, you cannot know Him without admitting your sinful condition.

B. A Faith that Produces Commitment to the Savior (vs. 38f)

Note that the people in Acts 2 were called upon to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is more than mere intellectual ascent. The word believe means to commit to Him in your heart and mind! Many people are going to miss going to heaven by 18 inches. They will have a belief in their heads but not admit Him into their hearts. You must commit your life to Him.

C. A Faith that Produces Conversion through Salvation (vs. 40-41, 47)

When we admit our sin and acknowledge the Savior by confessing Him as Lord, we are saved. Three thousand people believed on Jesus that day when Peter preached the first sermon in the Christian faith. They were gloriously converted. That means that the risen Christ gave them eternal life. He came into their lives in the person of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness was theirs. Salvation was theirs. Heaven was theirs. Everything the risen Christ can give was theirs! And, the same is true for all of us who have trusted and committed our lives to the risen Lord.

Conclusion

British writer Guy King told of standing on a railroad station platform, waiting for a train from London. Another train pulled into the station from the opposite direction, and the members of a soccer team got out. The players were returning from a game in another city. News had not reached home as to the outcome of the game, so those awaiting the team didn't know if they had won or lost. A small boy wiggled his way through the crowd and asked one of the players the score. As soon as he heard it, he ran excitedly up and down the platform shouting, "We won! We won!"

That youngster was brimming with joy because he identified himself with the players. In one sense, their victory was his victory. You and I can live triumphantly because two thousand years ago Jesus paid sin's penalty by dying on the cross and broke its power by rising from the dead.

One of Spurgeon's favorite stories was about a dying Welsh lady who was visited by her minister. Seeing her weakened condition, he bent over and whispered, "Sister, are you sinking?" She didn't reply, but looked at him as if she couldn't believe her ears. He repeated his question, "Sister, are you sinking?" With a supreme effort she raised herself a little and then said triumphantly, "Sinking? Oh, no! Did you ever know a sinner to sink through a Rock? If my hope was built on the shifting sands, I'd be greatly distressed; but thank God, Pastor, I'm resting my all upon the Rock of Ages!"

I’m asking every person to look into your heart on this Easter Sunday morning. Does Jesus really life there in your heart – I mean, does the living Savior have residence in you? If not, He is calling your name today. The Jesus that rose from the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem is as alive today as He was then. He is knocking on the door of your heart. Open that door right now. It is a decision your will never, ever regret!