It’s all about Jesus. That is the very first core value of our church. It’s all about Jesus. Maybe you’ve been to churches in the past that were about all kinds of different stuff. Here at Connect, we have tunnel vision, and we don’t apologize for it. It’s all about Jesus. It’s not about anything else but Jesus. And I’m not just saying that because it’s Easter. We say it all the time here at Connect, because it’s true.
And today, we’re kicking off a short, two-week series that’s all about Jesus. We’re going to be talking about the defining truth of Christ and of Christianity. We’re talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And you can’t overstate the importance of that.
To put it simply, if Jesus rose from the dead, it changes everything. If He didn’t rise from the dead, then nothing else about Jesus matters. It all hinges on the resurrection.
We’re going to be in John 11 for this series. Let me pray for us and then we’ll dive in.
How many times have you heard an athlete or a coach make an audacious prediction? They guarantee a win. They guarantee an unbelievable performance, no matter the odds.
I was reading this week about some of the most audacious claims that athletes have made. But the outcomes didn’t live up to the hype.
For example, there’s Anthony Smith. He was a safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007. Now, you might remember that in 2007, the New England Patriots didn’t lose a single regular season game. But Anthony Smith was convinced that his Steelers would put an end to their perfect season. Before they played the Patriots, Smith said, “We’re going to win, yeah, I can guarantee a win.”
He probably wishes he didn’t say that, because the Steelers were torched by the Patriots, losing by 21 points. And all the Steelers fans aren’t going to listen to anything else I say today.
Another one from 2007. Wyoming coach, Joe Glenn, guaranteed a victory against Utah. His prediction fell just a little short. His team lost to Utah…by 50 points! There is wrong. And then there is WRONG. And this boy was WRONG!
In 2008, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said that his horse was a lock for the Triple Crown. His horse was named Big Brown. And Big Brown didn’t just lose the Belmont Stakes. He came in DEAD LAST.
In 2010, when LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat, the owner of the Cavs didn’t take it too well. Dan Gilbert said, “The Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA title before the self-titled former ‘King’ wins one.”
Um…how’s that working for, bro?
One more. And this one is also from 2007. That was one weird year. In 2007, Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano said, “I believe this year I will win the Cy Young and I will enjoy that. And besides that, we will win the World Series.”
Our buddy, Carlos, went 0-2 on his predictions. No Cy Young. No World Series. Maybe somebody forgot to tell him that he played for THE CUBS!
We’re pretty used to hearing these kinds of bold, audacious claims. If they happen to come true, we say, “Wow. How about that?” If they don’t come true, we just laugh about it and say, “Man, I bet he wishes he had kept his mouth shut.” But either way, there isn’t a lot riding on these claims in the grand scheme of things.
But then, there are other audacious claims that really do matter. The stakes really are high. It really does matter.
Jesus made that kind of claim. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s audacious. And unlike something that might come out of an athlete’s mouth, it really does matter.
We find this claim in John 11. Jesus was having a conversation with a woman named Martha. Here’s how John describes the scene for us.
Starting in verse 25, John wrote, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27, NIV)
We’re going to unpack this conversation between Jesus and Martha over the next couple of weeks. It all starts with an audacious claim.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25a, NIV)
Jesus didn’t offer this as His opinion. He stated it as a fact. I AM the resurrection and the life. It’s an audacious claim, for a few reasons.
First of all, it’s audacious because it’s exclusive.
Jesus said, “I am THE resurrection and THE life.”
He didn’t say, “I am one of the options for resurrection and life.”
Or, “Depending on your perspective, I might be the resurrection and the life. But if that doesn’t work for you, it’s cool.”
Or, “If you feel that I am the resurrection and the life, then it’s true for you. But if someone else does NOT feel that I am the resurrection and the life, than that’s okay, too. However you feel is fine with me.”
That’s not what Jesus said. He said, “I am THE resurrection and THE life.”
This mirrors something else that Jesus said a little later in the book of John. In chapter 14, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)
Jesus claimed to be the only way we can get to God. The only avenue to eternal life. There is an undeniable exclusivity in the claims that Jesus made.
And in our culture, there is no more audacious claim than an exclusive claim. Because if Jesus is EXCLUSIVE, that means that any other choice is a wrong choice. And wrong is a very bad word today. But the claim that Jesus made is audaciously exclusive.
A lot of people today believe that Jesus was this mild, meek, and incredibly tolerant guy. He just sat around drinking decaf, talking about peace, and love, and tolerance.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Jesus is love. He is the very embodiment of love. But by today’s standards, he was also horribly intolerant. There is nothing more intolerant than making an exclusive claim that labels one thing as right and another thing as wrong. But that’s exactly what Jesus did when He said, “I am THE resurrection and THE life.” And when He said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
It doesn’t make Him unloving, but it does make Him exclusive. And we are conditioned by our culture to reject any claim that is exclusive.
But here’s the game changer.
Near the end of his gospel, Matthew wrote, “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28:1-6a, NIV)
Culture tells us to reject anyone who makes an exclusive truth claim. But here’s the deal…I don’t know anyone in our culture who has risen from the dead. If someone rises from the dead, they automatically have my attention. I’m going to listen to what they have to say.
Jesus made some audacious, exclusive claims. Claims that seem intolerant. Claims that are certainly not politically correct. But they weren’t just empty claims. He backed them up by rising from the dead. And because He was a dead guy who rose to life again, I’m going to listen to Him.
I may not understand everything about Him, but I’m going to believe in Him. I may not be uncomfortable with some of the things that He said, but I’m going to listen to Him. I may take some heat for doing what He said, but I’m going to follow Him.
We can talk all day long about how Jesus was politically incorrect for saying these things, but nothing changes the fact that three days after He was crucified, He got up and walked out of that tomb. And the empty tomb is the most compelling evidence ever for the divinity and the authority and the power of Jesus. And the bottom line is if you can show me a dead guy who rose to life again, I’m going to listen to Him.
Now, maybe you’re still not jiving with this. Maybe you’re thinking, “You know, this is my problem with Christianity. I don’t like the fact that it’s exclusive. That bothers me. That offends me.”
Listen, I understand how that could bother you. If I was sitting where you’re sitting, if I had experienced what you’ve experienced, it might bother me, too. I’m not going to yell at you or condemn you for your questions or your doubts. That’s not how we operate here at Connect.
But I do want you to think about this. Every major world religion claims to be exclusive. Every one. Buddhists say they’re the only way. Hindus say they’re the only way. Muslims say they’re the only way. Every world religion claims to be exclusive. And so does Christianity.
And if you find that offensive, I get it. I really do.
I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan. And because I’m a Reds fan, I really don’t like the St. Louis Cardinals. Actually, my feelings for the Cardinals are a lot stronger than that, but it’s Easter and I’m being nice. Let’s just say that I really don’t care for the Cardinals.
But I have friends who are Cardinals fans. And they like to remind me of certain things. For example, they like to remind me that when the Reds travel to St. Louis, it’s like their kryptonite.
Since 2003, the Reds have played 31 series in St. Louis. Their series record in St. Louis is 3-26-2. They’ve won 3 series. They’ve split 2 series. And they’ve lost 26 series.
Now, I don’t like that. I don’t like when people remind me of that. As a Reds fan, it offends me. But that doesn’t make it untrue. Just because I don’t like that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.
Our feelings about something…whether something offends us or not…is not the barometer for whether or not it’s true. Jesus made some audacious claims. He made some offensive claims. He made some exclusive claims.
Other religious leaders do too, but here’s the difference. The scoreboard when it comes to religion is the grave. And when it comes to the grave, the score is Jesus – 1. Any other religious leader – 0.
You can go to the tomb of any religious leader today, and they’re still in there. You can go to the tomb of Buddha, and you can go in and see where his dead body rotted away. You can go to the tomb of Mohammed, and you can see where his bones decayed. You can go to the tomb of any religious leader and you can know that they’re still in there. Except for Jesus. When you go to the tomb of Jesus, you don’t find a body. You find a declaration. “He is not here. He is risen!”
People have developed all kinds of theories to explain away the resurrection, but the fact is that we have historical records of the resurrected Jesus appearing to hundreds and hundreds of people. Not just His inner circle. Not just His disciples. He appeared to hundreds of people. It wasn’t a hallucination. Hundreds of people can’t have the same hallucination.
His body wasn’t stolen. The Roman government had armed guards at his tomb and His tomb was sealed with a stone that weighed anywhere from 1-2 tons.
All the theories that try to explain away the resurrection just fall flat because the truth is that Jesus did rise from the dead. He appeared to hundreds of people after His resurrection. So if any guy has the authority to make an exclusive claim, it’s that guy.
Here’s the other thing that makes Jesus’ claim audacious. Not only is it exclusive, but it’s also eternal. The claim that Jesus made doesn’t just go for this life. It goes for all eternity. That’s pretty dang audacious.
Go back and look at what Jesus said to Martha again. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26a, NIV)
Jesus said that people who believe in Him will live even after they die. In fact, He said that those who believe in Him will never really die. That’s audacious, because that’s eternal.
It’s very cool and hip to be spiritual today. Spirituality has never been higher. But Jesus said that our life in eternity is not based on how spiritual we are. In fact, it’s not based on us at all. It’s based on Him. It’s based on His death and His resurrection.
Here’s the way the Apostle Paul said it in the book of 1 Corinthians. In chapter 15, he wrote, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. [Paul reminds us that he is telling us what is MOST important. Nothing matters more than this.] Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NLT)
The most important thing is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, it’s so important that Paul went on to say this a few verses later.
“And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost!
And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.
So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man.
Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-22, NLT)
Everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. It doesn’t say that everyone who becomes super religious will earn new life. It doesn’t say that if you get really good at acting spiritual, you will deserve new life.
Look at what it says. If you belong to Christ, you will be GIVEN new life.
Our eternity is based on Christ crucified and Christ resurrected. It’s an audacious claim, but it comes with audacious grace attached.
It’s audacious because our eternity is not based on us. It’s not based on what we can do. How religious we are. How well we keep the rules. Or how spiritual we become.
It’s based on Jesus. It’s about what Jesus did for us, not about what we do for Him. For a lot of religious or spiritual people, that sounds too good to be true. It is audacious, but it’s also true.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” It’s exclusive. It’s eternal. It’s an incredibly audacious claim. And this audacious claim and leads to an audacious question.
Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. [It’s an audacious claim. Then He asked an audacious question. In fact, it is the most important question in the world.]
Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, NIV)
Jesus just makes this exclusive, eternal claim about Himself, and then He has the audacity to look at Martha and say, “Do you believe this?”
It’s an audacious question. It’s a question with life-changing implications. It’s the most important questions in the world. “Do you believe this?”
If you’re not a Christian, first of all, I want you to know that I’m glad you’re here. I don’t care how you got here. Maybe you came because it’s Easter and you’re supposed to go to church on Easter. Maybe somebody invited you. Maybe they bribed by saying that you’ll get a free meal afterward. Doesn’t matter to me. I’m glad you’re here. And I know that you probably haven’t agreed with everything I’ve said today. But I want to challenge you with this question.
What are you going to do with Jesus?
And maybe you’re saying, “But I don’t know about all this. I’ve got some questions. I’ve got some doubts about what the Bible says.”
I want you to know that, as a pastor, I struggle with some things, too. I struggle with doubt. I struggle with some things that I see in the Bible. I really do.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, I got hurt by a church years ago. And there have been some Christians who were mean to me.”
Join the club! Some of the nastiest stuff that has ever been said to me or about me was said by Christians.
But that’s not the ultimate question. The ultimate question is about Christ, not about Christians. The ultimate question is about Jesus, not about having your every doubt erased and your every question answered.
The question is what are you going to do with Jesus?
If He really did die and He really did rise again, then He really does demand a decision from every one of us. He can choose to believe Him. You can choose to reject Him. But the one thing you can’t do is ignore Him. The resurrection simply doesn’t leave room for that.
The question is not, “Are you good enough to be a Christian?” There’s an easy answer to that one. No you’re not! And neither is the person sitting next to you. And neither am I. It’s not about your goodness. It’s about Jesus’ goodness.
It’s not about getting rid of every doubt and every question about God, or the Bible, or the universe, or anything else. The most important question in the world is what are you going to do with a guy who died and rose again?
Jesus didn’t ask Martha, “Do you believe that you’re good enough to follow Me?” And He didn’t ask her, “Do you know everything you’re supposed to know? Can you answer every question and have no doubt about anything?”
His question was incredibly simple. He said, “Here’s who I am. Do you believe this?” It’s the most important question in the world.
Go back and look at what the Apostle Paul said again. He wrote, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NLT)
This is the gospel. The gospel is that Jesus died for our sins. See, when we sin, God demands that that sin be punished. He is a just God. When sin occurs, sin must be punished.
But because He is also a God of grace, He allowed Jesus to die for our sin in our place. He allowed Jesus to take the punishment for us. It’s an unbelievable act of compassion and mercy, but that’s who God is. Jesus died for our sin.
Everyone in this room is a sinner. Everyone you will ever meet in your life is a sinner.
Now, there are some Christians that forget this. They forget that Jesus died for their SIN. They are a SINNER. They get so immersed in church culture, they’ve been a Christian so long, that they start to believe that they’re awesome. Maybe you’ve met that person.
And if you are that person, let me remind you that Jesus died for YOUR sin. It cost Him just as much to forgive your sin as it did the sin of the person that you look down on the most. You’re not all that. You are a sinner in desperate need of the grace that comes through the death of Jesus.
And maybe if more Christians remembered that, we’d have fewer people who refused to come to Christ because of the prideful, arrogant Christians that they’ve met.
Paul reminds us that Jesus died for our sin. That He was buried. And that He rose again three days later.
That’s the truth. The only question is what are we going to do with that truth? What are you going to do with Jesus?
Go back and look at the conversation with Jesus and Martha one more time. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
[Here it is. It’s audacious. It’s exclusive. It’s eternal. What are you going to do with this? Do you believe this? Listen to how Martha responded.]
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27, NIV)
It’s an incredibly simple answer to an incredibly audacious question. “Do you believe this?”
And that simple answer was all that Jesus needed.
All Jesus is looking for is your, “Yes.” All He is looking for is for you to say, “Yes,” to Him, because He has already said, “Yes,” to you.
I love what Paul wrote to the church in the city of Corinth. In the book of 2 Corinthians, he wrote, “But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.”
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:18-20a, NIV)
I love that. No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. Here’s what that means. Through Jesus, God has already said, “Yes” to you.
Does God love you? Yes. Enough to give up His own Son for you.
Can God forgive you? Yes. Jesus paid for your sin when He died for you. It doesn’t matter what you have done. It is covered by what Jesus has done.
Does God care about your pain and hurt and struggles? Yes. He came into our world through the person of Jesus. He left the perfection of heaven to come into our dark, broken, messed up, sin-stained world. He knows about suffering because He suffered. He knows about pain because He has experienced pain. You’ve never experienced a hurt that God didn’t feel first.
Will God welcome you back even if you’ve walked away from Him? Yes. The death and resurrection of Jesus means that God is always ready to forgive, to restore, to welcome us back.
Will God refuse to give up on me even though I fail Him all the time? Yes. God’s grace is incredibly stubborn. He refuses to give up on us. And He doesn’t require perfection from us. All He wants is our, “Yes.”
No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. God has already said, “Yes,” to you. All He’s waiting for is for you to say, “Yes” to Him.
If you have questions or doubts, we’d love to talk with you about what it means to say, “Yes” to Jesus. We’ve got some guys and some ladies that will be in the back during this last song. We’ll also be hanging around after church. We’d love to talk with you and pray with you. We’re here to serve you in any way we can.
And if you know you’re ready, if you’re ready to say, “Yes,” to Jesus, we’re ready for you. Just come to the back during this last song.
Saying “Yes” to Jesus means saying, “Yes” to the only sure thing that exists. Everything in our world us uncertain. Life gets hard. Things get messy. Nothing seems solid. But Jesus is. He is our Rock, because no matter how hard life gets, no matter how many questions or doubts or fears we may have, the tomb is still empty. And as long as the tomb is empty, we have hope! So let’s stand and let’s worship Jesus, the God of the empty tomb, right now!
Jesus changes death into life. He changes crucifixion into resurrection. And that means that there is no such thing as a hopeless situation. Hopeless isn’t even a word in God’s vocabulary. As long as the tomb is empty, we have hope.
So we’re going to close with one more song. A song that reminds us that our God will come through always. If He can turn a crucifixion into a resurrection, there is nothing in your life that He can’t handle. Let’s celebrate that hope together today.