I Cor. 15 (NASB)
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;
7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;
8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
Today is Easter and I have finished the enormous task of preaching the two services at Coral Ridge. I say enormous task not because preaching is difficult, though it is; and not because I don’t sleep well before a big Sunday like this one, though I didn’t and found myself yawning through the service. This is an enormous task because there are many people who come to a service like ours (probably around 5,000 between the two services, maybe a few more) that have never heard the gospel. There are those for whom this will be the last Easter service that they ever attend. My job, along with the choir, who was more than fantastic, absolutely incredible, the organist, who was wonderful almost too great to describe, my job was to explain the gospel in a clear fashion. In comparison to the music (great thanks to John Wilson and Samuel Metzger) I felt like a sparkler on a day of great fireworks.
My only hope was to focus on the Word and on the resurrection. To the extent that anything I said helped anyone it was because of the Scripture and not the messenger. It is at times like this that I am glad that I hold firmly to the sovereignty of God. That God works through the foolishness of men to do his great work. How well or poorly I presented the Gospel is secondary to the mighty power of God’s work. That does not relieve me of my responsibility to work hard in preparation, but it should relieve me of the guilt that I did not do enough to “get the people into the kingdom.”
We all have a calling and our “vocation” is to find that which God has called us to and do it with our whole hearts. From the wonderful group who fold the bulletins, to the ushers who get up early, the choir members who work so hard to make the service great, to those who support these efforts with their gifts, we are all a part of the work of the kingdom. None is more important than others. God uses the least in the Kingdom to confound the mighty. I take great comfort in that, because Easter Sunday shows my weaknesses in all of their starkness, yet God uses my work anyway. For that I can be nothing but thankful. After the great music this morning I felt like an old pair of scuffed up brown shoes worn with a tuxedo. God uses all kinds of shoes and I am just glad to be a part of the suit for a little while. I’m certainly not the best part, and seem a little our of place sometimes, but I am thankful for the small part that I am able to play as Coral Ridge seeks a new pastor. Thanks for your prayers.
Have a great Easter. If you were at the service, thanks so much for being there and celebrating Easter with us. I will have the Palm Sunday and Easter message’s up in MP3 in a couple of days if anyone should like to hear them. I wish that you could have been there to be lifted up by the final anthem played so wonderfully, the special music that was heavenly, and the awesome response of those in the congregation to the wonderful news of the resurrection.
If you are not sure about the resurrection or about the mission of Jesus, I have a few books to recommend. You will find them on sale at Amazon.com; Westminster Seminary Bookstore (http://www.wts.edu and follow the links to the bookstore) or an virtually any other online bookseller.
The Reason for God by Tim Keller
This is a wonderful book that is on the NT Times bestseller list for at least the second week. It is wonderfully written, pastorally careful, and the author is one of the great shining lights of my denomination. If you have not read much about the resurrection, or have other questions about the church (e.g., why God allows evil; is Christianity only for the weak-minded; and many other questions I cannot recommend this book too highly. Because of its popularity you can probably find it at a local Barnes and Noble or Borders.
The Resurrection of the Son of God by N. T. Wright
This is a heavy book, both in size and in subject matter. It is a difficult read for those who may not have theological or philosophical training. For those who want to know about the latest and best work on resurrection this is a great book to make your way through.
If this work seems too much for you, I can recommend Wright’s smaller and easier work called Surprised by Hope. Dr. Wright calls himself Thomas Wright rather than N. T. Wright in this work, just in case you have any trouble finding it.
Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham
In this work, Dr. Bauckham goes to great effort to argue very, very carefully that the Gospels were written by either eyewitnesses or by those who knew the eyewitnesses. It is an extremely compelling work that shows that the Gospels were written not by mythologists 150 years after the resurrection, but by those who were genuine eyewitnesses.
The Jesus Legend by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd
This is a very good work on the authenticity and reliability of the Gospels. This work interacts with most of the skeptical authors and arguments of the last 50 years. It is a little heavy, but well worth the time that it would take you to work through it. The primary focus is that Jesus is not a legend and that his life is not one of “stories created by the Gospel writers” but are true history and should be looked at with the tools of the historian.
I can’t leave the blog for today without the words of the resurrection from our Scripture. For contrast, I will give them to you from the NASB and the Cotton Patch Version.
1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing;
5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, â€œWhy do you seek the living One among the dead?
6 â€œHe is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,
7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.â€
8 And they remembered His words,
9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.
10 Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.
11 But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.
12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.
And now from the Cotton Patch Version:
1. But real early on the first day of the week, they came to the vault, bringing the flowers which they had fixed. They found the entrance stone rolled away from the vault, and when they entered they didnâ€™t find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, two men in sparkling clothes stood before them. The women were very much frightened and turned their faces toward the ground. The men said to them, â€œWhy are you looking for a live person among dead ones? Remember how he told you while he was still with you in Alabama that it would be necessary for the son of man to be abandoned into hands of unsympathetic people, and to be lynched, and on the third day to rise?â€
They did remember his words. They returned from the vault and told the whole story to the eleven and the rest. The women who were telling the apostles these things were Maria, â€œthe Magdala girl,â€ and Jo Ann and Maria James, and others with them. But it all seemed to the men like so much female chatter, and they wouldnâ€™t believe it.
The Cotton Patch Gospel
The Cotton Patch Gospel
11. After the women left, some of the guards, you know, went into town and related to the bishops everything that had happened. They met with the elders and passed a motion that the soldiers be given a large bribe, with these instructions: â€œTell people that his students came at night while we were sleeping, and stole him. If the governor gets wind of this, weâ€™ll fix it with him and arrange it so you wonâ€™t have a worry in the world.â€ The soldiers took the bribe and did exactly as they were instructed. And to this very day thatâ€™s the rumor circulated by the good white folks.
16. Well, the eleven students traveled to Alabama, to the mountain which Jesus had selected for them. When they saw him they accepted him as their Lord, but some couldnâ€™t make up their minds. Jesus came over to them and said, â€œEvery right to rule in both the spiritual and physical realms has been given to me. As you travel, then, make students of all races and initiate them into the family of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to live by all that I outlined for you. And you know, I am right in there with youâ€”all the timeâ€”until the last inning.â€
The Cotton Patch Gospel
11 Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.
12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
13 and said, â€œYou are to say, â€˜His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.â€™
14 â€œAnd if this should come to the governorâ€™s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.â€
15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
The Great Commission
16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.
17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, â€œAll authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 â€œGo therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.â€