The Last Enemy To Be Destroyed – 04.04.2021
[Acts 10:34-43 and 1 Corinthians 15:19-26]
One of my favorite things about being a parent is watching their brains process the world as they learn how things connect and how things work. As many of you know, I have three little boys – my three little walking sermon illustrations. And we have this tradition in my house that I’ve been trying to develop for about a year – where we pray together every morning. I’m not very good at remembering, so we don’t do it every morning – few times a week perhaps. But I have a notebook, and we sit on the couch, and the littlest one is still sleeping, and I get my boys one on each side. And we sit and think of who do we want to pray for. And I write it down in the notebook, and as we go – we’ll stop and pray for those people, and then add more people to the list. And the prayer list is this beautiful chaotic hodge podge of serious prayers and silly things. Some things come from my prayer list, and other things are really only things a 2 or a 4 year old would pray for. So we end up praying for batman legos and then we pray for someone who is sick, and then we pray for people to be nice in politics and then we pray that maybe we can have donuts for breakfast. This is how it goes. And last summer, maybe 8-9 months ago, someone in this congregation had passed away, Marshall Knight. He passed away last February, but because of COVID his service got postponed, and so as we got into the summer months – his family had been on my heart a lot.
And so that morning I sit down with the boys and we started our prayer list. And we prayed for a few things, and then I mentioned Marshall. I wanted to pray for my friend Marshall who had died, and to pray for his family. And because my children are the cutest things ever created, Liam looks at me and says, “marshmallow?” No, buddy, Marshall. My friend Marshall died. “Oh, well I want pray for marshmallows. Maybe I can pray to God to give Marshall some Marshmallows, and then maybe he will feel better from being dead.” [pause]. Okay buddy, we can pray that God will give Marshall some marshmallows. And we laugh because it’s adorable, but also because it’s ridiculous. You can’t feel better from being dead, right?
Today is Easter Sunday, and I know that normally we read about those two ladies who found the empty tomb and told the whole world the good news of Jesus Christ. But what I want to show you this morning is that the resurrection is not an event, isolated in history. It is a stone thrown into a lake, with ripples stretching all the way into our lives here today. Today we’re going to look at two men – Peter and Paul, and see what the resurrection did for each of them.
First, our story about Peter, which comes from the book of Acts. Now, here’s a little backdrop. After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to hundreds of people and then ascended into heaven. The disciples, Peter included, spread out all over the world – sharing God’s good news of salvation. Peter went and set up shop in Rome. Basically, he started the Christian church in the city of Rome. The other thing you need to know, is that Jewish people have very strict laws about who they can hang out with. There are laws that say you can’t even associate with people outside the Jewish faith. But then there was this guy Cornelius – he was a Roman soldier, but he was also a really great guy. And God told Cornelius, “hey, go talk to Peter. One of my followers, he’s staying in this house over there – go get him.” Before our scripture lesson, in verse 20, Peter shows up at Cornelius’ house and says, [read v.20-21]. It’s kind of an awkward situation, but Cornelius says, “Okay, so here’s the deal – I had this vision and God said I should come ask you about it: what can you tell me.” And so our scripture lesson is Peter responding to this stranger, this non-Jewish, Roman soldier guy who he is not supposed to talk to. And he shares the gospel with Cornelius.
[read v.34-35]. For Peter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ ripped away the boundaries. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people have a chance to be connected to God. God accepts from any group the people who fear him and do what is right. [read v.36-38]. Peter starts to tell them the story, something they probably heard about. They’re in Rome, but Peter’s telling them, “you’ve heard what’s going on over there in Judea, right? There was this guy, Jesus, and he was doing all this amazing stuff – healing people, and doing good. [read v.39-41]. You’ve probably heard about Jesus, and he was doing all this cool stuff. And this next part, you’re probably not going to believe it, but we were witnesses – we saw it with our own eyes. They killed him on the cross, and God raised him from the dead on the third day. And not everybody saw him, but Peter says, those of us who saw him – we really saw him. Not like far away, like a bigfoot sighting, squinting – Oh man, I think I just saw Jesus, right next to that UFO. No, Peter says, we sat down and ate and drank with him AFTER he rose from the dead. Jesus is alive, and he’s ALIVE alive – he eats and drinks and everything. Scholars estimate that Jesus appeared to about five hundred people in the forty days that he was alive on this earth, before he went back up to heaven.
[read v.42-43]. Remember Peter is telling this story to Cornelius, right? Jesus told us to tell everyone about him. He said testify – we are eye-witnesses who testify. Almost like it’s a court case – testify about what we saw. And so here I am talking to you. Even though my upbringing, my comfort level, my laws say I’m not supposed to talk to strangers – especially not Roman soldiers. My background gives me boundaries – and I was told I’m not supposed to talk to you. But there was this guy Jesus, and he rose from the dead, and he told me to talk to you. So here I am talking to you. The resurrection of Jesus ripped down barriers in Peter’s life. I know that’s the end of our little scripture lesson, but you’ve got to see what happens next. [read v.44-45]. Peter shares the gospel – which is just the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, what we call the “good news” – and these people experience the Holy Spirit and two verses later they get baptized and become Christians. The resurrection of Jesus opened up the presence of God to the entire world, not just Jewish people. It rips down barriers and offers God’s love to everyone.
So that’s Peter, and now we’ll move over to Paul. Now, Peter was a follower of Jesus from the beginning. He was a goof ball who made a lot of mistakes, but he was always trying his best to follow Jesus. Enter Paul, the Jesus hater. Paul never met Jesus before he died, but he was a jewish leader who hated those crazy Jesus followers. In the beginning, Paul’s goal in life was the hunt down and destroy these new Jesus followers. Now this is a whole other story for another time, but long story short – Paul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, like the resurrected Jesus, and has this radical conversion, and he realizes that he was wrong – Jesus IS the son of God, and so Paul dedicates his life to spreading Jesus’ name to the world. Paul became one of the very first and most successful missionaries in history. For example, he started this church in the city of Corinth, then he moved on to the next city to start a church there. Problem was, back in Corinth – they started to get in some trouble, and so Paul wrote letters to the church in the city of Corinth to try and help them understand, and that’s where we get our scripture lesson 1 Corinthians. Jesus hater, met the resurrected Jesus, became Jesus church planter. He went from killing Jesus followers to creating them. And he writes..
[read v.19]. It’s kind of a confusing sentence, but he’s saying “if this life is all there is, Christians should be pitied. If this story ends at death, the teachings of Jesus don’t make any sense. We spend our entire lives living for other people, serving, giving, volunteering, putting others first as Jesus taught us, telling people about Jesus – which makes everybody think we’re a bunch of weirdos. Back in verse thirteen Paul says, [read v.13-14]. I’ll have to check my scholarly notes, but I’m pretty sure this is the moment in history where Paul invented the mic drop. If Jesus has not been raised from the dead, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. Can you believe he actually just said that? Paul says, If not for the resurrection, what are we even doing here? And I know we’ve got some visitors who are probably watching on the livestream, or sitting in the pew right now thinking, “I don’t know man, Grandma said I have to come and watch this if I want to get any candy.” And I know I’m supposed to sugar coat it on Easter, just make everybody feel good and send them home happy – but the truth is if Jesus did not actually rise from the dead, then there is no point and purpose to the Christian religion. But, Paul says, But if Jesus has been raised from the dead, that resurrection affects our life too. Verse twenty, [read v.20a]. INDEED he has been raised. Paul says INDEED, which is basically Paul saying, “No, seriously – he was raised from the dead, it happened.”
And then Paul does this thing where he compares Adam and Jesus. He does this a couple of times in the New Testament. Adam, the first man, sort of represents the broken, human side of us. We’re all people, and we’re all broken. We are children of Adam. But Jesus brings resurrection into the equation. Because we are human, children of Adam, we make mistakes and we die. That’s what humans do. We make mistakes and we die. But Jesus, with the resurrection, gives us another option. There’s a Pastor named Rich Villodas and he shared this thing on Instagram last week about the reversals between Jesus and Adam. Adam and Eve were in the garden where they were disobedient, but Jesus went into the garden last week to be obedient. Adam and Eve hid behind a tree, naked and covered in shame. Jesus hangs on a tree, naked and conquers shame. Adam started out in paradise, and sin pushed them out the gates. Jesus died outside the gates, but ends up in paradise. Do you see it? Paul pointed to Adam and Jesus, and he says we might start out with Adam, a child of Adam – but with the resurrection we can become like Jesus, a child of God.
His whole point here is that the resurrection affects YOUR life. Jesus was raised from the dead, and you can be too. Eternal life is out there. This is something you can have. What I’m trying to say is that the resurrection of Jesus is not about reanimating the corpse of Jesus’ earthly body, it’s about changing your life. It’s about bringing you new life, and giving you a second chance. The resurrection was not for Jesus. The resurrection was for you. Have you ever looked at the mistakes of your life, and wished you could start over? Have you ever had a conversation you wish you could put back inside your mouth? Have you ever wished you could take this life you have lived, take the bad parts – all the sin – and let it be washed away? To be clean? As if you never sinned? Our sins, our connection to Adam dies, like all earthly bodies do. But with the resurrection, a dead body buried becomes a seed that is planted. Jesus offers us a new life, lived in his grace. Verse 22 [read it]. As humans all we can do in life is live, make mistakes and die. That’s the only option in front of us. But this morning, because of Jesus and the resurrection he brings, we have another option. There is forgiveness and eternal life for those who would follow Jesus. Our scripture finishes up and says, [read v.25-26]. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
The good news this morning is that Jesus rose from the dead. That’s what we celebrate every single Easter. Jesus rose from the dead. We’ve got all these eye witnesses and historical accounts – people ate and drank with him after he was dead. He rose from the dead. But what I want you to grab on to and take with you this morning – is that line really should be the core message every single Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead, really we need that message every single day of our lives. Jesus rose from the dead, and that resurrection changes our lives. Everything is different because this guy actually rose from the dead. Think about what it did to Peter. He was this goofy Jewish follower of Jesus. “I’m not even supposed to talk to you because you’re a Roman soldier and Jewish people don’t talk to strangers.” But because of the resurrection, he shared the entire gospel – the entire story of Jesus’s with Gentiles. Gentiles who gave their life to Jesus and were baptized, because there was nothing more important. Think about what it did to Paul. The Jesus hater who became a Jesus worshipper. I hate those people who worship Jesus, because they’re dumb. Jesus was just a nice teacher, a guy who did some good deeds – we shouldn’t worship him. But then Paul met the resurrected Jesus and he realized that he had been wrong. Jesus really did come back, Jesus really did conquer sin and death, and if that’s true I need to be worshipping Jesus. It transformed his life. The resurrection changes lives. The good news today is that Jesus rose from the dead. And if there is resurrection for Jesus, then there is resurrection for you too.
So to close out this sermon, I want to ask you one question. What can the resurrection do for you? With knowledge of the resurrection, with the understanding that Jesus rose from the dead – how does that change your life? The challenge for us this morning, and every morning from now on is to let the resurrection transform your life. Three big examples. Three places in our life that are transformed by the reality of the resurrection. First – how does the resurrection change your worship? In our lives, we all worship something. We spend time idolizing and lifting up things in this world. For some of us it’s money, or the job. For some of us we worship movie stars, artists, musicians, famous people. For others, it’s the powerful people, the leaders, politicians, the kings and queens of this life that we hold up and venerate. For some of us it’s technology. That little rectangle in your pocket. We may not call it worship, but we give them our attention, our devotion, our time, we let them influence us. But Jesus rose from the dead. Did any of them do that? Is there a talk show host, or a senator, or a rock star out there who is alive because he died and then rose again three days later? The resurrection gives us a standard for worship. If it didn’t die for my sins, and then conquer death and rise – it doesn’t deserve my worship.
Second, how does the resurrection change your priorities? I mean, some of us in life – maybe we grew up with this stuff. Yeah, yeah, I believe in Jesus, resurrection, but I don’t have time for God – I’ve got more important things to do. I can’t read my bible everyday, I need to watch my tv everyday. I can’t pray and talk to God everyday, I need to take pictures of my face and send them to everyone else in my life first. I can’t carve out time to go to church every single week – that’s too much time for God. I’ve even heard rumors that this crazy preacher goes on and on – sometimes service is more than an hour long! I know, it’s horrifying. And yes, of course I can carve out time in my life for sports, and carve out time for school and carve out time for work – but God? God’s not that important. But wait, did any of those things rise from the dead? Did my tv rise from the dead? Did my work or my school or my snapchat die for my sins and rise from the dead? And I’m not saying those things are bad. I watch TV too, but on the scale of priorities it should probably be [put hand up high] the one who has authority and dominion over death, and then [put hand down here] all that other stuff. The resurrection changes our worship, and it changes our priorities.
The last area where the resurrection changes our life is our behaviors. If Jesus was just this nice guy who had a couple good ideas – a teacher or maybe a prophet. We could just sort of take the stuff we like and ignore the rest. “I like the part where he says that God is love, and that other part when he said that we should take care of people when we feel like it.” But if he died. Dead. And then rose from the dead. That guy probably deserves more than our cherry picked obedience. So when he says love your enemy, and he says sex should be inside marriage, and he tells us you have to sacrifice in your life to take care of poor people – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, even if you don’t feel like it… we’ve got to change our behaviors to match his teachings. And we can be honest about it – I don’t want to do this stuff. I read this bible and I don’t want to follow all your commands Jesus, but you are the one who died for my sins and then rose again from the dead, so I’m going to change my behaviors to match your teachings, because I want to follow you because you’re the one, the one who was resurrected. I don’t want you to think this is abstract, this is concrete. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be in an argument, or I’ll be fighting with my wife. And I’ll say something or I’ll do something, and I know it’s not what Jesus wants me to do. And I’m angry, and I don’t want to apologize, I don’t want to go back and fix it – I just to get the last word and storm off. I don’t want to repent, I want to win the fight. But in those moments Jesus come to me and he says to me, “you don’t get to use my name if you’re going to act like that.” And I wrestle with it, I fight with Jesus. I don’t like your rules. I don’t like your teachings right now. But Jesus is the one who died for my sins, and rose from the dead. So I go back, and I obey Jesus and I love and serve my wife – even when I’m angry and I don’t want to. And I’ll tell you what – over the years, we fight a lot less. The resurrection changes our behaviors.
Last summer my little boy thought that maybe marshmallows could help someone feel better from being dead. And if it was that easy, we probably wouldn’t be here worshipping this morning. But Jesus rose from the dead, and that resurrection was for you. The resurrection changes lives, and so I’ll leave you with this. Let the resurrection ripple through your life. Let the resurrection change what you worship, let it change your priorities and then let the resurrection change your behaviors. Amen.