Monday, April 2, 2018

Living in Victory, Week 2 - The Great Reversal

Check out this video before reading the rest of the blog:

Well I have to tell you, that is one heart pumping prank. Just imagine what it must have felt like to be that guy. Not knowing what is going on and being put in to a situation where you’re completely out of control, and there’s a guy that you think is completely out of control.
Well it’s April’s fools day, and I’m sure a lot of pranks are happening around the world right now. Some real benign, like a parent who asked their two daughters to go into the Auto Parts store and get them a quart of blinker fluid. Some are pretty scary at first, like the one we saw, but end in laughter. And then there’s also those that are just mean and end friendships.
But no matter what the prank, no matter what happens at the end, laughter at someone else’s expense is always the goal. But when you start a pranking war, you better be ready to be pranked yourself.
Back when my wife and I were first dating, she tried to play a prank on me with the help of her roommates. It didn’t work, but I told her that I would get her back. And for the next few years, she lived in constant fear of the moment when I would prank her. I never did. What I did was simply hold over her head the possibility of the prank, which in itself was the prank.
And to me, the best pranks are the ones that reverse the initial prank. I mean, how funny it would have been if the guy that Jeff Gordon pranked, pranked him back by having a fake police officer seemingly arrest the whole film crew?
That would have added to the hilariousnesses, because that would give the people mocking the original target, their comeuppance.

And to me, that’s what Easter represents, the ultimate prank reversal. Jesus’ response to the mockers. I want to take you through the crucifixion and the resurrection and look at it from the perspective of mocking, and reversal.
If you have a Bible, we’re going to be in the book of Matthew, chapter 27, starting in verse 27.
Before we jump into the book of Matthew’s 27th chapter, and it’s 27th verse though, I want to share with you the lead up. Jesus is being accused of in sighting riots. He’s accused of trying to make himself a king. In fact, at his interrogation, Jesus is asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” to which he replies, “Yes, it is as you say.”
Before that happen, Jesus had claimed to be from heaven. Jesus claimed to be God come down. Jesus claimed to be the Savior of the world. And all these claims are about to be mocked.
And it’s at the mocking of Jesus’ claims that we pick up in the book of Matthew, chapter 27, verse 27. 

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium (pray-you-tor-e-um) and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
These soldiers took Jesus’ words of being the King of Israel, and mocked him for it. The robe, the crown of thorns, the staff, the proclamation of “Hail, king of the Jews!” All symbols of a king, but then they beat him. Something you would never do to a king.
But it doesn’t stop there, the mocking continues. A little ways down in verse 37 a sign was put above Jesus’ cross that read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Mocking him further.
But it wan’t just the Roman soldiers who got a laugh out of mocking Jesus, the Jewish people joined in too. In verse 38 it says, “Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.”

Up until the final moments of Jesus’ death, all he heard was ridicule and insults. And then he died. The priests who had started this whole thing in motion were ecstatic. They had won, they had beaten this Rabbi from Nazareth who had challenged them so many times. They finally had the upper hand, and put Jesus in his place. They wouldn’t have to worry about him any longer. Jesus was dead, and they had won. They had their laugh at Jesus’ expense.

But then, the reversal. Three days later by Jewish understanding, the tomb where Jesus was buried opened, the soldiers that were guarding it, were frighten to the point of collapse.  
And then, Jesus started to appear to people. Over 500 people saw him after his death.
Now we can easily respond to this by saying, Jesus’ disciples are the greatest pranksters in history, claiming that Jesus rose from the dead, but really he didn’t.
In fact, this is exactly what the Jewish leadership told everyone. They told people that Jesus’ disciples stole the body. And anyone that believes the Jesus actually rose from the grave, is playing into the prank.
But let’s step back for a moment, have you ever committed a prank you would be willing to die for? At the mention of the police being called on Jeff Gordon, be began to plead with the man that was just a prank. He was quick to disclose the cameras, the fake prosthetics, everything. 
But the disciples died telling people that Jesus rose from the grave. Everyone of Jesus’ original twelve followers died. Eleven of them after the resurrection, believing and standing firm that he had rose from the grave and that they had seen it.
A former agnostic once said, “People will not die for their religious beliefs if they know that their religious beliefs are false.”
None of us would die for a prank, none of us would die for something we know is not true or real. But each of the original eleven did die. Five by crucifixion, two by being pelted by rocks, one by decapitation, one be hacked to pieces, one by a spear. The final one died of old age, after being boiled in oil and when that didn’t kill him, he was exiled to an island.
And that’s just the twelve. 
But Jesus didn’t just appear to his followers. Skeptics like James who became the head of the Jerusalem Church, reported seeing Jesus, and eventually died for that belief.

Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest reversal of mockery that has ever occurred in history. Those that killed him thought they had won, but he arose, reversing their victory and triumphing over them. Winning not only over the people that were out to get him, but over death itself.
And that victory over death, is a victory that Jesus doesn’t keep for himself. From Jesus’ own words, he says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10a).”

One of Jesus’ greatest mockers, who became a follower after seeing him after he rose from the dead, said this, “4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

And Jesus offers his victory to each of us right now. And that victory is not just over death when we leave this world, that victory is in this life. A life that can face down any mockery and say my Jesus beat you, and there is nothing that can stand against me now.

Now, I don’t know where you’re at. I don’t know if you believe that Jesus is raised from the dead, or not. But what I do know is that Jesus is calling to you right now to respond to him. To respond to his victory, and to his life.
In the coming weeks we are going to be talking about how we can live Jesus’ victorious life everyday, and how it can change and overcome everything that wants to defeat us.
But today, we must respond to this Jesus who reversed the mockery of the cross, and won the victory. 
We remember this through what is called communion, which basically means a time of connecting with God. I want to challenge you, that before you are done reading this take some bread, and some grape juice (or wine if that’s your thing), and read the following:
The bread represents Jesus’ body one the cross: beaten and broke.
Jesus went to the cross willingly, so that you may have victory in this life and the next.
By taking the bread, you connect with Jesus on the cross, accepting his broken body so that your body is not broken.

The drink represents Jesus’ blood spilt to cover sin. 
In Jewish law, God stated that for sin (the things we do that are not inline with God’s standard) to be forgive, someone’s blood had to be spilled. Usually this was an animal’s.
But for humans to be fully forgiven, another human who had kept God’s law perfectly, had to die. This was Jesus.
In taking the drink, you connect with Jesus on the cross, accepting his spilt blood as a covering for your sin.

Take and eat. Take and drink.
By taking the communion whether this be your first time, or your thousandth time, by taking the bread and the drink you are saying, I want the victory Jesus has won. I want the life he gives for free.

And the life he gives is truly free to us, nothing we can do earns it. It’s all because he endured the mockery for us, so that we could experience all of the good that comes from it.
Would you come and take the life and the victory that Jesus offers you today?
Now may the God who reversed the mockery of the cross, bring you into the victory of the resurrection. That you may live his full life today, and be brought into his life for eternity. Amen.

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