Overcome :: Never Overlooked

At Gateway Church in Austin, we celebrated Easter Sunday with our new series, Overcome.

How do you get past the feeling of being overlooked? How do you combat doubt, disappointment, and failure? Eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection shared in these same struggles, but Jesus helped them overcome and make an impact on history. Jesus can do the same for all of us. Join us as we learn how we can live a life of faith that makes us overcomers who make a positive difference in the world.

Next Steps

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.

HERE IS THE AUDIO OF THE MESSAGE I SHARED:

HERE ARE THE NOTES FROM THE MESSAGE BY JOHN BURKE:

In life, we all get to a place eventually where we wonder—do I matter? Does my life really matter? Am I just one of billions? Am I significant, or just a cosmic accident? Does the Universe care about me, because I sure feel like the world doesn’t care. Not really.  And everyone, eventually, asks—Do I really matter? The most accomplished, if they’re self-reflective for even a day, realizes that within 100 years if not 1 year after I’m gone—I will be forgotten, and all I worked so hard to achieve will likely be overlooked, irrelevant, or outdated (like the ipod or CD player).  Some of us have grown up feeling oppressed and forgotten, even from early years—unseen by parents, put down by peers, always behind the curve. The odds seem stacked against us for the starting gun—what hope is there that my life could ever matter?

And yet, all of us Hope!  Have you ever thought about how strangely significant that fact is.  We all hope—we hope that our lives will matter. We hope there is meaning to all my toil. We hope love is more than just a chemical reaction—something worth living and dying for. We Hope that we are not overlooked, not forgotten, that we are special and have a purpose, and will be loved.  That’s a universal hope of humans. Like that song – Is there Someone out there who sees me, who cares, who is with me through all this…in the Name of Love?

Well, today is Easter Sunday. Christ followers all across the globe are celebrating what we believe is God’s answer to those questions. We do matter, every single human on planet earth matters, and God proved it that first Easter—He did it all in the Name of Love. Think about it—if there really is a God who IS love as Jesus claimed and demonstrated, and if that God created you, and me, and knows you better than you know yourself. And if that God created us to be his children who would love and follow him forever, then you DO Matter.  You may feel overlooked and forgotten by this world, you may feel oppressed or worth nothing to people, but if the God who created it all says you’re worth everything to Him—the rest doesn’t matter. And that’s what Easter claimed to prove once and for all. How much YOU matter to God.

Now, I realize that not everyone here believes that yet.  Gateway is a Come As You Are church, where doubters / strugglers are welcome—in fact, in this series we start today, we’re looking at Jesus Resurrection through the eyes of those around him who struggled—next week is Doubting Thomas. So bring your doubts and don’t miss it. Today, we’re gonna look at Jesus Resurrection through the eyes of the women who followed him, but first, is there any reason to believe the Resurrection of Jesus is more than just a myth?  That’s what I used to think. I thought Christians just wanted to believe this stuff—even though rational thought and science gave it zero chance of being true. That’s what I used to think–it was myth—Jesus was a man but people make him like a god, legend creeps in, myth replaces fact, and soon you make a god out of a great human. I used to think that. And while I can’t give you years of study that changed my mind in the next 15 minutes, many smart, intellectuals, have gone from skeptics to believers when they took the time to look at the historical evidence for Jesus’ claims and resurrection. If you’re like I was, don’t smugly reject what you really don’t know–read for yourself what many smart people discovered. Like:

C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity –  An Oxford professor, atheist, who was challenged by other scholars who believed—he thought evil and suffering put a nail in God’s coffin.  But after years of honest inquiry, he came to faith in Christ saying he was “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” But he wrote Mere Christianity explaining what convinced him.

Francis Collins – The Language of God Head of the Human Genome Project, and an evolutionary biologist who found faith in Jesus while decoding our DNA. Wrote the Language of God explaining how science and reason led him to faith.

Simon GreenleafAn Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence, was an atheist lawyer in the 1800s who wrote the book on the Rules of Legal Evidence, challenged by Christians students to put the eyewitnesses of Jesus resurrection on trial using his rules of legal evidence—came back and wrote why the evidence led him to faith.

Lee Strobel – The Case for Christ – he was a Yale Trained Lawyer, Legal Editor for the Chicago Tribune, his wife became a Christian, as an atheist he used his legal journalism to disprove the resurrection, but in Case for Christ shows the evidence that led him to faith, he’s been here at Gateway.

Sir Lionel Luckhoo—The Question Answered: Did Jesus Rise? [find his pic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_Luckhoo#/media/File:Lionel_Luckhoo_(1968).jpg] –An Indian turned British trial lawyer who won the most cases ever in modern history. When he took time to examine the evidence wrote this: “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt!”Sir Luckhoo, The Question Answered: Did Jesus Rise?

As I’ve said before, this just proves, if all these lawyers can find faith, anyone can find faith…if you’re willing to seek truth. Go to our App or Gatewaychurch.com/Exploring-faith for more. So let me give you a taste of the evidence—because it’s evidence that God does see you, that God does care, that you are not Overlooked or unimportant—keep that in mind.  Because God doesn’t want your intellectual assent, He wants your love, your trust, your heart—just like a loving parent wants that for and from their kids. So…

1). Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection Was Foretold – God knew this would be hard to believe. What is Resurrection—it’s not resuscitation—Resurrection is a singularity–it’s only happened once.  One Easter a pastor had all the little kids come up on stage and he asked “Kids, who can tell me what resurrection is?” Silence. He got nervous and said “Come on, someone knows.” One little boy sheepishly raised his hand and said, “I’m not sure what a resurrection is but I know if you have one for more than 4 hours, you’re supposed to call your doctor.” It’s confusing to us too.

So God began putting signs in writings of his prophets since 4000 years ago—since the beginning of recorded human history, God said “One day, I’m gonna reveal myself in a form you can relate to, and I’m gonna die for all your wrongs, then overcome death.” Why? Cause you matter that much to him. 60 signs were written beforehand. And we have proof they were written beforehand because we found copies predating Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls. I’ll quickly show you 2 of the 60.

David, writing in 1000 BC (1000 years before Jesus) had a vision of God’s Messiah nailed to a cross that first Good Friday, dying for you. Speaking from Jesus perspective Psalm 22 says:  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?…I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. 15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.16 Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.17 All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me.18 They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment… All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him. Psalm 22:1, 14-18, 27

Who is King David talking about—all nations will worship him? This is Jesus’ crucifixion perfectly described 1000 years before it happened—saying he would do it for all families and all nations so that they would turn back to him and let Him be God. He loved you enough to die for you! It was foretold – you matter that much. The world may overlook you, undervalue you, but you are seen, known, worth dying for…to God.

But David writes this before the Romans have even made crucifixion prevalent—yet this describes what John, the eyewitness of Jesus crucifixion witnessed. Jesus was nailed to the cross—they pierce my hands and feet, all bones on display from hanging, the roman soldiers rolled dice for who got his King’s Cloak that King Herod mockingly put on him. And then John says Jesus cried out the words of this Psalm “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” And died—he didn’t die of crucifixion.

Imagine every mean, hurtful, nasty, evil thing you’ve ever felt, said, or done—then think about how evil humans can be—raping, murdering, plotting revenge, using, abusing. Now imagine experiencing all the sins and evils of humanity at once! That’s what killed Jesus. In Case for Christ, Lee Strobel interviews a cardiologist, Dr. Alexander Methrell who points out that Jesus didn’t die of crucifixion, but a heart attack. When your heart fails, a clear pericardial fluid builds up in the sack around the heart.  The Roman soldiers broke the legs of both criminals on either side of Jesus because they wanted them dead before dark, but Jesus was already dead, so to make sure he was dead they stabbed him in the heart. John said, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. John 19:34 The “water” was the pericardial fluid mixed with blood—confirming heart attack. How could a first century fisherman have confirmed what modern medicine and David in 1000 B.C. would predict about Jesus’ crucifixion “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.” Psalm 22:14, 1000 B.C. But David also said, For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. Psalm 16:10, 1000 B.C. The eyewitnesses of Jesus point out that David’s grave was known—he did rot in the grave—but David was speaking of God’s Messiah, Jesus, forecasting that Easter resurrection. These are just 2 of 60 signposts God wrote and fulfilled in Jesus—he foretold where, when, why, and what Jesus would do, so that all people of all tribes all languages could be restored to God.

There’s so much evidence, if you’re open. But here’s the catch, if you’re not open-minded, there’s no amount of evidence that will convince you. God said, I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13 You matter to God, he put you here for a purpose, and his plans are for your good, but God’s not like the Kings and rulers of this world who force their will—God’s law is love, and love requires freedom and willingness. So God gives freedom to seek God or just seek our own will and ways. In his book, a Hollywood screenwriter and novelist Andrew Klavan talks about what led him to faith in Jesus as a secular Jew, but notes: “If you believe, the evidence is all around you. If you don’t believe, no evidence can be enough.” The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ, Andrew Klavan

One of the strongest lines of evidence is actually a strange one that I want to zoom in on this Easter – God chose the women as the first eyewitnesses of the Risen Jesus. God taught us in this how he’s overturning the world’s ways, not by force, but by changing hearts—and He increased the credibility of the resurrection by choosing women, not men, to be the first eyewitnesses of Jesus alive. That’s significant for numerous reasons.

First, women in the ancient world were extremely overlooked and oppressed. It was a male-dominated society where women were treated like property. Among the Pharisees, the religious elite who convinced Pilate to crucify Jesus, they had this morning blessing, “Blessed are you O God, King of the Universe, Who has not made me “a goy[Gentile],” “a slave,” or “a woman.” Greeks and Zorastrians held similar views. It was the way of the world that Jesus came to supplant.

There was a whole group of Rabbis called “The bruised and bleeding Rabbis” because their approach to containing their lust was to walk around looking at the ground so as to never see a woman—so they were forever running into walls and buildings—thus the bruised and bleeding Rabbis. Like the Christian Camp one of our Pastors went to where no listening to rock music, or it may lead to premarital dancing. The Pharisees saw women and lepers and the sinners of the day as unclean—untouchables—their disease will infect, stay away, us versus them. In fact, If anyone touched a leper, or a leper came in your home—you and your home were defiled, unclean. Jesus comes along and turns everything upside down—he shows that the unseen, the forgotten, the outcast—matter, they deserve human affection, they are not forgotten by God.  A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man….” Matthew 8:2-3 He touched him—he defiled himself – why?–to show that this man mattered—then he healed him. But he didn’t have to touch him, he was making a statement.

It reminds me of a man in the church I worked at before starting Gateway. Think of another disease that in the 90s, like leprosy, carried moral stigma and a death sentence and made a person untouchable. A woman in our church found out her brother was dying of AIDS. His parents had cut him off.  He was so full of guilt and shame, he wanted to die alone. His sister got him to the hospital. He made peace with God and he asked my pastor friend to baptize him in the hospital 3 days before he died. His parents finally visited, but his mom, who brought his body into the world, would not even touch her son days before he would leave this world. Her main concern was that his records would not say AIDS as the cause of death.  

Jesus came into the world to reverse the ways we treat the outcast, the overlooked, the unseen. He came to heal the disease at the root—in the human spirit. These divisions are NOT of God. Paul would say after the resurrection There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28  Jesus came to pay for all this sin and evil that pits race against race (Jews, Arabs, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians) pits rich against the poor, pits men against women—he came to unite us as one.  That’s God’s will and ways—but of course, we keep going back to our will and ways. But Jesus was paying God’s price of justice for all that—to reconnect every willing human with the Source of Love.

And The women at the tomb was further evidence of this. Women had no rights in that day. Imagine how overlooked, oppressed, forgotten it would feel to be a woman in a Jewish society ruled by Romans. They were an oppressed, Jewish minority kept in poverty under the harsh rule of Roman conquerors. The Rabbis refused to let women learn from a Rabbi—the path to education–formal education was for men only who would “sit at the feet” of a Rabbi—Yet Rabbi Jesus lets women travel with him as his disciples/learners—Mary, Martha, Mary Magdelene, Joanna, Salome, others. Unheard of in that day. Mary was “sitting at the feet of Jesus listening” when her sister Martha gets mad that she’s not in the kitchen doing what women are supposed to do.  Jesus said, “Mary has chosen something better and I won’t take it away from her.”

If 3 women saw a murder, it was like no one saw it because a woman’s testimony was not accepted in a court of law in that society. So as if to put an exclamation mark on lifting up the overlooked, the Risen Jesus doesn’t appear to his male disciples but only to women.  Now stop and think about that. If Jesus’ male disciples, who ended up writing the eyewitness accounts of Jesus life, teachings, miracles, death and resurrection are making it up—why make up that women saw the resurrection first? You just discredited your whole story. You can bet your bitcoins no one in that society would believe women. It would be like saying today “It’s true, 3 politicians said so.” Or like Facebook saying “Trust us with all your personal info and those Cabo Vacation pics, Mark Zuckerberg would never harvest your information.” Just not believable is it!?

You’d never make up women being the hero eyewitnesses. Yet the men write: Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen…The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”  Matthew 28:1-10 Think about this—Jesus appears to the women only—and He forces the men believe their testimony and go all the way to Galilee (a 10 day journey) if they want to see him. Jesus is turning the world’s ways on its ear. But these men didn’t believe the women at first.

Have you ever noticed that men don’t often eat humble pie, admit they’re wrong, or that they need directions? Yet later, all 4 accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John make it clear Mary Magdalene was there with other women, saw Jesus first, but they didn’t believe them. Yet these guys all begrudgingly say “the women were right, we were wrong.”  And Mary Magdalene was the woman who had all sorts of demons that drove her into all sorts of immoral behavior, prostitution, probably alcoholism—yet she simply turned and followed Jesus out of gratitude and love—he forgave her, healed her, and then dignified her the most!—she was the first eyewitness of Jesus post-crucifixion. Jesus is turning the world’s system on its head, saying in God’s Kingdom the unseen are seen, the unforgivable are forgiven, the undignified are dignified.

That’s true of you too—do you feel like you’ve failed too much—that you’re uniquely irredeemable—that God couldn’t forgive you or love you, or care about you—not true! Easter proves it. God takes what evil meant for our destruction, and uses it for our good and for his purposes—for all who turn to him for forgiveness in love and gratitude. He declares you forgiven, seen, important and loved enough to die for.

Skeptical Lawyers realized this is compelling—these men saying women only were first to see Jesus, what could possibly have been the motive? And on top of that, at first blush, their accounts seem to say different things. Matthew says Mary and Mary got to the tomb and saw Jesus, Mark says Mary, Mary, and Salome. Luke says Mary, Mary, Joanna, and other women. John’s says Mary Magdalene but implies others. And if you’re looking for reasons to keep Jesus out of your life, you could just cry Foul—contradiction—and feel smug about going your own way, ignoring God and his ways.  But the Skeptical Lawyers who have studied this actually see it as stronger evidence of authentic, believable testimony.

  1. Warner Wallace was a Cold Case Homocide Detective—solved many unsolved murder cases, you may have seen him on Dateline or other shows. He too was an atheist, whose wife wanted to go to church, decided to read the gospels about Jesus and was shocked to find this authentic testimony that eventually led him to faith. In his book, Cold Case Christianity he explains that eyewitnesses who all say exactly the same thing—is bad– collusion. Eyewitnesses write from unique perspectives that can then be harmonized. He harmonizes the various accounts and notes, The Gospel authors (and the early Church) certainly had the opportunity to change the descriptions of the women to make sure they matched, but they refused to do so. As a result, we can have even moreconfidence in the reliability of these accounts.” –J. Warner Wallace

So Jesus says to the women, “Go tell the guys go to Galilee and I’ll appear to you like I did for you women” but the men stubbornly wouldn’t believe.  They refused to go. And I wonder if Jesus was like “Guys, you’re totally ruining my surprise—come on.” Because Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating [in Jerusalem]; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him [the women] after he had risen. Mark 16:14. He’s even patient with our stubbornness.

Think about it, Jesus wielded none of the levers of this world—not power, fame, fortune, war—he elevated the overlooked, outcast, forgotten, the guilty, the shame ridden—his message was love, but not love like the world loves—he said with God at the center of your life, you can become the kind of person who can love even your enemies. You can find Love of Another Kind—the kind that helps you see the unseen, care for the forgotten, elevate the overlooked, forgive your enemies—All In the Name of Love. Though the world may not ever know you, You are known intimately. Though the world may shame you, you are not condemned in Christ. Though the world may devalue you, to God you are of so much value—your worth dying for…and by the same power that overcame death in Jesus, you can live a New Life.

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