Are there areas in your life that feel more dead than alive? You’re stuck in Friday, but you need Sunday to come? Are there places where you feel shut in the cold, damp tomb of life, something that seems too big for you to move?
In the ultimate exchange, Jesus’ died the death we deserved so that we might have the life He lived. He didn’t wait for humanity to finally get it right and clean ourselves up, but it was while we were in the depths of sin that He died. And on the 3rd day, He rose from the dead inaugurating a new creation in which we can all participate!
Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own or get together with your group, spiritual running partners, or family to talk through what you are learning.
Video with Norman Garcia and Eric Bryant:
Audio with Norman Garcia and Eric Bryant:
Happy Easter, I’m Norman Garcia. Pastor of our Dripping Springs Community, and we are so glad you’re here to celebrate–Death to Life – that’s the message of Easter. Jesus brought victory over death to bring us to Life—a Life more fulfilling than maybe we’ve ever thought possible. All of us have dead things in our lives but with God’s power, they can be brought back to life. Easter is a celebration of a Victory that God offers us all. But what that Victory is and how that relates to real life and that first Easter—that can get confusing.
Jesus’ crucifixion, the stone rolled away, resurrection, Easter eggs and easter bunnies, marshmallow-pastel everything—Easter American-style is confusing. Maybe you grew up where Easter meant that twice a year trip to church, and I remember how painful it was to try to stay awake in the traditional church I grew up in. Someone sent me an email:
One day little Alex, a 7-year-old, was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the church. It was covered with names, and small American flags were mounted on either side of it. The Pastor came up and said “morning Alex” and stood looking at the Plaque with Alex. Alex asked, “Why are all the names on here?” “Well, son, it’s a memorial to all the young men and women who have died in the service.” The stood soberly looking and the plaque, then Alex asked, “Which one, the 9:00 or the 10:30 service?” That was my occasional experience of church, Dead—which is why we’ve tried to bring Life at Gateway, we love to laugh and help you understand that every good gift of Life comes from God. God is about Life, not Death.
And We’re a church that says—Come As You Are—maybe you’re still skeptical about all of it, it all sounds like myth and fairytale to you—perfect, you’re in the right place. That’s where I started and many of us started, so we’re not afraid of tough questions or doubts or struggles—because if you keep an open mind and posture, and your really seek understanding—I’ve watched 1000s of people find something real and life-giving in a relationship with God. Others of us have been following Christ for a long time are here to worship and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Awesome, this is a place you can grow, and part of that is reflecting today on where you feel dead and where you need life. Because Jesus came to give us all Victory over death and to lead us into life.
That stone in your hand is a representation of what Easter is all about—historically, and personally. The stone was rolled away. I want to start with a reminder about Easter Historically because we didn’t all grow up learning the history. Easter is not just another mythological story, and Jesus isn’t just a legend. If you just listen to word on the street, you can get that impression, but if you seek truth you’ll realize history confirms what happened 2000 years ago.
Some think evidence for Jesus is about that sketchy. But Historians agree, whether believers or not, on some basic historical facts about Jesus. For 3.5 years Jesus traveled throughout Galilee and Judea teaching about God’s Kingdom, healing people and doing miraculous things that drew a large following. He clashed with the religious establishment, calling out their greed and self-centered motives, and eventually they convinced the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate to crucify him. These things are written about, not just in the Bible, but by Jewish and Roman historians, who also mention that many thought He was the long-foretold Messiah of God, who would save us all. That first Easter Weekend began with the darkest day in History, as Jesus, who taught and demonstrated the love of God for all humanity was nailed to a wooden cross, crying out “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” That Friday night, Passover, he hung and died outside Jerusalem. It’s real history. [BUMPER VIDEO]
And it’s history foretold by God.
Not only does history confirm it happened, God told us in advance what he would do, so we could know it’s not just myth, legend or fairytale—but God bringing us Victory over death and the offer of Life.
Friday death had come, but Sunday was a-coming! For us Sunday is here!
And God gave us this assurance so that in our Friday nights of life, where our dreams, our very life seems headed for death, we can hold onto the hope that Sunday’s coming—God’s victory, God’s Life, is available.
- In Isaiah 52-53, written nearly 700 years before Jesus, God foretold The Weekend of all Weekends.
- And we have proof that God foretold it because in 1948 in the Dead Sea Scrolls found outside of Jerusalem were found copies of 38 of 39 of the books of the Old Testament, preserved in sealed clay pots for 2300 years.
- And in it was found a complete copy of the book of Isaiah, foretelling Jesus’ coming and life, death, and resurrection—and scientists carbon-dated it 200-335 years before Jesus was born.
- So you can read online the Book of Isaiah that proof-positive predates Jesus, yet foretells that Easter Weekend.
I’ll read from it today. Isaiah 52:
See, my servant [the Messiah] will prosper, and he will be exalted and lifted up, and will be very high. Just as many were astonished at you—so was he marred in his appearance, more than any human… Surely he has borne our sufferings, and carried our sorrows. . . . he was wounded for our transgressions, and he was crushed for our iniquities, and the punishment that made us whole was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, each of us, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity [sins] of us all.” Isaiah 52:13, 53:4-6 Dead Sea Version, Ulrich
The Death of Jesus that Friday night…was foretold. Proof positive.
But Jesus came not to die, but to give us victory over death.
The eyewitnesses of Jesus’ death tell us two Pharisees took Jesus’ body and put him in one of their tombs. They belonged to the religious leadership that crucified Jesus, but they saw him heal the sick, raise the dead, they experienced his love, and they came to believe he was the Messiah Isaiah and the prophets foretold.
And they placed Jesus in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb and rolled the large stone across the entrance to seal Jesus’ body in death.
The Stone you hold is a reminder of the historical stone that sealed Jesus’ death.
God foretold this as well through Isaiah who continues:
“He was cut off from the land of the living…then they made his grave with the wicked, and with rich people his tomb—though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.” Isaiah 53:8-9 Dead Sea Version, Ulrich.
As Jesus hung on the cross, he hung between two thieves, probably murderers.
They were all to be thrown in a mass grave that all crucified criminals were thrown into.
They made his grave with the wicked Isaiah said, but with the rich, his tomb.
Joseph was a wealthy man—not many could afford a rock hewn tomb, and he put Jesus in his own rich-man’s tomb.
But Jesus didn’t come just to die, he came to conquer death and all it represents. Sunday was a coming.
So let me pause and ask a question.
Are there areas in your life that feel more dead than alive?
You’re stuck in Friday, but you need Sunday to come?
Are there places where you feel shut in the cold, damp tomb of life with a big huge stone blocking the Light of Life—something that seems too big for you to move?
That stone in your hand represents the rock rolled over the tomb that has kept part of your life dead.
For some of you, this stone represents that addiction that is stealing, killing, and destroying your life—and maybe you’ve owned up to it, or maybe you’re still denying it.
You can’t stop working; looking at your phone; binge-watching TV; watching shows that aren’t good for your heart, soul, or mind; staying isolated in your house; eating too much or eating unhealthy things; drinking or smoking nightly to take the edge off; getting drunk on the weekends; or going to websites that exploit other people.
And the irony is, you started down that road because it promised life, fun, escape, freedom, excitement, but it locked you in a dark, damp tomb that’s killing the fullness of Life God wants to give you.
Everyone who has gone through recovery has discovered, when you surrender your life and will to follow His life and will, you find a power to overcome, and it sets you free.
Will you give him that stone?
For some of you, that stone represents how dead you feel at work, school, or just life.
Most of your days feel like they drain the life out of you.
You hide it well, but you’re struggling.
There’s this deep longing for something more meaningful, but you don’t know where to find it.
You keep thinking a career change will do it, and maybe a move, but it’s not the ultimate solution because wherever you go, there you are.
Will you give him that stone?
For some of you, that stone represents a place in which you need healing.
Perhaps that healing is physical, emotional, relational, or it’s mental health that you need.
This has been a hard year for many of us as a good friend who has been on staff with us as our Care Pastor has been fighting cancer. Mike Papale [pic] for the past year has been fighting so hard with so many ups and so many downs. Just a couple of days ago, Mike and Kaye [pic] told me they are moving back home after he’s been at the hospital since Dec. 23. He will be in hospice. We are still praying for a miracle even as the doctors say there is nothing more they can do.
In what area do you need healing?
Sometimes we don’t get the kind of healing that we want. Even in that we can discover a supernatural peace. Sometimes God can heal us instantaneously. Other times he starts by healing us spiritually and takes us on a journey towards healing that could include community with others from Gateway, growing to know God and seeing doctors, counselors, or Restore also known as Recovery, or all of the above.
If it is pain from injustice, you need to know God has promised that one day He will bring justice, but even today he can bring healing of those memories and those wounds so you can be whole again.
Maybe it’s your marriage that seems lifeless and hopeless. You both feel so alone, so hurt. The love that brought you together feels dead—but there’s still hope. Maybe it starts with our Maximizing Marriage workshop on May 7th.
Or maybe the relational healing you need is with your teenager. Maybe it starts with the event we are doing this Wednesday at 7pm where I will be helping you and your teenager understand each other using the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator.
We can find healing from God, and peace in the process.
But have you even fully turned to Him for healing?
Will you lay that stone at the cross?
Will you ask him to lead and guide you so that those wounds are healed and made whole?
Or maybe you are in a really good place with God. You spend time with Jesus every day, you have community with others who follow Jesus, you are investing in others who do not yet know Jesus to help them find faith. If that’s you, God still has more for you. There are parts of your life He wants to make new. Perhaps blind spots He wants to reveal to you so that you can surrender them to Him. Continue to lean into your walk with Him and lean into our community as He calls you into even deeper intimacy.
God is one who moves the stone that feels immovable.
You can trust him—he wants to bring Life and Hope to you.
For some of you perhaps you are struggling with grief because you lost someone you love.
I need to be honest with you. Losing my Dad this past year has hit me hard. Pic of me and my parents
For some reason, I found myself struggling with doubting God.
Before my Dad died, I specifically prayed:
“God, I need what I say I believe to be true!”
I asked God to show me that there is life after death – that God is truly with us, that we can trust Him. At first, there seemed to be just silence from God.
After he died, Deborah and I drove to be with my Mom and my brother who had come to town as well.
We shared stories and looked at lots of pictures.
The next day, as Deborah and I drove back to my Mom’s house, I was amazed at the sunset. It just hit me differently than usual. And this is what we saw. PIC of the Sky
I felt like in that instant God reminded me of my prayer for proof of life after death. We pulled up to my Mom’s house and decided to go swimming with my Mom. Something we had not done all summer – even though we came to help her at the house almost weekly once my Dad got sick.
There is a lot more proof of life after death, that God can be trusted than this picture, but it was a beautiful reminder to me of the power of our Creator God.
Now, I had not read the Bible on the day my Dad died or the two days after. It wasn’t out of anger with God. I was too busy and too numb. When I went to the Bible to hear from God, to experience comfort, to find more evidence that I can trust God, I didn’t know where to go. I felt a bit stuck, so I just went to the Bible App to see the verse of the day which was this:
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” – Psalms 27:14 NIV
It was exactly what I needed from God. I read the entire Psalm which talked about how God is our light and salvation and there is no reason to fear. It even mentions “dwelling in th house of the Lord forever” and “though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”
My parents have NEVER NOT been there for me!
But now that my Dad is gone, He cannot be there for me like he has been in the past, but God is there with me.
The last two verses of the Psalm said this:
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” – Psalms 27:13-14 NIV
There is a life beyond this one. We can entrust the one we lost to God. Regardless of how they may have lived their lives, we do not know what God might have done in their heart. We don’t know if they reached out to Jesus at some point in their life or in their final moments. We can trust God with that person we love that we have lost.
The next day the verse of the day was this one:
“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?”” – John 11:25-26 NIV
Once again, exactly what I needed.
Let me ask you the same question I wrestled with and the same question Jesus asked in John 11 –
“Do you believe this?”
I don’t mean theoretically. I mean – do you believe this in your heart? Do you believe God loves you and offers new life to you that starts now and continues into eternity?
Do you believe your purpose is now to experience the peace, love, and joy that He offers through your relationship with Him and bring that peace, love, and joy to those in your home, your neighborhood, and your workplace?
Where do you need God’s love to bring Victory in your life?
Where do you need to lay down that thing, whatever this stone represents, that’s destroying your life and keeping you alone in spiritual darkness—Jesus came to pay the price not only to forgive your sins, but to restore you relationally to God, who wants to do life with you to bring Life and Freedom and Victory to those dead places.
The band is going to lead us in a couple of classic songs with lyrics that perfectly describe what Jesus has done for us. During these songs, I want to invite you to tell the Lord where you need His Victory to lead you into Life Abundant like he promised.
That Friday night, death seemed to win. But Sunday was coming.
And on Sunday, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on Sunday morning,just at sunrise, they went to the tomb… But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, 6 but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Mark 16:1-6.
The Stone was rolled away—death could not hold Jesus!
He brought victory over death, our greatest enemy, has been defeated!
And God can bring Victory in any area if we will let him—where there is death, he can bring life!
I want to teach you something the ancient church would do. It’s called the Paschal greeting.
When one person says: “He is Risen!”
The other person would respond with: “He is Risen!”
So let’s try it: “He is Risen!”
“He is Risen Indeed!”
“He is Risen!”
“He is Risen Indeed!”
You know another ancient tradition which may have been lost is the origin of the Easter egg. When you crack open a Cascarones, it is filled with confetti! No egg yolk! It’s empty!
Originally eggs were given up for Lent so on Fat Tuesday you would eat all the eggs you could before you began your 40 days of fasting (not really the point of fasting but that’s what people did) and then because the chickens kept laying eggs during those 40 days, on Easter when the fast was broken, there were eggs everywhere to eat!
The eggs were often colored red representing the blood of Jesus shed for us.
Eventually the eggs were colored all different colors and the empty eggs were filled with candy and jelly beans (as candy was often given up for Lent) but the empty egg representing the empty tomb is often lost or forgotten. And I have no idea the origin of the tradition of the Easter Bunny laying eggs! Normal bunnies are mammals!
Back to the real story.
This too, God foretold 700 years before that first Easter in Isaiah 53: Although you make his soul an offering for sin, and he will see his offspring [spiritual children], and he will prolong his days [resurrection], and the will of the Lord will triumph in his hand. Out of the suffering of his soul he will see light. Isaiah 53:10-11, Dead Sea Version Ulrich.
Do you see it?
God told us in advance what he actually did in History!
He brought Victory over all our sins and failures, over all the evils and injustices, over all the brokenness and woundedness of humanity!
He conquered death itself—to bring Life to You.
It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or failed to do—it’s all forgivable!
Jesus paid it all!
Will you give him your life in Love and trust?
Will you lay down that stone and let his life come?
But he won’t force you.
God gave you a free will because He created you for his love.
Love requires the free will to choose to love—you can’t buy love, bribe love, or force love—we all know that.
God demonstrates his love for you in sending Jesus to lay down his life, so you and I can be forgiven, and restored into right relationship with the very Source of Love and Life.
Have you ever chosen to Love God by giving your life back to him in trust?
Maybe that’s what that stone represents—You trying to play God of your life and make life go your way—but if you’ll give it to him, He can make something beautiful out of your life, and you’ll love it because it’s why he created you.
There’s one more amazing thing this Stone Represents.
When we give it back to him, He turns it into something New.
All of us spend so much effort and energy trying to prove ourselves to the world—trying to “be somebody” or “make a name for ourselves” or get people’s approval or attention.
But the truth is, only God knows Who You Are and What You’re Worth.
He wants to bring peace into that frenzied, anxious striving to Prove Yourself.
Look what the Risen Jesus says in Revelation:
To everyone who is victorious I will give…to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it. – Revelation 2:17
When you give your life to Jesus, he takes that stone that once represented death, and writes on it a New Name—your True Identity, which you don’t even know yet.
But God knows—he created you.
He created you to be unique, different than every other person, and he didn’t make a mistake—you’re perfect in his eyes—His Masterpiece.
He calls you that in scripture.
He wants to give you confidence, peace, security in Who You are because no one else knows you but Him.
So here’s what I want to invite you to do this Easter. Give your life to God. Trust him with it fully.
For those who have put your trust in Christ in the past, maybe there’s an area in your life where you took it back—you stopped letting God lead you in some area of life—pray during this song, and give that area back to the Lord who brings Life where there was death.
Maybe you’re doing that for the first time.
You’ve never accepted the free Gift of forgiveness for all your wrongs—past present and future—that Jesus died to pay for, so you could freely come Home to God.
If you want that—relationship with the God who loves you—tell him in your heart “I want what Jesus did to count for me, I want your forgiveness God, I want your love and life—come lead me. I trust you with my life.”
And if you’re making that decision for the first time, I want to invite you to do something special to mark this moment.
I want to invite you to bring your stone down to one of these crosses, and lay it at the foot of the cross—signifying that you’re accepting God’s forgiveness and giving your life back to Him.
If you are doing this for the first time or if you have wandered away from your faith, but today you are choosing to recommit your life to following Jesus, bring your rock to the cross.
Do that while we play this song, and then come take a seat in this section to stage right and I’d like to talk to you and encourage you on this spiritual journey—for just 5 minutes—and give you a gift to help on your new spiritual journey with God.