Today, we join with churches from all across the world, and throughout the centuries, in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was the love of God that caused Jesus to come to earth and to offer Himself as a sacrifice to forgive the entire world of its sins. And it’s God’s love that continually offers us new life through this Risen Savior. So, today we celebrate. Today, we worship the Risen Jesus!
Not only is today Easter Sunday, but it is also the beginning of a powerful sermon series called Love Reigns. Together, for four weeks, we will be discovering all the ways that God’s amazing love transforms our past, present, and future.
Many people underestimate the power of love. But love is the most powerful force on earth, and it moves us to do amazing things. Many men in the room may be able to relate to the kind of things that love drove them to do in order to win the hearts of their girlfriends or wives.
Love is the driving force behind our actions toward our family and our friends. We gladly pay any price in order to demonstrate how much we care for them. Love is powerful, and before there was ever an Easter Sunday and a resurrection, there was a Friday, where there first had to be a death.
POINT 1: THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE KING
Jesus walked this earth serving the hungry, healing the broken, and delivering the oppressed. He announced the coming Kingdom of God and the restoration of all things. He announced that He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the one who came to save, and many believed Him to be the true King of everything.
But since there can only be one king, this kind of thinking and teaching caused a lot of conflict in that day. At that time, the ruler of the Ancient Near East was Rome. And no one messed with Rome. They were a strong force who did allow the Jewish people to have their faith, but only as long as they didn’t stir up any trouble. If they did, game over.
Meanwhile, the Jewish leaders became threatened by Jesus teachings and miracles, afraid they would lose the power they did have and their place in the religious society that they dominated. So they decided the only way to stop this treat was to get rid of Jesus, and they used the Roman’s rule of no trouble to get rid of Him. They told Pilate, the Roman governor, “This man has been leading our people astray by telling them not to pay their taxes to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king.” (John 23:2) They demanded of the Romans that Jesus be put to death, since the Romans were the only ones who could put someone to death.
And since the Jewish people were being so unrulily about this Jesus, and any king would be a treat to Rome, Pilate, the Roman governor, agrees to have Jesus put to death.
Jesus was charged for claiming to be the Son of God. He was convicted and beaten, nearly to death, and then was forced to carry a rugged, splintery, wooden cross over His open wounds on His way to the hill where He would die.
The crucifixion of Jesus is marked by ridicule and disbelief. The soldiers mocked Jesus by placing a sign over his head calling Him the King of the Jews, even though they didn’t believe it. Those who passed by mocked Jesus by telling Him to save Himself if He really is the Son of God. Even the priests and religious teachers mocked Jesus by telling Him to get off the cross if He really was the King of Israel; prove yourself and then we’ll believe you.
None of them understood that the true test of Jesus’ power and authority was not in His ability to save Himself from crucifixion, but in His ability to overcome death that the crucifixion would result in. Sometimes we miss the proof of Jesus’ lordship because we are too busy expecting Him to prove Himself in the ways we want, when He’s doing something different.
Many individuals have decided in their hearts that they will never trust in Jesus unless He meets their expectations. Unless Jesus heals their relative, gives them this job, stops world hunger, or writes something in the sky, they will never trust Him and obey His authority in their lives. They can never allow themselves to see Him as King unless He does what they want Him to do. And let me just say, that we in this room need to be careful not to do this. We think we would never, but even Christians do this.
This kind of mentality is the same kind of struggle that plagued those who were there at Jesus’ death. When we demand Jesus to prove Himself on our terms, we rob ourselves of seeing His work in our lives.
The Jewish leaders and the people around them were not the only ones to be threatened by the Kingship of Jesus and struggle with the idea of Jesus being in charge. The truth is that we still struggle with Jesus’ authority today.
In our lives, there can only be one king. It has been said that on the throne of our hearts sits the one who reigns in our lives. We must choose whether that will be Jesus or whether it will be ourselves. When we are on the throne of our hearts, we make decisions based on what we want. Me, me, me. What I want. We live selfishly.
But when Jesus is on the throne of our lives, love reigns. We listen to His leading. We put others first. We live sacrificially. We forgive. We love.
When it comes to the way you speak, act, and live your life, there can only be one king.
But if Jesus is dead, then none of this matters. But if He is rose from the dead, then that changes everything! It proves He’s King.
POINT 2: LOVE OVERCAME DEATH
On the third day after Jesus was crucified and laid in the tomb, to everyone’s shock and amazement, He appeared in bodily form to the disciples and to many other people. This had never happened before. They had seen Him killed. They knew He was dead, and now He was eating with them, walking with them, talking with them, they could touch Him.
Jesus’ love for humanity had overcome death and defeated evil once and for all. His resurrection is the proof that He is indeed, the true King over all.
From ‘Our Daily Bread’ there is a story of the renowned artist Paul Gustave Dore from the 1800’s who lost his passport while traveling in Europe. When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognized and allowed to pass. The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not. He needed proof.
Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. “All right,” said the official, “we’ll give you a test, and if you pass it, we’ll allow you to go through.” Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several people standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skillfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His work confirmed his word.
Jesus’ work confirmed His word as well. Though many doubted Him and mocked Him, death did not have the last word. Love did. The scripture tells us this is true in one of the most famous passages of all.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to live and to die for us. That’s why when we put our faith, hope, and trust in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we will be saved. This is why we celebrate today. We have been given an opportunity for eternal life. We know that because of Jesus, the worst thing that will happen to us in this life will not be the last thing that happens to us because one day, we will experience resurrection and new life for ourselves.
After Jesus resurrected, His final words to His followers reveal to us the truth behind the Easter story.
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Easter is the day that Jesus was given all authority on heaven and on earth. No matter how many doubted, He is the King of the Jews. No matter how many mocked Him, He was able to rescue Himself, as well as the entire world. No matter how many questioned His power, He did defeat the cross, once and for all. The love of God is the authority and was and is now reigning over the entire world and our lives as well.
His final instruction for all of His followers was to go into the whole world and make disciples. He told them to spread the good news of His resurrection and love to all who would listen. And look, we too have been invited to teach the way of Jesus because it changes the world.
POINT 3: LET LOVE REIGN IN YOU
Today, if you consider yourself a Christian, this instruction has been given to you. You are to be a part of making disciples. The Greek word used in this passage for disciple means learner or student. We are to allow ourselves to be students and learners of the way of Christ and to help others become learners and students as well.
To be a disciple is to be in a life-long process of becoming more and more like Jesus. Over time, we learn to live generous lives, we learn to forgive, to serve others, to practice self-control, and to be people of peace. When we submit to the love of Jesus in our lives, we are compelled to live life like Him and to invite others to join us. This is what it means to let love reign in us.
I grew up in the church and knew that Jesus loved me and had died and rose for me. But I didn’t fully understand that until I was 25 years old. Once I understood that, then I wanted to give Jesus every part of my life. Since inviting Jesus to live in me, I have seen my life change in so many wonderful ways. I have spent the last 19 years of my life allowing God to have more and more of me. And I am a better wife, mother, friend, and person because of the decision I made to be a disciple.
I want that for you too.
The final reminder Jesus gives us before He ascended into heaven, is that He will always be with us until the very end. Maybe today you feel like God has forgotten about you. I want to assure you that He hasn’t. I can confidently say that because through the Holy Spirit, Jesus lives and dwells inside of those who trust Him. This means that no matter what you go through and no matter what you face, you are not alone!
Some of you here may not have yet made the decision to let love reign in your life and to follow Jesus. Maybe you have been waiting for Jesus to prove Himself to you, and it’s not happened yet. Maybe you don’t want to give up control of your life, and so you haven’t fully submitted to Him. Today, I want to invite you to give your life to Jesus. I want to invite you to offer Him your heart and to become a disciple and a student of His for the rest of your life.
I also recognize that there may be some here today who have trusted in Jesus before, but have strayed from Him and are now living for yourself. Easter reminds us that we can again repent and obey. If this is you, I want to remind you that Jesus still loves you and wants you. Commit once again to live for Him.
To do this is very simple. If you’re ready, I’ll lead you in a prayer.
PRAYER: Jesus, I confess that I have lived my own way and under my own authority for far too long. I have sinned against others and sinned against you. I am sorry and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe that you died and you rose again for me. I welcome your Spirit to work in my life. I want to join you in sharing the good news of resurrection. Thank you for promising to always be with me. Amen.
If you prayed this prayer today with a sincere heart, you are now a Christian and you are now a disciple of Jesus. Strive to live each and every day under the reign of Christ’s love.
This Easter, may you see the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the proof of His love, and may you let that love reign in your life. May you let Jesus be the authority in your life and live for Him. And may you join God in spreading this good news with the entire world. He is risen. Happy Easter!