The greatest things we can have and give to someone else in these days is hope. The resurrection of Jesus turned the first followers of Christ from fearful people of despair into courageous people of hope. They began to spread the message of hope everywhere because when they saw Jesus had come back to life, it changed everything.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you…” Ephesians 1:18 NIV
You’ve got eyes on your face. You also have eyes in your heart. We all see the same things, but we see them differently. We filter the world through the things we’ve experienced, the worries we have, the good things that have happened to us, the bad things, the wounds we carry and the disappointments in our life. We pray that God’s light would flood your heart and life, in order that you may know His hope. That hope is found in the resurrection.
When Jesus Christ was crucified in 33 AD, there were only about 120 followers that were true to His message at that time. Today, 2,000 years later, 2.3 billion people in the world, claim to be a follower of Christ. How in the world did that happen? How did this little band of poor people 2,000 years ago expand into billions? In a word, the resurrection. It’s the most significant event in all of history.
Now, understand the difference between resurrection and resuscitation. They are not the same. People get resuscitated all the time. If you faint, we’ll resuscitate you. If you go into a coma, you can be resuscitated. There are people whose heart stop beating for a certain number of beats, you may be resuscitated.
Jesus’ resurrection means He was crucified by far the most brutal, torturous form of capital punishment ever invented. They beat Him, shoved a crown of thorns into His skull. They scourged Him. They made Him carry a heavy cross up the mountain. They lie Him down and nailed His hands to the cross. They didn’t want Him to suffocate on the cross, that would be too easy, so they bent His legs nail His feet so he’d have to push himself up to breathe. Death on the cross took a long time. They took a spear and they stuck it in His side to make sure He was dead. He was buried in a tomb for three days and then He came back to life. Only Jesus Christ has done that. That’s not resuscitation. That’s resurrection.
That single event changed all of history. What it did is it turned the first followers of Christ into the most hopeful, resilient amazing people the world has ever seen. Followers of Jesus are still the most hopeful people on the planet today. We have far more hope than anybody else in the world because of what Jesus Christ did at the resurrection. Anyone can have this hope. Let’s look at some legitimate reasons God gives us to have hope.
1. The first reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have been completely forgiven.
Jesus repeatedly said over and over, “I’m going to be handed over to be killed and on the third day, rise again.” If He didn’t come back to life, then we have every reason to doubt that His death means anything for us. But He did, and now the cross means something powerful for us.
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7 NLT
His death frees you from weight, shame, condemnation, ultimately you having to die for sin. But Jesus said, “I came to die for your sins, so you don’t have to die for them.” The cross was brutal. Why would Jesus go through that? Who killed Jesus? Who is to blame for Jesus being on the cross? It wasn’t Judas, the betrayer. It wasn’t Caiaphas, the high priest. It wasn’t Pilate, the Roman governor. It wasn’t even the crowd who turned on Him and said “Crucify Him! Give us Barabbas. A man who was guilty.” It wasn’t the Roman soldiers.
The first answer is this, God did. It was His plan when He sent Jesus to earth.
“6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. 9 He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. 10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants.” Isaiah 53:6,9-10 NLT
It was God’s plan. Yet, now notice the change in tense. “When his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of descendants.” In other words, there will be people who will follow Him. The first part is in past tense and then it goes to future. This passage was written 700 years before Jesus Christ. This is a prophecy and Isaiah, in 700 BC, is telling and predicting exactly what’s going to happen to the Messiah, the Savior, the son of God who comes to Earth, and this happened exactly how it happened. It’s the whole reason He sent Jesus to earth. If Jesus hadn’t wanted to give His life for us, it wouldn’t have happened. Jesus said I came to earth to die. It was for that purpose.
The second answer to who put Jesus on the cross is this: we did. If we could save ourselves, do enough good things, follow God’s law, break our sin nature, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on the cross for our sins. He was doing it so we could be saved. Even on the cross in all of that pain He wasn’t thinking of Himself, He was thinking of us. He cries out, “Father! Forgive them…”
“He was handed over to die because of our sins, [It was our penalty he was paying] and he was raised to life to make us right with God.” Romans 4:25 NLT
Completely forgiven. There’s someone reading this who, you’ve never truly known you’re forgiven, or you’ve never truly felt forgiven. You feel like if anyone knew the real you, you would be hopeless. God knows the real you. He sees it all. It’s not about you anymore. It’s about the name and the work of Jesus Christ. It’s about a cross that once and for all settled the judgment that hung over your life and now there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Be free.
2. The second reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope, we’re no longer afraid to die.
Jesus broke the power of death. Yes, without Christ, we are left for dead and we should be afraid. But Christ has conquered the grave. The individual sins that you’ve committed, that’s not even the whole issue. Before you know Jesus Christ and are covered by His blood, any good thing you do, God could not care less about, because we’re spiritually dead. God wants you to know and trust in Jesus so the power of the resurrection can have an impact on your life. Jesus broke the power of the fear of death. The fear of death is a universal fear. Everybody has it, all over the world.
But what did Jesus do? He came back to life. If Jesus Christ had not resurrected from the dead, you would not even know that there’s life after death. You might be able to look at some evidence from creation, like the pattern and cycle of nature…actually, nature, science, anthropology, psychology, ethics, philosophy, all give us evidence of an afterlife, but you wouldn’t know. You’d have nothing to prove it. So, Jesus Christ proved it. He came back said, I’ve conquered death. There is greater life after death, and that’s good news.
Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25 NLT
There’s hope. One of the things that’s difficult to explain without the resurrection is the sudden change in the disciples because at the crucifixion and after, they’re all scared to death. They’re running, they’re defeated, they’re depressed in despair. Three days later they’re ready to take on the Roman Empire. What happened? They had seen Jesus. They were eye witnesses. Paul lists just a few of the eyewitnesses.
“Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all… I also saw him.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NLT
For 40 days He has multiple meetings with a lot of different people, friends. This is what’s called definitive evidence. Conclusive proof. Having hundreds of eyewitnesses would stand up in any court, anywhere in the world. This is why the church exploded. Within years, there were 30,000 members of the church just in Jerusalem, then it had grown to nearly a half a million, and it exploded all over the Roman empire. Why? Because of the resurrection, there were so many eye witnesses.
So, the Roman Empire started what was called the great persecution. For the first 300 years of Christianity, it was illegal to be a Christian. If you made the decision to say, I’m going to become a follower of Christ, you are more likely to be fed to the Lions in the Coliseum, crucified yourself or beheaded. Why did people become followers? Because of the hope. Do you know all but one of the original disciples were murdered; John was the exception. Stephen was stoned to death. James was beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was in prison in Rome, and then he was executed. Read the last words of Paul right before he goes to the execution, “I fought the good fight. I finished the race. I’ve kept the faith.”
Christians were fearless in the face of death. Why? Because they knew there was more to life than just here and now. You know what baffled the Roman empire was how unafraid Christians were to die. Paul says it like this.
“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Philippians 1:21 NLT
He says, “Either way I win. If I’m alive, I’m just going to live my purpose, the purpose that God created me for. If I die, I just get to go to heaven sooner. I can’t lose.” What do you do with a guy like that? There’s someone reading right now who is terrified of dying. And it’s greatly affecting the life God is giving you now. You don’t have to be afraid. Anyone who believes in Christ, will live even after dying. Do not be afraid.
3. The third reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have an eternal home waiting for us.
We know as followers of Jesus; death is not the end. It’s just a transition to better things. The last of Jesus 12 disciples to die was a guy named John. He was the only one not murdered because the killings wouldn’t take. So, they exiled John to a prison colony on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. There he wrote the last book of the Bible, which is called the Revelation. It is a vision God gave him of what the end times and heaven are like. What is heaven going to be like? Well, in a word, it’s indescribable.
It’s going to be beautiful. It’s going to be amazing. Why? Because look at the earth. This is a broken planet. This is a fallen planet. Nothing works perfectly on this planet, and yet there’s still a lot of beauty. Sun rises, sun sets, mountains, farm land, forests, and this is an imperfect planet. Imagine what a perfect place is going to be like with all the sights, sounds, tastes and the colors where it’s absolutely perfect.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT
The more we see the earth with all of its abuse, affairs, assaults, rapes, violence, racism, prejudice, war, terrorism, and pandemics; the more we need trust Jesus and look forward to Heaven. And the more we should be ready for it.
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 NLT
To make it through this life, you need hope. Not just a wishful thinking, but a hope you can be certain of. You can’t be good enough to get this hope of an eternity in heaven. You need a savior. That’s what Jesus came to be. If Jesus didn’t need to die on the cross for you, then it was a total waste of his blood. There’s only one way. Before Jesus went back to heaven, He said to his followers,
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”
5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6 NLT
You need Jesus Christ. The way, the truth, the life. You need an eternal home, an eternal reward that’s driving your purpose and mission. How you’re living your life? Disconnected from God? Going through the motions without meaning and hope? God knew that on Easter Sunday, 2020 you’d be reading to this. Whatever circumstance you find yourself in right now, God loves you and has been preparing you for this moment.
“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17 NIV
God knew you couldn’t save yourself. And He loves you. He did it for you. Believe.
Check back on your discussions from the last series, “Getting To Know God.” God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable and sovereign. What do you think you will remember most from that series?
The resurrection of Jesus turned the first followers of Christ from fearful people of despair into courageous people of hope. They began to spread the message of hope everywhere because when they saw Jesus had come back to life, it changed everything. This Easter we’ll ask why the resurrection still makes followers of Jesus the most hopeful people on the planet today.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you…Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)
Discussion & Application
- Read Romans chapter 4. The first reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we have been completely forgiven. What stands out to you about this? How does it impact you? Do you believe you have been completely forgiven?
- Philippians 1:21: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” The second reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is we’re no longer afraid to die. How has your fear of death changed as you know God better?
- Jesus promised: “I am going to prepare a place for you…” The third reason Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope is that we have an eternal home waiting for us. How does knowing your eternal home and reward is waiting for you in Christ change how you live now?
- What are some other reasons the resurrection gives us hope? His power… His love… His purpose in our lives… Can you think of some more?
Ask the group for how you can pray for and support one another this week. Who in your life needs the hope of the resurrection? Pray for them.
Write out a thank-you note to God. Thank Him for loving you first, forgiving you, for sticking to His promises in the past. Thank Him for the promises that give you hope for tomorrow and an eternal home in heaven.