GENTLENESS TO ALL PEOPLE

GENTLENESS TO ALL PEOPLE - 1GENTLENESS TO ALL PEOPLE

Titus 3 (CSB)

Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people. 3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, 5 he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. 8 This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone. 9 But avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law, because they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning. 11 For you know that such a person has gone astray and is sinning; he is self-condemned. 12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me in Nicopolis, because I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey, so that they will lack nothing. 14 Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works for pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful. 15 All those who are with me send you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with all of you.

We have been looking at the message of Paul’s letter to Titus for the past two weeks, and will conclude with a look at chapter three today. I have particularly felt the need to emphasize the fact that Titus was sent to help develop the churches on Crete because they were being influenced by false teachers. This is important for us today because our society is being bombarded with false teachings and we are being pressured to conform. This is happening in our congregations, but it is also happening in our schools, in politics, in the media, social media – it is everywhere.

It is important to see what the apostle Paul commanded Titus. We saw that one of the solutions to the problem on Crete was the establishment of leaders in the church who could address the false teachings. Chapter one emphasized this solution.

In chapter two, Paul emphasized the role of everyone in the Christian community in sharing the gospel by living in a sensible, righteous and godly way. Everyone in the Christian community had a part to play in proving the validity of the gospel. Everyone was a link in the chain.

In this chapter, Paul concludes his instruction by emphasizing the attitude we should all have as we interact with people. We all know of people who have been hurt by religious bullies. Some have sworn to never enter a church again because of conflict they have had with professing Christians.

Paul’s instruction for the Christians in Crete is that they should be “always showing gentleness to all people” (2). The Greek word for “gentleness” here is πραΰτης – which is a “non-imperious attitude” of humility, courtesy and consideration for others.

Everybody knows that you can do the right thing in the wrong way. Paul here instructs the Christians in Crete to share the gospel the right way. He implies that if we do not share the gospel gently, our efforts will be unfruitful (14).

We can be gentle to all people because we all began on the wrong side (3).

Paul encouraged the Cretan Christians to remember who they were before they came to Christ. He says “For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.”

You and I can still choose to live that way. But there is now a correcting influence on our attitude: the Holy Spirit. He now produces within us the fruit of gentleness. That is number eight out of the nine characteristics that Paul called the fruit of the Spirit:

• “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things” (Galatians 5:22-23).

We should not be surprised if the non-christian world fails to manifest these character traits. But we have every reason to do so as Christians.
• We have been saved from hate so that we can now experience love.
• We have been saved from despair so that we can now experience joy.
• We have been saved from anxiety so that we can now experience peace.
• We have been saved from impatience so that we can now experience patience.
• We have been saved from meanness so that we can show kindness.
• We have been saved from evil so that we can now show goodness.
• We have been saved from unfaithfulness so that we can now show faithfulness.
• We have been saved from brutality so that we can now show gentleness.
• We have been saved from self-indulgence so that we can now exhibit self-control.

Paul’s point for the Cretan Christians is that they have been born again, but they still remember the lives they lived before they were born again. So they can approach the unsaved with a spirit of gentleness. Because they were once on the wrong side, they can approach those still on the wrong side with consideration and humility. Such is the case with us today.

We can be gentle to all people because God has been gentle to us (4-7).

When we deserved God’s judgment, he saved us according to his mercy (5). We had no works of righteousness that could be counted in our favor. In fact, all our acts of righteousness could be seen by God as what they truly were – filthy rags. If you try to clean something with a filthy rag you are going to make it more filthy. That was what we were doing with our religion and our attempts at charity. Everything that we tried to do to appease our own guilt was still sin, and so we kept spiraling down the hole.

But God showed mercy to us. Mercy is not giving someone what they deserve. God saw our filthiness and he washed us by “regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (5). We deserved to be condemned, but God saved us according to his mercy.

When we deserved to die for our sins, God chose to justify us by his grace (7). Grace is giving someone what they don’t deserve. We did not deserve for the Son of God to die on a cross to purchase forgiveness for us. That was grace – unmerited favor. Because of his grace we now have the hope of eternal life. We didn’t merit that either. Our names were placed in the Lamb’s book of life at the cost of the cross.

You see, friends, God is not Santa Claus. He does not have a naughty list and a nice list. He does not choose to save people on the basis of their good behavior. It’s a good thing, too, because all of us would be permanent entries on the naughty list.

But the good news of the gospel is that our God took pity on some of us, and showed us a Savior. Our heavenly Father treated us with gentleness and consideration.

And now it is our turn. We can focus on doing good works, not so that we can be saved, but so that others can be saved. We can be gentle with unbelievers because our God was gentle with us when he showed us the way out.

But being gentle to all people means being careful how we handle controversy (8-11).

Paul instructed the believers in Crete to “be careful to devote themselves to good works” (8). This was the primary strategy for winning unbelievers to Christ.

But false teachers had introduced controversy at Crete. They had undermined the faith of believers. They had corrupted whole households. So, Paul had to give special instructions here on how believers should handle controversy.

• First, Paul tells believers to “avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law, because they are unprofitable and worthless” (9).

I have seen in my ministry overseas where a pastor swallowed some false teaching about how the church should be more Jewish and then led the whole church into rejection of the gospel. I can still remember the day one of my students – a member of that church – came into my office in tears. Thankfully, he and his family chose to not follow that errant pastor. We had to start from scratch again in that village and plant a new church.

False teaching killed that congregation. That was the kind of thing that Satan was trying to accomplish all over Crete. Paul’s instruction for the believers was that they should not allow themselves to get sidetracked. Their mission was to win their towns for Christ. Controversies that take our eyes off Christ are unprofitable and worthless. We have to intentionally avoid them.

• Secondly, Paul challenges Titus to patiently warn those who are caught up in controversy (9).

A divisive person is to receive a first and second warning. Instead of branding such people and immediately rejecting them, Paul advises Titus to take a more gentle approach. Three strikes and they are out. That is taking the problem seriously, but still keeping a door open for repentance and recovery of those caught up in controversy.

Our society today thrives on controversy. We have turned drawing a line in the sand into an art form. We attack first, and ask questions later. But that kind of attitude fails to give room for the Holy Spirit to work. He wants to make some of our enemies into our friends. We should not allow ourselves to be provoked. Taking a deep breath and counting to four may cause our enemies to question their position.

• But thirdly, if people remain consistently divisive, Paul told Titus to reject them (10-11).

He told Titus to “Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning. For you know that such a person has gone astray and is sinning; he is self-condemned.”

The church in Crete was experiencing a storm of false teaching, and it threatened to destroy every congregation in every town. But Paul recommended three courses of action to Titus. First, he encouraged the development of competent leadership. Second, he encouraged every believer in Crete to promote gospel truth by demonstrating it through sensible, righteous and godly living. Finally, Paul encouraged a “non-imperious attitude” of humility, courtesy and consideration for others. Our church fellowship is a wonderful place to learn how to do this. We can learn how to show gentleness to each other, and that will help us to show gentleness to unbelievers.

SALVATION FOR ALL PEOPLE

SALVATION FOR ALL PEOPLE

Titus 2 (CSB)

“But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching. 2 Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. 3 In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered. 6 In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled 7 in everything. Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. 8 Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us. 9 Slaves are to submit to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back 10 or stealing, but demonstrating utter faithfulness, so that they may adorn the teaching of God our Savior in everything. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works. 15 Proclaim these things; encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

Last week I began a short series of messages based on the book of Titus. When we examined Titus 1, we found that the missionaries had reached Crete with the gospel and had established congregations in various towns all over the island. But there were still some things left undone, so Paul assigned Titus to rebuke and silence the rebellious false teachers. Then he had to replace the false teachers with leaders who displayed godly character and were faithful to the truth.

What was at stake was the goal of the gospel itself. If left unchecked, false teaching can turn churches and communities against the gospel, and turn whole communities and nations into post-Christian communities. When that happens, what is left is a few words and traditions, but no true faith and therefore no hope of permanent life.

I think the message of the book of Titus is extremely important for our town, our county and state and nation and world today. We are much in the same shape as Crete was when Paul left Titus there. We are in danger of becoming post-Christian. We are in danger of keeping only the appearance of biblical salvation, but losing its reality. For that reason, we need to pay very close attention to this New Testament book.

Note first how this chapter defines salvation (11).

I titled today’s message “SALVATION FOR ALL PEOPLE” based on verse 11. I realize that the title needs to be explained. Paul did not teach universalism. Universalism is the view that eventually everyone is going to be saved. The Bible does not teach that. There will be a hell, and it will destroy all those who are not saved.

But Paul says that God’s grace has appeared, bringing salvation FOR all people. It will not bring salvation to all people, because many people will reject it. But the gospel message is for all people, and the offer of salvation is for all people.

Paul begins the sentence talking about the grace of God. That is always where the gospel message of salvation begins.

• “being justified as a gift by His grace” Romans 3:24.
• “For by grace you have been saved” Ephesians 2:5,8.
• “being justified by His grace” Titus 3:7.

When we talk about the gospel, we cannot begin anywhere else, because no one deserves the permanent life that God promises through Christ.

Paul’s point, then, when talking about God’s grace being “for all people” is that God offers his grace to all by virtue of the finished work of Christ on the cross. So, when we go out into our communities and share this gospel, we are to exclude no one. The gospel is not just for my kind of people, but for all kinds of people.

Jesus told us that. He said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” He didn’t say “all English speaking nations.” He didn’t say “all developed nations.” He didn’t even say “all civilized nations.”

So, Paul sent Titus to proclaim the gospel among the Cretans, a people who even regarded themselves as “always liars, evil beasts (and) lazy gluttons” (1:12). The good news of the gospel is that God has no limit as to how far down he will reach to save us.

Now, note how this chapter explains the role of Christ in our salvation (13-14).

According to today’s text, Jesus Christ has three roles to play in the salvation that we have been discussing.

First, Jesus offers redemption. “He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” (14a).

That is a reference to the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. He was God’s sacrificial Lamb, given as a substitute for the sins of us all. I could not please God “just as I am” because my sins had separated me from the holy and righteous God. So I needed a redeemer, someone as pure as God is – his one and only Son.

Secondly, Jesus offers cleansing. He came “to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works” (14b).

In the Gospels, there were two groups of people who experienced cleansing from Jesus: lepers and those possessed by demons. Paul tells us that all believers have experienced the same kind of cleansing. He says in Ephesians 5:25-26 that Christ gave himself up for his bride “to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word.”

Thirdly, Jesus offers glorification. Our blessed hope is “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (13).

This is the ultimate experience of salvation. We have already been redeemed by the blood of Christ. We have already been cleansed so that we can draw others to Christ by our good works. But we have not yet been glorified. That experience awaits us when our Savior returns.

Next, note how this chapter shows that everyone in the Christian community can share salvation to all people (1-10).

The false teachings have done more than confuse people about what the gospel is. They have also resulted in the Christians failing to live like Christians are supposed to live. This is important because Jesus left us and went to heaven. He has left us as the only ones who can testify of the truth of the gospel.

• For the older men in Crete, that meant “to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance” (2b).
• For the older women in Crete, that meant “to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good” (3).
• For the younger women in Crete, that meant “to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands” (4b-5a).
• For the younger men in Crete, that meant “to be self-controlled in everything” (6-7a).
• For Titus, it meant making himself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in his teaching (7).
• For Christian slaves, it meant “to submit to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back or stealing, but demonstrating utter faithfulness” (9-10).

Everyone in the Christian community had a part to play in proving the validity of the gospel. Everyone was a link in the chain. If only one link failed, God’s word would be slandered (5). Every Christian in Crete had the responsibility to “adorn the teaching” (10). The Greek word Paul used for “adorn” is kosmeō (κοσμέω) – which means to decorate something so that it is beautiful and attractive. The word is related to our English word cosmetic.

Take a beautiful woman’s face, add good make-up, and you’ve got “wow!” Take a beautiful truth – like the gospel of Jesus Christ – add the make-up of Christian people “living in a sensible, righteous and godly way” and you’ve got a recipe for revival. God’s wonderful word is adorned by his obedient church.

Finally, note how this chapter explains how to draw all people’s attention to the gospel of salvation (12, 14).

How do we draw people’s attention to the gospel? The key (and our key verse for this series) is verse 12. We have “to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age.”

The word for “sensible” is σωφρόνως which means “marked by a serious awareness of responsibility.”

The word for “righteous” is δικαίως which means “being in conformity with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior.”

The word for “godly” is εὐσεβῶς which means speaks of a life lived “in a reverent relation to God.”

Now, if I come into my community determined to teach a set of religious doctrines and I fail to adorn those teachings by making myself “an example of good works with integrity and dignity” – nobody will care about what I teach.

Paul said something similar to the Corinthians. He said “If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). The Cretans were losing their members to false teaching. Why? Because the church was gonging the gospel. They were not demonstrating the truth by “living in a sensible, righteous and godly way.”

LORD, we are tired of gonging the gospel. Make us a church so filled with your love, wisdom, righteousness and godliness that we catch people’s attention. Then, when they are ready to know the reason we are the way we are, give us the wisdom to proclaim your gospel – a gospel which is good news because it offers your salvation to all people.

Today’s sermon audio file.

THINGS LEFT UNDONE

THINGS LEFT UNDONE

Titus 1 (CSB)

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. 3 In his own time he has revealed his word in the preaching with which I was entrusted by the command of God our Savior: 4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. 5 The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town. 6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children who are not accused of wildness or rebellion. 7 As an overseer of God’s household, he must be blameless, not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not an excessive drinker, not a bully, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.10 For there are many rebellious people, full of empty talk and deception, especially those from the circumcision party. 11 It is necessary to silence them; they are ruining entire households by teaching what they shouldn’t in order to get money dishonestly. 12 One of their very own prophets said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason, rebuke them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith 14 and may not pay attention to Jewish myths and the commands of people who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They claim to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work.

The book of Titus is a very small book, with only three chapters. But it is a very important book for believers to study today – particularly because it outlines a plan for reforming the church in order to reach the community for Christ.

The title of this morning’s message comes from verse 5, where Paul tells Titus that he had been left in Crete “to set right what was left undone.” Before we can talk about what that entails, we need to back up and establish what had already been done. Then we can proceed to talk about Paul’s instructions for completing the mission.

The mission of reaching Crete with the gospel had already been accomplished (1-4).

Paul and his missionary team had visited Crete, had won people to Christ, and had established communities of faith in every town of the island. The book of Acts chronicles how Paul and his team went from place to place preaching the good news and planting churches to continue the work and to support their mission.

The amazing miracle of reaching Crete with the gospel happened because the team had obeyed Jesus Christ and had gone where he told them to go, and had depended on God’s grace and peace to be victorious in their mission.

The gospel that they proclaimed is described in very particular terms here. It focuses on God’s promise of eternal life (2). We have already seen that Jesus promised a resurrection to eternal life on the last day. That promise was a crucial element in the mission to reach Crete.

We have every indication that there was an immediate positive reception of the gospel in Crete, resulting in communities of believers in every town.

But all over Crete there were rebellious people who needed to be silenced and rebuked (10-16).

Many of these new congregations in all the towns had allowed unqualified teachers to emerge. These false teachers were teaching the wrong things from the wrong motives and producing the wrong results.

Let’s take a look at those wrong results.

• Instead of building up families, they were ruining them (11).

We are not told exactly how the false teaching was ruining families. I think if we knew that, we would concentrate on just that problem. Instead, the Holy Spirit told us what we need to know. There are false teachers, and their teaching is ruining families. It would do us well today to investigate the things we have been taught, and ask whether those things are helping us build strong families, or not.

• Instead of teaching gospel truth, they were introducing Jewish myths (14).

Again, we don’t know the nature of the myths. But it would be helpful for us today to examine the things we are being taught, either at church, or at school, or in the social or political realms – and discover whether or not those things are true.

Paul specifically mentions myths. Myths are teaching that are used to explain the world around us, but are not based on actual fact.

Evolution – for example – is a modern myth that is supposed to explain the origins of the world. That myth is so prevalent today that people can lose their jobs in the scientific field or in education just for questioning it. I call it a myth because science is actually based on observation, and no one has ever observed evolution. When observers point out that things are not evolving today, the standard response by those who believe the myth is to say that it takes so many billions of years. There is no evidence that everything that exists today emerged from nothing, no matter how much time you give it.

I’m not sure society today can recover from the damage caused by this myth.

• Instead of producing faith and purity they were “defiled and unbelieving” and producing doubt and corruption in the lives of others (15).

We can see the devil at work in the lives of these false teachers. We can see how their teachings were undoing the mission of the church and replacing the influence of the gospel. They were producing another culture which is anti-evangelism. If left unchecked, that culture would eliminate all the marks of Christianity on the island.

Paul had called them “rebellious people” (10). What were they rebelling against? The kingdom of God had come to Crete with the gospel. These rebellious people were chipping away at the principles that Christ delineated in his teachings. They were rebelling against the coming kingdom.

Now, let’s take a look at what Paul says for Titus to do about them:

• First, their teaching needs to be silenced. Paul says “it is necessary to silence them” (11). If the teaching continues, the corruption and disintegration of the communities will continue. Falsehood needs to be confronted by the truth. False teaching is not a mere academic issue. It damages the church and hinders the advancement of the kingdom.

• Secondly, their behavior needs to be rebuked. Paul says for Titus to “rebuke them sharply” (13). We all know what it is like when we discover that someone we have trusted is living a sinful life. These rebellious people were doing that. But the damage would continue until someone had the courage to call them out for being the hypocrites they were. Paul commanded that Titus be that someone.

In their place, leaders had to be appointed who displayed godly character and were faithful to the truth (5-9).

Paul specifically told Titus “to appoint elders in every town” (5). The Greek word for town is πόλις, which is related to our word “politics” Why didn’t he say appoint elders in every church? Elders are church leaders, but the damage was being done to the entire communities, not just to isolated congregations.

You see, the gospel had already spread to the entire island. But now this false gospel had come in and was seeking to undermine the gospel’s influence and replace it with a false gospel.

In order to rescue their island from the influence of this false gospel, all the people in every town had to learn to do this: “LIVE IN A SENSIBLE, RIGHTEOUS AND GODLY WAY” (2:12).

The word for “sensible” is σωφρόνως which means “marked by a serious awareness of responsibility.”

The word for “righteous” is δικαίως which means “being in conformity with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior.”

The word for “godly” is εὐσεβῶς which means speaks of a life lived “in a reverent relation to God.”

This is why they needed godly leaders.

So Titus had to train, detect, and appoint people who would manifest godly character.

• They had to be people whose moral integrity was “blameless” (6,7).
• They had to be mature “elders” not inexperienced novices (5,6).
• They had to model faithfulness in their marriages and families first (6).
• They had to manage themselves first by practicing self control over their tempers and temptations (7-8).

Titus also had to train, detect and appoint leaders who knew God’s truth and who were ready to declare it and defend it.

• They had to keep “holding to the faithful message as taught” (9).
• They had to be able “to encourage (people) with sound teaching” (9).
• They had to be able “to refute those who contradict it” (9).

So, the issue is not character instead of content or content instead of character. Elders had to have both. They had to have a firm grasp on biblical doctrine and they had to earn the respect of their community by living in a sensible, righteous and godly way.

Application: It is not too late to rescue our town!

It may seem like it’s too late to rescue our society, our town, our county, state, country, planet… but it is not too late. The damage to Crete was already systemic when Paul sent Titus. What he commissioned Titus to do was impossible. But he had the power of God’s Holy Spirit. He had the life transforming influence of the gospel promise of permanent life. He knew the awesome power of God’s people “living in a sensible, righteous and godly way.” When you have that combination you can do the impossible.

There are some things that God has done among us, and I praise God for that. But we are living in an age which is quickly forgetting what God has done.

After Joshua, the Israelites who settled in Canaan and quickly forgot God and became like the nations all around them. But God would not give up on them. He sent judges – leaders who rescued his people.

We can be leaders like that. But it will take a commitment to do the things that have been left undone.

THE ROLLED-AWAY STONE

                           THE ROLLED-AWAY STONE

Luke 24:1-8 CSB

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” 8 And they remembered his words.

We have been tracing the doctrine of the resurrection in the Bible, beginning in the Old Testament. We saw that Job expected to die, and return to the dust. But Job also believed that his Redeemer lives, and would one day stand on the dust of his decomposed, disintegrated body, and raise him to life again.

We saw the prophet Isaiah tell his people that they would live again – that their dead bodies would rise.

We saw Jesus demonstrate that he had the power to do this by raising Lazarus from the dead. We saw a crowd gather around him after that event, and follow him to Jerusalem where they joined his triumphal entry with praise and palm branches. Jesus said that if they had not shouted his arrival, then the stones were ready to do so.

But then the unthinkable happened. Jesus himself died. He died openly on a cross, his death on public display to everyone. Is that the end of our doctrine of resurrection? It would be if the resurrection were a mere religious doctrine. The resurrection is an event.

Today we are going to listen to another stone – the one that was rolled away from Jesus’ empty tomb. What is the Easter message of that rolled-away stone?

Jesus definitely did die on the cross (1,7).

The first message of that rolled-away stone is that our Lord definitely did die. Note how Luke described who it was who had come looking for Jesus that first Easter Sunday.

• “There was a good and righteous man named Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin, who had not agreed with their plan and action. He was from Arimathea, a Judean town, and was looking forward to the kingdom of God. He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body. Taking it down, he wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever been placed. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed along and observed the tomb and how his body was placed. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (Luke 23:50-56).

Neither Joseph nor this group of women would have acted if Jesus was not dead. If he was only pretending to be dead, he would not need a tomb. If he was alive, Joseph would have been an idiot to ask for his body. If he was still alive, his body would not need any preparation spices.

And so we read:

• “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared.”

The women came expecting a body. They had a job to do. The body of Jesus needed to be prepared with dignity.

Christians declare openly and publicly that Jesus Christ died. We are not ashamed of this truth because Jesus taught us that “‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, (and) be crucified” (7).

His tomb is definitely empty (2-4a,7).

These women encountered a puzzle – something that perplexed them. They found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. They were not expecting that. They probably wondered who would roll the stone away for them so that they could perform their ministry to Jesus’ body.

• “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. … they were perplexed about this…”

At other points in the Bible, people who were cursed were killed, and heaps of stones were placed over their bodies. They stones were not to be removed as a proof of a permanent curse. God’s curse for sin had been put upon Jesus, and his death had paid the price. The rolled-away stone was proof that we have been forgiven because of the blood of Christ. Sin and its curse no longer have dominion over us.

Jesus had taught about his resurrection as well. He had taught that he would “rise on the third day” (7). This great event of the resurrection of our Savior was not hidden from these women or the disciples, but in their sorrow over Christ’s death, they seem to have forgotten it.

The stone was rolled away for us all to acknowledge his resurrection (4b-6a).

But God provided a terrifying visit by two angels to jump start the memories of these women.

• “suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but he has risen!”

Luke mentions “two men” at points in his writings where God is getting the attention of his disciples. In his chapter 9, the two men are Moses and Elijah, and they appear talking with Jesus at his transfiguration. In his chapter 18, the two men are a self-righteous Pharisee and a humble tax collector. In this passage, and in Acts 1, the two men are angels declaring a significant event in the story of Jesus. In Acts 1 the event is the ascension. In this chapter, it is the resurrection.

The angels commanded that we remember what Jesus promised (6b-8).

Notice what the angels told the women to remember.

• “Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered his words.”

The conversation that the angels referred to happened just eight days before that vision of transfiguration. It began by Jesus asking his disciples who they say he is. We remember that Peter confidently proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God.

But Luke tells us that after that Jesus began to warn them that he would “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22).

We have to remember everything that Jesus promised. This is necessary because God has a plan in which everything he promised is going to be fulfilled.

• He promised to send his Son, and he did.
• He promised Jesus would die on a cross, and he did.
• He promised Jesus would rise on the third day, and he did.
• He promised that Jesus would come again, and he will.
• He promised that Jesus would “raise us up on the last day” and he will.
• He promised that because he lives, we will live too, and we will.

At any point in time, God’s people are in danger of forgetting his words. But we cannot afford to do that. You and must remember what Jesus said. When we look at that rolled-away stone, and gaze into that empty tomb, we have to look beyond our traditions and remember the truth. The truth is what Jesus promised us.

At Easter, we have to look beyond the bunnies, and remember the Bible. The Bible tells us that this same Jesus who came out of the tomb will come back and open our tombs. He is the first-fruits of the harvest. His resurrection is just the beginning. Ours is next.

• “… a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come out… ” (John 5:28-29a).

We are going to hear his voice. We are going to hear that trumpet sound, and we are going to get up out of the ground. God promised it. God proved it. That settles it. Do you believe it?