The Risen King

April 4, 2021 ()

Bible Text: Matthew 28 |


The Risen King | Matthew 28
Brian Hedges | April 4, 2021

I want to invite you to turn in your Bibles this morning to Matthew 28. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, alongside his crucifixion, is the central historical event in the Christian faith. Without the resurrection, there would be no Christianity. As St. Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” If Jesus was not raised from the dead, we just need to close up shop, shut the doors of this church, and go home and do something else on a Sunday.

I’m a Christian because I believe in the resurrection. I am convinced by history that after dying a violent death on a Roman cross on a Friday afternoon in 30 A.D., Jesus of Nazareth came back to life, he emerged from the tomb and bodily walked out of that tomb on Sunday morning.

Listen, that’s not an easy thing to believe. I’ve seen death, I’ve seen it up close and personal, I’ve lost very close loved ones, even within the last year, and I have never yet seen a corpse come back to life. I’ve not seen that with my own eyes. It’s not easy to believe that that could happen. But if it did happen, if that’s where history points, if there is good reason to believe in the resurrection of Christ, it changes everything. It changes absolutely everything! That’s what we’re gathering this morning to celebrate if we’re Christians or to investigate, perhaps, if you’re not a convinced Christian. We’re going to do that by looking at Matthew 28.

Matthew was one of the disciples of Jesus, also named Levi. His life was completely changed by Jesus, and he wrote one of the Gospel records. In Matthew’s Gospel, he is especially concerned to show that Jesus is the King. He is the Messiah, the King of the Jews, therefore he’s also the world’s true Lord. Throughout Matthew’s Gospel he’s showing us the kingship of Jesus.

Now, if you have been here in the last couple of services, last Sunday we looked at Jesus the coming King from Matthew 21; Friday night, on Good Friday, we looked at Jesus the crucified King; today we look at Christ Jesus the risen King in Matthew 28.

I want to begin by reading this chapter, Matthew 28, beginning in verse 1.

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.’ So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’

“While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

This is God’s word.

I want us to look at two things this morning: the evidence for the resurrection and the significance of the resurrection. I want to show you four lines of evidence that the resurrection really is true, and then three ways in which the resurrection is significant for us, for our past, present, and future. So you can decide whether this is a two-point sermon or a seven-point sermon!

I. The Evidence for the Resurrection

Four lines of evidence. Some of these may be surprising, but I think when you look at Matthew’s record honestly, look at what he actually says, what he includes, it is compelling evidence for the resurrection.

(1) The cover-up plot

The first thing is the cover-up plot, which is in verses 11-15, which I just read. There’s a cover-up plot designed by the chief priests and the elders in collusion with the soldiers who had guarded the tomb.

On one level, a cover-up is always something of a smoking gun, isn’t it? When there’s a cover-up, there’s a story. The fact that they had to spread this story of the stolen body shows for a fact that the tomb was empty, the body was missing. It was a plot to conceal the resurrection, and it is an indication that it really happened.

The fact that this is included in the Gospel record is really important. A lot of people who are skeptics and who doubt the validity, the authenticity of the Gospels, essentially want to say, “These records were written a long time after Jesus lived. Jesus of Nazareth died, and his followers, sometime two, three, four hundred years after he lived, they wanted to shore up their power, they wanted to confirm their faith, the faith of the disciples, so they wrote these Gospels and they invented stories of his resurrection.”

The problem with that is that it’s just not true to the facts, when you look at the facts, and if the church actually had invented the stories, they wouldn’t have invented this story. They wouldn’t have put into people’s minds the story that there had been a cover-up.

There’s a New Testament scholar named N.T. Wright. He’s an Anglican New Testament scholar, wrote this 800-page book on the resurrection. Now, that’s an intimidating book; that takes a long time to read. But listen, if you have any doubts this morning about the resurrection of Jesus, this is a historical look at the evidence, detailed like you wouldn’t believe, and it is absolutely compelling.

This is what N.T. Wright says about the cover-up. “It is implausible to suppose that the whole story would have been invented in the first place, let alone told and finally written down, unless there was already a rumor going around that the disciples had indeed stolen the body. The telling of the story indicates well enough that the early Christians knew that the charge of stealing the body was one they were always likely to face, and that it was preferable to tell the story of how the accusation had arisen, even at the risk of putting ideas into people’s heads, rather than leave the accusation unanswered.” Now get this. “This sort of story could only have any point at all in a community where the empty tomb was an absolute and unquestioned datum.”

If we were to put this in a simple syllogism, here’s the logic: If the stolen body accusations had not arisen, Matthew would not have invented it. But if there had been any lingering doubt concerning Jesus’ resurrection, Matthew wouldn’t have included it. The fact that Matthew did include it shows just how deeply persuaded he was that Jesus was in fact alive.

The cover-up story itself is evidence for the authenticity of the Gospel record.

(2) The eyewitnesses

Here’s the second line of evidence: the eyewitnesses. Here in Matthew’s Gospel, the first eyewitnesses to both the empty tomb (verses 1-8) and the risen Christ (verses 9-10) were women. Now, here’s the deal. When this was written, this would not have been convincing to anybody, because in the first century, in both Jewish and in Roman legal practice, the eyewitness testimony of women was not considered valid. Josephus, the Jewish historian, said, “Let not the testimony of women be admitted on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.” If you want to cancel somebody, cancel Josephus, don’t cancel me! Josephus said that.

But listen, that’s what everybody believed. Nobody believed in the first century that the testimony of women would be considered legally valid.

Jesus, incidentally, shows us a better way. Jesus chose that the women would be the first eyewitnesses of his resurrection, Jesus made the women the first evangelists to go tell the disciples that he had been raised, and throughout Jesus’ ministry he elevated the status of women.

But the fact that this is included in the Gospel record is once again a roundabout line of evidence; in fact, a very solid and convincing, compelling piece of evidence that this is what actually happened. Because once again, if the church had invented the resurrection stories and they wanted to invent eyewitness accounts, they wouldn’t have made the prime eyewitness Mary Magdalene or the other Mary or the other women as they are reported in the other Gospels. They just wouldn’t have done it that way. They would have chosen some of the best male representatives of the church to be the first eyewitnesses. So, once again, the eyewitness accounts are really strong, compelling evidence for the resurrection.

Of course, on top of that, you do have the eyewitness testimony of many others. The apostle Paul lists these different eyewitnesses in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8. He says that “Christ appeared to Cephas [that’s Peter], then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time.” Some scholars think that took place in Galilee, on this mountain in Galilee, where Matthew records here in Matthew 25. Most of these were still alive at the time Paul was writing, he says, though some had fallen asleep, had died. Then in verse 7 he says he appeared to James (that was the brother of Jesus), “then to all the apostle, and last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

Listen, all history is based on eyewitness reports and written documentary evidence—written documents, letters, journals, reports, those kinds of things that are preserved through archeology. That’s how all history is written, and the same historical method by which we know that Socrates drank the hemlock, by which we know that Alexander the Great conquered most of the world, by which we know that George Washington was the first President of the United States; that same historical method leads us to believe that Jesus of Nazareth really was crucified on a Friday afternoon, the tomb really was empty on a Sunday morning, and many different people saw him alive. They saw his body alive, transformed, and glorified. The eyewitnesses are the second line of evidence.

(3) The doubts of the disciples

Here’s the third: the doubts of the disciples. Now, it’s sometimes very common among Christians who sometimes sound overly pious to talk about never having a doubt. There’s even an old hymn, “Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear, but for those who will trust and obey…” That’s not biblical, and you actually do have doubts often recorded in the Bible. Again, right here in the story of the resurrection, the doubt is recorded as well as the joy and the worship. You see that in verses 16-17. “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them, and when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted.” Some doubted! Some of the disciples doubted! They saw him and some doubted. They couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing.

Once again, Matthew would not have invented that. Why invent a doubt when it’s not there? Why put that in if it didn’t actually happen? But he’s reporting what actually happened. He’s not making up stories, he’s not weaving this out of thin air; he’s reporting the actual events as they took place, and therefore he includes the doubt. The fact that it’s included, again, is evidence that this is historical record, not a perfect, well-polished story that someone just made up.

(4) The worshipping church

Finally, the fourth line of evidence is the worshipping church. Again in verse 17, they’re worshipping him. Mary Magdalene when she sees Jesus risen she falls at his feet and she worships him.

This is the stunning thing that happens after Jesus rose from the dead in the first century. You had Jewish monotheists who worshipped one God, they worshiped Yahweh, the God of Israel—“Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one”—they worshipped him. “Him only you shall serve.” They only worshipped Yahweh, and yet after Jesus rose from the dead they began to worship him. The only reason they would have done that is if they were absolutely convinced that Jesus was the Son of God, that he was actually God incarnate, the word made flesh.

Then they joined with Gentiles, and most of the Gentiles were polytheists; that is, they worshipped many gods. They were pagans. They worshipped a whole pantheon of gods. These Gentile pagans, when they came to meet Jesus, they came to understand the gospel, they turned away from all of that idolatry and they started worshipping Jesus of Nazareth, and it was so remarkable that the other Gentiles at the time actually accused the Christians of being atheists, because they weren’t worshipping the whole pantheon of gods, they were just meeting and they were talking about this man, Jesus. They were praising him.

The only explanation that this community of people, made up of Jewish monotheists and Gentile polytheists, would begin to worship together in a new community, a new family, worshipping Jesus of Nazareth, is if Jesus rose from the dead. They were utterly convinced of it, and it changed their lives.

That’s the evidence for the resurrection: the cover-up, the eyewitnesses, the honesty about their doubts, coupled with the worship of the early church. I believe the evidence is compelling. There is more, of course, that could be said—800 pages’ worth of it in N.T. Wright’s book, so once again, if you have doubts, go to the sources, read the Gospels, of course, for yourself, and dig deep into the literature, and I think you will see that there are very good historical reasons to believe this. That’s the evidence.

II. The Significance of the Resurrection

Now the significance; what’s the significance of the resurrection? I want you to see the significance of the resurrection for our past, our present, and our future. Three things.

(1) The past

First of all, for the past. It’s significant for our past because all of us have a past, right? We all have a past. We have sins that need to be forgiven, and the resurrection declares to us that what Jesus did on the cross was sufficient, that God was satisfied with the atoning sacrifice of his Son, and that because Jesus was crucified and raised that we can be forgiven.

The great example here from Matthew 28 is Mary Magdalene, mentioned in verse 1, one of the first witnesses of Jesus.

Now, we have to remember a little bit about Mary’s story. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her. Here’s a woman who had a past, here’s a woman who had been in the grip of evil, here’s a woman who had known darkness firsthand, despair firsthand. She was an outcast of society. She was a pariah. She was a nobody. And Jesus Christ had changed her life! She’d believed in him, she had trusted him; her life utterly changed.

Then he’s crucified, and can you imagine what she must have felt? Can you imagine the despair, the fear that she felt, thinking that Jesus her lord was dead? She goes to the tomb not expecting him to be alive, she goes, Mark tells us, to anoint the body for burial. She had to be wondering if it was all in vain, if it was all for nothing. She had to wonder if the darkness was going to close in around her once again, if the demons were going to come back.

Then she meets him, and he’s alive and he speaks to her and she touches him, and she knows that Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified one, is alive. Her fears are conquered.

The resurrection shows us that everything else Jesus said was true, including what he said about the transforming power of his grace and his mercy to forgive us of our sins.

In John Bunyan’s wonderful allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, when Christian has this burden on his back, this burden that represents his sin and his guilt, he tries so many ways to get rid of the guilt, trying to get rid of the burden. He goes to Mount Sinai, the law; he’s trying law-keeping. He’s trying good works. Nothing will get rid of the burden, and finally evangelist tells him to go through this narrow gate that will lead him to a place called Calvary, where there’s the cross, and it’s there at the foot of the cross where Christian’s burden finally rolls off of his shoulders, and it rolls down a hill into an empty tomb.

The resurrection assures us of God’s forgiveness. It shows us that the burden of our past, our sin, and our guilt has rolled off of our shoulders and onto Jesus’s and is now buried forever in his empty tomb. Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Or take the nots out of that and he’s saying, “If Christ has been raised, your faith is not in vain and you are no longer in your sins.”

The hymn-writer put it well:

“Living he loved me, dying he saved me,
Buried he carried my sins far away.
Rising he justified, freely, forever;
Someday he’s coming,
O glorious day.”

Sam Allberry, in a wonderful little book on the resurrection, says, “The resurrection shows us that there is nothing we need to add to the death of Jesus to find acceptance with God. By dying and rising for us, Jesus closed the deal. God signed for it, and his signature is the resurrection.”

The resurrection deals with your past. It shows that your sins can be forgiven.

(2) The present

Secondly, the resurrection gives significance to our present. It gives us something to live for, it gives us power to live by. The resurrection of Christ points to our mission as the disciples of Jesus, the church. It points to the power of transformation and to the communion, that is, the friendship, the fellowship we can have with the living Christ.

You see this in verses 18-20. This is commonly known as the Great Commission. Verse 18, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

Do you see the mission? Jesus says, “Go and make disciples.” The basis of the mission, he says, is that “all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” As Wright points out, this language very closely resembles the language earlier in the Gospel of Matthew in the Lord’s prayer, the disciples’ prayer, when Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The disciples are to pray for the kingdom, the authority, the reign of God to come on earth as it is in heaven, and then Jesus, when he’s raised from the dead, says, “I have that authority. I have all authority in heaven and earth; now, go and make disciples of the nations.”

In other words, this is how the kingdom comes. This is how the reign of God is established, as we make disciples of Jesus, as we teach others what Jesus himself has taught. This is our mission, and it’s a mission that extends to the whole world. It’s not just for the Jews. It’s, “Make disciples of all the nations.” Pontita ethnae, all the nations, all the ethnic groups, all the Gentiles, the ethnic people groups of the world. This is why we have a mandate to take the gospel where Christ has never been named, where the gospel is not known. We make disciples of the nations. That’s our mission.

But there’s also here a hint of our transformation. We are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the threefold name, the trinitarian name of God.

Baptism. This is, of course, one of the sacraments of the church. There is great significance to baptism, where we identify ourselves with Jesus in his death, burial, and resurrection. For those of you who know the New Testament, you’ll know that Paul especially uses baptism to point us to the reality of our union with Jesus Christ and the new power, the new life that we have because of Christ.

For example, in Romans 6:3-4 he says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried with him, therefore, by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

You have similar language in Colossians 3: “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things which are above.” You have similar language in Philippians 3: “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings.” What Paul is teaching and what baptism shows us is that there is a connection. There is a connection between us and Jesus. What Jesus did on the cross and in his resurrection he did not just for himself, he did for others. He died as our representative, he was raised as our representative.

For all who believe in Christ, for all who trust in Christ, there is a real power that comes to us from Christ, the crucified, risen one, so that the transforming power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you. That power can raise you, it can resurrect you! We’re singing about this this morning, right? We talk about coming out of the grave and out of the darkness, and this glorious day when we are resurrected, we are made alive. That’s just Pauline theology, that we are resurrected because of our union with Jesus Christ. We are raised with him to walk in newness of life.

The transforming power of the resurrection, and then there’s also here the pattern of the Christian life. What happened to Jesus? He died, he was raised. Suffering, then glory. This is the pattern for the Christian life: suffering and glory. Death, resurrection. Die to sin, live to righteousness. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow him, and you will truly find life. The pattern of the Christian life is a whole pattern. We died to ourselves and we serve, and in serving we find the greatest joy. We die to sin and put sin to death, and we discover that what we were seeking for in our pursuit of sin all along, that elusive sense of satisfaction and happiness, we find it actually in dying to sin and living to Christ. The pattern of the resurrected life, the crucified, resurrected life: transformation, right here.

Thirdly, there is communion with Jesus in the present. He says, “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Now, he’s not physically with us, but he’s with us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to us, he is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the risen Christ. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit we can have real friendship with Jesus.

Tim Keller just wrote a new book on Easter, on resurrection. It’s called Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. He says, “Perhaps the most ordinary daily benefit of the resurrection is this: to follow not a dead revered teacher, but rather a risen Lord, to actually have him with us.”

I believe in the resurrection of Christ both because of the compelling historical evidence but also because of the compelling presence of the Spirit of Christ that has changed my heart. I know him, and you can know him. You can be with him. You can walk with him.

You might ask, “How do you do that? Well, it’s pretty simple: you spend time with him. Solitude and time with Jesus. You talk to him. That’s what prayer is: it’s talking to Christ, it’s talking to the Lord, and talking to his Father. And you listen to him. You listen to him as you attune your heart to the Spirit of God speaking to us through the holy Scriptures. That’s how a relationship with God through Jesus Christ is lived.

That’s meaning for the present. A mission, transformation, communion.

(3) The future

Finally, the resurrection has significance for the future, because the resurrection of Jesus declares that death is defeated once and for all and that when Christ comes again he will make all things new.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he defeated death. Death, Paul says, is the last enemy. It’s this great enemy. Death is not our friend, death is the enemy, and Jesus came and he fought this enemy and he beat it.

Peter on the day of Pentecost proclaimed that “God raised Jesus from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Death lost its grip on Jesus. Jesus slipped through death’s fingers.

Then, Jesus himself, the risen Christ, in Revelation 1:17-18 says, “Fear not; I am the first and the last and the living one. I died, and behold, I am alive forevermore. And I have the keys of death and Hades.” He defeated death, and he did it not just for himself, he did it for us. He is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15. The firstfruits is the first sheaf of harvest. Just as the very first sheaf of harvest points to the harvest that is follow, Christ being raised from the dead in the middle of history points to the final general resurrection at the end of history when we also will be raised.

Nobody put this better than C.S. Lewis. This is from Miracles. Lewis said, “The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the firstfruit, the pioneer of life. He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the king of death. Everything is different because he has done so. This is the beginning of the new creation. A new chapter in cosmic history has been open.”

This is central to the good news. The empty tomb assures us that sickness and suffering and death and disease will not have the final word. As someone else said, “The King of glory has conquered the king of terrors.”

The implications of this are both personal and cosmic. They are personal because the resurrection means that our pain and suffering, our losses and sorrows, the deepest aches of our broken hearts, will someday be mended. Listen, suffering, sickness, cancer, Alzheimer’s, COVID-19, do not have the final word! Christ has the final word.

You know the story of Joni Eareckson Tada? She was injured as a teenager in a diving accident which left her as a quadriplegic for the rest of her life. She really wrestled with the Lord with this, surrendered it to him, and now has a wonderful ministry to disabled people.

One time she was in a convention where the speaker closed the service asking everyone to drop to their knees in prayer. Of course, she couldn’t do it, because she’s in a wheelchair. She started crying, just weeping almost uncontrollably. But she wasn’t crying out of self-pity; this is why she was crying. Here’s the quote.

“Tears were streaming because I was struck with the beauty of seeing so many people on bended knees before the Lord. It was a picture of heaven. Sitting there, I was reminded that in heaven I will be free to jump up, dance, kick, and do aerobics. The first thing I plan to do on resurrected legs is to drop on grateful, glorified knees. I will quietly kneel at the feet of Jesus.”

Our bodies are going to be raised, the dead are going to be raised. This is really personal. It means that those we have lost, whether many years ago or in recent years, those we’ve lost in Christ, those who are in the Lord, we will see again. I’m going to see my grandfather glorified, my dear mother glorified and resurrected, my mother-in-law resurrected and glorified.

The resurrection guarantees that death and dying will be no more, that suffering and sorrow will flee away. It declares for all the world to hear, “Death, be not proud! Death has lost its victory, the grave has lost its sting. Yes, death itself is working backwards. Our great enemy has been defeated once and for all."

This is personal, but it’s also cosmic. This is what I mean: the resurrection has cosmic implications for our future because it shows us how God’s grace brings renewal and restoration to the whole created order. The resurrection demonstrates how grace restores nature. God is not done with the creation project, he is not trying to rescue us from physicality and materiality, as if the final destination is to be disembodied spirits in heaven. That’s not the goal. The goal is a new heavens and a new earth, with resurrected bodies, the city of God that comes down from heaven and dwells among men. That’s the goal. When Jesus emerged from the tomb in a physical body, it was God’s definitive stamp of approval on the creation project in all of its physicality.

You know what? That is why the early Christians looked to the future with so much confidence that the created order itself would be redeemed that they threw themselves into serving others, both inside and outside their own communities. That’s why the Christians were the first ones to build hospitals. That’s why when plagues infected the ancient cities in the Roman world the Christians were the ones who stayed and took care of the sick, even at the cost of their own lives. That’s why Christians have led the force against slavery with somebody like a William Wilberforce. That’s why Christians have done good in the world, because they see the power of the resurrection fueling them, and they’re looking to the world to come. The resurrection calls the church to serve this present broken world in hope as we look back to Jesus’ death and resurrection and as we look forward to the resurrection and the restoration of the world that God created and that God is now redeeming through his Son, Jesus.

The resurrection redeems your past, it gives you meaning and transforming power, a mission, the very presence of the risen Christ in your present, and it gives us hope for the future.

Do you believe that? If you believe that this morning, then the mission is clear: Go tell others. Share the good news with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, fellow students. Share the good news.

If you’re not a believe or you’re not sure you’re a believer or you’re still considering the claims of Jesus, I would point you to the Gospels. Read the Gospels, read the Gospel of Matthew or Mark or Luke or John. Read a Gospel all the way through if you’ve never done that. If you need to answer some of the hard questions, pick up a book like N.T. Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God. But if you’re convinced at this moment, then here’s the call for you this morning, Romans 10:9-10: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” There is salvation for you, redemption from your past, hope for your future. It’s available right now when you call on Jesus’ name. Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, how we thank you for the resurrection of your Son, the Lord Jesus. We thank you for the hope the gospel gives us, we thank you for the transforming power of the risen Christ in our lives in the here and now. Thank you that Christ is not just the crucified King, he is the risen King, and it is our joy, our delight, our privilege to submit ourselves to his reign, to live in obedience to Christ, the one who loved us and gave himself for us.

Father, I pray this morning that for anyone who does not know Christ, that right now would be the moment of salvation, placing their trust and their faith in Jesus Christ and what he’s done. Those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, so Lord, may there be people now who do that.

As we come to the Lord’s table, this sacramental meal, we come with great hope; hope in what Jesus Christ has done for us, hope that Christ himself through the Spirit is present with us this morning, and hope that Christ is coming again to make all things new. May we take this meal, the bread and the juice, with that hope burning deeply in our hearts. May we worship you in these coming moments. May you be glorified, in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.