RISEN!: Week 4
“The Greatest Comeback in History”
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’” 
John 11:25
April is National Poetry Month, and to celebrate I have placed a poem by a pastor named S. M. Lockridge in your bulletin. He  wrote this poem for one of his sermons. Thanks to Youtube, we can hear Mr. Lockridge read it for us: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’”
It’s Friday
Jesus is praying
Peter’s asleep
Judas is betraying
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
Pilate’s struggling
The council is conspiring
The crowd is vilifying
They don’t even know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are running
Like sheep without a shepherd
Mary’s crying
Peter is denying
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s a comin’

It’s Friday
The Romans beat my Jesus
They robe Him in scarlet
They crown Him with thorns
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s comin’
It’s Friday
See Jesus walking to Calvary
His blood dripping
His body stumbling
And His spirit’s burdened
But you see, it’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The world’s winning
People are sinning
And evil’s grinning

It’s Friday
The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands
To the cross
They nail my Savior’s feet
To the cross
And then they raise Him up
Next to criminals

It’s Friday
But let me tell you something
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are questioning
What has happened to their King
And the Pharisees are celebrating
That their scheming
Has been achieved
But they don’t know
It’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
He’s hanging on the cross
Feeling forsaken by His Father
Left alone and dying
Can nobody save Him?
Ooh! It’s Friday
But Sunday’s comin’
It’s Friday
The earth trembles
The sky grows dark
My King yields His spirit
It’s Friday
Hope is lost
Death has won
Sin has conquered
And Satan’s just a laughin’

It’s Friday
Jesus is buried
A soldier stands guard
And a rock is rolled into place
But it’s Friday
It is only Friday
Sunday is a comin’!

Is that good news or what!?! 

The resurrection of Christ is the greatest power that has ever been unleashed on this planet. The greatest comeback in the history of the world is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

People love comeback stories. Like when David beat Goliath. We love that. When the underdog ends up in the National Championship. We love that. Quarterback Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers led thirty-one fourth-quarter comebacks during his career. People loved Joe Montana.

Years ago, Sports Illustrated did an issue on the Top Ten comebacks in history. They included people like Muhammad Ali, plus they had non-sports things on their list. Germany and Japan both made the list as “comeback nations” after World War II. But guess what was number one on their list. 
The number one comeback of all time, according to Sports Illustrated, is Jesus Christ. In essence they wrote, “Jesus Christ is number one because He confounds His critics and stuns the Roman authorities with His resurrection.” 

Jesus explained it this way: 
“I am the resurrection and the life.” John 11:25

In the Bible, the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—addressed four types of people. 
Matthew addressed the Jewish nation—religious people. He focused on Jesus’s credentials. 
Mark addressed the Romans—pragmatic people. He concentrated on Jesus’s actions. 
Luke addressed the Greeks—thinkers. He brought out Jesus’s teachings. 
John addressed everyone! He showed us all Jesus’s divinity. 
Each of these writers gives us a reason why Christ’s resurrection matters. I want to ask a question. How can something that happened two thousand years ago impact your life today, where you sit right now? What does the resurrection have to do with your life? Can the resurrection actually impact your life?

Because Christ lives, you can live. Because Christ came back, you can come back. From each of the four Gospels, let’s look at four great comebacks you’re assured of because of Christ’s resurrection.

In the Gospel of Matthew we have the 
“Come Back from Despair”

Because of the resurrection, we can come back from despair. In America today, more and more people are struggling with hopelessness, despair, and deep discouragement. They are asking, how do you bounce back in this culture? How do you bounce back in this economy? How do you bounce back from losing your house? How do you bounce back from losing a marriage? How do you bounce back from losing a loved one? How do you bounce back from a broken relationship with your kids? How do you bounce back from losing someone you deeply cared about? In other words, how do you bounce back? And it doesn’t look like the government’s going to be all that helpful. 

In America, we thought we could count on the economy. But can we? We thought we could count on employment. We thought we could count on the government being brilliant. 
Americans are wondering, is there anything you can count on when you’ve discovered you can’t count on anything? Is there any foundation solid enough to hold my life so it can’t be taken away?

Matthew paints this picture of people in despair by introducing two deeply discouraged people. 

“Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.” Matthew 27:59–61

Mary Magdalene and Mary were sitting around in a graveyard staring at a grave. That’s discouragement. Then the next morning comes. They say, “Let’s go look at the grave some more today.” 
Once more they head to the graveyard. They’re not looking for Jesus. They’re not expecting anything. They’re totally hopeless. They’re filled with despair. They’re going to watch a grave again for another day. Then everything changes:
“At dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. . . .
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”  Matthew 28:1–2, 5–6

Here’s the message that replaces despair with hope. The angel said these words:“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”

Those three words—“He has risen”—are the reason a billion people gather each weekend to celebrate and worship. Why? He has risen. Those three words separate Jesus from every other religious leader in history. You pick any religious leader in history—Moses, Joseph Smith, Muhammad, Buddha — they all have one thing in common: You can go to their grave, they’re still there. You go to Jesus’s grave, He’s not there. Why? He has risen! 

What is it about these three words that give people of every generation hope? People have not gathered for two thousand years and said, “The stock market has risen. It has risen indeed.” People have not gathered to say, “The employment rate has risen.” Or, “Gross Domestic Product has risen.” Or, “General Motors has risen.” We don’t greet each other by saying, “The value of my 401(k) has risen.” No, but people the world over gather each Easter to proclaim, “Christ is risen!” 
And that one fact replaces despair with hope. Because Jesus has risen from the grave, people discover finally there’s something I can count on. 

Now why is that a big deal? 

Think about what attracts a billion people to church each Sunday. When you’re attending a life-giving, God-honoring, Bible-teaching church, the average person who walks in, no matter what condition they are in, would say that after they’ve worshipped the Living God and after they’ve been taught the Bible, they generally walk out with more hope than they came in with.

A counselor once said that when a couple comes to see him, no matter how damaged the marriage is—even if it’s 100 percent damaged—he has only one goal. 
If he can get that couple to have 10 percent improvement, they’ll make it. Because when somebody gets 10 percent improvement, they get hope. 

The truth is, when someone gets hope, anything is possible. The resurrection of Christ fuels hope. And when you get hope, anything is possible in your life, in your marriage, with your kids, with your future. If you have hope, anything is possible. But without hope, it doesn’t matter what you have—nothing is possible. 

These women walked to the tomb hopeless, filled with despair. They heard the news that Christ was risen, and they walked away filled with hope. And right then, anything became possible for those women. Matthew says because of Christ’s resurrection, you too can come back from despair.

In the Gospel of Mark we have the 
“Come Back from Defeat”

In the book of Mark, we learn that because of the resurrection, defeat is not the end. You can come back from defeat. 

A young mother had two rambunctious, terrorize-the-town kind of boys, eight and ten years old. Their reputation got to a point where she thought, Anything bad that happens in our town, my sons are probably the cause. Well, a new pastor moved to town, and she heard he was good with kids, so she met with him and said, “I can’t do a thing with my kids. Could you take a shot at them?” He said he would and asked their ages. Then he said, “Send your eight-year-old first, tomorrow morning. Then I’ll see your ten-year-old in the afternoon.” That next morning she sent her eight-year-old to the pastor. 
He went into the pastor’s study and sat down. The kid was a little nervous. The pastor is kind of a big guy with a deep voice. He came in and said to the kid sternly, “Young man, where is God?” The little kid’s jaw dropped, and he didn’t say a thing. So the clergyman said even more sternly with a bigger voice, “Young man, I said where is God?” And this kid’s eyes got real big. He sat there frozen. So the clergyman got up and, towering over this kid, shook his finger in his face and said, “YOUNG MAN, WHERE IS GOD?” The little boy screamed and ran out of the pastor’s office, ran all the way home, ran into his house, ran through his living room, ran to his bedroom, opened up his closet door, dove into the closet, and closed the door. His ten-year-old brother came in, opened the closet, and said, “What happened?” The little brother said, “Man, we are in big trouble now. God is missing. They think we did it!”

The apostle Peter may have been able to identify with that story. Peter failed and fell hard. Peter’s the one who flexed his spiritual muscles and said to Jesus, “Hey, look, the other disciples, they’re wimps, but You can count on me. I’ve got Your back, I’ll be there for You.” However, Peter wasn’t there for Him. Peter denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. Then he swore. Then a little girl scared him. So, he ran away, leaving Jesus and going back to his former way of living just when Jesus needed him most. A couple of days later Peter heard, “Jesus is alive.” If you’re Peter, is this really good news or really bad news? You can imagine the other disciples telling Peter, “You’re toast now!” 

But don’t most of us occasionally wonder the same thing? If Christ is alive and if I show up at church, am I going to find forgiveness or are they going to condemn me? Am I going to be accepted or am I going to be rejected? 
Do I have a future or is God done with me and ready to discard me? 

Two of the most encouraging words are tucked into the Gospel of Mark. Most people miss this. 
“But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16:7

The angel is announcing that Jesus is alive and wants to meet with the disciples. The angel says, “Go, tell his disciples.” And then the next two words the angel says are,“and Peter.” Isn’t that awesome? Essentially the angel is saying, “Make sure you tell Peter that Jesus still loves him. Make sure you tell Peter that Jesus wants to meet with him. Make sure you tell Peter he’s got a future. Make sure you tell Peter that he still matters.”
Here’s what Mark is saying: Christ’s resurrection means your past, no matter what it is, is not unforgivable. You cannot walk so far away from God that He cannot reach you.

There’s an old story about a Polish concert pianist named Paderewski. He was performing at a big concert hall. A mom had brought her nine-year-old son to get him excited about piano lessons. The boy broke away from his mom, made his way up on stage, walked across the stage, all the way up to Paderewski’s great concert piano. The crowd gasped. The boy sat on the piano bench in front of everybody and started playing “Chopsticks.”The audience wondered how Paderewski would respond to this boy wrecking his concert. To their surprise, Paderewski himself came out on stage. 

Instead of getting mad and grabbing the kid, he walked up to the piano, put both arms around the boy, and started playing an incredible accompaniment to “Chopsticks.” The way the story goes, as Paderewski played, he whispered in the kid’s ear, “You’re doing great, just keep going. Just keep going.” 

Whether or not that story really happened, Jesus Christ really did happen. And what He did for Peter, He’s ready to do for you. He shows up in your life not to condemn you, but to wrap His arms around you. That’s what Peter discovered, and that’s what you can discover and experience from God this morning. You can bounce back from defeat.

In the Gospel of Luke we have the 
“Come Back from Doubt”

Just as you can bounce back from despair and defeat, you can bounce back from doubt. Luke is the Gospel written to the Greeks. The Greeks were philosophers. Luke was writing to thinkers, to skeptics. Luke put it this way:
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”  Luke 24:5–6

Some of us are wired to be skeptical. Many Christians were once atheists, agnostics, or had other religions. They thought the Bible was full of myths, misconceptions, and errors. They thought there was no evidence to prove that Christ rose from the dead. Or that even if He did, what difference did it make. They probably talked people out of becoming a Christian prior to becoming one themselves. 

Luke wrote a sequel to his Gospel, called the Acts of the Apostles. In it, he said,

“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” Acts 1:3

After Jesus’s suffering, He gave many what? 

“Many convincing proofs.” 

That’s actually just one Greek word, tekmēriois, which means “legally admissible evidence.” Even Jesus was saying, “Never believe anything without solid evidence, without convincing proof.” Here’s what Luke recorded about Jesus:

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Luke 24:36–44

Look at the last sentence. Everything must be what? 
Everything must be “fulfilled” that was written in the Law of Moses, which means the first five books of the Old Testament, as well as the Prophets and the Psalms.

Last week we looked at the evidence and discovered that the evidence for the resurrection is so compelling, it is difficult not to believe it. Which means we are Christian for two reasons: It’s true and it works. 

Now, the Old Testament was written at a minimum of 450 years before Christ, so it was written a long time before Christ. What’s stunning about the Old Testament is that in Psalm 22 and in Isaiah 53, those two passages describe in detail the crucifixion of the Son of God. And you want to know what’s amazing about that? When the Old Testament was written, crucifixion wasn’t even invented. 

So here come skeptics who want to say the Old Testament was written after Christ’s crucifixion and that’s how Isaiah and the psalmist could write it, so the whole thing’s a fraud. The skeptics have another problem. In 1947, in Qumran, a young Bedouin shepherd boy was doing what young shepherds do. He threw a rock up and it went into a cave. He heard a crash and thought, Something’s in there. He climbed up and found pottery and all these ancient scrolls. It took another decade to discover everything in that cave, which is now regarded as one of the single greatest archeological finds in history. That shepherd boy found what we now know as the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

After that happened, scientists went to work on it. They came to the realization that these scrolls had been hidden away from the Romans long before Christ even was born. The scrolls had been written hundreds of years earlier and stashed for posterity, which is us. 
So as they unrolled the scrolls, the scientists were in a heart-stopping moment to find Isaiah 53. It was either going to describe the crucifixion, or they would have proof it was all a scam because it was added later. As they unrolled the great scroll of Isaiah, you know what they discovered? The description of the crucifixion was in there word for word, just as modern Bibles had it. 

So today, when you have the opportunity to see a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it gives you chills. It’s amazing to realize that every time an archeologist makes a discovery, it has backed up what the Bible says. Because of the resurrection, you can bounce back from doubt and have a solid faith.

In the Gospel of John we have the 
“Come Back from Death”

Finally, because of the resurrection, I can come back from death itself. 

There’s an old joke. Three guys are talking about what they want said at their funerals. The first guy says, “I want them to say, you know, he was a great guy.” 
The second guy says, “I want them to say he was a wonderful husband and a great dad.” The third guy says, “You know what I want? I want them to say, ‘Hey, look! He’s moving!’” 

How does life after death work? Look how Jesus says it:
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25–26

In other words, Jesus was saying that if you are connected to Him, because He rose, you’ll rise; because He lives forever, you’ll live forever—if you’re connected to Him.

We have heard about death this past year more than usual thanks to the COVID pandemic. Our culture generally doesn’t like to think or talk about death much. 
Look at the people around you. You know what we all have in common? In 120 years, we’re all going to be dead. And only a fool would spend their entire life knowing something was going to happen but not prepare for it. 

See, there is a heaven, there is a risen Savior—it’s real. Because it’s real, your future can be secure.

John was writing to everyone. He focused on Jesus’s divinity, that He really is who He says He is.

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30–31

Jesus was showing all of us that by believing in Him, we will have life even after death. Think of the kinds of things people say on their deathbeds. Dwight L. Moody, the famous pastor and founder of Moody Bible Institute, had his whole huge family around him. He said this on his deathbed. “I see the faces, I see the faces!” Then he named two of his children that had died earlier in life. His son said, “Father, you’re dreaming.” But Moody said, “I’m not dreaming! I’ve been within the gates, I’ve seen the kids’ faces. This is my coronation day, it’s glorious!” Then he closed his eyes and joined his kids. 

A legendary missionary said this on his deathbed, “I go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school, ready for a summer vacation,” and then he was gone. 
That is the kind of confident assurance you can have when you are connected to Jesus Christ. Because He rose, you will rise also. That is good news. In John’s Gospel, we read,

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3

So think about it. There are two sides to this message. On one side, we’ve talked about despair, defeat, doubt, and death. Does that not feel like our country right now? Today people are filled with despair to levels we’ve never seen before. People feel defeated. They are racked with doubt, not knowing what to count on. They are scared of death. 
But because of the resurrection, I don’t have to get stuck in despair. I can live with hope, and when I have hope, anything is possible. I don’t have to live a life of defeat. I can experience forgiveness. I don’t have to give in to doubt. I can have a confident faith. And I can overcome even death. I can claim my future is secure. Because of the resurrection, all of that can happen to any who believe. 

It’s my hope and prayer that everyone in this room does believe and has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and is secure in the fact that should you, for some strange reason, die this afternoon, that you, like the missionary I spoke of in this message would find yourself, “ready for summer vacation,” in heaven. If not, I encourage you to allow the resurrection to impact your life and make a conscious decision, right now to accept the free gift of salvation. 
For those of us who hold fast to our knowledge and faith and Christ – I have asked you to commit to praying for someone who needs salvation. Let’s take a moment, right now, in prayer, and lift up the person we have been praying for to come to Jesus and believe. 

(moment of silent prayer)

Let’s pray:
Dear God, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to earth and then for having Jesus come back. I believe Jesus was who He said He was and proved it by rising from death. I want to continue to discover and to follow Your plan and purpose for my life. I want to get to know You more and more each day. I lift up those we are praying for who have not made a decision to follow you as Lord and Savior. Thank You, Jesus, for dying and forgiving all sins. Thank You for your free gift of eternal life. Amen.