Happy Easter – I’m so thankful that you are here and I’ve been praying for you to encounter Jesus today. And I want to go ahead and tell you why you should be here next week. Over the past year, I’ve had numerous conversations with people who have lost close relationships with friends, spouses, and parents. So next week, I’m going to be launching a new series called, Time to Make Up. If you have lost a relationship. If you have struggled with bitterness. If you wonder if there could ever be restoration and reconciliation, don’t miss this series. This is going to speak into what you’ve been experiencing and it’s going to give all of us a gameplan for how to keep these things from happening or how to respond when they do happen.
What are you living for? Okay, let’s not go that deep just yet. Let me ask a question that is a little easier to answer.
What are you looking forward to?
Maybe it’s the weekend. Or perhaps a trip. Or completing a major project at work. Or waiting to see if you still have a job after the next round of layoffs. You could be looking forward to your stock options vesting. Or you could just be looking forward to the stock market going in the opposite direction it went in last year. Or maybe you’re just looking forward to this message being over so you can go enjoy brunch.
I think there’s a correlation between what you’re looking forward to and what you’re actually living for. And I think there’s something that’s happened over the last couple of years that has limited what we look forward to. The prolonged season that the pandemic brought us eventually took away everything we were looking forward to – trips were canceled, weddings were postponed, and all the cool stuff we were doing online eventually became pretty lame. And when yesterday looks like today and today looks like tomorrow, there’s not much to look forward to.
But it’s not just the pandemic. We’re in the middle of an economic environment that keeps us from being excited about what’s ahead. For some of you, you’re literally struggling to make ends meet – either due to inflation or because you lost your job or had your hours cut. For others of you, you were looking forward to raising capital for your new company or you were planning to take your company public…but that’s off the table for now.
And then there’s the mental and emotional health challenges so many of us have dealt with. When you aren’t sure how you’re going to make it through the day, you’re not all that occupied with the future.
And if we’re honest, we’re not exactly sure what the future of San Francisco is going to be either.
I think we all need something to look forward to. Or to say it another way, I think we all have to have something to live for. And throughout our lives, we’ve all found things to live for. We’ve lived to travel, to make money, to find love, to do good work, to accomplish something significant, to make a difference in the world, and to simply enjoy all life has to offer.
When you lose the thing you’re living for, what are you left with?
If you live for your kids and they move out one day, what are you left with?
If you live to get the company off the ground, what happens when it doesn’t work or when you’re no longer there?
If you live for notoriety, what happens when no one knows who you are or what you have accomplished?
Every human being needs something to live for.
But we can’t live for something that will expire or lose its power or ever be taken from us. I believe this is the invitation of Easter. What if the point of Easter is to invite us into something that can never be lost? I’m calling this year’s Easter message, “Something to Live For”. Luke 24; the setting is that original Easter Sunday.
Luke 24:13-24 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
What do you do when what you were looking forward to is in your rearview mirror?
There was a time in all of our lives when we believed the best was still in front of us. But the pandemic or our health or our age or our struggle to find the success we used to enjoy – some of us are wondering:
Are my best days behind me?
This must have been the mindset of these two individuals. One way you can know you’re talking to a person who believes their best days are behind them is because they consistently use the past tense.
“Jesus was a prophet. He was powerful in word and deed.” In other words, Jesus was an amazing person. There are a lot of people in our world today and even in this city who believe Jesus was a historical figure who lived a compelling life. They are inspired by Jesus – his teachings, his morals, and his sacrificing love. But like these two individuals, they think Jesus only belongs in a conversation about history – even if all of history is divided by his life. Maybe this is how you view Jesus – at least for now.
Do you see Easter as only a historical event or does it have implications for the past, present, and future?
How you answer this question matters. While we are celebrating a historical event today, we are not only celebrating what this means for our past…but also for our present and our future. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need a God who was just there in the past. I need a God who is here now in my present and a God who can lead me into my future.
They acknowledge, “He was crucified but we had hoped that he was going to redeem Israel.” And it’s already been three days. They believed he would free them from Roman oppression by overcoming their oppressors. So when they see Jesus die, their hope dies with Him.
What hopes have you had to set down?
You hoped to be married. You hoped to be over your depression by now. You hoped to get more stable housing. You hoped the doctor would cure you. You hoped you could retire by now. You hoped your children would have made different decisions.
Again the two people in our story are basically saying this: Jesus was so incredible that we had hoped he was going to bring about the redemption of Israel. They are now convinced that the best was behind them, but Jesus knew the best was still in front of them.
Luke 24:30-35 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
The promise of Easter is that lost hope can be restored, but not without an encounter.
Look at these two people – hope is not restored until they experience something to reignite their hope…or until they experience Someone who can reignite their hope. Their hearts were burning. Jesus meets them in the middle of their despair, disappointments, and doubts. They needed to encounter Him and so do we. Someone else’s experience with Jesus can help you, but it’s not enough. I’m grateful for your mom’s faith, but you need to experience Jesus for yourself. I’m grateful for your friend’s faith, but you have to encounter Jesus in a personal way.
How do you encounter the risen Jesus?
Ephesians 1:13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.
You can be included in Christ when you hear and believe the message of truth – that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, but He did not stay dead. He is alive and you can have this forever life also! The moment you believe, you are marked with a seal – the promised Holy Spirit – who will guarantee your full redemption. How can this promise be guaranteed? Here’s how:
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
I too am tempted to live for all the things: success, impact, good things in the lives of my children, being known as a great leader, and sometimes when life is hard – I find myself tempted to live for an easy and comfortable life.
You were created for a life that will never end.
1 John 5:12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Do you have life? Do you want to have life? Do you want Jesus? Not the one who used to live…but the One who was alive, is alive, and always will be alive.
Each of you have this card in your seat. When people encountered the risen Jesus, there was always a response. And we want to give you a chance to respond now.
If you want to put your faith in the risen Jesus today, you can pray this prayer: Jesus, I believe that you died for me, so that I can always live with you. Today, I receive your life and I put all my hope and faith in you.
Some of you have had faith, but for a variety of reasons, you have walked away. If you want to return to genuine faith in Jesus, you can make that decision too.
And for all of you who are placing your faith in Jesus today or you’ve done that prior to today, baptism is how followers of Jesus mark the moment of their faith in Jesus. You can be baptized right here next week or at least explore it with someone on our team.
If you’re making any of those decisions today, we want to give you a gift to help you follow Jesus. Bring your card to the next steps table in the lobby and we’ll give you a free book to help build your faith.