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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:The Greatest News
Text:John 20:1-31 (View)
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

(Grace OPC) 
“No Greater News!”
John 20:1-31
There is not much good news in our world today: Gasoline prices are headed toward an all-time high. Inflation is through the roof. Even when you get a raise, you cannot keep up with inflation. And our federal and state governments have spent billions and trillions of dollars that they don’t have, causing a colossal debt burden that most likely will lead to a yet unknown catastrophe of epic proportions.
While we don’t hear much good news today, the same was true in the first century: The Roman rule was oppressive. The Jews yearned for freedom. Many of them thought they had a political leader – a king – but he had been crucified.  
But now life would return to its routine. Now the great Passover feast was over.  The crucifixion was done; the tombs of those crucified had been sealed, and the tomb of Jesus was guarded. The people from outlying villages and towns would be leaving Jerusalem. Life goes on, even amid tragedy, heartbreak, and death.
But on this first day of the week – the Day of Resurrection – Mary came to the disciples with the greatest news the world has ever heard. There is no greater news than this – the news of verse 18: “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord…”
Death Defeated
What makes that news the greatest news ever recorded? First, it proves that Jesus has power over death. Death entered the world because of sin. Each one of us will die. That is one certainty that is guaranteed, for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a).
But since Jesus rose from the dead, we need not fear death. 1 Corinthians 15:55 asks, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
There is no greater news than the news Mary brought to the disciples: “I have seen the Lord! He is risen from the dead!” for his resurrection proves to us Jesus’ victory – his power – over death.
Furthermore, the death that Scripture speaks about is not merely physical death. Death in the Bible denotes separation. Physical death is simply the separation of body and soul. But by nature we are also spiritually dead. We were all separated from God spiritually from the time of conception, for we are sinners from the moment of our conception. Every newborn baby is already a sinner. As Ephesians 2:1 puts it, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”  
Unless you are born again – literally, “born from above” spiritually and given the gift of saving faith, you will be eternally separated from the love of God in the reality of hell, which is another description of death recorded in the Bible. It is eternal death; it is eternal separation from God’s love. In Revelation 20:14, 15, and 21:8 – among other passages – that separation is called  “the second death” because it is the final separation from God in the torment of hell for those who have not been granted life from above – that is, new birth through the gift of saving faith in Christ alone.
But on the cross, Jesus experienced all forms of death. He experienced physical death, as life ebbed from his body and he breathed his last breath. But he also experienced spiritual death as he was forsaken by the Father and separated from him. And he experienced eternal death as he bore all the agony of hell for us on the cross. We hear the agony of spiritual and eternal death in the voice of Jesus as he cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ­
But through saving faith in Christ alone, you and I have new life from above, and death in all its forms holds no power over us. Jesus, through His suffering on the cross, conquered death in all its forms – physical, spiritual, and eternal.   
In Revelation chapter 1, John gives us a powerful picture of the resurrected Christ. He writes: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘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.’” 
That should be of no surprise. Hebrews 2:14-15 teaches that “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we who have saving faith in him do not need to fear death in all its forms. We are no longer separated from our triune God because of our sins. Instead, we are reconciled to the Lord, members of his body, the Bride of Christ, heirs of salvation.
Through saving faith in Christ alone we receive blessing after blessing and grace after grace from our heavenly Father. We receive the assurance of our salvation and protection from Jesus, the Son, as he promises that no one can snatch us from his hand or separate us from his love. And we are indwelt with the power of the Holy Spirit who serves as a deposit – as a guarantee of what is to come.
Thus, because of the resurrection, we say with confidence those words of David in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
The resurrection of Jesus not only proves His power over death in all its forms, it also assures us that reconciliation has truly been made. We clearly see that in verse 19: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’”
What music that must have been to the disciples’ ears!  They had been sleeping in the garden. They had all deserted the Lord when he was arrested. Peter had denied his Savior three times before that rooster crowed.
But the open tomb, and these words of the risen Savior, remind us that the resurrection is the stamp of approval by God the Father on all the redemptive work of Jesus the Son.  And therefore, we have peace with God!
If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, we would still be in our sins. 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” All of us need the reconciliation that only comes through saving faith in our resurrected Savior.
All of us deserve to be condemned. We are no different from the disciples in that we, too, have often deserted our Lord. We have often denied our Lord. We have often been sleeping in the sense of being spiritually lazy when we should be in service to our Lord. But instead of condemnation, our risen Savior says to all who have saving faith in him what he said to the disciples of old: “Peace be with you!”  Reconciliation has been made!
A third reason why the news of the resurrection is the greatest news this world has ever heard is that the resurrection led to the giving of the Holy Spirit in a new way. Verse 22 describes how Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit has always been present. He is one with the Father and the Son and has been active from all eternity. Genesis 1 describes how he was active even in the creation of the world. But after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is sent to us in a unique way.
In John 14:15-19 Jesus had said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
       “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” 
It is always hard to pick a favorite verse. It is like picking a favorite hymn or Scripture song. There are so many that are beautiful, how do you pick a favorite? But one of my favorite verses is John 14:18 where Jesus, speaking about his ascension into heaven to send the Holy Spirit with power, promises, “I will not leave you as orphans.”
Jesus is in heaven. We are on earth. Our world is in turmoil, trouble abounds. The horrific stain of sin has permeated everything, including our own hearts. But we are not alone! We are not left as orphans! Through his resurrection, and later ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to us in a powerful way to dwell within our lowly bodies, making them his temple. The Holy Spirit, having given us new life from above, sanctifies us. He convicts us of our sin and draws us in repentance and faith to Christ our Savior as he applies the Scriptures he inspired to the hearts and lives of his people.
The Holy Spirit also intercedes for us in prayer, praying for God’s will to be realized in our lives. We have all had droughts in our prayer lives, often because of sin in our lives or troubles that have overwhelmed us and choked our prayers. But Romans 8:26, 27 give us this assurance: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
And not only does the Holy Spirit intercede with groanings too deep for words. He also serves as a deposit, guaranteeing our salvation. 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
Do you see why Mary’s words are the greatest news ever heard? The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that Jesus has power over death in all its forms! The resurrection assures us that reconciliation has truly been made! And the resurrection led to the giving of the Holy Spirit in a unique and powerful way!
Saving Faith
While this news is the greatest news ever proclaimed, it only becomes great when we believe it. The world has always had its share of skeptics, its share of “doubting Thomases.” Frank Morrison was a lawyer who years ago wrote a book entitled, “Who Moved the Stone? With all the skills of a keen lawyer, he set out to disprove the resurrection. But as he did his meticulous lawyer-like research, he came to see and believe in the reality of the risen Savior. His book, Who Moved the Stone changed from being the writing of a skeptic to a powerful testament to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
More recently Lee Strobel did the same thing. As a veteran reporter for the Chicago Tribune he set out to disprove those “outrageous claims” of Christianity that Jesus rose from the dead. But as he investigated the historical and biblical record, he came to see the reality of the resurrection. As a result, instead of writing a book attempting to disprove the resurrection, he wrote a book entitled The Case for Christ.
It is a book that records how through a thorough investigation, a great skeptic became a devout believer in the risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And Lee Strobel has written many other books declaring the reality of the resurrection and the joy of salvation through saving faith in Christ alone.
Doubting Thomas also came to that point. He believed, and he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”  But Jesus said, in verse 29, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
That you and I would believe in Jesus Christ with saving faith is the purpose for John’s gospel, and indeed the purpose for the entire Bible. Verse 30 and 31: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
A man by the name of Wilbur Chapman was asked once by Dwight Moody whether he was a Christian. Chapman replied that he wasn’t sure if he was a Christian. Moody opened his Bible to John 5:24 and read these words of Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
Dwight Moody asked Wilbur Chapman if he believed those words that he had read. Chapman replied that he believed those words, so Moody asked him again, “Are you a Christian?” And again, Chapman said, “I’m not really sure. Sometimes I think I am. Sometimes I doubt that I really am.”
Moody had him re-read the verse, and then asked again if he believed what Jesus said. And again, Chapman said he believed what Jesus said. So again, Moody asked him if he was a Christian, and when once again Chapman expressed doubt, Moody became sharp with him. He turned to him with his eyes ablaze and said, “See, here, who are you doubting?”
It was then that Chapman realized that to doubt his salvation was the same as doubting the words of Jesus that “Whoever hears (his) word and believes him who sent (him) has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.”
To know the joy of the resurrection, you must take the truths of Scripture to heart through saving faith in Christ alone. You must come to that point of acceptance and faith that doubting Thomas finally realized as he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”
Proclaiming Good News
A second application: The message of the resurrection becomes a great blessing in our lives when we share it – when we announce, proclaim, and witness it – to others. Usually good news travels fast. News about weddings, birth announcements, graduations, and other events of good news, normally travel very fast.
The good news that Mary had received, that Jesus had risen from the dead, caused her to run.  I’m sure she was breathless, struggling for air, lungs burning, face flushed as she exclaimed: “Jesus is risen! I have seen the Lord!”  We, in turn, should be that eager to tell others about our risen Savior and Lord, not just “sharing” the gospel, a term the Bible never uses. Instead, how eager we should be to announce the gospel, to proclaim it, and witness the gospel of our resurrected Savior to others. In verse 21 Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” He is sending us to proclaim the gospel, the good news of salvation, to others.
I read once about a Chinese farmer who was blind because of cataracts. With the help of some friends, he traveled many miles from his village to see a missionary doctor. The doctor removed his cataracts and the farmer could see! He was overjoyed! His life was transformed!
About a week later, the missionary doctor was surprised when he saw that same man returning. This time the man was holding the end of a long rope. And holding onto the rope were about a dozen men, walking in single file, gripping the rope. They had cataracts, but the man who had his cataracts removed had told them about the missionary doctor who could give them sight.
If we have been blessed by God’s grace and Holy Spirit’s regenerating power, with saving faith in the One who died for us and rose again for our justification, shouldn’t we be joyfully telling others about Him?
If we truly believe in our resurrected Lord and Savior, how eagerly we should tell others of God’s amazing grace:
   Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
     That saved a wretch like me
   I once was lost, but now am found
      Was blind, but now I see.
What a wonderful, wonderful message to tell others!
There is not much good news in the world today. Gas prices are headed toward an all-time high. Inflation is through the roof. Our government’s deficits are so deep it is hard to comprehend their magnitude. Not to mention, crime, social unrest, revolts, war, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and other calamities including sickness, disease, accidents, and the death of loved ones.
But today – and every day – we are to remember and rejoice in the greatest news of all the ages: Christ the Lord is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!  Amen!
sermon outline:
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen
the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
                                                                                          John 20:18a
                                  “The Greatest News!”
                                            John 20:1-31
I.  There is no greater news than the news of Jesus’ resurrection: 
     1) It proves that Jesus has power over death in all its forms (1ff,
         Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Revelation 1:18)
     2) It assures us that reconciliation has truly been made (19, 21, 26)
     3) It led to the giving of the Holy Spirit in a unique and powerful
           way (22; John 14:15-18; 16:5-15)
II. This news becomes great in our lives:
     1) When we believe it (29, 31)
     2) When we share it – announce, proclaim and witness it – to others (18, 21)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2023, Rev. Ted Gray

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