Hell: The Real House of Horrors

Jesus Christ: The Greatest Hero of All Time

Jesus Christ: The Greatest Hero of All Time

Jesus Christ: The Greatest Hero of All Time

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Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #112

TEXT: John 20:19-23

Every now and then, we hear about someone being called a hero because of something great that they do. A firefighter who charges into a burning building to rescue a child, soldiers who risk their lives for their country in battle, a doctor who pulls off a risky medical procedure — all of these are hailed as heroes. But, there are many heroes who go unnoticed and who are not applauded by the world. These unsung heroes simply do what is in their power, and then fade into history.

Over the past few days leading up to this Resurrection Sunday, we have been looking at the unsung heroes of Easter — those characters who are critical to the Easter story, but who are often overlooked. We have looked at Pilate’s wife, Simon of Cyrene, Mary the mother of Jesus, John the disciple who loved Jesus to the end, the Roman Centurion, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and Mary Magdalene. Each of these unsung heroes played an important role in the Easter story, but each of them would tell you that the real hero of Holy Week is the one who rose from the dead on Easter Sunday — Jesus Christ, the ultimate hero.

The Scottish theologian Sinclair Ferguson said, “Imagine, for a moment, the reaction of Hell to the death of Christ. Jesus was bound with the bands of death. What celebration and joy! God was defeated! Vengeance was the Devil’s. But they reckoned without the wisdom of God. For Christ could not be held down by the bands of death. In fact, through death He was paralyzing the one who had the power of death, and He was setting His people free. What seemed to be defeat was actually victory. The Resurrection morning was Hell’s gloomiest day. Satan saw the wisdom of God and tasted defeat.”

Jesus Christ is the greatest hero of all time because He died for the sins of the world and rose from the dead by the power of God on the third day. But He didn’t stop there. He immediately gave his disciples and us peace, power, and purpose. He gave us something that we all crave and that is purpose in life and peace and power to accomplish it.

1. First of all, Jesus Christ gave us peace. The Bible tells us that on that first resurrection Sunday, two thousand years ago, the first words that Jesus Christ said to his disciples were, “Peace be unto you.” And then, as if he wanted to make sure that they understood, the Bible says that Jesus “shewed unto them his hands and his side… Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you…”

2. Jesus Christ gave us power. In verse 22, the Bible reads: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” This was Jesus Christ giving power to his disciples. Acts 1:8 specifically calls, “the Holy Ghost” the “power” that these disciples received. The work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gives is that he makes us capable to do what we are simply not able to do on our own. He gives us power.

3. Jesus Christ gave us purpose. Finally, Jesus Christ tells his disciples, “…as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” In other words, Jesus says, just as God sent me into the world with the purpose of saving it. I am sending you into the world with the purpose of telling everyone about me so that I can save them.. Jesus says that we are his representatives, his ambassadors, called to take his peace and power to those who are still oppressed by Satan.

+ Plus, listen to Nicole C. Mullen singing “Redeemer” and Jeremy Camp singing “This Man”

Mary Magdalene: The First Person to See the Risen Christ (The Unsung Heroes of Easter #8)

Mary Magdalene meets Jesus at the tomb

Mary Magdalene meets Jesus at the tomb

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Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #111

TEXT: Mark 16:1-9

On this Resurrection Sunday, we come to the final person in our Unsung Heroes of Easter series — Mary Magdalene, the first person to see Jesus Christ after he rose from the dead. She is one of the more popular figures in the Gospel narratives and is mentioned in all four Gospels. She is the woman out of whom Christ cast seven devils. Some have identified Mary Magdalene as the prostitute or “sinful woman” who washed Jesus’ feet. However, the Bible does not explicitly state that. We do know that Mary Magdalene was a woman of some means because the Bible says that she attended to Christ and helped provide for the needs of his ministry. Luke 8:2-3 states, “And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, ministered unto him of their substance.”

To many scholars and theologians down through the years, it has been significant that Jesus Christ chose to appear to a woman, and especially to Mary Magdalene, after his resurrection. Let’s look at some possible reasons why.

1. The first reason why Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene before anyone else could be because Mary Magdalene represented a direct triumph over the devil and his plan. Mark 16:9 states, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene…” Of course, we can be content to know that Christ simply appeared to Mary Magdalene first because he chose to do so. But I believe it is safe for us to say that Christ appeared to a woman first as a symbolic expression that the curse of sin that had been brought on humanity by the actions of a woman had been completely removed.

2. The second reason why Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first could be because Jesus wanted to show that he died and rose from the dead FOR SINNERS. Verse 9 of our passage notes that Mary Magdalene is the one “out of whom Christ had cast seven devils.” Most of the passages which refer to Mary Magdalene never leave out this detail. And, I believe this detail gives us another reason why Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first after his resurrection — Jesus wanted to make it clear that he came to rescue SINNERS.

3. The third reason why Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first could be because Jesus always comes to those who are searching for him. John 20, verse 1 says, “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark…” Remember that Joseph and Nicodemus had to bury Jesus hastily on Friday evening because the Sabbath was about to begin. Even though they wrapped Jesus’ body in linen and embalmed it with expensive spices, Mary and Mary Magdalene still wanted to anoint the body themselves. In their minds, it was probably the least they could do for the Saviour who had done so much for them.

Nicodemus: Another Secret Saint Who Came Through for Jesus in the End (The Unsung Heroes of Easter #7)

Nicodemus: Another Secret Saint Who Came Through for Jesus in the End

Nicodemus: Another Secret Saint Who Came Through for Jesus in the End

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Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #110

TEXT: John 19:38-42

Today, we are going to talk about another “secret believer” who became an unsung hero of Easter. His name is Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee, and like Joseph of Arimathea, he was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council. We mostly remember Nicodemus as the one who “came to Jesus by night.” The Jewish Talmud identifies Nicodemus as Nicodemus ben Gurion, one of the three richest men in Jerusalem at that time. It is said that the combined wealth of these three men could have kept Jerusalem running for 21 years.

After Jesus’ death, Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathea in taking Jesus’ body down from the cross. He provided expensive spices to be used in the burial of the Lord. Church tradition indicates that Nicodemus was martyred for the faith in the first century.

It does not appear that Nicodemus had an instantaneous conversion. Rather he went through a process of carefully considering Jesus’ words and actions, and eventually came to a conclusion about who Jesus was. Nicodemus enters the Gospel narrative three times, and each of his appearances tell us something about how he came to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world.

1. The first time we see Nicodemus, we see that he is curious about Jesus. John 3:1-2 tells us, “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night…” Nicodemus had heard about Jesus, and he realized that there was something special about him. The multitudes were flocking to hear Him. He was working great miracles. The commoners couldn’t stop singing His praises. Nicodemus was intrigued by this person named Jesus. He was curious about who He was.

2. The next time we see Nicodemus, we see that he is concerned about Jesus. In John chapter 7, the Pharisees are plotting to have Jesus arrested. They send men to capture Jesus, but the men come back empty-handed. When asked why they have not brought Jesus with them, the men respond, “Never man spake like this man.” The religious leaders are concerned that some of their own are beginning to believe on Jesus Christ. They want to put an end to Jesus’ teaching because he is drawing all of the attention away from them.

3. The third time we see Nicodemus, we find that he is committed to Jesus. In other words, he has decided to cast his lot with Jesus Christ and His followers. The Bible says, “there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.”

Joseph of Arimathea: The ‘Secret Believer’ Who Sacrificed for Jesus Christ (The Unsung Heroes of Easter #6)

Joseph of Arimathea: The 'Secret Believer' Who Sacrificed for Jesus Christ

Joseph of Arimathea: The 'Secret Believer' Who Sacrificed for Jesus Christ

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Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #109

TEXT: Mark 15:42-47

Today, we come to the sixth person in our unsung heroes of Easter series. This person is Joseph of Arimathea. Arimathea was a city in Judea. Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin — the Jewish religious council which had condemned Jesus to be crucified. He was a wealthy man and he was also a secret believer in Jesus Christ.

We do not know more about Joseph from the Bible, but other sources say that Joseph gained his wealth by trading metal, which was a much needed product in the Roman Empire. Some say that he was an uncle of Mary, and thus a blood relative of Jesus Christ.

After Jesus’ ascension, it is believed that Joseph became a missionary, traveled through Europe with other early followers of Christ, and eventually took the Gospel to Britain which was the northern-most fringe of the Roman Empire. In Britain, he is said to have built the first official church building near what is present-day Glastonbury. At that time Christians still met in houses. It is interesting that near the ruins of this church, there is a plant known as the Glastonbury Thorn which buds twice a year only around the Easter and Christmas seasons. This plant originally came from the eastern Mediterranean area.

We don’t know how much of this is true or partially-true, but many people in the early church recognized the significant role that Joseph played in the Gospel story. In fact, Joseph’s burial of Jesus Christ is recorded in all four of the Gospels. Let’s briefly look at what makes Joseph stand out.

1. Joseph was a searching man. The Bible tells us that Joseph was a man who “waited for the kingdom of God.” Like many Jews during that time, Joseph had an expectation that the Messiah would come to save his people from their sins. He was on the lookout for such a person to arrive.

2. Joseph was a sincere man. The Bible tells us that he “went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.” The word “crave” implies that Joseph desired strongly or begged for the body of Jesus. He was sincere in his desire to do something for Christ. He was not just putting on or doing something for show. At that time, it was far safer to be on the side of Jesus’ enemies than to be on the side of Jesus. For a while, Joseph was secretly loyal, but when the chips were down, he didn’t lose faith when it looked like all was lost.

3. Joseph was willing to sacrifice. When Joseph acquired Jesus’ body from the cross, the Bible informs us that he “laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock.” The fact that Joseph did this indicates the level of respect that Joseph had for Jesus Christ. Most people during that time were buried in stone boxes in the ground. But the wealthy people had great tombs carved out of rock. Such a tomb cost a lot of time and money to make.

The Roman Centurion had a Change of Heart (The Unsung Heroes of Easter #5)

The Roman Centurion had a Change of Heart (The Unsung Heroes of Easter #5)

The Roman Centurion had a Change of Heart (The Unsung Heroes of Easter #5)

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Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message #108

TEXT: Mark 15:37-39

The Roman Centurion who was in charge of carrying out the crucifixion was one of the people in closest proximity to Jesus during his final hours. A centurion was a Roman army officer normally in command of about 60 to 80 soldiers. This centurion may have carried out or witnessed dozens of crucifixions during his career. He was a hardened soldier and not easily affected by a criminal’s cries of pain and agony. Yet, we find that this Roman Centurion was so affected by the manner of Jesus’ death, that he ended up admitting what Jesus’ disciples and His beloved followers believed — that he was the son of God.

How did this centurion come to this conclusion? It is quite likely that he did not see any of Jesus’ miracles. He had not sat among the multitudes who listened to Jesus’ teaching. What did he see in those final hours of Jesus’ life that caused him to make this admission? I believe the centurion saw three things about Jesus that convinced him that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God.

1. The Centurion saw Jesus’ strength. As Jesus was put on trial, he demonstrated tremendous strength in the way he handled the accusations that were made against him. He never answered his accusers. He never tried to defend himself. He showed great strength and restraint by not fighting back. As someone once said, “Pilate has the army, but Jesus has the power. Pilate has the throne, but Jesus has the authority. Pilate asks the questions, but Jesus holds all the answers.”

2. The Centurion saw Jesus’ serenity. Not only did Jesus show great strength, he showed great peace in his death. Most people meet death struggling to find a way to get out of it. But, Jesus Christ willingly went to the cross. The reason why he was able to demonstrate great peacefulness in his death is because he knew that he was fulfilling God’s purpose for his life.

3. The Centurion saw Jesus’ sympathy. In his waning moments on the cross, Jesus demonstrated his love and care for others. At a time when most people would have been concerned only about themselves and easing their pain, Jesus showed that he was most concerned about the people around him.