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"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17

Jesus: The God of Love and Salvation

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"Christ Among Other Gods"

Jesus: The God of Love and Salvation Transcription

 In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God Amen.

I’m very happy to be here on this wonderful occasion, the celebration and meeting of this great fellowship and love. And I wish to extend a great welcome to all of you here to St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church.It’s really wonderful that you could come and join us today on this joyous occasion. We appreciate the time that we have set aside to get to know each other better in a spirit of peace and love. I’d also like to thank, at this stage, Reverend Father Abraam for the opportunity to speak with you tonight. 

I think before I begin the lecture that was titled "Christ Among Other Gods,"  I have slightly changed it to "Jesus the God of Love and Salvation." 

I want to just first of all say a few words briefly about the Coptic Orthodox Church as maybe some here tonight don’t know about our church and the history of our Church. Our Church was founded in the first century of Christianity.  About 55 AD St Mark the Apostle, the writer of the 2nd gospel, came to preach Christianity in Egypt and established the Coptic Orthodox Church.  I’d like to start with some points which are unique in the Coptic Orthodox Church, which may not be found in some other churches. 

First of all, the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament chapter 19 verse 19 [contains] a verse which speaks or prophesizes about the establishment of the church in Egypt.

Isaiah is saying, “…there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt…”

The reason we believe that this is a prophecy with regard to the Coptic Orthodox Church is it could not be a Jewish altar because sacrifices were only done in Jerusalem.

This is about an altar for the Lord in Egypt, so it could not be a Jewish altar.

It could not be a pagan altar because it says it’s an altar to the Mighty Lord (v.20).

So the only conclusion that we can come up with is that this is a prophecy about the establishment of the Orthodox Church in Egypt, the Church of St the Mark, the Church of Alexandria.

This is the first unique aspect of the Coptic Orthodox Church. 

Another unique aspect of the Coptic Orthodox Church is the visit of the Holy Family to Egypt. In just over 1 year the whole world will celebrate the 2000th birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But in Egypt we will also celebrate another feast and that is the 2000th celebration when the Holy Family of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s (St Mary and St Joseph) visit to Egypt.

And we are really proud of the fact that we were blessed by the Holy Family coming to many parts of Egypt.  Coming to bless many areas in Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt.

There will be great celebration in Egypt and around the world to celebrate this event.  And we invite you all to come and join with us.  Perhaps come and visit Egypt at this time and journey the same journey that the Holy Family took 2000 years ago. 

Another unique aspect about the Coptic Orthodox Church is monasticism.

Monasticism began in Egypt at the time of St Anthony the Great who began to lead this holy and ascetic life and taught us a different way of how to lead a Christian life in the desert to follow Jesus and in humility. Young men and women followed him and lived and he led the way and became a star in the wilderness.

Monasticism not only spread throughout Egypt but also in the west through the life of St Anthony, which was written by St Athanasius the 20th pope of Alexandria.  When he was exiled in Germany and took this manuscript with him and it began to spread throughout the West and then they learned about monasticism there as well. This is another unique aspect of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Also, it is a church of martyrs.

We have a calendar which begins in the year 284 AD at the beginning of the reign of the Emperor Diocletian who martyred many Christians at that time.He tortured many of them who witnessed to the faith and to the Lord through dying for what they believed in.  We begin our calendar on the 11th of September each year (which began in 284 AD).  So it is a Church of martyrs as well.

Also, we have so many great Fathers of the Church who defended the faith against so many different heresies that spread throughout the first few centuries of Christianity.  People like St Athanasius, who I’ve mentioned, St Cyril who was the 24th Pope of Alexandria.  He defended the faith against the heresy of Nestorius (who said that St Mary was only the Mother of Christ, not the Mother of God).  [There was also] St Dioscorous, and many teachers of the School of Alexandria.  Origen as well who was one of the prolific writers in the Christian world, and many many other great leaders and defenders of the faith who are common to all Christian believers.

If they go back and study the history of the church they will see all these stars of the Coptic Orthodox really had a lot to offer Christianity then and also today. 

That was a brief introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Now we want to go back to our discussion for this evening:  Jesus the God of Love and Salvation.  Or as it has been advertised: Christ Among Other Gods.  

We have gathered here this evening to share in love and fellowship together.  We are here to discuss Jesus together.

Who was He really?   What did He have to say about Himself?  What did He have to say about Love? About loving our fellow man?  About loving our enemies?  About serving others? About peace? About redemption and salvation?

He’s certainly an interesting and amazing figure in the history of humanity. He was a very controversial figure of His time and offended the people of Israel by His teaching of the Spirit of the Law of Mercy, of forgiveness, of love.

The leaders of His day misunderstood the commandments and were living by the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law, while Jesus wanted them to live by the Spirit of the Law.

And why did they reject Him as the Messiah?

Certainly He’s just as controversial today as He was then because of the challenge of His message of truth and love.

The truth is always controversial – no one ever wants to hear the truth.  As the saying goes, “The truth hurts.”  Are you on the search for the truth today?

We all need to fill our lives with something.  Sometimes we fill it with the truth.  If you sincerely want to find the truth then you will find it and your life will be filled with it. 

There is a great Saint in our church called St Moses [the Strong] who was one of the early monastic fathers.

In the beginning of his life he was far from religion and faith. He had all the money that he would want, all the power that he needed and yet after having all of these things and having done everything he could have possibly thought of doing, he still thought that there was some emptiness, there was still a gap in his life that needed to be filled.

Something was missing from his life and he began to search for what was missing.  He began to search for the truth.

He began to search for God and because he was sincere in his search for God, God showed him the way and led him to repentance and led him to be baptized and led him to become one of the great monastic fathers in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

So he was on a search for the truth and the truth found him.

Jesus, I believe, gives us the truth.  So then I wish to speak to you tonight about Jesus and His work of love that we may find Him.

First, I would like to begin with a small story that might bring a visual depiction to today’s topic.

Once, during one of the coldest winter days a young man was studying in the warmth and quiet of his living.  All of a sudden he heard the faint chirping of birds. He couldn’t believe that here would be any birds outside in the cold ad though it was his imagination.

A few minutes later the birds stared chirping again. This time he got up and moved toward the window and took a peek out. From his room he could see 7 or 8 little birds chirping away and moving in circles trying to get warm in this cold weather. He knew that it was only a matter of time before they froze to death. So he pulled up the blinds and opened the window and started saying to the hopeless birds, “Come on little birds, come on in, you’ll catch a death of a cold.” Of course the birds ignored him and kept chirping and circling.

He didn’t know what to do.

Then he got an idea.  He ran down the stairs and opened the door to his house.  He moved out of the doorway and started waving his arms for the birds to go inside. The birds just huddled together and ignored him and his wavings.

Then he got another idea.

He ran to the kitchen and got pieces of bread, cut them up and started making a trail for the birds out of the freezing cold and into the warmth of his own. But it was too cold for the birds to even think of their hunger.  They pecked at the ground for a while and only huddled closer together.  For the life of him the man couldn’t think about what to do.

He had so much love for the birds and knew if they stayed on their own they would surely be dead by noon. 

Then he got a fantastic idea: if only I could become like one of those birds then they would trust me and follow me and see that I only wanted their good.  Then they would enter my house and be free of the death they were about to experience.  If only he could be like one of them!

That my friends, as you will see, is the story of God and us.  It is the story of how a loving God became like one of us to save us from sin and death and eternal separation from Him.  It is the story of Jesus. 

The story of Jesus is found in the scriptures in the Holy Bible.

If you read through the Bible you will find many of Jesus’ famous sayings:  turn the other cheek, love your enemies, love your neighbors as yourself, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison. 

These things became part of our culture [so] no matter where you originally came from or which religion you belong to you, you know of these sayings.

Therefore Jesus has come to be regarded by all people as a great teacher, a humble philosopher, a sensitive prophet and a wondrous preacher.  But is that enough?  Is it enough to think of Jesus as any or all of these things?  Is He just a teacher or just a prophet or just a preacher?

 Who was this man who ripped history in half so that the whole world speaks of history in terms of events that occurred before His birth (BC) and events that occurred after His coming (AD)?  Who was this man? 

That is the issue.  Who was this man?   Everything hinges on how you answer that question.   All of eternity rests on that answer.

That brings us to another similar question that Jesus asked over and over again.

Actually when I think of the question which He repeatedly asked I think about it as a sort of different kind of question.  Maybe a strange question in some way, if you will.  I’ve never asked anyone the question that Jesus asked and I can guarantee that you can never ask that question of anyone either.  If you look at all the monks and all the teachers and all the philosophers, or kings who have ever ruled, they have never asked this question either.

Only Jesus asked this question.

Many times He looked into His disciples’ eyes and into the eyes of those around Him and asked: Who do you say that I am?

Who do you say that I am?

Across the centuries He asks us today, each one of us, who do you say that I am?  Who do you say that Jesus is?  Who is He?

 There are only 3 answers to that question -  no more and no less.  And at the end of tonight you will have to pick one of these answers. 

When Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am” We can only give one of these answers.   You Jesus are a liar, or you Jesus are a lunatic or You Jesus are the Lord, our Almighty God.    Liar, lunatic, or Lord.  No other solutions only these 3 possiblities.  Lord, liar or lunatic.  We have no other option and He leaves us no other alternative.  When He asks you this question He knows there are only 3 possible answers with only one being right.  Lord, liar or lunatic, “Who do you say that I am?”

Before we can answer that question there are some truths we need to know. 

The first truth we need to become aware of is the truth about ourselves.

Who are we?  Are we perfect creatures?  Do you live up to the expectations of yourself or your friends, or your parents or your spouses or your employers?  Which one of us can stand up and say, “I live up to my highest goals and aspirations of myself.”

Which one of us can honestly say, “I am everything that I have ever wanted to be?”  “I fulfilled all of my dreams.”  Even more importantly, if you ask your wives or husbands or bosses or friends or brothers or sisters how many of them would say “John is a perfect person,” “Mary has never been wrong.”

None of the people that you know think that you are as good as you [think] you are.  And even deep down inside you know that you’re not that good.  Your conscience convicts you when you know you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing.

We even have a psychological term for those who don’t have this internal, moral teacher: we call them psychopaths.

Now imagine if we ask that question of God.    Remember, God is All Holy.  He is all perfect and He is all good and He is all righteous and He is all merciful and He is all beneficent and He is all glorious. 

If we come to stand before Him who many can stand before God and say, “I am perfect,” “I am worthy of You”?

If we are imperfect to our own imperfect eyes and to the imperfect eyes of other imperfect humans can we ever be perfect in front of the Perfect, Almighty God?    What can we do that we can say, “I am worthy of heaven”? 

If I piled all the grand and mighty works of the many great people who have ever lived and put them all in the life of one single person even that person could not stand in front of an almighty God and say, “Let me into heaven I have earned it!”  Right?

 No one could do that.  No one can look at God and say “I am as good as you.”  There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Heaven is impure in front of God.”  Even Heaven itself – the place we all want to go to in the end – when compared to God, is impure.

This state of wretchedness, this state of hopelessness is what Christianity calls sin.  It is missing the mark. 

There’s a standard of perfection that we didn’t attain.  As hard as we try we will never be as good or as perfect as we can.  This imperfection, this sin separates us from God.  And because of it we can never even reach the holiness of God.  But He wants us to be holy and He wants us to be perfect – He commands us this.  But sin stops us and is all encompassing.

If Bill, for example, murders Betty he has not only offended Betty and her family, he has offended God because God is the One who set-up the rule in the 10 Commandments.  “You shall not murder.”  Therefore the murderer not only has to ask forgiveness of Betty’s family but he also has to ask forgives of God Himself, right? If he asks forgiveness of you sitting here – someone totally unrelated to the incident – he would be very foolish.  And you would immediately and justly say, “Hey what do I have to do with it?  Go and ask them.”  Otherwise you’d be some kind of strange person if you went around telling people (who did nothing wrong to you and never offended you) “I forgive you.”    We’d all look at that person as a strange character.

Going back to our example for a minute, only Betty’s family and Betty’s God can forgive the person who killed Betty.  Anyone else who tried to forgive Bill would be out of place, to say the least. 

So now we have a picture of sin and a picture of forgiveness.  We sin and we need forgiveness.  Sin separates us from God and forgiveness brings us into union with Him. God can react to our sin by one of two ways.  He can either forgive or He can punish us.

He doesn’t have to forgive us if He doesn’t want to.

 If someone kills your brother and asks you to forgive him, it is entirely up to you to forgive or not forgive.  It is the same way with God.  If we sin we miss the mark, we become separated from God and He can either forgive or not.

 Christians say that God, because of His love for all of us sinful creatures chooses to forgive us.  We call that redemption and salvation.  But how does God forgive us? 

Let me tell you a true story that was in the newspapers a little while ago.

A grandmother was caring for her 2-year-old granddaughter when suddenly the young girl fell into the swimming pool.  Even though the grandmother did not know who to swim, she jumped into the water and tried to rescue her loved one.  A few hours later, sadly, both bodies were at the bottom of the pool. 

When you’re drowning you need help from someone who must, first of all, be willing to rescue you.

 This grandmother had the will to save but she was incapable of saving her granddaughter.  A rescuer cannot be a person who himself needs to be rescued.

 Why do we need a sinless Savior?

How can one trust a Savior who is in the same position as ours and still working through their own imperfections?  They’re still drowning like that grandmother in that story.

Judas, who was one of the original 12 disciples with Jesus, can attest to the fact that Jesus is sinless.  In his own words he said, “I have sinned” when he betrayed his Lord.  “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27.4).

Also Pilate, who was a Roman governor at the time, who tried to find fault in Jesus said, “I find no guilt in this man.”

Also, one of the other disciples, St Peter, who lived with Jesus for 3 years said, “He committed no sin nor was any deceit found in His mouth.” 

The fact that he had no earthly father – we call this His virgin birth – preserved His sinlessness.

St Paul says about Jesus, “But was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin.”

  His virgin birth, which was predicted in the Old Testament, has been in Isaiah.

 He says, “Behold a Virgin will be with Child and bear a Son and she will call His name Emmanuel meaning God with us.”

  This is one unique aspect about Jesus.

  We know we are weak and sinful as a race and the Bible teaches this also. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  In order to be saved we are in need of a Savior.  It is only Jesus who can save us and wash away our sins. 

The purpose of Jesus’ coming was stated before His birth a when the angel said to Joseph (speaking about St Mary) and she will bear a Son and shall call His name Jesus for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” 

Jesus also later Himself said, “For the Son of Man (relating Himself to humanity) has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” 

We also need a sinless Savior because our sin is before a sinless, unlimited God.  The stakes are so much greater when we sin against the Eternal Being.

Look at our lives, when we make mistake and there’s no one round to see it we think, ah, so what, it’s ok.  When we make mistake against our employers we take it a little bit more seriously.  When we make a mistake against our spouses – the stakes get greater and greater.  When we sin against our nature or our community we might lose our liberties or even our life.

 How much more so then is our sin against God?

If we can get a punishment of death when we commit murder or treason imagine what our punishment is when we sin against our Almighty God.

The Bible tells us that the penalty for that sin is eternal death.  Either we have to die or someone has to take our place in order for our sins to be forgiven.  However since our sin was against the sinless, unlimited God, then only someone who is sinless and unlimited could die in Jesus’ place because sin is against God and since God is infinite then sin is infinite and its punishment is infinite.

For sin to be redeemed it must be through an infinite atonement efficient for all people in all generations throughout time.

  So God said, “Who can I send to save these people who got themselves into so much trouble?

 Who can do this job?  No human can do the job because they’re both sinful and limited beings.  A human can only pay the penalty of his own sin.

 Angels could not do the job because they also are limited created beings.  No one could except God Himself.  And God wants so much to save us because of His great love for the creation. 

As St Paul says about Jesus, “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 

This is God’s desire for each one of us, “Who desires all amen to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”

 

The Bible also tells us in the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, “(Isaiah 59:16) He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.”

 

Elsewhere, also in Isaiah, God says, “I the Lord am your Savior and your redeemer, the Mighty One.” 

 

The only candidate that has these credentials is Jesus Himself who paid the price in full on the cross and bore the sins of humanity and gave us eternal life and eternal joy.

 

  He is the only One who is sinless and can do the job for us.  Jesus, this sinless, loving Man, the same one who spoke of caring for the hungry and sick also spoke of Himself in terms of being this eternal savior.

 

  St Matthew, also another one of disciples of Jesus, tells us that Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  He also calls us to Himself. 

 

This great moral teacher points to Himself as being our Savior from our troubles and anguishes.  He, Him, no one else – He doesn’t point us to a path or a book or another prophet or to another guru or to another teacher but he points us to Himself.

 

 Is He lying, is He a lunatic?

 

He speaks more of Himself also in the Gospel of St John in the New Testament saying, “I am the Bread of Life, He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.  I have come down from heave.”

 

Elsewhere also Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life and I will raise Him up in the last day.”

 

How can He look at poor, lowly, grieving people and say, “I will give you rest” “If you come to Me you will never hunger or thirst”?  Is He simply telling the truth? Can we really find all that we’ve been search for in Him?  Can He be the One our hearts have longed for all of these years?  Can He be the One to wipe away our tears and take away our guilt and carry our shame and cleanse us from sin?

 

He says He is the One to do all of that.

 

In the book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament it says that He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  There shall be no more death, no sorry, no crying, there shall be no more pain.”

 

Who do you say that He is?”

 

Elsewhere also Jesus says, “I am the Truth and the Way and the Life, no one can come to the Father but by Me.”  He leaves us no alternative He is the Way and Truth, and what’s more there’s no life outside of Him.  But He says He is the Life. 

 

There these the ramblings of a mad man?  Is He an evil liar?

 

How can the same One who was so right when he spoke of peace and love and feeding the hungry and clothing the naked be so wrong about Himself?  How can He be so deceptive or so deceived?    He can’t just a great moral lead and say these things?  He can’t be just a prophet and claim to be Almighty God. 

 

Let’s look at some other fact about His earthly life that might aide us in answering the question about who we say He is.

 

When we encounter the miracle that Our Lord performed when have not heard of anyone else doing such amazing things.

 

Just name a few: having dominion over nature and disease, raising people from the dead after they were buried for 4 days and knowing the future. 

 

He has authority over the physical universe, the moral realm and the eternal realm.  He was able to calm the storms and change the water into wine.  What do these miracles teach us?

 

They teach that the authority over nature and animals that sin stole from us was regained in Jesus.  These miracles prove that only is our God a God of compassion and love when He encounters our pain, suffering and misery but these miracles also prove that Jesus was able to reclaim the authority over nature that sin lost for us. 

 

These miracles also prove that He was who He said He was. Lunatic and liars don’t’ make miracles.  With respect to the moral realm, we see Jesus healing the paralytic and saying to him, “My son your sins are forgiven.” 

 

The scribes were shocked and said that He was blaspheming since only God can forgive sins. 

 

Remember when we spoke of forgiveness and Bill and Betty earlier on? Remember if Bill commits an offense against Betty a stranger has no say in the matter.

 

And it would be crazy if a stranger when at forgiving Bill…  Here we have the same story with the paralytic man.  This man, a stranger came up to Jesus, he didn’t even talk about sin.  Maybe he had stolen a friend’s sheep or something.  Jesus who didn’t have any sheep stolen from Him tells the man, “Your sins are forgiven.”  What?  “Your sins are forgiven?”

 

Again we are presented with very limited options about how to understand this verse.  The only logical one is that He is God who was offended when this man sinned against his friend.

 

It is interesting to note the reaction of His audience.  They didn’t shrug and say, “Oh, He’s just insane” or “Oh, He’s just a liar.”  They know that He was saying that He was God and that He could forgive sins because they accused Him of blasphemy.  Jesus knew what they were thinking and He basically said "it’s simple to say someone’s sins are forgiven but you can’t see the results of that forgiveness visibly." 

 

But to prove to them that the one standing before them had the power of forgiveness, He said “Let me heal this man of his physical ailments.”  He proved that He could forgive sins by performing the miracle with healing.  Jesus said let this miracle be proof that I have the authority over the invisible world as well.

 

In the eternal realm we see Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead as dramatic proof that even death itself could not limit His authority.  And again, His power to grant physical life confirmed His authority to grant spiritual life. 

 

“I am the Resurrection and the Life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die he shall live and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

 

On the cross also He was able to say to the thief on His right hand, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

No prophet or teacher or guru claimed such authority.

 

What else happened on the cross?

 

Instead of letting us all perish, He loved the world so much that He gave us His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3.16).  He took our sins upon Him – like the man who wanted to save the birds and become like one of them.

 

Jesus wanted to save us and become like one of us to bring us into new life.  He took our sins and our suffering and lived a pure life and His only crime was that He loved us.

 

And for that crime they stripped Him of His clothes, they spat on Him, the mocked Him and jeered Him, whipped Him with spiked whips, put a crown of thorns on His pure and holy head, put 9 inch nails through His wrists and His feet, raised His body many feet above the ground on the cross.  And they executed Him by this vicious form of crucifixion.  He had trouble breathing for 3 excruciating hours.  And He finally died for each and every one of us. 

 

Why did He do this?  Why did He leave His throne in heaven and suffer and die? Why?

 

So that when we ask, “Can God really love us, can the Creator of the stars and the universe know who I am?

 

 He answers, “Yes, indeed, I know each one of you. I even know the amount of hairs on your head.  I know who you are.  I came for you.  I suffered for you.  I came lonely because you are lonely.

 

 I am not a God who doesn’t care – someone just up there in heaven – I am close to you.  You want to know how much I love you:  look at the cross and you will see.  I love you that much!”

 

These are not the acts of a lunatic or a liar.  This is the act of a loving Lord. 

 

Isaiah 49.15 "Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.49:16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.”

 

Zachariah 2.8 “for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.”

 

And again the Epistle of St John, “We love Him because He first loved us.”  He was the One who began with love. And Jesus said also in the gospel of St John, “Greater love no one than this than to lay down His life for his friends.”

 

Not only is Jesus a man of love but also of peace.  He said, “My peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you not as the world gives do I give to you.” 

 

And St Paul in his epistle says, “Peace of Jesus surpasses all understanding...” 

 

Isaiah the prophet prophesized saying, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

 

This brings us to our final clue to the answer to the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

 

If the virgin birth is not good enough for you, if the miracles are not good enough for you, if Jesus’ own proclamations about Himself aren’t good enough for you, if His work on the cross is not good enough for you, God leaves us with an unshakable proof of His existence and that is His love and victory over death.

 

Let’s look at His resurrection from the dead.

 

No one else in history can claim that after their death they’re able to raise themselves from the dead.  Only Jesus can claim this. No other prophet or God or teacher can claim this.

 

You may ask, “What proof do we have of the resurrection?

 

Resurrection is a historic fact without any doubt whatsoever and here [are] the reason[s] why:

 

If you remember, (1) Jesus was buried in accordance with Jewish burial customs.  He was wrapped in linen cloths with about 100 pounds of aromatic spices mixed together and applied to the cloth.  A large rock was rolled by means of levers and placed at the entrance of His tomb.

 

 (2)  There were also Roman guards that were placed there.  And if some of you know a little bit about history you know how strict the Roman guards were in their duties and if any of them were caught sleeping, they would be severely punished.  And never would any of them would go to sleep.  They were very careful and meticulous about their duties.

 

(3)  There was also a seal that was put on the tomb.  Yet on Sunday morning we find that the tomb is empty.  One writer writes that the Resurrection could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day or for a single hour if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.  The situation at the tomb after the resurrection is very significant.  The Roman Seal was broken, the large stolen had been removed, the Roman guard had fled; the women came and found the tomb empty.

 

(4) Peter and John ran to the tomb – John had got there first but didn’t enter He looked in and saw the grave clothes in the empty tomb – the body of Jesus was not there. There may be a theory that may say the women went to the wrong tomb.  This is not a valid theory as it could not have taken the soldiers long to find the correct tomb and to produce the body.  But nobody was ever produced.

 

There’s also something called the Swoon Theory.  That Jesus actually did not die but was in a coma or something like that.  This is also not a valid theory because what impression could someone who is ½ dead give to the disciples – totally not an impression that He was a conqueror over death and the grave.  It would have weakened their belief in Him.  When we see the disciples, after they received the Holy Spirit, they were bold in preaching.   If they hadn’t seen Jesus after His resurrection from the dead they would not have been able to do what they did.

 

There may be a theory that says that the Body was stolen.  This is not consistent with the lives of the disciples, their ethical teachings in the epistles, the quality of their lives, their steadfastness in their suffering and persecution.  Many of them were tortured and crucified upside down like St Peter.  It also would not explain the change that happens in their lives.  If the Jews took the body why didn’t they say where it was?  Dr Greenley, a famous Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University observed that it was impossible that the apostles persisted in the truth affirming (that narrated had not) Jesus actually risen from the dead and had they not known this fact as certainly as they know.

 

So now we come back to this important question, “Who do you say that I am?”

 

For St Peter the answer was clear.  He said to the Lord, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God” and Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you Simon bar Jonah for flesh and blood had not revealed this to you but My Father who is in Heaven.”

 

He is honest. He is the Almighty, born in a miraculous way from a Virgin, performed amazing miracles, lived a spotless life of purity and holiness without sin, died for each and every one of us out of great love and meekness.  Arose from the dead alone without anyone assisting Him.

 

No other being can claim or do what Jesus said or did.

 

I won’t answer the “Who do you say that Jesus is?” question for you.  I can’t answer it for you.  But you have to answer the question yourself. 

 

Is Jesus the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow?  Is He who He claimed to be?

 

Light of light, true God of true God, in truth and if you’re willing to see, He shines too much that leaves no shadow of a doubt of who He is.

 

Let me leave you with these parting words about Jesus:

 

One of them came from St Peter in the Book of Acts: “For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

 

And the last word is from Jesus’ mouth Himself in the Book of Revelation.

 

 He says, (Revelation 1:8) I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

 

And to Him be glory forever. Amen.”