Welcome to Easter Sunday. Attached to the handout today is an article that answers the question, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ My hope is that as you read it, it might give you handles on how to wrestle with that question. I also hope you get it into the hands of your friends who have that question.

I want to start today by reading what Jesus said:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” MSG Matthew 11:28-30

Let me ask you today, are you tired? Has life worn you out? Are you sick and tired of religion? When I say ‘religion’, that means, jumping through hoops in hopes that God might love and accept you. Trying to earn my way to heaven through human behavior. And over time of trying to do religious things, are you burned out? Doesn’t it sound awesome to you that somehow you could recover your life? Does a real rest sound amazing to you?

That’s what we are going to talk about today. And to better understand what Jesus meant, I want to walk you through Jesus’ life between Thursday and Sunday morning. As we walk through this story, I think it brings depth to what Jesus said.

In the days of Jesus, the Jewish people would go to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. When the Jewish people were slaves in Egypt, they put blood on the door posts and the Angel of Death ‘passed over’ their home. That is why Jesus and His disciples were in Jerusalem.

On Thursday evening Jesus was with His disciples. That is when the Last Supper took place. Jesus knew, this moment was the beginning of His life on earth coming to an end. The disciples had no idea what was about to happen. Judas, one of His disciples, had already betrayed Jesus, which meant Jesus was about to be arrested, beaten and crucified.

Stop with me for a second, enter the story and try to imagine – Jesus knew all of this and walked into it.

What does Jesus do? During the Last Supper, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples to model how to love each other in serving. Jesus even washed the feet of Judas, knowing that Judas had already betrayed Him. That night is when Jesus gave the command to love each other. And, Jesus walked His disciples through the first communion service.

They leave the meal and go to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus goes off to pray to ask His Father.

Scripture says this:

He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.” NLT Matthew 26:39-40

This moment is so intense for Jesus, it’s recorded that while Jesus prayed, he sweated blood. I must point out that Jesus didn’t get an answer from His Father. Heaven was silent. Again, enter the story, imagine knowing what you are about to walk into, praying with intensity, and getting ‘no’ for an answer.

All that happened on Thursday. Thursday is called Maundy Thursday because ‘Maundy’ in Latin means ‘command.’ Jesus commanded them to love each other.

It’s now around midnight, Thursday becomes Friday. Imagine being Jesus. He is praying. As you are praying, you hear a crowd of people coming. You know this is the moment of no return. You are about to enter into the worst moments of your life. And you know, there is no rescue. And for you to surrender to what your Father wants, you are going to have to walk through this.

The crowd you hear is Judas showing up with the temple guards. Judas kissing Jesus. That kiss was the signal to the guards. This is the guy you want to arrest. Imagine that feeling. You are about to give up your life for your friend and he betrays you. This is after years of spending time together. Years of you investing friendship and kindness into Judas. As an act of surrender and love you just washed his feet a couple hours ago. Your reward for friendship? He betrays you for 30 pieces of silver. Today, that’s around $600.

The guards arrest Jesus in the garden and take Him away. Peter, one of Jesus’ key disciples, is far enough away from being noticed by the guards but close enough to see what is happening. A girl comes up to Peter and identifies Peter as a disciple. Peter is terrified and denies ever knowing Jesus. And at that moment, the roster crows and Jesus’ eyes connect with Peter’s eyes. Peter is humiliated and runs away. Jesus is alone.

Now remember, this story moves into the morning and Jesus has had no sleep. He is exhausted. There is a trail before the Jewish leaders. There is a trial before Pilot. This is when Jesus is physically beaten. The Roman guards spit on Jesus. Punched Jesus. Mocked Jesus. They made a crown of thorns and slammed it on His head. He was whipped, because of Roman tradition we think, 39 times. Then, He is forced to carry His cross to be crucified. He doesn’t have the strength to do it. He is too weak, too broken, so the Roman solders get someone to help.

Jesus is stretched out on a cross like a criminal. He is nailed to the cross at 9 am. Now in torment, He hangs there, beaten, broken and bloody waiting to slowly run out of oxygen. It’s recorded that He hung there for 6 hours. At 3 pm. Jesus dies.

This is how scripture explains what happened:

He [Jesus] took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.   But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. NIV Isaiah 53:4-7

Later, Paul wrote:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NIV 2 Corinthians 5:21

All this happened on Friday. We call this Good Friday. Not because it was good for Jesus, but because of what Jesus did, it was good for us. It was an unfair exchange for Jesus. He took our sins and He gave us His righteousness.

Jesus dies, is taken down and His body is prepared for the grave. Holy Saturday is when Jesus rested in the grave.

Sunday, today, is Easter. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and it’s empty. In fact, she sees Jesus is alive and He talks to her! It’s all too good to be true.

What does this Easter story mean to us?

First, in Jesus’ resurrection, He defeated the curse of death. Scripture explains what happened like this:

God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. NLT Hebrews 2:14-15

There is a curse on us. It’s sin. That sin always leaves us feeling like a slave or prisoner. It wears us out. We feel defeated. So, Jesus came to break that curse. For those who believe in Christ, that curse is broken. Sin no longer has power over you. It no longer has the power to make you feel like a slave or prisoner. You are free.

If you have never asked Jesus to come into your life to break the power of sin, today you can. ‘I confess that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus, forgive me for my sin. Please come into my soul and destroy the curse of sin and fill me with the Holy Spirit. Free me to follow You.’

Secondly, everything you are walking through in life, Jesus has walked through. He understands what you are dealing with.

It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself – all the pain, all the testing – and would be able to help where help was needed. MSG Hebrews 2:16-18

Jesus knows what it’s like to be exhausted and worn down. Jesus knows what it’s like to give nothing but love and kindness to a friend and that friend then betrays you. Jesus knows what it’s like to be humiliated. Jesus knows what it’s like to be praised when He entered into the city and one week later, the same people reject Him. He knows what’s it’s like to pray and ask God for something and the answer is ‘no.’ He knows what you are going through.

It’s important to know that every time you go to God in prayer, He knows what it’s like to walk through what you are walking through. God empathizes with you. When you pray, you aren’t praying to a cold hearted God who is indifferent to you. God entered your world to empathize with you.

Third, Jesus walked through all of it to send you a message, ‘I love you.’ And, you need to know, He will never get tired of loving you, pursuing you and forgiving you.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into this wicked world to bring to us eternal life through his death. In this act we see what real love is: it is not our love for God but his love for us when he sent his Son to satisfy God’s anger against our sins. TLB 1 John 4:9-10

Jesus didn’t hang on that cross for 6 hours to give up on you. He sent you a message that He is all in. I often meet people who think God is angry with me. Or, God is going to give up on me. Or, God has forgotten me. I want to respond with, ‘Really! Are you nuts?’ ‘Have you read the story?’ He didn’t hang there broken and bloody, for 6 hours, to give up on you.

If you think God has given up on you or will give up on you, I would tell you, re-read the story because you don’t fully understand God’s love and grace.

Fourth, you need to stop trying to earn your way into heaven. You need to relax and enjoy God.

Paul wrote this: What magician has cast an evil spell on you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death as clearly as though I had shown you a signboard with a picture of Christ dying on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not, for the Holy Spirit came upon you only after you believed the message you heard about Christ. Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? NLT Galatians 3:1-4

If you could earn your way heaven with your human effort, then Jesus never had to die for you. The reason the Jesus story is epic, is because He did what you could never do. So today, if you are striving and struggling to be a ‘gooder’ person to earn your way into heaven, you are wasting your time. Paul would say you have lost your mind.

Maybe for you, you need to stop looking at your human effort and accept what Jesus did for you. Maybe now you can relax and enjoy God. This isn’t a license to sin, it’s a new beginning to surrender your life to God.

Lastly, Jesus invites you to rest and heal.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” MSG Matthew 11:28-30

Knowing the story of Jesus, doesn’t this invitation mean more to you? Jesus enters into a story of pain for you. His body is torn apart. He is broken. He is bruised. He is rejected, humiliated, betrayed. Why? Jesus wants to heal you.

Are you tired?

Worn out?

Burned out on religion?

Today, you can accept Jesus’ invitation. You can invite Jesus into your life. Tell Him, ‘I confess that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus, forgive me for my sin. Please come into my soul and destroy the curse of sin and fill me with the Holy Spirit. Free me to follow You.’