Easter Sunday Sermon – Our Certain Hope


Empty tomb with three crosses on a hill side.

Easter 2018

Acts 26:6-8

Acts 26:6-8 “And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?”

We are all aware that some words we use every day, may have completely different meanings in other languages.

The word “gift” in English is the German word for poison.

Trombone in French means Paperclip.

And I’m told that “In Hebrew our English word pronounced ‘me’ means who, our word pronounced ‘who’ means he, and our word pronounced ‘he’ means she and ‘dog’ means fish.

Not only is this true with other languages, English words which have been around for a long time can change their meanings too.

When I was young, if something was hot, it only meant that it had a high temperature.

Then hot become cool. And cool become hot. And Michael Jackson taught us that bad was good. Green’s Dictionary of slang says “good” can refer to alcohol, phencyclidine, heroin or marijuana.

Not only that, but over time the word NICE in English originally meant silly or simple – it was NOT a compliment.

And the word SILLY originally meant that which was blessed or worthy instead of foolish.

NAUGHTY originally simply meant you had naught, or nothing. You were poor. It can be confusing can’t it?

And among many Biblical words which have changed their meaning over time, 2 especially have suffered a most sad and even destructive metamorphosis: FAITH, and the word I wish to key in on in this text today – HOPE.

FAITH has suffered in recent years, because it gets used in ways the Bible never uses it.

Faith is not, as is commonly thought by many: Believing in something without proof. Biblical faith is always based upon proof.

FAITH in the Bible is never simply generic belief or religion. It is instead believing the revelation of the character of God as it is revealed in 3 places: creation, His Word, and in His actions.

When the Apostle Paul was making his case on trial in the passage I just read, he could point to the fact that Jesus actually came as the Promised Messiah; that in His coming He fulfilled all the prophecies about Him in God’s Word; and that He then substantiated all of this in His own resurrection. They were substantial claims. Paul’s faith had a foundation. Ours ought to have the very same if it is truly – faith.

You see, we believe the Bible because it tells us the truth. The truth about God, about life, about humankind’s origin among other things. It accurately describes the brokenness of the human race, and the way of redemption from our separation from God and the devastation our sin has brought upon us.

It gives us accurate pictures of it all and sound reasons behind why things are the way they are.

It records all kinds of facts we can verify: Personages, places, events which can and have been verified over and over.

Biblical FAITH is based on God’s character, and what He has revealed.

Biblical HOPE, too is far different than the way we use the word hope today.

We use hope mostly in terms of wishful thinking. We hope something will resolve itself, or something will change for the better. We want something to happen and hope it will – with or without a substantive reason to believe it really will.

But in the Bible, the word HOPE is never used as mere wishfulness – like: I hope the Bills will win the next Superbowl – but always has the element REASONABLE expectation. So when it comes to things like salvation and the resurrection: HOPE is the faith based expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promised blessings to His people.

Let me repeat that. Hope is the REASONED expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promised blessings to His people. It is not imagined or baseless. It is a warranted expectation of good, rooted in the good promises God has made in His Word, to those who love Him.

So in our text here. Paul was arguing that he was on trial for the HOPE that Israel had always taught was to be looked forward to. Which hope in short, is the resurrection of the dead.

A HOPE that was both fully justified by God’s promises, and fully verified in Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead.

Let me go back to the text I began with. Acts 26:6-8 “And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?”

Many of the powerful religious leaders in Jesus’ day were jealous of Him. If He was who He said He was, He had both a claim to the office of King over Israel, and as Messiah the very authority of God AS God. And as God, He kept uncovering their sin and corruption. And that was something they neither wanted to admit, nor to give an account for.

It would threaten their power base fatally. The solution? Simple, have Him killed.

What they did not know, what no one understood yet, was that He had all along planned to come and die.

I want us to see just 3 things that are of vital importance in this text  – all related to the HOPE that brings us all here today – the hope of resurrection from the dead.

  1. Note that Paul’s hope is connected to God’s promise to His people.

As far back as the book of Job, the oldest book in the Bible, the hope of the resurrection was articulated. And in all sorts of places this hope is reiterated over and over – which should lead us all to conclude as Paul Himself did that  “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Cor. 15:9

This is the true hope of everyone who is in Christ – that there is far more than this life, there is a life to come, in eternity, WITH the God and Christ who redeemed us from our sins.

Not a fabricated hope, but one firmly established in God’s Word.

  1. Note 2nd that the reality of the resurrection was so central, that God designed it to form the basis of Israel’s worship of God. Paul says it this way: “And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day.” And here we have to take very careful note.

For the Jewish way of worship, as established by God was all focused on man NOT being able to earn his way to God in righteousness. This, for 2 reasons:

First, the Law that God gave was an impossible standard that showed us our sinfulness and our inability to overcome sin and earn eternal life.

Secondly, every sacrifice and offering displayed God’s way of saving us: God Himself providing a perfect sacrifice, sufficient to atone for all our sin. Him, making the way for us to be declared holy by imputing our sin to a substitute, so that we could be treated as though we hadn’t sinned.

So the Bible teaches in Romans 4:22–25 when speaking of how Abraham was counted righteous: “That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Christ’s righteousness put on the account of those who believe, so that when we are raised to stand before God in judgment – we have a glad and certain hope of not only of no condemnation – but of an eternal reward! This is the Gospel!

  1. Note 3rd that if we really believe that God is who He reveals Himself to be in His Creation, in the Bible, and in His self-disclosure in the incarnation – then this hope makes perfect, rational sense. It isn’t pie in the sky; an imagined or conjured up hope. It is a substantive and life-shaping hope. So Paul asks: “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?”

If He is the God of the Bible – this makes perfect sense.

Why not resurrection from the dead even as Jesus said it would be? John 5:25–29 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

If God is who the Bible says He is – Why not forgiveness of sins?

Why not the power to create a new heavens and earth?

Why not a hope that transcends even the grave itself?

Jesus’ own resurrection is the substantive, certain HOPE of everyone who has come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is not the mere wishfulness

It is the promise that Jesus made, that all who are united to Him in faith, in putting their trust in His atoning sacrifice for their sins on the cross – as dying in our place; taking the punishment we deserved for our rebellion against God’s rightful and absolute claim over our lives – would be raised just like Him when He returns, to gain the eternal rewards He purchased for us.

This is the hope offered to each one of you today in the Gospel.

The Bible says that before one believes the Gospel of Jesus dying in their place for their sins – we are truly hope-less. Ephesians 2:12 “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

But then 1 Thess. 4:13 tells us what it is like for those who believe: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

This is why we celebrate this day like no other – Because HE IS RISEN!

How this infuses the words of Jesus at the Last Supper with much fuller meaning.

For when He broke the bread and gave the cup on the night when He was betrayed, He said: 1 Corinthians 11:24b–26 “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Do this – and proclaim my death – until the day of resurrection.

How much more fitting then that we come to this table today.

Come gather with me, brothers dear

I’ve longed to sit and dine

To eat my final Passover

With you I own as mine

 

My time, at last, is now at hand

And though I’ve told you so

I know you do not comprehend

The means by which I’ll go

 

The truth, so hard for you to hear

Is, one of you this night

Betrays me to my enemies

And then will take your flight

 

Each one, not knowing what this meant

Asked, Lord, could it be me?

The hand that dipped the dish with mine

He said, that one is he

 

Then Judas pressing further asked

Rabbi, am I the one?

And Jesus said, “it’s as you say”

The treason had begun

 

Tis then that Jesus took the bread

And broke it as He blessed

Take eat, this is my flesh

For you – He this confessed

 

And then He took the cup to Him

And giving thanks He said

This is My blood I give for you

For sin’s remission shed

 

Now do these in rememb’ring me

When I am gone from here

For I’ll have nothing more until

The Kingdom does appear

 

Then going out they sang a hymn

And to the Garden came

Where Christ in prayer so agonized

In unimagined pain

 

He prayed the cup might pass from Him

Three times, He cried it still

But more, He prayed – not as I wish

My Father, as you will

 

He prayed till angels strengthened Him

And heavenly succor came

Then prayed His own the Father keep

In God’s own holy name

 

Until at last the traitor came

With those who take by might

Betraying Jesus with his kiss

They bound Him in the night

 

And to the High Priest’s mocking courts

They dragged and beat and spit

Brought forth their lying witnesses

Whose stories did not fit

 

Then off to Pilate’s judgment hall

They dragged Him in disgrace

And pled to have Him crucified

The Lord and King of grace

 

Then sent to Herod’s gawking gaze

He stood, but gave no speech

Thus Herod sent Him back again

For Pilate to impeach

 

The spineless Pilate caving in

And care-less, gave the word

To let the brutal torturers

Perform what Christ endured

 

More mocking still and agonies

He suffered at their hands

Their wicked taunts to prophesy

And jump to their commands

 

No mercy pleas escaped His lips

Not one condemning cry

He suffered as deserving all

In willingness to die

 

Not one defense He offered up

As Calvary’s path He trod

No murmuring, no loud complaint

Just yielding to His God

 

Then on the cross, His seven words

Forgive them, they don’t know

And to thief, today with Me

To paradise we’ll go

 

To Mary said: Behold your Son

John, make her your mother

Then: Father, you’ve forsaken me

More grief than any other

 

I thirst: He cried, in agony

It’s finished, then, He said

Gave up His spirit to His God

In death, then hung His head

 

But why no claims of innocence?

No word to change His fate

No syllable of self-defense

To set the record straight

 

Because, He took our guilt Himself

He bore it as His own

Though perfect in His righteousness

No sin had ever known

 

He willingly stood in my place

And took what I was due

And if by faith you trust His work

His blood redeems you too

 

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