Resurrection Sunday

Praising Him in Pain, 1 April 2018

Praising Him in Pain
D6 Series—
Songs from the Heart (Psalms)
Psalm 22
Matthew 28:1-6

Series Overview: The Psalms reveal hearts poured out in inspired song

Big Idea: There’s hope beyond today’s pain and suffering.

Video: Psalm 22

I know, you were expecting happy music, dancing bunnies, and chocolate eggs on every seat. Isn’t it Easter? Is this an April Fool’s Day prank? Why are we focusing on the death of Jesus? That was Friday. Yes, but there is no resurrection without a death. There is no Easter without a Good Friday.

“Good” Friday is the day we remember the death of Jesus, a death prophesied hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 22, our text for today. Hearing those words again, it’s amazing how they were written generations before Christ. They so vividly describe the pain and suffering of Jesus…and apparently David, too.

Although some churches have an Easter sunrise service, on the first Resurrection Sunday morning, there were no Easter parades, bonnets, or celebrations.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1)

They were horrified to find it empty! Imagine going to a relative’s grave in a cemetery and finding the tombstone broken and nothing but a hole in the ground. That’s probably how these women felt.

What a week! First, they watched their hope of a savior die mercilessly on a cross without even a hint of resistance. Then someone stole the body from the tomb? We cannot begin to imagine the despair, the sorrow, …the pain.

I fear we’ve sanitized the Bible, telling stories to children as if they are fairy tales rather than real, raw accounts of people just like you and me who are altogether familiar with suffering and grief. David, who penned Psalm 22 which opened our gathering, was a real, historical figure with real emotions. He felt despair, sorrow and pain…and wasn’t afraid to pour out his heart and tell God. Likewise, the first followers of Jesus felt despair, sorrow, and pain at the beginning of the first Resurrection Sunday. It was yet another day to remember the loss of the One they hoped would overthrow the Roman Empire and save them. It was another hopeless morning of shattered dreams. It was another reminder of the horrors of watching their leader suffer and die, butchered and hung up for all to see, naked and tortured.

Whether you are a member here or a first-time guest at First Alliance Church, I know one thing about you: you know pain. We’ve all experienced it in the past, are experiencing it now, and/or will experience it in the future. Like King David—and Jesus—perhaps you have felt forsaken by God. You wonder if there is any reason for hope in the midst of your mess. Maybe this morning you’ve been feeling out of place, thinking you’re the only one struggling on a day when everyone is happy, happy, happy.

There can be no resurrection without a death—no Easter without a Good Friday. So before our party begins, we pause to remember the death of Jesus, the mourning that occurred both on Friday and Sunday morning.

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance, (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

Today we remember the death of Jesus, following his instructions on the day before his death to take the bread in remembrance of his body that would be broken, and the cup in remembrance of his blood that would be shed for us. If you are a follower of Jesus, we invite you to eat and drink with us in remembrance of Christ.


There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. (Matthew 28:5-6)

Can you feel the change in this room, the shift in the atmosphere? From darkness to light. From despair to hope. From death to resurrection.

Here’s the big idea:
there’s hope beyond today’s pain and suffering. I know in a group this size many of you are experiencing pain and suffering. Maybe this is your first Easter without a loved one. Perhaps you’ve been battling a physical illness. Some of you are in a financial mess with tax day around the corner. Still others are experiencing relational challenges. I get it. I’ve been through all of those things…and some are very real to me at this moment. Jesus gets it, too. Nobody knows pain like Jesus.

I believe one of the greatest obstacles to people trusting God is simply understanding how a good God could allow pain and suffering. If God loves us, why doesn’t He heal everyone, send angels to prevent drunk driving accidents, ensure beautiful sunny weather (at least on Easter!), and provide for all of the starving children in Africa.

I don’t have time today to answer every question related to God, but there are three things you must know about God and pain:

1. Nobody knows pain like Jesus.
One of his best friends denied even knowing him three times. Another friend betrayed him, selling him out for thirty pieces of silver. In his greatest time of need, his “followers” abandoned him. He was beaten. Spit upon. A crown of thorns shoved into his skull. He was mocked. And that was just the beginning. Crucifixion was the most horrific torture known in the Roman world. Even worse than the emotional and physical pain, Jesus bore our sins. He suffered the greatest of all spiritual anguish. This is God, choosing to die…not because you and I are good, but because we are sinners in need of a Savior.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

In most other religions, the god or gods are distant. They may live in heaven or paradise or someplace removed from earth. Our faith teaches that

…God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

Jesus entered our world as Emmanuel, God with us. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us

…we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus was sick, tired, hungry, and was tempted. He spent 33 years on our planet experiencing every emotion we experience. And He knows pain.

2. God is with us in the midst of pain. I know, it doesn’t always feel like it. I went through a season in my life when I wanted to take the letter “Y” out of the alphabet because it seemed all I did was ask God, “Why?” If He was really with me, why didn’t He intervene, fix my problems, heal my daughter, fill my bank account, restore my relationships. As your pastor, I must say there are many things about God I don’t understand. I still ask, “Why?” But I’ve also learned that God loves us and can be trusted. He has His reasons, and often we just need to wait to understand them. We can trust God in all circumstances because He is the Sovereign Lord of all, which leads to my third point:

3. Your story is not over. Today you may feel like it’s Good Friday…death and sorrow. It doesn’t feel good because you’re the one being crucified, criticized, abandoned, abused, mistreated, or simply suffering. The good news—the great news—is Jesus didn’t remain on the cross. One of the distinctions between Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians is Catholics often show Jesus on the cross, the crucifix. Most Protestant crosses are empty, reminding us that He is no longer dead. Our symbol should be an empty tomb, but that would be a strange thing to wear around your neck, I suppose! But today we celebrate because Jesus did not stay in the grave. The story did end on Friday…and your story is not over, either.

One of the greatest elements of the death and resurrection of Jesus is redemption. Redemption is clearing a debt. It’s buying one’s freedom. It means being saved from sin, error, or evil. Jesus died to redeem you, to pay the penalty of your sin, which is so radical it’s amazing. Christ is our redeemer. He bought our freedom…from sin and death. Before He died, he cried out, “It is finished!” It wasn’t a declaration of defeat, but of victory. The Greek word literally means, “Paid in full.” Hallelujah!

Jesus died, and because Jesus died He invites you into a relationship with your Creator. Because Jesus died, He invites you to repent—turn from your sins and pride and selfish living—and following Him. Surrender your life. Let go and let God.

Because Jesus is alive, He invites you to experience life that way it was designed to be lived, a life filled with love, peace, joy, and hope.

And make no mistake…Jesus is alive! If Jesus is dead, I have no hope. Dead people can’t do anything for me. The Bible says

And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. (1 Corinthians 15:17-20)

Some people believe Jesus didn’t die. If He didn’t die, I have to pay for my sins on Judgment Day which is coming for all of us.

Some people believe Jesus is still dead. If He is still dead, I have to pay for my sins. I’m hopeless.

But nobody ever survived a crucifixion, and hundreds saw Jesus after He died and was resurrected. They talked with Jesus. They ate with Jesus. They wrote about Jesus. They gave their lives for Jesus, refusing to deny the resurrection.

Jesus loves you.
Jesus died for you.
Jesus wants to be your friend.
Jesus wants to be your king.
Jesus wants to be your God.

Religion is about doing things to earn God’s approval. Jesus flipped religion upside down. He did the heavy lifting. He died so you can live. If you could be good enough, he wouldn’t have needed to be crucified. Our faith is not about works, but rather faith, taking a step of faith and trusting Jesus to be the leader of your life, to be LORD.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

I want you to know my best friend, Jesus. I want you to have a great life now, and great life after you die. Jesus offers both. If you invite him to be your God, your LORD, your leader, he will show you what life really means. He will guide you, be your friend, forgive you of all you have done wrong, and give you peace…and love.

I know some of you are experiencing deep pain, loss, and trials. Jesus knows pain. I can’t magically fix every challenge you face, but God understands, God is here, and we are here…to love and serve you, to be the hands and feet of Jesus until He returns.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

We can praise Him even in the midst of pain because He understands, He is with us, and our story is not over.

Good Friday was agonizing for Jesus but good for us. He suffered and died for us. And Resurrection Sunday is good because of Good Friday.

Jesus is alive. Our redeemer lives!
Jesus is here through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is returning.

And now we celebrate. We praise. We worship. We party! Our Redeemer lives!

Credits: some ideas from: D6

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Best Kept Secret, Resurrection Sunday 2014

    April 20, 2014

    Big Idea: Jesus is alive but does anyone really know? If you’ve encountered Jesus, you cannot keep Him to yourself. Love isn’t love until you give it away.


    Happy Resurrection Sunday! He is risen! He is risen indeed!


    You know the story. You know why we celebrate. Just to summarize the events of the past few days that we have commemorated, the Apostle’s Creed states that Jesus

    Suffered under Pontius Pilate
    was crucified
    dead and buried
    He descended into hell
    The third day he rose again from the dead

    We serve a living Savior who is in the world today. Jesus is alive!!!

    So what? What does the resurrection mean to you?

    After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1)

    There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

    The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:5-7)

    So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:8)

    Best Kept Secret

    How does it feel when someone tells you a secret? Can you keep a secret?

    One phrase I’ve often heard people use to describe a business is “the best kept secret in town.”
    Have you ever said or heard that about a business? What business? Why?

    One of the primary fields within business is marketing. One of my undergraduate degrees is in marketing. What is marketing? According to Wikipedia it is “the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service.” Communicating value. What are some tools used in marketing to communicate value? Billboards, television commercials, spam e-mails, radio spots, newspaper ads, storefront signs, product placement in a movie, direct mail postcards…

    What is the most effective form of marketing? Word of mouth!

    If a business is the best kept secret in town, there are only a few possible reasons:

    1. The product or service is mediocre, despite the owner’s opinion!
    2. Few people have experienced the product or service so few can communicate.
    3. The people that have experienced the product or service don’t tell others.

    In a recent survey, people tell an average of nine people about a good experience and sixteen about a poor one.


    With social media, it’s possible to communicate with more people than ever. A simple Facebook or Twitter post praising or trashing a company can impact countless others.

    Here’s the point:
    nobody wants to be the best kept secret in town—unless they are doing something illegal! If you have a great restaurant, you want the world to know. If you sell Amway or Pampered Chef or Mary Kay you want to make sure your friends know to buy from you. If you have a chiropractic office, you want the community to be aware of the health benefits they can experience under your care.

    Marketing Jesus?

    Many have balked at the idea of marketing Jesus. He’s not a business or a product to be sold. Remember the definition of marketing? Communicating value.

    Do you value Jesus? Do you value His love? Do you value the sacrifice He made dying on the cross for you?

    I believe Jesus Christ is the best-kept secret in town. It should not be!

    You may think, “Everyone knows about Jesus,” but that’s simply not true. Many think they know about Jesus, but are there understandings correct?

    A few years ago a group of churches in our region got together to form
    EACH: Everyone A Chance to Hear. The goal was and remains to allow every man, woman and child in southeastern Michigan to hear about Jesus—the real story.

    The goal has not been to get everyone in the area to attend church, pray a prayer, or give money. The goal is simply to give everyone a chance to hear about Jesus, to receive an invitation to follow Jesus which they can choose to accept or reject.

    Good News

    Sharing Jesus is not selling Jesus. It’s not a consumerist exercise. It is sharing good news.

    Everyone likes good news. Unfortunately, what is good for one person is not always perceived as good for another.

    For example, I love the
    Philadelphia Phillies (they play baseball!). When I was a boy our family took a trip out east to visit the 13 Original Colonies. George Washington and Ben Franklin were among my boyhood heroes and my favorite city was Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. That same summer I started getting interested in sports and collecting baseball cards and being the strange kid that I was—am!—I adopted Philadelphia’s sports teams as my favorites (I cheer for my Detroit home teams, too).

    If I told you the Phillies won their game last night (they did/didn’t), would that be good news to you? Probably not. It would be great news to me…and the more you get to know and love me, the more you may grow interested in the Phillies. Over time, she has gotten to know me, the things and people I love, and is now a raging fan of the Fightin’ Phils! In my dreams!

    Several weeks ago I was at the greenroom and I realized two friends of mine, Vince and Brad, had never met. Knowing they both played guitar, loved music, and had a passion for the poor, I was thrilled to introduce them to one another. You might call me a matchmaker, in a sense, and it brought me great joy to see them connect.

    Sharing our faith is not about selling a product. It’s about introducing friends. It’s about introducing our best friend, Jesus, to those we know and love. It’s about sharing our story—His story—and encouraging others to journey with us toward knowing, loving, serving and obeying the One who demonstrated what it means to be truly human.

    If you can’t get excited about Jesus, you’ve never truly encountered Him. You can’t know Jesus and not be changed. For many of us, it happened so long ago we can’t remember life without Him and we take Him for granted.

    Meanwhile, our world is messed up, desperately searching for answers to life’s most challenging questions regarding purpose, meaning, peace, contentment and joy.

    If you know Jesus and you keep Him to yourself, you are selfish! There, I said it! Good news is meant to be shared!

    Why is sharing the good news of Jesus so much more difficult than talking about our favorite sports team, announcing a new job, or sending out party invitations?

    1. Never discuss politics or religion. The problem with such discussions is they usually become debates with a winner and loser rather than a dialogue that seeks to build on common ground and further a relationship.

    2. Fear of rejection. It might happen. In many parts of the world, merely talking about Jesus can get you arrested or even killed. We enjoy immense freedoms in this nation…and most of us take them for granted. You might get rejected. Jesus was rejected. There is a price to pay in following Jesus, but it is SO worth it!

    Some of you have heard this quote:

    “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

    Do you know who said it? There is a legend that states it was said by St. Francis of Assisi, but it is, in fact, just a legend. St. Francis never said such a thing because it is simply impossible to preach the Gospel without words. The Gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the Gospel is inherently verbal behavior.

    It is true that our credibility is vital. Some have said we are the only Bible many will ever read. One of the greatest objections people have with Christianity is how so-called Christians live and behave.

    Let’s face it, Christians don’t have a great reputation in our culture, especially in Ann Arbor. We’re associated with hate, hypocrisy, and politics far more than faith, hope and love. We can change that. We MUST change that. We do it by living out our faith every day. We’re not perfect examples, but we’re living examples. When we screw up, we admit it, say we’re sorry, and seek forgiveness.

    In some instances, our lives will be so radical, people will ask what’s different about our lives. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, said

    But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

    Of course, if we only spend time with Christians, it’s tough. Have you ever told someone some exciting news only to discover they already knew! Ugh!

    Friends, we must
    Love the lost. The word “lost” sounds negative, but Jesus used it. Perhaps you want to call it not-yet-found! We must know people that don’t know Jesus. Who do you know that is far from God. Love them. This is an area in which I struggle. I say that I love lost people, but I have few friends in my life that do not follow Jesus. I am striving to be more intentional about building friendships with non-Christians. Being a pastor can be an occupational hazard!

    Pray for the lost. Last week we looked at these words from Paul in the book of Ephesians:

    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

    Some people are afraid to talk about Jesus because they might not say the right things. There are two reasons not everyone on the planet follows Jesus:

    1. They’ve never been introduced to Him.
    2. They have rejected Him.

    When we talk about Jesus, we can address objection one and often deal with objection two as well. Do they really know the Jesus of the Bible or just the aroma of religious people? We’re dealing with spiritual realities. It’s important to know the Bible, but few follow Jesus because someone answered all of their intellectual questions. Most just get to know Jesus and discover His plans, love, and will are far better than our own.

    We are not called to be sales people sent to get people to pray a prayer. We have been sent on a mission to seek and save the lost. We offer a compelling
    invitation and leave it up to the Holy Spirit of God to guide them to accept it. The greatest miracle is not when the sick are healed or the crippled can walk but when a sinner surrenders their life to Jesus. We can’t make that happen; we can only extend the invitation.

    Talk with the lost. I did not say talk to them! We have two ears and one mouth. Listen. Inquire. One of my favorite questions is, “Where are you at on your spiritual journey?” You might ask simply, “Do you believe in God?” and ask why or why not. The goal is not necessarily to get them to repent on the spot and surrender their life to Jesus! The objective is to invite others to meet Jesus and take one step toward Him. It might be the defining moment or it might be an opportunity for one of many barriers between them and God to be removed. Actions may speak louder than words, but we need words, too. What do you say? Tell your story. That’s one of the best parts of baptism—hearing before and after stories. Nobody can argue with your story.

    “I was blind but now I see.” (John 9:25b)

    “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and violent man, I was shown mercy. (1 Timothy 1:13a)

    “I was depressed and suicidal and Jesus has given me purpose and hope.”

    “I was addicted and out of control and now I have peace in my life.”

    What has God done in your life? Anything? If so, share it!

    Give to the lost. I don’t mean money; I mean ourselves and our community. Following Jesus is not a solo effort but a team activity, a family experience. Throw parties, inviting Christians and not-yet-Christians to connect. Tell people about our weekly gatherings where others like myself can join you in teaching others about the truths of God’s Word, the Bible. Without time and energy, no relationship can survive, much less thrive.

    Welcome to the Family

    This is all about family. Without babies, families will eventually die. Jesus’ message was simple: love God and love our neighbor. He said as we go about our lives to make disciples, and there’s nothing more loving than living like Jesus and inviting others to join us on the journey. It’s not about morality, rules, or organized religion. It’s about being a family on mission, living lives filled with faith, hope and love.

    I believe as our world gets more chaotic, the search for meaning and purpose is only going to increase. We have an incredible opportunity to invite others to join us on the journey, to join us as adopted children of our Creator God in following our big brother Jesus who died and rose again to give us life—radical, abundant life now and forever (John 10:10).


    A few weeks ago as I was walking into one of my favorite stores I saw “Store Closing” signs everywhere. I was saddened to learn this great business will soon be gone. Perhaps it was the best kept secret in town and, although I shopped there frequently, I rarely told others about my good experiences.

    Good news must be shared.

    It’s one thing to remain quiet about a store or restaurant but quite another to be silent about the greatest news ever, the love of God. John 3:16 says

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    Jesus did not die just for us. He died for the world.
    Jesus was not raised from the dead just for us. He was raised for the world.

    But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? (Romans 10:14,
    The Message)

    We have good news. We’ve got great news! Don’t keep it to yourself. Let’s share it!

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.