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Cal to Prayer From Easter

A Call to Prayer From Easter


Two weeks ago, we celebrated Easter. We celebrated the fact Jesus, on the third day following His death by crucifixion, rose from the dead.


Early the first Easter morning, the first proofs of Jesus’ resurrection were noticed and heard. The proofs were some women, then Peter and John, seeing the tomb in which Jesus had been buried was empty, and an angel telling the women the tomb was empty because Jesus had risen from the dead.

Then there were more proofs - even greater proofs - Jesus was resurrected. Those proofs were Jesus appearing to people. The first one to see Jesus alive was one of the women who had first seen the empty tomb. That happened Easter morning. The second and third to see Jesus alive were two men on their way from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus. That happened Easter afternoon and evening. Then most of the disciples saw Jesus alive. That happened Easter evening.


What a great celebration Easter is, which we had two weeks ago. Last Sunday we considered what Jesus might have presented to the two men as they walked to Emmaus. Various Scriptures Jesus might have shared with the two men to prove He is the Savior. Old Testament passages that stated sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, that a Savior was needed to reconcile people with God, that the Savior would be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, that He would do wonderful things, and yes, that He would die but then rise from the dead. 


All of that, Jesus did. Everything He did throughout His ministry, including His death and resurrection, were fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy, thereby proving He was and is the Savior.


Today one more Easter-related message, this one serving as a call to prayer. A call based on some of the words spoken the first Easter morning. Words spoken by the angel who greeted the women who were the first to visit the empty tomb that morning. Words that will be applied to us because they were important, not only on that one morning. They are important even now.


There are six things said Easter morning that will be featured in this message, along with a suggested prayer for each one. After each of the suggestions there will be time for prayer. That means there will be a few pauses in this message, giving each of us a few moments to pray. The purpose is to know that what was said the first Easter morning is relevant even today.


First, let’s think about the first thing the angel told the women. It was, “Do not be afraid.”


This was not the first time the challenge to not be afraid is recorded in the Bible. It seems that over and over again, when any of God’s angels appeared to people, the first thing said was, “Do not be afraid,” which must mean there was always fear when people met the presence of God.


Can we think of others?

How about when Mary was met by Gabriel. When she was told by Gabriel she had been selected by God to be the mother of the Savior, she was also told to not be afraid. She might have been afraid because she had been doing daily chores by herself when suddenly someone - Gabriel - appeared with her. Also, the task she was given was very daunting. Her initial reaction might have been to say, “No way.” But Gabriel told her. “Do not be afraid.”


A few months before that, a priest named Zechariah was met by an angel to tell him he was going to be a father for the first time in his life. By then Zechariah was an old man, but his wife, who was also old, was going to conceive and have a baby, who was to be named John. John was destined to be the one who would prepare the way for the Savior.


What were the angel’s first words to Zechariah? “Do not be afraid,” which was an important instruction because the angel suddenly appeared to Zechariah, who had been alone, handling his priestly duties, and because being a father, let alone the father of a very important person, was something Zechariah had no experience doing.


A few months after Gabriel met Mary, an angel appeared to Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed, though it seemed the engagement was about to be called off since Mary was pregnant, which had not been caused by Joseph. In a dream, the angel began with the words, “Do not fear.” 


The angel went on to explain that Mary had not been unfaithful. That the baby she was carrying had been conceived by the Holy Spirit. That could not have made any sense to Joseph, so emotional fear had to have been present. But “do not fear. Do not be afraid.” That was the first thing the angel said to Joseph.


Throughout the Old Testament, the words, “do not fear” or “do not be afraid” are recorded. Sometimes the context was appearances by angels. Sometimes it was God speaking directly to people. Other times it was a difficult time or enemies being faced when the message came to not be afraid. Examples of that are in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges.


Do you face a difficult time or an enemy right now? Or, while you may not have seen an angel suddenly appear with you or heard the actual voice of God speaking to you, is the Lord asking you to do something that does not make sense? Something that, if you do it, will take you way out of your comfort zone?


If any of that is happening to you, remember one of the things said on Easter morning. Words said to women who were afraid. Afraid Jesus had been taken. Afraid His enemies had not only killed Him, but now stolen His body. Remember the words, “Do not be afraid.” Why? It is because Jesus is the Risen Savior, which means He is still around to encourage and strengthen. That He will offer those things all the time. Jesus often predicted that, including shortly before His death. Jesus had told His disciples He would not leave them desolate. He would be available to help them, that help coming through the Holy Spirit.

Of course things can get very scary. But we have hope. Hope that with the Lord, we can do great things. Hope that if what we do for the Lord hurts us physically, we will survive spiritually.


Do not be afraid. Let’s use those words as the basis of our first prayer break in this message. For about a minute-and-a-half, share with God whatever fears you have. Do not be ashamed if you are afraid of something. Admit it. God already knows about it. But then pray, using either these words or ones like them. “God, I hand to You those things that make me afraid. Resurrect the parts of my faith damaged by fear.”


Let’s pray that we will be able to answer the call to not be afraid. Let’s pray for that.


PRAYER


“I know you are looking for Jesus.” That is another statement that was made Easter morning.


What a wonderful recognition of what the women were doing. Of course, it was not the risen Savior for whom they were searching. They suspected Jesus was still dead. But they were looking for Jesus. Something they had done earlier. The women who went to the tomb that morning were followers of Jesus. They had been looking for - following - Jesus and His teachings for all His three years of ministry.


Looking for Jesus is what we are to do. That was taught by Jesus Himself in His Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon, one of the things Jesus presented was the invitation for people to ask and seek and knock. Those three things refer to wanting to know Jesus, to learn His teachings, and to have the pleasure of Him being with us.


I have told this before, but a few years ago at a chapel service at an assisted living-type place, my entire message was on that invitation. Being a Sunday afternoon and the temperature in the area used as a chapel being, give or take, 3825 degrees (it could not have been my message, I hope, so it had to be the time and the heat) a woman in the group happened to doze off just as I got to the knock part of the phrase. 


I had thought it would be a good idea to act out the knocking, which I did on the pulpit. When I did that, the woman jumped. She started hyperventilating. Her eyes were wide open. I thought to myself, “She is going to die right here in the middle of my sermon.”


As it turned out, the woman recovered. She did not have a major medical episode. Interestingly, she never dozed off again, the rest of that service or any other visits I made while she lived there.


But the invitation is as valid now as it was when Jesus spoke it. An invitation that comes with rewards. 


Ask. Ask for the presence of Jesus. Ask, and it will be given you.


Seek. Seek the teachings of Jesus and the strength to obey them. Seek, and you will find.

 

Knock. Do that in a spiritual sense, letting Jesus know You want Him in your life. Knock, and it will be opened. He will enter every life where He is welcome.


Looking for Jesus is also taught in the Old Testament. For instance, there is, in Deuteronomy 6, these words. “The LORD your God [Jesus is God] is one LORD. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” In other words, with everything you are, you are to love God, shown by looking for Him.


But it is to go beyond just looking for the Lord ourselves. We are to help others, including children, to look for Him. Consider the next few words of Deuteronomy 6. The words of God are to be on our hearts, but we are teach them to our children, talking about them when we and they sit and are up and about, when we and they lie down at night and get up the next morning, when we and they are at home and when we and they are away.


We are supposed to be looking for Jesus. Not expecting to find Him dead, but knowing He is alive. That He is the Risen Savior. How good it will be when we are recognized for such looking, as were the women that day. 


Toward that end, let’s spend about a minute-and-a-half praying about that, using either these words or ones like them. “God, when my soul is searching, help me know the answer to every longing can be found in You.”


Let’s pray that we will look for Jesus and that we will be recognized as people who do that. Let’s pray about that.


PRAYER


“Do not be afraid. Look for Jesus.” Those are two of the challenges that are part of what was said the first Easter. Here is another phrase, this one a proclamation. “He [Jesus] has risen.”


Jesus’ birth, which showed His willingness to be with us, is very important. His death, which proved His willingness to be the perfect sacrifice for sin, is very, very important. Even greater was His resurrection, which proved He gained victory over sin and death, thereby making Him the complete Savior.


And think of this. Jesus did not simply rise from the dead. He showed Himself risen. He showed Himself alive again. Had He gone straight back to Heaven, His resurrection would simply be a theory. But it is a proven fact He was alive.


Remember? He showed Himself to one of the women Easter morning. He showed Himself to two men Easter afternoon  and evening. He showed Himself to most of His disciples Easter evening. Beyond that, over a period of the next few weeks, Jesus continued to show Himself to those who believed in Him. In those appearances, He taught and He spoke about love. 


Over and over again, Jesus proved He is the Risen Savior. Thinking about that - being thankful for that - let’s spend another minute-and-a-half praying, using either these words or ones like them. “Lord, thank You for being the Risen Savior. The fact You are risen should lift my head, my heart, and my attitude. Help me to live like I believe You are risen. That I believe it with every part of my life.”


Let’s pray about the fact Jesus is the Risen Savior.


PRAY


“Just as He said.” That is the next Easter morning phrase to highlight. “Just as He said.”


What a reminder that what Jesus said is true concerning His resurrection, which He had predicted would happen. It was not an empty promise, something that sounded good, but had no realization. Jesus rose from the dead, just as He said.


Guess what. Everything else Jesus said is the truth as well. Every promise He made either has been or will be fulfilled. 


What Jesus said, we can rely on, including His teachings about how to live, His promises of love, forgiveness for all who repent of their sins, the hope of Heaven for those who accept Him as the Savior He is.


Another verse comes to mind. Hebrews 13:8. The verse was not directly spoken by Jesus, but since it is in the Bible, it was inspired by Him. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” That means that while all Jesus’ words, including about how to live and His love and the opportunity to be forgiven and make it to Heaven, He spoke almost 2000 years ago, His words still apply.


Thinking about that, let’s spend about a minute-and-a-half in prayer. Pray to know all Jesus said. Pray to believe all He said. Pray to follow all He said, using either these words or ones like them. “Jesus, You keep Your promises. Help me to live as though I believe that. Help me trust You more, obey You more, and resemble You more.”


Let’s pray about the fact Jesus has fulfilled or will fulfill every word - every promise. Let’s pray.


PRAY


“Come and see.” That seems to be the first of two calls for evangelism in the statements an angel made Easter morning. It was the same thing said three years earlier when Jesus was in the process of selecting His disciples. A phrase that appears twice in chapter 1 of the Gospel of John. 


One day, Jesus was approached by two men who were followers of John the Baptist. When those two talked to Jesus, He said, “Come and see.” They did, whereupon they left John and began following Jesus.


Later, when a man named Philip became a disciple, he approached Nathanael, telling him the Savior had come. When Nathanael questioned Philip about Jesus being anything great, Philip said, “Come and see.” Which he did. Nathaniel also became a disciple of Jesus.


What a wonderful method of evangelizing, at least for me, who does not like getting in people’s faces. Confrontation works for some, but not me. I prefer the method described by the words, “Come and see.” No demand. Just an invitation. “Come and see.” Come and try Jesus.

Again, the two who had followed John the Baptist, and then Nathanael, did go. They did see. They both liked what they saw. They became disciples of Jesus. 


the women on Easter morning - so did they go - they stepped up to the tomb - they looked into the tomb and saw it was empty - again, not because Jesus’ body had been stolen, but because He had come back to life, just as He said.


What about me? What about you? Have we already come to Jesus? If so, pray that you will continue to see Him as the Risen Savior. If not, pray for the courage - the insight - the desire - to approach Jesus now so you, too, can feel His love. In fact, for the next minute-and-a-half or so, pray about coming to Jesus and seeing Him, either for the first time or to continue doing that, using either these words or ones like them. “Jesus, You had the angels invite the women to see for themselves that You had risen. You invite me into personal revelations every day. Forgive me for sometimes rushing about and forgetting to come and see for myself You and Your Word.”


For about a minute-and-a-half, let’s pray.


PRAY


“Come and see,” the angel told the women. When they did go and they did see the empty tomb - after they were told the tomb was empty because Jesus had risen from the dead - the angel then said, “Go quickly and tell His disciples.”


What a call that was for the women to share their faith. And yes, it was just to others who had also been followers of Jesus, but the call was for the women to share their faith with others, something the disciples themselves were soon challenged to do. 


I am thinking of the meeting Jesus had with His disciples shortly before He returned to Heaven. In Matthew 28 Jesus told those who had been His closest followers to go make more disciples, which of course meant the disciples were to share their faith with others and teach and baptize.


How far was their work to go? In Acts 1 is this. Jesus told them, “You are to be My witnesses in Jerusalem [in their own city], in all Judea [throughout the greater area in which they lived], in Samaria [an area inhabited by people pure Jews did not like, so even they were to be told about Jesus], and to the ends of the earth.”


Everyone everywhere was - and is - to be told about Jesus. For this one, let’s pray together that all of us, including myself, will be courageous enough to share with others that Jesus is still the Risen Savior.


Let’s pray together. “Jesus, I do not want to be a secret keeper of my faith. I want to be a bold and gracious proclaimer of truth. I want to do this for You, with You, because of You. You deserve this because You are the one who wanted me enough to redeem me. In Your name this is prayed. Amen.”


Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus. He has risen. Just as He said. Come and see. Go quickly and tell others about Him. Six statements that were made the first Easter morning. Six statements that should describe our faith, including how we live out our faith. May we continue to obey each of those statements as we continue to celebrate that Jesus is the Risen Savior.


Our closing song is the hymn He Lives. We will sing verses 1 and 3.


I serve the risen Savior, He’s in the world today;

I know that He is living, whatever foes my say;

I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,

And just the time I need Him He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

you ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart.


Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing

Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!

The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find,

None other is so loving, so good and kind.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

you ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart.


Say it with me please for our benediction. May these be our post-Easter goals. 


Do not be afraid. Look for Jesus. He has risen. Just as He said. Come and see Him. Go quickly and tell others. Amen.