2000 years ago the world woke up to the most important day in history not knowing what was in store. The overwhelming evidence of God’s love and power displayed at the resurrection still reverberates today. This Easter, discover how the power of Jesus is more than enough for whatever you are facing.
CRAIG SMITH | read his bio
Luke 23:32 – 24:12
Faith takes evidence. We have faith built on the evidence we have seen and assurances we are given biblically, and then our willingness to act based on that faith. Even in Jesus’ time, the religious leaders were looking for that one additional piece of proof to tip them into having faith, and they had personally seen multiple examples of Jesus being who he said he was! You are encouraged to access the faith you have and say, “I’ve seen enough. It’s time to move.” And move forward in faith.
Craig: Happy Easter, Mission Hills. Wherever you are joining us from, whether you’re on one of our campuses or joining us around the world in some place, we are so, so, glad to have you with us. As we celebrate today, the greatest evidence of God’s goodness, the life, the death, and the Resurrection of Jesus. Amen. Would you pray with me?
God, we are so grateful for the opportunity to be gathered here. And we know that we are gathering in a lot of different ways. We’re gathered in some rooms, and that’s awesome. We’re also gathered in living rooms, and that’s awesome. And there are people here in Colorado and there are people gathered throughout the United States in this moment. There’re who are people gathered throughout the world in this moment. It’s just an incredible privilege. However, we’re coming together to come together to celebrate the evidence of your goodness in the Resurrection of Jesus, but we recognize too that, as Mission Hills is gathering and there are billions of other followers of Jesus that are gathering as well. And so, we join a massive throng, a massive family that is celebrating the incredible evidence for goodness. Thank you for this opportunity in Jesus name. Amen.
You know, to understand the significance of the Resurrection, I think we have to start with the Crucifixion. And so, if you’ll join me I want to take us back today to those days before Easter, those few days before Easter when Jesus was nailed to a cross. I’m going to be reading today from Luke chapter 23 starting in verse 32, if you want to follow along, if you haven’t downloaded the Mission Hills app, I encourage you to do that. You can follow along with the Scripture as well as message notes and take your own notes as well.
And Luke 23, starting verse 32 says this: “The two other men both criminals were also led out with Jesus to be executed. And when they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they’re doing.” And I don’t want to miss that. Because honestly, I believe that what Jesus said there may be the one thing that you’re joining us today to hear. Don’t skim over what he said. What did he say to the people who are actually in the process of crucifying him?
He said, “Father, forgive them.” And if you’ve ever wondered if Jesus could forgive you, if you’ve ever wondered if Jesus would forgive you for what you’ve done in your past, for what you’re caught up in, in the present. If you’ve ever wondered if forgiveness is an option for you, I think this is pretty overwhelming evidence that the answer is yes, isn’t it? If Jesus was willing to forgive the people while they were in the midst of executing him, I’m pretty sure this is more than enough evidence that Jesus wants to forgive you.
Jesus wants to forgive you. He longs to forgive you. Nothing you’ve ever done, nothing you’re caught up in right now, nothing you will ever do, could take away his desire to forgive you. That’s why he was on that cross, to be able to forgive you. This is overwhelming evidence. It’s more than enough evidence that Jesus wants to forgive you. They divided up his clothes, by casting lots. And the people stood watching and the rulers even sneered at him. And they said he saved others, let him save himself if he’s God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.
And the crazy thing if you think about it is, that these Jewish religious leaders that are sneering at him they’re saying, you know, if he’s really the Messiah, he should just save himself. These are the same people that had seen so many of the miracles. Let’s not make any mistake about that, okay. They had seen Jesus do miracles, they had seen Jesus open the eyes of blind men, they’d seen Jesus call dead people out of grave, they’d seen the miracles.
There’s no question about that. We know that because what do they say? They say he saved others. They admitted right up front, right? They saw the miracles, but don’t miss this, because it’s so important. The miracles weren’t enough for them. And I say that because, you know, I talk to people sometimes they go, you know, I don’t know, I might be able to get myself to believe in God, I just need to see a miracle. If I could just see a miracle for myself, then I’d believe.
And then the reality is that that might sound like the final clincher, the final piece of evidence that we need but the reality is that seeing miracles is often not enough. It wasn’t for these people, the miracles weren’t enough for them. Even after all they’d seen they were still asking for one more miracle, right? Because that’s what they’re asking for, isn’t it? Yes, forget all the things you’ve done in the past, forget that. I just need one more sign. I just need one more piece of evidence. If you’ll save yourself now, then I’ll believe. Which raises an interesting question, doesn’t it?
Do you think if Jesus had done that they would have believed? Anybody? I don’t think so. And the reason I don’t think so is because of I know something that I think you probably know about human nature, which is this, we love the idea that our beliefs are all based on the rational consideration of the evidence. We love that idea, right? We’re all very rational creatures. I only believe things as I’ve thought it through, and I’ve thought about the evidence.
We love that idea, but the reality is our beliefs are often the result of refusing to really consider the evidence. Many of the things that we hold on to, especially the things that hold us back, especially the beliefs that keep us from moving forward and everything God has for us, many of the beliefs that hold us back actually are the result not of considering the evidence, but actually refusing to consider the evidence because it doesn’t fit into the narrative that we’ve written for ourselves.
And again, as I said, I think that’s especially true of those beliefs that hold us back and keep us from moving forward in faith and moving forward into experiencing everything that God has for us. My guess is most of us have some of those beliefs today. Some of those beliefs that are holding us back. Maybe the thing that’s holding you back, maybe the belief that’s holding you back is the belief that you’re beyond redemption. Maybe you believe that you’ve asked Jesus for forgiveness one too many times.
Maybe you believe that God’s done with you, that there’s no more place in his plans for you. Or maybe, you’re like the Jewish religious leaders here, maybe you believe that Jesus is a great man, maybe even a prophet, but God’s Son, the Messiah, maybe that’s just harder to believe. Whatever the belief is, it’s holding you back, I want you to ask yourself a question today. I want you to really wrestle with this question because I think it’s important. And the question is this, is this belief that’s holding me back is that the result of the evidence or of my refusal to consider the evidence? It’s amazing how often that turns out to be the case.
You know, I’m a preacher. This is what I do, right. And I know in my heart that, you know, my ability to be effective as a communicator depends upon the Holy Spirit working through me and empowering my words. And honestly, if I’m going to say anything that’s useful to you, it’s only going to be because God’s using me, I believe that here at least. But there’s this stubborn little part of me that seems to still think that but, if I work really hard at it, that’s what’s necessary for it to be effective.
And if I don’t do well, and, you know, if I mess up some things that I want to say, I forget some things, or, you know, for whatever reason, it wasn’t my best and then I can walk off the stage feeling like, that was just a waste of time. I just wasted everybody’s time. And I believe that in spite of the evidence which is that every time that I get offstage, and I’m like, boy, did I screw that one up. Almost every time after that, that’s when somebody comes up to me and says, man, God just changed my life through that message. I’m like, really? Well, dog gone it.
I mean, yeah, God, boy was he working? I know it’s not me. I mean, it just happens every single time, but in spite of all that evidence, I still struggle with this feeling like, I’ve got to put in the effort. I’ve got to be good and if I’m not good enough, then somehow, you know, God won’t use it in spite of the evidence. And I just wonder what that belief is for you. What’s that belief that’s holding you back from really, really experiencing everything God has for you and the peace and the joy that comes from that?
And the question I want you to ask is, that belief that’s holding me back, is it based on evidence, or refusal to consider or even to remember the evidence? It’s interesting how often this pattern repeats itself, this pattern of yeah, forget all that evidence, I just need one more sign. It actually repeats itself three times in the story. The soldiers also came up and mocked him, the Roman soldiers, and they offered him wine vinegar, and they said, if you’re the king of the Jews, save yourself. There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. You see that? It’s exactly the same thing, isn’t it?
They said we just need one more sign, it’s exactly what the religious leader said. We just need one more sign and then we’ll believe. Now, that means to be fair, the Roman soldiers didn’t have nearly the evidence, I think that the religious leaders did. The religious leaders have been keeping tabs on Jesus for three years at this point. The soldiers, probably most of them, you know, they’d kind of been watching Jesus for the last 12 hours.
They hadn’t seen nearly as much, but they’d seen quite a bit honestly. When they came to arrest Jesus and one of Jesus followers freaked out and pulled a sword and cut a guy’s ear off, they saw Jesus telling him to put the sword down. And then they saw that he healed the man’s ear. He healed an amputated ear. They saw that. That they saw that the religious leaders couldn’t get their testimonies, they’d hired people to give testimony against Jesus but even having hired them, they couldn’t get their story straight.
And they’re like, I don’t think this guy’s guilty of what they’re saying he’s guilty for. And if they had any questions about it, they’d seen their own governor, Pontius Pilate, declare Jesus an innocent man. And they saw Jesus speak to those who were crucifying him and say, “Father, forgive them.” They’d seen all that, but here they are doing exactly what the Jewish religious leaders are doing, going it’s not enough, they just need one more sign. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him. Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us?
It”s the same thing again, isn’t it? I just need one more sign, just do this one more thing for me, then I’ll believe, that will be enough. But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God?” he said, “Since you’re under the same sentence, we’re punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserved, but this man has done nothing wrong.” And then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom?” Such an interesting contrast between these two men, isn’t it?
I mean, they both saw the same stuff. They both had the same amount of evidence. They both heard the Roman governor declare Jesus an innocent man, they both heard Jesus say, “Father, forgive them,” to the men who were crucifying him. They’d all seen the same stuff. For one man, that was not enough, but for the other one it was, wasn’t it? For the other one, it was enough. For the other one, it was enough for faith. Hey, and it’s interesting. I think this is actually an incredibly interesting picture of faith we see in this man.
See, sometimes we have this idea that faith is like this blind leap into the dark, right? Let me tell you, leaping into the dark with no idea what you’re about to land on or if there’s a landing spot, that’s not faith, that’s called stupidity. It’s not faith, it’s hope. And as you probably heard hope is not strategy and hope is not faith. Faith takes evidence. You know, one of the things I love to say to my daughters when they’re facing a challenge is that I have faith in you. I love saying that. And it’s true, I do I have faith in them. But understand, when I say I have faith in you, I don’t mean I hope you can handle this challenge.
When I say I have faith in you, what I say is, I’m confident that you can handle this challenge, because I’ve seen how you’ve handled other challenges that you’ve faced. Faith is really the confidence in the evidence, right. And that’s really an important thing to understand about faith. The Book of Hebrews in the Bible says this about faith, this is now faith is confidence. See that word, church? Faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance of what we do not see. Or we might even say, of what we have not yet seen.
It’s a confidence that comes from what we have seen, what we have experienced, what we have seen of God and his goodness and in his actions in our lives. It’s the evidence that we have seen. That’s what faith is. And so, we should probably just define it that way honestly. We should say faith is confidence that comes from the evidence. Let’s just get rid of this whole idea that faith is a blind leap into the dark. Let’s just define that what it is, that’s stupidity, okay. Faith from now here on out, faith is the evidence or the confidence that comes from the evidence, with maybe one more addition.
Faith is not just the confidence that comes with the evidence, it’s also the willingness to act on that confidence. It’s the willingness to take a step to move forward on it because if you don’t do that, what you have really is belief and belief is good, but belief and faith aren’t the same thing. So, let’s just define faith this way. Faith is the willingness to say, I’ve seen enough, it’s time to move. Does that make sense church? That’s biblical faith. It’s the willingness to say I’ve seen enough, it’s time to move.
So, I got a question for you, because I believe that every one of us listening today, everyone has gathered to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus day, every one of us has a move to make. I believe that God is calling every single one of us to make a move. Maybe your move is to say yes to following Jesus for the first time. Maybe that’s your move. Maybe your move is to accept the fact that as a follower of Jesus, your sins are forgiven, and it’s to step out from under the cloud of guilt and shame that you’ve insisted on living under. Maybe that’s your move.
Maybe your move is to admit that you have an addiction and reach out for some help. Maybe your move is to make a phone call and say you’re sorry. Maybe your move is to get out of a toxic relationship. Maybe your move is to admit that you’re the one making the relationship toxic and do something about it. Maybe your move is to begin trusting your relationships, or your finances, or your career, or your children, or whatever to God, and stop trying to hold on to those things and plan them all out for yourselves, maybe that’s your move. I think we all have a move.
And so, my question to you is this. Just ask yourself this. What’s my move? What’s your move? What’s the step of faith that God’s calling you to take? What’s that place where God’s calling you to go? Hey, have you seen enough? Is it time to move? See, that’s what this man is doing, right? He said I’ve seen enough. Some people don’t need a lot. Some people need a whole lot, but the point is at some point we all get to this place where we have to go to continue to ask for one more thing is intellectually dishonest.
It’s really easy to do what the religious leaders have done. It’s really easy to do what the Roman soldiers have done. It’s really easy to do what the one criminal is doing, going, hey, I just need the one more thing. One more thing, one more piece of evidence, one more sign, and then I’ll believe. It’s really easy to do that, but at a certain point, that becomes intellectually dishonest. At a certain point, we have to recognize the fact that God has already given us enough and we have to say, I’ve seen enough, it’s time to move. So, what’s your move?
This man makes his move, right? He says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This is Jesus’s response to him. Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you today you will be with me in paradise.” It’s one of those beautiful pictures in the Gospel I’ve ever seen. Because think about it for a moment, this man was guilty, right? There’s no question about that. He just admitted his own guilt, right? He rebuked the other guy like, why are you giving Jesus a hard time?
You and I are both guilty, he’s not but we are. He just admitted he’s a guilty man, guilty of something pretty significant, apparently, because it had carried the death penalty with it. He’s a guilty man and he knows that he’s guilty, and he hasn’t had time to prove that he’s a changed man, right? He hasn’t had any time to prove that he’s turned a corner and now he’s a model citizen. He hasn’t had any time to make it right or to make up for it. All he’s done, pay attention to this, it’s really important.
All he’s done is admit his guilt and asked for grace, that’s it. That’s all he’s done. He’s admitted his guilt and he’s asked for grace. And what’s Jesus’s response to that? Today, you will be with me in paradise. Your sins are forgiven, your guilt is gone, and Heaven is now your home. It’s an incredible picture of this thing that we call the Good News of Christianity. But you might be going, how is that possible? How can that possibly be enough? For that, we have to read on.
“It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the Temple was torn in two.” Curtain divided the Holy of Holies where the Spirit of God was thought to reside from the rest of the Temple. People couldn’t go passed and they couldn’t go into God’s presence. When God tore the curtain in two in the Temple, what he was illustrating was that the barrier between us and God sin, it’s gone. Jesus death accomplished that. The way to God is open. And Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father into your hands, I commit my spirit,” and when he said this, he breathed his last.
Interestingly enough, there are three different Roman historians that record the same inexplicable darkness. Roman historian named Phlegon, one named Thallus, and one named Julius Africanus, they all record it. It happened; they couldn’t figure out why it happened. They tried to, one of them said, it’s an eclipse and others were like, “Dude, there was no eclipse supposed to happen. We don’t know, we just know what happened.” And the reason I mentioned that is because some of you may need one more sign that this is history and not mythology.
But there’s your one more sign. But it’s interesting, it’s not the sign that the religious leaders were asking for, is it? It’s not the sign that the Roman soldiers were asking for. It’s not the sign that the criminal was asking for, they wanted Jesus to save himself, and Jesus didn’t save himself. He died. Which is interesting because if you think about it, if Jesus had saved himself, if he had given them that one more thing they were looking for, then he couldn’t have saved us, could he?
Because how could Jesus say to a guilty man on the cross next to him, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise,” when all he had done was admit his guilt and ask for grace, how could he do that? Because Jesus isn’t just ignoring his sin, he’s not sweeping under the carpet, Jesus was paying the price of his sin in his own blood with his own life. If Jesus had saved himself, he could not have saved us.
And interestingly enough, it was the fact that he refused to save himself that allowed Jesus to give us the one more thing that gives us real evidence that leads to real confidence. It was Jesus unwillingness to save himself that led to the greatest evidence of God’s goodness. He died and they threw him into a borrowed tomb. They rolled the stone over it, and his disciples, his followers, they scattered, and they grieved, and they hid. That’s an important piece to understand, they hid because the moment Jesus died, they lost their faith.
Because if Jesus was dead, they couldn’t believe that he could possibly have been the Messiah that they would have been hoping he was. That’s how it was for three days. And then on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared, and they went to the tomb. Can you imagine them trembling in the cool morning air, as they make their way hoping nobody sees them. Then they’re not going to worship, they’re not going hoping for a miracle, they’re actually going to say goodbye.
They’re going to do one last honor to this man that they had faith in, but they don’t any longer. You see them trembling as they go to that tomb, when they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. And when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Can you imagine their trembling and the cool air turning into trembling and confusion, and heartbreak? I mean, it’s just one more atrocity. I mean, not only did they kill him, but now somebody has desecrated the tomb and stolen the body.
And while they were wondering about this, suddenly, two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. And in their fright, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, and now they’re trembling in fear. Other Gospels tell us these weren’t men, they were angels. They must have realized that because now they’re trembling on the ground in front of these angelic beings. But the men, the angel said to them, why do you look for the living among the dead?
Can you imagine in that moment, just maybe there’s a little tremble of hope? Wait, what did he just say? That he could, “He’s not here” they said, “He has risen.” Remember how he told you while he was still with you in Galilee, the Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again. And then they remembered his words and they trembled. And when they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to the others.
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, and the others with them who told these the Apostles, but they, the Apostles, did not believe the women because their words seem to them to be nonsense. I can imagine the Apostles trembling in indignation of these stupid women bringing this ridiculous fairy tale. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb, and bending over he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves. And he went away wondering to himself what had happened. I’ll bet he went away trembling too.
Probably not fully believing yet, because what he was being asked to believe was impossible, but maybe, just maybe, trembling with the feeling that something was happening. Something he couldn’t quite get a handle on, something he couldn’t quite explain, and then as a disciple, the Apostle John says it. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them.
And he said, “Peace be with you,” which I’ve always thought was ironic. He probably meant it’s hard to say that because honestly, peace was probably not the main thing they were feeling at this moment. When a dead man suddenly comes into a place with locked doors, peace is probably not on the agenda. And so he’s there, he’s calming their trembling. And after he said this, he showed them his hands and the side where they put the spear in to prove that he was dead, and the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
See, this is the great irony of Easter. If Jesus had given the religious leaders and the soldiers and the criminal the one more thing they were looking for, the one more sign, if he’s saved himself, he couldn’t have saved us, and he couldn’t have given us the one more thing, the one more piece of evidence that gives us true confidence. So, the Resurrection happened. It’s a fact of history. It’s the only way to explain the rise of Christianity in a culture that was dead set against keeping it from going anywhere. It’s the only way to explain a group of people who ran and hid when Jesus was arrested, suddenly taking to the streets to proclaim that he was back from the dead and be willing to die for that faith.
There’s no way to explain that transformation other than the fact that Jesus was alive. And if Jesus had saved himself, he couldn’t have saved us, and he wouldn’t have given us this one more thing. But listen, make no mistake about it. Easter is the celebration of the one more thing that is more than enough, isn’t it, church? It’s the celebration of the one more thing that is more than enough. And so, my question to you is, is it enough for you? Some of you here today, and you’re followers of Jesus, and when I ask the question, you know, what’s my move?
God began to speak to you and my question is, is the Resurrection of Jesus enough for you to make that move that God’s laying on your heart? Or maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, but there’s an area of your life that you haven’t surrendered to him? You’ve been holding back on it, keeping it to yourself because there’s a fear that if I really give this to Jesus, I don’t know that it’ll take me somewhere good. My question to you, is the Resurrection more than enough for you to make that move? Whatever it is. Or maybe you’re here today, and you’re not a follower of Jesus yet?
And so, my question to you is the same question. Is the Resurrection of Jesus enough? Is it enough for you to make the move of putting your trust in him? I hope that it is, and if that’s you, can I just tell you right now how to make that move? Wherever you are just, would you close your eyes and bow your head? If you’re not a follower of Jesus yet, but something’s stirring in your heart, and you feel the voice of God urging you to make the move, to put your trust in him, here’s how you do it, you just going to have a conversation with him.
You’re going to say something like this, you’re going to admit your guilt and ask for grace, and here’s how you do it. Say, God, I’ve done wrong. I’m sorry. I need your forgiveness. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to forgive me. I believe that you rose from the dead. I have confidence in that evidence. So, Jesus, come into my life. I’m putting my faith in you. I want to follow you for now and forever. Thank you for your forgiveness, for new life, for new relationship with God, my Creator. Thank you, Jesus, for this evidence of your goodness. Amen.
Can we just celebrate those who’ve made the decision to trust Jesus for the first time today? They’ve made their move, that’s so awesome, I’m so excited. Here’s what we’d like you to do if you made that decision today, here’s what I’d like you to do. Would you let us know it’s a privilege for us to pray for you and celebrate with you?
And so, if you made the decision, if you’re watching online, just let us know by clicking the button right below me that says, I committed my life to Jesus. If you don’t see that wherever you are, then here’s what you can do, text the word Jesus to 888111. Either way, you do it, same thing’s gonna happen. We’re not gonna put you on a big mailing list or anything, we’re gonna send you a link. You’ll get a link, and that link is going to take you to a place where you can tell us where to send a free book.
We’ve actually just produced a new book called, “I Just Said Yes To Jesus Now What.” Ten days to following Jesus forever. We would love to send that to you wherever you are, you just need to tell us where to send it so that the link we’re going to send back to you is going to tell you how to let us know where to send it, and we’re going to give you some truth even right there in that link. Things that are true of you now because of this new relationship with Jesus.
Easter is a celebration, the Resurrection of Jesus, that one piece of evidence that is more than enough. Amen. God is good. God’s goodness extends beyond the empty tomb. It extends in each one of our lives. You can probably testify that to yourself. As we stand right now we’re going to sing a song together. And part of the song actually we’re going to get a chance to see some more stories of God’s goodness reaching deep into people’s lives.