The Beautiful Surprise

The Resurrection Of Jesus Christ Was A Beautiful Surprise To Many

Ross Sawyers
Apr 4, 2021    53m
What do you believe about the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Although he foretold it, it was a beautiful and life-changing surprise to many of his followers, and still is to new believers today. Many doubt the resurrection could ever happen, but surprise, the tomb was empty. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Ross Sawyer: 00:00 Our prayer this weekend has been that God would meet us in ways that it's just a surprise for our own hearts. And wherever it is that we might be in, in thinking about who Jesus is, and what it is that that he's done. Our prayer is for those who are Christians, that our hearts will be stirred for an affection for Jesus in ways, like it hasn't been in a long time. That we might be mesmerized by the beauty of who Christ is, reminded of the ways that he surprised us, and encountered us, and come into our lives. That those who don't know Christ, that you were respectful this weekend and came with your family, and that you just might be met by him in a way that you have been met before, and that is our prayer and our hope. David wrote that song, The Beautiful Surprise. And that's what we want to think about this morning, is that beautiful surprise of Christ's resurrection, and what he does to change lives through what he did on the cross and in that resurrection.

Ross Sawyer: 01:14 On August 5th, 2019, my son Andrew married, who now is my daughter-in-law, Beth in Hawaii on the Island of Maui. I recommend destination weddings highly, especially if you're the father of the groom, it doesn't cost near as much if you're on that side of it. If you have a daughter, you might want to stay in the States, it might be a better deal for you. But personally, it was a great joy for us, it was for our family, and being a part of that and what God did there. We stayed a few days beyond the wedding to take advantage of the time on the Island, and on one of the days, my brother, and stepdad, and Lisa, and I went on a trip up a volcano called Haleakala. It's 10,000 plus feet in elevation, we were late getting our reservation in and weren't sure we were able to be able to go, but it was rainy and people canceled out thinking you wouldn't be able to stargaze, that's the trip we were going on, the nighttime one. And so we started that trek from where we were staying, we went partly up the mountain, the volcano, and to go to the place where we would meet the little tour bus that would take us the rest of the way. And it was raining, and it was actually really beautiful, it was like God was using the rain to cleanse all the greenery. And we were in this little lodge overlooking the Pacific ocean, clouds, fog, the rain coming, it's a pretty cool old lodge.

Ross Sawyer: 02:56 And then we boarded the bus, and started our traverse up the volcano, and we stopped at an overlook. And at this overlook my wife, and brother, and stepdad, we were at this watch looking down into the volcano. And it was supposed to be beautiful in there, except for, we were above the clouds now, and we were looking down at the clouds, we didn't see anything. And as we stayed there looking, God started to move the clouds, and just removed them this direction. And little by little, it unfolded everything in that volcano. And it was mesmerizing, we really didn't have words for what we were seeing, it was just a array of greens and browns. And I would've shown you a picture, but do you ever do that? You take a picture of somewhere, and it's just so blows you away, and you showed it to somebody and they just look at it like, uh. And you're thinking, why did I bother you? Just robbed the whole moment for me with that. And Lisa always reminds me, she says, you know, sometimes God just has things for us personally, and they're not necessarily meant to share. And I think that was just one of those moments for the four of us that God encountered us, and it was a beautiful surprise to see him move the cloud and see the beauty of what was inside that old volcano. And then just as he had removed the cloud, he took that same thing and brought it back over and closed it back up. I was reminded of John Calvin, who said that when we look into creation, what we see is the theater of God's glory. And what a beautiful surprise that God would move the clouds for few moments, for us to see the beauty of what he had made, and then he literally brought them back and closed the curtain on that part of his theater.

Ross Sawyer: 05:04 In Job chapter 37, I heard Tony Evans preaching a few weeks ago, and it's had me intrigued with Job 37 for a few weeks now. But as I thought about that scene and what God did there, and then Job 37:11-13, it says that, with moisture He loads the thick cloud; He disperses the cloud of His lightning. “It changes direction, turning around by His guidance, That it may do whatever He commands it on the face of the inhabited earth. “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen." God moves the clouds when he desires, where he desires. On that day, he allowed us to see something really beautiful, and it was a surprise.

Ross Sawyer: 06:14 Our hope today, is that in the same way that God moved those clouds, is that he would remove the clouds of darkened minds and hearts and eyes, who've not yet seen and been mesmerized by the beauty of what happened 2000 plus years ago on a Friday through a Sunday. And that today that our hearts would be all the more stirred and in love with Jesus than they've ever been before for those of us who know him. And for those whose minds are fogged or clouded, and haven't seen that beauty, that it would just open up for you in these moments, whether they're online or here. And by the way, I love that we can worship in person, this has been like a family reunion this week, this week it's been phenomenal. And then I love that we have our online options, not just for here, but we have a family in Seattle that's watching right now and worshiping with us, in Illinois, and what a gift that there's multiple ways that we can gather up to worship God.

Ross Sawyer: 07:24 CS Lewis was born in 1898, at nine years old his mother died, and he decided then he was done with God and he became an atheist. He later fought in World War I, he became a leading scholar at Oxford and other places in England, and his life was a pursuit of joy. In his autobiography called Surprised By Joy, he speaks of the beautiful surprise that it was when the fog was removed, the clouds were moved, and he saw that what Jesus Christ did for him is actually where the joy is to be found. He describes himself as the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England. It wasn't in Jesus, that he was looking to find the joy and pleasure that he pursued. and yet that's where it is. Maybe today somebody will become a new, dejected, and reluctant, convert of Christ, you didn't come expecting it, but it may be today,

Ross Sawyer: 08:47 I want us to think about this in Matthew chapter 28, verses 1 through 10, to anchor into the scripture and think about it under the idea of beautiful surprise. If you have a Bible, you can go to Matthew 28, if you don't, we'll have it on the screen. And I'd like to weave together this resurrection account with the other three gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We'll look at it from Matthew's perspective, and yet I want to weave together other thoughts from these others. Now, when we think about it, some of you have been to [inaudible] you've been up on that volcano, you might've seen what we saw, you might've done a bike ride coming down, you might've gazed at stars at night. I don't know what you did with it, but you were there, some of you, I've heard this all weekend long. And this is the reality, if you were up here speaking, you would tell it differently than I just told it. We see the same thing, but we have different perspectives on what we see, that was the lens through which I saw that on that afternoon. And in the same way, we have a fuller picture of what happened in this resurrection account, when we read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we get a fuller picture. We have different perspectives, that bring this together in a more full way.

Ross Sawyer: 10:01 Let's think about these first four verses, and I would say this about these, that it's not so beautiful at first. It's a beautiful surprise, but sometimes beautiful surprises are not so beautiful. What do I mean by that? Let's read, verse 1 chapter 28, "Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave." It was after the Sabbath, let's go back to Friday of that weekend. The night before, Jesus had spent with his disciples, the last supper, he was in the garden praying, it's a brutal night of no sleep. The Jewish leaders come arrest him, they trump up false charges against him. He goes before this kangaroo court assembled before daylight even happened, he's beaten, mocked, made fun of, spat upon, dressed up like a little toy doll.

Ross Sawyer: 11:07 I don't know how often you really think about that, but my hunch is if I look at the men in the room, and I look at a lot of ladies in the room, if somebody spit in your face just once, it's game on. And yet, this was not a position of weakness, this was a position of strength. And then Jesus hung with his hands nailed, and his feet, to the cross for six hours on Friday, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, at noon the land darkened. In Second Corinthians 5:17, it says that he made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. In those hours, Jesus took on the full depth of every sin, every thought, every feeling, every action of humanity that is sinful, he took on the full wrath of his Father who had no choice as a just God, but to punish that sin, "At 3 o'clock, Jesus said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He was abandoned in those moments by his Father because of the sin that he was bearing. And then he said, I'm thirsty, and then he said, it's finished, paid for done, into your hands I commit my spirit, he said, and he breathed his last. It wasn't long until sundown and the Sabbath day was sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, they had to move quickly to get the body off the cross and into the tomb. Present were these ladies that were introduced to in verse 1 here, Mary Magdalene and Mary. This is not Mary, the mother of Jesus, this is a different Mary and Mary Magdalene. They watch as the body is laid in the tomb, the stone rolled over it, and then they begin their observance of the Sabbath.

Ross Sawyer: 13:28 Which brings us to this point, after observing the Sabbath, and then I'm sure it was two sleepless nights, Friday and Saturday night, they awakened early. We're told in other parts of the gospels that it was still dark when these ladies arrived at the tomb, and it was dawn toward the first day of the week. And it says the first day of the week, when we talk about Monday, or we talk about Friday and Sunday, that's not how they talked then. The Sabbath was the seventh day of the week, and then there was the first day of the week, the second day of the week, the third day of the week, that’s how they talked about it. Now we talk about it's Friday, but Sunday's coming, but it was it was the sixth day of the week, and then the Sabbath the seventh day. And here's the first day of the week, and they show up at the grave, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.

Ross Sawyer: 14:15 Now we learned about these two ladies in Luke chapter 8, Mary Magdalene had seven demons, and Jesus' head remove those demons from her. And then these other ladies had been healed by him, they were following him, they were devoted to him, they loved him, scripture says they gave of their private means to support him. They were there, in Matthew 27 we're told, at the cross. They watched Jesus as he hung naked on that cross for six hours, they were there when he was taken down off the cross, they were there when he was laid in the tomb, they knew exactly where he was. And here they are in their devotion to him, we're told in other parts, bringing spices to anoint his body in the tomb.

Ross Sawyer: 15:03 We're told that there are two other ladies, by the names Salome and Joanna, that accompany Mary and Mary Magdalene to the tomb, and then it also says other women. So there were several women that showed up to this tomb. Just a side note, there is certainly a large set of people that believe what we're speaking of this morning is not true. That the resurrection is not believable, this is just a myth, let's just talk about Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs and call it a day. But if someone we're going to write a story and then give their life for it, and it was a myth, they wouldn't have written it with ladies showing up at the tomb that morning. Ladies in Jesus's culture were not valued, they were not thought of as worth, they were not dignified, they were not credible witnesses in a court of law. And yet, here we have a group of ladies who will be the first witnesses of the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus. Nobody writes a story like that if it's a myth, or if it's not true, they would not write it this way.

Ross Sawyer: 16:29 So here's these ladies. Then in verse 2, "And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it." A severe earthquake had occurred. Now in Matthew 27, we see that when Jesus was on the cross, as he breathed his last, that there was an earthquake as well, the land was darkened, there was an earthquake. Here we are on the third day, and now we see a severe earthquake. I don't know about you, but things are starting to happen in Jerusalem. And if I was experiencing an earthquake on Friday when Jesus died, and then I see that the tomb is empty, he gone, and there's an earthquake tied up with that, I might stand up and take notice for a minute. But there was a severe earthquake, they felt that shake beneath their feet, because an angel of the Lord then descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. These ladies had come wondering who would roll away the stone, they weren't naïve, they knew weren't going to be able to do it, and here God took care of that for him, the stone was rolled away. And by the way, the stone didn't need to be rolled away so that Jesus could get out, the stone was rolled away so that the ladies could get in, and that the disciples would, behind them, be able to get in and see that tomb is empty. Jesus walked through walls after his resurrection, a stone was not going to hold him in the grave. And I love that the angel just sat on that stone and was waiting.

Ross Sawyer: 18:15 And here come these ladies, and they see that rolled away stone, "And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men." Now we're told about, in the other accounts that there's more than one angel, there's two angels here. Inside the tomb, we see that there's an angel at the feet and an angel at the head of Jesus. And a few weeks ago, we talked about the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament, and on the mercy seat, you have angels on either side that are guarding the holiness and purity of God. We see the same thing happen in the tomb, and we see a movement of these two angels, and different ones talking. But then the guards, when speaking about them, they shook for fear of him. That word shook is the same root word for earthquake. They were paralyzed with fear, they were traumatized, the way the Roman army worked, if they failed in their mission of guarding that tomb, they would be killed. This was a whole lot of bad news for these guards, but they were paralyzed, they were traumatized, this meant death for them.

Ross Sawyer: 19:32 It's unfortunate that they didn't respond like the Roman guards did when Jesus died on the cross. When Jesus died, those who were around him, no doubt those who had nailed him, those who were there mocking him, those perhaps who were gambling for his clothes. It says that that Centurion said, truly, this was the Son of God, there was something that happened on that day that it changed his mind. This is what I love about reading the scripture again and again, I love how God shows me different things or reminds me. But I've always thought it was just the one Centurion who said, truly, this was the Son of God, but it says that Centurion and those who were with him. Multiple people, when they saw Jesus on that cross die, said, this was the Son of God. These guards at the tomb, not the same response. Now I mentioned at the outset on this, these first four verses, this isn't beautiful to these guards. So while it's a beautiful surprise that this tomb is empty, it's not so beautiful to them. It's actually not so beautiful to the ladies either, they still didn't have it in their mind that they were coming to see a resurrected Jesus. What they thought they were coming to do is to put spices in anoint the body of Jesus and the body's gone, and we're told they're perplexed about that. Mary Magdalene we find, in another account, actually is weeping outside the tomb because she doesn't know where his body is, she's distressed that someone's taken it, so not so beautiful.

Ross Sawyer: 21:18 Why today, would it not be so beautiful for someone? Why would what Jesus did on the cross and the resurrection not be beautiful to someone today, and quite candidly, it's not that beautiful to people in our culture. Why? One reason I think, is because people have been hurt by someone in the church. And they think if this is so beautiful, how did I come out so hurt by the words or actions of someone that says they're a Christian. Countless numbers of people have bailed on the whole thing because they've been hurt by somebody in the church. It's not so beautiful to them. It's not so beautiful to people who have expectations of God and those aren't met, we sang a song about God being the God of the impossible, and then when he moves, he moves when he wants to. Well, a lot of us have asked him to move, and he didn't answer it the way we asked, what do you do with that? Some have said this isn't so beautiful when that happened, so I'm out. It's not so beautiful to people who, if they can't see it, they don't believe it. It's not so beautiful to people who don't understand it, and think this is just bizarre that God would come, be born of a Virgin, live a perfect life, die on a cross for our sins, be resurrected on the third day, appear to many, ascend to heaven and says, he's coming back. For many people, that's just too bizarre of a story. And so it's not so beautiful, and where it's not beautiful to someone, it's like there's a cloud covering their thinking, a cloud covering their heart and their mind, and they can't see the beauty of what Jesus did on that cross and in the resurrection.

Ross Sawyer: 23:40 So it's not so beautiful to everyone, however, it's sometimes beautiful when it's understood. It's not always beautiful when it's understood, it's sometimes beautiful when it's understood. Verse 5, "The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified." We see a number of times in the Bible when someone's encountered by an angel, the first thing the angel says is to not be afraid. So to be encountered by the purity and holiness of an angel, I can see why that would create fear, and the angel is just assuring them to not be afraid. And instead the angel says, "For I know that you're looking for Jesus who has been crucified." I know why you're here, I know why you came to the grave, I know what you're looking for. I know you saw Jesus crucified on that sixth day of the week, and I know you're looking for him but. “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying." Just as he said, he's risen.

Ross Sawyer: 24:52 Now, I love what the angel does right here, he doesn't say he's risen, y'all go on about your day, we're all good. No, he says, come and see, I want you to come into the tomb where the stone has been rolled away, and I want you to see that he's not here, come and see. It reminds me in John chapter 1, Jesus has just as arrived on the scene as an adult, he's beginning his ministry. John the Baptist says, "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." He announces who Jesus is, people start to follow him. A couple of his disciples, they're not so sure, and do you know what Jesus says? Come and see, just come on, come and see. Later in that chapter, we find Philip who's following Jesus. And as he's following Jesus, he goes to his friend, Nathaniel and he said, hey, you've got to come see this. And Nathaniel says, no, there's nothing good that comes out of Nazareth, I don't believe it. Can you think about that for a minute, can you think about a city or a town, it's just a dump in your mind and you're thinking nothing good can come out of that. I can think of a few right now without even trying, I can't imagine anything good could come out of some of these cities, what about you? That's what he said, he said, no, there's nothing good comes out of Nazareth, it's a backward town. And what did Phillips say? He said, come and see, just come with me and see.

Ross Sawyer: 26:30 That's our invitation, that's why we talk about inviting people, just to watch online or to come, to come and see, just come and see with us for a while. See what happens if you really start to get inside of God's Word, and start to understand what it really says, not what you're learning on social media about Jesus. What the scripture says, just come and see, come and see. We learn in Luke, a little bit of the conversation inside the tomb. And the angel says, remember what Jesus said, he said "That the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” Now in Matthew, it's recorded six different times that Jesus said that to his disciples. He said, the son of man, he'll be delivered over to sinful men, this is going to happen, and he'll be crucified, but he'll rise again on the third day.

Ross Sawyer: 27:42 And they start to remember, they're starting to understand afresh in their minds, it's becoming more clear to them, the cloud is starting to move. And then remembering what Jesus said, verse 7, “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead." Now go and tell someone else, go pass this on to someone else. Go quickly and tell them, go tell the other disciples, hey, he's not dead, he's alive. "And behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee." That's where they did most of their ministry together, in these little villages around the sea of Galilee. He said, go to Galilee, and you'll see him there. Come and see, behold, I've told you. You will see, I've told you.

Ross Sawyer: 28:38 Now we know that Mary Magdalene was one of the first ones to leave the tomb. and she went back to the disciples to tell them. And when she did, Peter and the other disciple, it says, which we believe to be John, they made a beeline to the tomb, they ran to it. And it says that John went in it, and when he went in it, he believed. But do you know what the bulk of the disciples did when they came back to tell them? They didn't really buy it. But John understood, he understood and he believed. Now, sometimes this is beautiful when people understand it, not always. The gospel is really simple in its explanation, and it's this, God designed everything for himself and for his glory. Human beings rebelled and sinned against God, and broke that perfect harmony. Jesus Christ came, lived, died on that cross to take our sin, God raised him from the dead. Now, how do we enter into that story? We enter in, as God writes us in, and we do that by repentance and faith. It's a turning back from the way we previously think, because now we see there's something way more beautiful, this ultimate treasure we see now is in Jesus Christ, it's not in everything else we thought, there's something way more beautiful, and we believe it, and trust it, and then we follow.

Ross Sawyer: 30:39 Do you ever wonder when we sing songs, what in the world we're saying? Like, do you ever think about, what does that mean when we sing a song that said, we're dead men walking, what is that? What is it when we sing a song and we talk about dead hearts beating again, what is that? Well, the scripture says that we are dead in our sin, that we are dead people walking. We're like CS Lewis in pursuit of joy, but our hearts are so dead, we don't even know where to find it. We're after it, we'll seek it, we go after it in any way possible to try to find it because all of us want to have glad hearts. But what God does, it's the same thing he did with Jesus, and he takes our dead hearts in sin and he makes him alive in Christ. Just like he raised Jesus from the dead, he raises our hearts from being dead, to being alive in him. That's the gospel, sometimes it's beautiful when it's understood. But Paul writes in First Corinthians 1:18 and he says, "That it's foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it's the power of God." Is it foolishness for you today, or is it power?

Ross Sawyer: 32:04 Or Jesus said in John 11:25-26, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” I've sat across from so many people that they can share this message back with me, but it's like there's a cloud over them, and they can't personally respond to it. They know the facts, but they've rejected the personal nature of it. Christopher Hitchens, one of the foremost atheists in the last several decades, contended, battled with Christians in debates. His brother, Peter, also a foremost atheist against God. They said about this story of which we're talking, they called it a rhyme, pagan myth, and they said it was intellectually absurd to think that Jesus lived perfectly died on a cross, and God raised him from the dead, these are really brilliant men. Francis Schaffer, a theologian, years ago, he called this kind of combative rejection, an intellectual cocoon built so not to consider the claims of Christianity. In other words, he's saying that people build an intellectual cocoon around their minds so that they don't have to consider the real claims of Jesus.

Ross Sawyer: 33:47 Peter Hitchens, the brother of Christopher, found himself beautifully surprised one day. Not in an intellectual argument, and this story reminds us of the broad number of ways that God will awaken a dead heart. Peter Hitchens took his girlfriend on a date to an art museum, they were standing in front of a painting of the last judgment. And Peter Hitchens said that as he was looking at that painting, he was looking at all these naked bodies, fleeing the fires of hell. And as he looked at that painting, he couldn't help but think of all the misdeeds, all the sins, all the things that he had done in his life, just rolling through his mind, and he knew that the result of that is it demanded justice. And he said, when he thought about that, if anyone needed saving from this justice, it was him because those were the fires he was headed for. And on that day, it was a beautiful surprise for Peter Hitchens, Jesus met him and changed him. He later said people reject Christianity because they've understood it, not because they haven't understood it, they have understood it and they do not wish to follow it. It's beautiful for those who understand it and receive it, it's not beautiful to those who understand it and then choose to reject it.

Ross Sawyer: 35:58 It's personally and stunningly beautiful when it's encountered personally. In verse 8, we see that, "They left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples." Here they are, they've encountered this angel and there's this wide range of emotions that are flowing through them, the adrenaline is moving, it's flowing. Again, think about this, they had followed Jesus for a few years, he had healed them, he had rescued them, they loved him, they'd watched everything they saw on the cross. Now they are standing here, they thought they were coming to find his dead body, instead, it's gone. And now they're being, they still haven't seen him keep in mind at this part, they've just seen an empty tomb, they haven't seen Jesus yet. But they left the tomb, they were obedient to what the angel said, they were going to pass on what had been told to them, but they had fear and great joy. We find in other accounts, they were trembling, there was astonishment. Just think about an event in your life where there's that whole combination of things going on in your mind, it was great joy, and there was fear, not sure what's ahead. It's astonishment, like this is really happening. There's trembling, there is shaking, like they can't even get a picture what's going on here.

Ross Sawyer: 37:17 All of that's running through them, and in Romans 10:15 it says, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” What a cool privilege to be able to bring good news to people of good things. I mentioned earlier when they returned with this good news, it didn't get received that way. It wasn't stunningly beautiful yet to them, because it wasn't personal to them. Instead, they're told that it's nonsense and they refuse to believe it. Can you imagine, these are the very ones who were following Jesus, and they said, it's nonsense what you're saying to us. I actually find this something to give hope, for so many people that see this as nonsense, so did those who were with him for three years until they saw him. God is incredibly patient and he moves towards us.

Ross Sawyer: 38:36 In verse 9 it says, "And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them." He met them and greeted them, that word for greeted, is just like a casual hello. Can you imagine that? Just think of all that's just occurred here, they finally see Jesus, they've seen the empty tomb, still trying to put it together, Hey, good morning. Just like we did when you came in today. He met them. Again, in another account we're told that Mary Magdalene's the first one to actually meet Jesus and while she's weeping outside that tomb, she's wondering where the body is, and then Jesus starts talking to her and she thinks he's the gardener. she doesn't recognize him. And then he says her name, he says, Mary. And then she looks, and she says, Rabbani, rabbi, teacher. He called her by name, and she recognized his voice.

Ross Sawyer: 39:48 A couple of years ago, my wife and I led a group from here to Israel. And just the other day, someone sent a picture from that trip. And I wanted you to see the picture, this is where they believe, one of the possibilities is for the tomb where Jesus was buried. And this was such a beautiful picture to me of my wife coming out of the grave. And we sang that song at the outset today, Glorious Day, and in that song it talks about how God calls our name, and we come out of the grave. And I love that decades ago, that that God called my wife, he called her name, he called her Lisa, and he said, come out of the grave. You can come out of there now, come out of your sin, come into the life that I have for you in Jesus Christ. And he calls us all by name, he's personal, he's near. When we think about God being far away, he's not far away, he is present everywhere, he's never not near. We're the ones that are distant when we're distant, God is near. And he was near to my wife, and he called her out of the grave. Has he called you out of the grave by name? He knows you by name, it's personal to him. It's stunningly beautiful. When we hear our name called by God himself, when we hear the personal nature of what he's done, and it's a beautiful surprise when he does that.

Ross Sawyer: 41:18 And when he showed up, the angel had said, hey, he's not here, he's risen. Now they see Jesus. And what happens? It's the only response possible when God really does encounter us in Christ. What do they do? They go to the ground and they grab his feet, they're grabbing the feet of the physical resurrected Jesus. And as they grab his feet, they're worshiping him, that's all they can do. There's not words, the cloud has been moved, there is nothing but gratitude and praise, and I can't believe this, I can't believe you're risen from the grave. I can't believe you took my dead heart and raised me from the grave. There's nothing to do, but to be a worshiper of his, to be fully devoted to him. It's what the Magi did when they showed up after Jesus was born, they worshiped him. Oh, he's worthy of worship. He met them. Have you been met by Jesus?

Ross Sawyer: 42:33 Later, Jesus did exactly what he said he would, and he used different appearances with his disciples and they ended up in Galilee together, and they were transformed forever. We read about them in the Book of Acts, and they went to the death for Jesus, that's what happens with the personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Imagine, Paul hated Christians, persecuted them, had them killed. I wonder what that day was like, he's walking down the road and all of a sudden he's blinded and he hears the voice of God, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I've got a different thing for you. A beautiful surprise, and maybe not so beautiful at first being blinded, but sometimes it takes radical things for someone to see, for the cloud to be removed.

Ross Sawyer: 43:39 What would have been like in that jail? Paul and Silas faithful to preaching the gospel, arrested for it, in jail. I think I'd be on my face crying and whining about where I was, instead they are singing hymns and they're speaking of who Jesus is in those hymns. And as they do that, there's another earthquake. Now I'm not suggesting today that there has to be an earthquake for you to trust Jesus. Maybe it'll take one for you, but it doesn't require that for everyone. But in this case, there's an earthquake, and this jailer, he knows he'll be executed. The Romans were brutal, he knows that he'll be executed if anyone escapes, the prison doors fly open with this earthquake. He's about to take a sword and kill himself so he doesn't have to suffer the torture from the Romans, and then he hears a voice from Paul, wait, nobody left, we're here. And that jailor did the only thing he could do and say, he looked at those two men and said, sirs, what must I do to be saved? What a beautiful surprise for that jailor that night, when Paul said, believe on the Lord, Jesus and you'll be saved.

Ross Sawyer: 45:03 What a beautiful surprise all over the world today when Muslims, men and women, go to bed only to be surprised by dream in the middle of the night of a man dressed in white coming for them. And to later be told that that man is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for them. Today, it's probably the largest movement that we're aware of, of Muslims being surprised and met by Jesus. In Iran today, it's one of the strongest movements of people coming to Christ. Imagine the surprise, if you were in a village in another country in the world, and these people show up and they spend years among you, learning your culture, learning your language. And as they do that, they start to translate the Bible into your heart language, so that now you have a copy of the scriptures in what you can understand. And there are people that when they hear that, they're saying yes to Jesus, come and see, and they're receiving. Lisa and I watched a long time ago, a video of a tribe in Africa I believe, or Papua New Guinea maybe. And you just see there's this celebration of the scripture being dedicated, and they're hearing the story about Jesus, and then they just start shouting [foreign language] It is true. It's true. Imagine the beautiful surprise for them, of what Jesus Christ had done for them.

Ross Sawyer: 46:33 And I've just spent a lot of time in the last several days, thinking about, and going through my mind, people at 121. And every time we baptize a child, that has surprised a parent by running into their bedroom and saying, I want to receive Jesus today. It's no guarantee that a child will say yes to Jesus, it's a beautiful surprise every time it happens. Imagine a teenager today, I can't fathom what it would be like to be a teenager in this culture, and what a beautiful surprise when God intersects the heart and life of a teenager, and then that teenager has the courage to follow Jesus in their school where most will only mock it. But they found life, what a beautiful surprise when that happens.

Ross Sawyer: 47:44 What a beautiful surprise when a self-righteous adult, who knows the whole church thing, served in the church, was on committees in the church, did Sunday school in the church, did the whole deal. They're there every time, never miss a big occasion, and they're so haughty, you really don't want to be around them. And yet, they don't know it because their hearts are so self-righteous, and to see that explode inside of someone and then receive the grace of God inside of them, that's a beautiful surprise. I think self-righteous hearts are some of the hardest to be broken through.

Ross Sawyer: 48:21 And then imagine for so many, you just decided in high school or in college, those were your years to go free and to be as immoral and rebellious as you possibly could be, and that may carry it into your twenties, maybe it didn't, into your thirties, maybe not, your forties, I don't know how long it went. But somewhere along the way, God, in his grace and mercy, steps in and what a beautiful surprise that he didn't move away from you, but he moved toward you with grace and mercy and eyes of love. And he says, come on, come and see. And don't just come and look at the grave, come and receive. I've got something far better for you. Imagine when Jesus meets the lonely, the anxious, the fearful, he says, come and see, I've got what you're looking for. Oh, it's a beautiful surprise when God does that.

Ross Sawyer: 49:40 I would just say there's two more things that are surprises that aren't in this passage. Which Jesus actually says his last word here, He says, Hey, don't be afraid. He reiterates the angel, "Go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.” In Galilee, I think this had to be a really beautiful surprise. He's gathered up his band of disciples, a small number that has stuck in there now. And he says to them, "I want you to go and make disciples of all the nations, and I want you to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and I want you to teach them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always." These were the very people, most of them, who left him in his most dire moment on the cross. Now he's interesting everything he did to them. And aren't you glad he did, because we never would have received it ourselves, if they didn't walk in obedience to his command. That to me is a beautiful surprise, that he would want to use and work through us.

Ross Sawyer: 51:02 I think the last thing that will be the most beautiful surprise, will be when Jesus comes back the next time. And if anyone is saying that you're listening to, they're telling you when he's coming back, don't believe them, it will be a surprise. Jesus himself said, "Of that day and hour, no one knows." It will be a beautiful surprise when he comes, because he won't be rolling a cloud back, the scripture says that he will come on the clouds, and he will come with great glory and power. And he won't be coming this time with one or two angels flanking him, he'll come with tens of thousands of angels, the trumpets will be blowing, and he's coming to establish and set his kingdom up once and for all, there won't be another opportunity. And he's gathering up people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, the unity that we so strive for is found at the foot of the cross, it's found in Jesus Christ. And every tribe, tongue and nation is invited to the cross, every tribe, tongue and nation is invited into the resurrection. Every person is invited in, it's the most inclusive invitation of all.

Ross Sawyer: 52:31 And Jesus is coming back, and he's not only the King of which we're citizens of the kingdom. he is the Father, and we are sons and daughters of the Father and the King. And he's setting this kingdom up for his family that he's establishing for all time, and what a beautiful surprise it will be, and my hunch is most of us will be stunned that we get to be there. And it will only be because of his grace, that's covered the sin in every crevice of our lives that we'll stand. What a beautiful surprise from our God.

Ross Sawyer: 53:20 Father, thank you for the strength and the power of your word. And God, it's been our prayer all weekend that...

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051