Acts #1: Power From On High

Penticost

Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Acts #1: Power From On High  Pentecost Sunday   Hear this message + others download free App.:  App. Store @ The Gathering Connect 

Pentecost John 14:26, Hebrews 10:16-17, Romans 8:7 

Today we begin our study series in the book of Acts on the perfect day to begin such a series… today is   Pentecost Sunday!  Pentecost (lit. Greek for 50th) is the Greek name for the Jewish holy celebration of   Shavuot (shah-voo-oat), which is celebrated by the Jews every year— 50 days or seven weeks after Passover— and has been since it was commanded as recorded in  Leviticus 23:15-21. 

This celebration is also called The feast of Weeks and is held in remembrance of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1-5, 20:1-20, 31:18), fifty days after the Jew’s departure from Egypt. It was celebrated by offering the first fruits of the grain harvest to the Lord (showing gratitude to Him for the land they now ate from) and then counting fifty days and offering a new grain offering to Him in remembrance of the law He so graciously gave them to govern that land and His people.

It was this day that God choose to send the promised Holy Spirit to His Church because of the promise of Christ recorded in John 14:26. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.” God’s law, first written on stone and held as a witness of God’s faithfulness and the judgment against man’s sin, was now a punishment paid in full by Christ and written on the believers heart (Hebrews 10:16-17). In Hebrews the apostle Paul was teaching that, when we are born again we are forgiven in Christ and the Holy Spirit comes to us.  God gives us a new heart and a new spirit and the result is that the law of God written in Scripture is no longer offensive to us. We are no longer hostile to it like Paul speaks of in Romans 8:7. We are not hostile to the word of God, but rather, we are submissive. We delight to do God’s commandments. It doesn’t mean that we know them all by heart, because they are written on our hearts. It means that, when we read them in the word, the inclination to do them is in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This is a great work of the Holy Spirit, purchased by the blood of Christ and called the “new covenant” in His blood.  Matthew 26:28   

On Pentecost, we who are believers in Christ, celebrate not only the perfect law and covenant that God gave, ( which we have shamefully broken time and time again) but the amazing grace and forgiveness that He provides to anyone who repents and believes in Jesus, the one who paid the price for our sin; and the gift of the Holy Spirit who changes our heart and direction forevermore! 

Introduction To The Book Acts 1:1-5

The book of Acts was written by the physician Luke, the Apostle Paul’s dear friend (Col. 4:14). The author of the gospel of Luke.  According to Luke’s introduction it is obvious that his gospel was written first.  Acts is written to give an account of the early church and therefore includes historic events that affected the church and yet there is no mention of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. For this reason we can rightfully conclude that it had not yet happened and date both Luke and Acts before that date.  Luke was a Gentile and not one of the twelve disciples but did accompany Paul from Troas on his second missionary journey.  The recipient of the book, Theophilus, was likely a wealthy Roman believer who funded Luke’s two books.  The gospel of Luke related “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1); whereas, the book of Acts begins with Jesus’ ascension and tells the story of how His message was spread far beyond the confines of the Jewish community and into the whole world by His Apostles by the power of the holy Spirit.

The Promise of Power Acts 1:6-13

Power, who doesn’t want it?  Libraries and bookstores are full of books on how to get power, public speakers fill audiences with messages on it, nations have gone to war for it, people die for the possession of it everyday. History has taught us that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  With power comes responsibility; but most want power alone.  America is the most  powerful nation in the world, but how are we doing with responsibility:  Our nation kills her offspring for convenience, is over 22 trillion dollars in debt, is morally corrupt, and allows millions of people to flow through our borders unvetted while people experiencing homelessness flood our cities uncared for.   

God is “all powerful” and He alone is worthy to possess it.  With all of the power that was at Jesus’ disposal He never abused it.  He even restrained Himself to accomplish His mission to die for the sins of the world. He showed His omnipotence when He raised Himself from the dead and then ascended into heaven 40 days later from the Mount of Olives to which the Angels said He will one day return (Zech. 14:3-4). We can bank on that promise because He is responsible!

The disciples were excited to be a part of the power to restore the kingdom of Israel (for Rome to fall and the Messiah to reign forever), but real power waits…that was not the time then.  Israel became a nation in 1948 but even still we wait for Jesus to return again to reign there.  Jesus command to His disciples was to “wait” in Jerusalem and then power would come (Acts 1:4b) and they did (Acts 1:12). 

There is no doubt that the disciples would have left Jerusalem if Jesus had not commanded them to stay; they would have been eager to hurry home to Galilee, and to shake their feet from the dust of the city where Jesus had been slain and then departed in a cloud. But it was in Jerusalem and nowhere else that the Apostles would secure the best audience for their witness.  So they crushed their natural desire to go “home” and stayed in their dangerous position. We likewise should ask, not where we should be most at ease, but where we will be most efficient as witnesses for Christ, very often the presence of adversaries makes the ministry ‘great and effectual.’ 

“Waiting” is not “Doing Nothing” Acts 1:14-26

Jesus told His disciples to “wait” but that did not mean to do nothing.  The church “joined together constantly in prayer” and also made plans to carry on the ministry that Jesus taught them by replacing Judas who had fallen away.  (Two godly believers were chosen for leadership: Joseph (Barsabbas or Justus) and Matthias.  No one could decide who would best fill Judas’ place so the left it to God in prayer and cast lots.  Matthias was chosen. Note:  We know nothing of Matthias except he served Jesus in His ministry Acts 1:21-22 and that he preached the gospel and was martyred in Ethiopia.) Judas wanted power but he was not   patient to “wait” on the Lord.  Judas sought to become powerful himself by using his trusted position for selfish gain.  Whenever we choose to depart from God’s guidance and promote ourselves we do so as an enemy of God.  Judas’ death is a grim reminder that power outside of God is destruction. Are we waiting or running ahead? 

Power! Acts 2:1-13, Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Peter 3:11-12, John 17:20-21

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.”  There is much to be said of this small verse.  It is to say that they were being the church.  They were of the same mind, the same heart, the same purpose…”all together in the same place.” The power of God comes when we seek Him together.  It is His plan and His will that we accomplish the Great Commission together (Matthew 28:18-20) now and “speed” up the day of His coming kingdom (2 Peter 3:11-12).  We cannot do it separately.  Alone we may enjoy the presence of God, and individually we may know His grace and salvation, but only collectively can we experience His power unleashed as the Church.  That we all might “be one” that “the world may believe.”  (John 17:20-21)  This is our true witness! 

God’s Spirit moves like the wind (as He pleases).  God’s Spirit refines and purifies like a fire.  God’s power is unleashed as the Church comes together seeking Him.  God’s power comes so that the whole world (All nations declared in many languages or “tongues”) may “hear” His truth.  The tongues they spoke were in languages of those who were visiting in Jerusalem.  Although it isn’t written in scripture they were likely praising God and declaring the gospel in those tongues. That is what it was all about!  Mockers will always laugh, but the Church “will come      together” And whenever they do there will be supernatural POWER!  Do you want it?  Come Together!

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Evidence For The Resurrection #4

BibleMalletPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church     Evidence for the Resurrection #4     The Verdict     To hear this message download our free App at the App Store: The Gathering Connect

Evidence to Convict Romans 1:16-19, Acts 17:31, John 3:18-19

What have we learned this far about evidence for the Resurrection?  

  1. The evidence for the resurrection is backed up by first hand documentation from eyewitnesses and supported by those who were contemporaries of the historic event.  This vast array of eye witness accounts have been recorded in the New Testament which has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work of literature, with over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts catalogued, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian.  
  1. No documents from the same time period controvert (deny or refute) these eyewitness accounts: Not Rome, not the Sanhedrin, not historians…no one until “present day” skeptics. 
  1. After the alleged resurrection and subsequent testimonies, James, the half brother of Jesus converted and went on to lead a church in Jerusalem; Thomas (the doubter) believed, and thousands more were converted (Acts 2:41).  
  1. All of the Apostles, and many converts, were active in Christian missionary work until the day they died even among horrible persecutions. All of the Apostles died martyrs deaths save John who was boiled in oil and later died of natural causes. Many other Christian missionaries and martyrs followed. 
  1. The phenomenal growth of the Christian religion from one man with twelve disciples to the largest religion in the world is proof to the resurrection, for without it the religion would have collapsed.
  1. The same Jesus who allegedly resurrected accurately foretold His death and the number of days before He would rise. He also accurately predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.  His life, work and ministry were also foretold in numerous prophecies in the Old Testament as many as 1000 years before His birth.  Nearly 300 references to 61 specific prophecies of the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. The odds against one person fulfilling that many prophecies would be beyond all mathematical possibility.
  1. All established refutations of the resurrection are easily put to rest with the simple logic of facts presented by the eyewitness accounts. 
  1. No dead body was ever discovered although the living body of Jesus was reportedly seen by hundreds over a 40 day period.

 We have looked at all of these evidences for the resurrection in the past three studies and still there is more. I would like to add two which no man can deny. 

  1. The millions and millions of testimonies of people throughout the ages who have been changed through faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ and the miraculous circumstances associated with such testimonies. These cannot just be written off as coincidental happenings by the faithless. We who believe know better.
  1. Lastly, I bear you my own testimony!

The Apostle Paul said that he was not ashamed of the gospel because it reveals the power of God to save everyone who believes on faith (Romans 1:16-17); however, it is true that one who believes must believe on some measure of faith.  Clearly the Christian faith is not blind but it must    accept the supernatural power of God in miracles.  If one denies miracles all-together then one will surely reject the resurrection of Jesus and the whole of the Bible no matter how much evidence is presented.  The Apostle reminds such people who suppress the truth that the wrath of God will rightfully come upon them one day because the evidence of God is plain (Romans 1:18-19).  According to Paul, a day of reckoning for all will come (Acts 17:31) and the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection will be considered all the proof necessary to convict the unbeliever.  The Apostle John echoes this truth in (John 3:18-19) his gospel.  The skeptics of the resurrection produce very weak arguments against the resurrection and other miracles of God recorded in the Bible.  They deny Christ on pretty shaky ground.  Death is the great equalizer of the argument.  If a Christian should be wrong then what?  We die into nothing and have lived with great hope.  If an unbeliever be wrong then all is lost forever:  And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:46

I prefer the odds of the Christian, and with Paul I can truly say: “for I am not ashamed!”

Liar, Lunatic or Lord? Mark 8:29, John 11:25, 20:31

Regarding Jesus: His claims of being Messiah, being the only way to God and such proof of His resurrection; all of mankind must come decide on a  verdict…the evidence demands it.  As C.S. Lewis (British writer, theologian and professor) once wrote: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  (C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity) 

As apologist Josh McDowell clearly showed in his classic book on evidences for the Christian faith titled: Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Jesus is undeniably a historical figure substantiated as such by more historical manuscripts than any other figure in ancient history.  His life and claims are well documented.  McDowell says: “Jesus claimed to be God.  He did not leave any other    options.  His claim must be true or false…”But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29) is also asked of us today.”  I will also add that Jesus expects us to answer the question He posed to Martha about the resurrection too (John 11:25)… “Do you believe this?”  McDowell goes on to illustrate how Jesus was either a Liar and a hypocrite, because he told others not to lie, or He must have been a self-deluded Lunatic who believed He was God and died for His delusion.  The only other choice is that He is the Lord God almighty: as stated and proved by the resurrection.

We cannot put Jesus on a shelf as a great moral teacher.  That is not a valid option.  He is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.  The evidence of the resurrection is clearly in favor of Jesus being Lord; however, some people reject this clear evidence because of the moral implications involved.  It seems that God reminds the world at least twice annually of this decision we must make.  At Christmas we are reminded of His reaching out to man in His supernatural birth and at Easter of His promise to those who will receive Him by His supernatural resurrection— and then there is the Bible—that indestructible “legal” document of His grace, mercy and wrath.  “And these things have been written so that you will believe…” (John 20:31)  Your eternal life or death is in your hands.  His verdict is documented (John 3:18-19)…what is yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evidence for the Resurrection #3

TombInsidePastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  Evidence for the Resurrection: Refuting Skeptics   Hear this message: download free app in the App Store. Search the Gathering Connect

“To this very day” Matthew 27:62-66, 28:2-3, 11-15

In Matthew’s Gospel we read about the precautions that Pilate made to assure that the disciples would not come and steal the body of Jesus away as the Pharisees insinuated.  Pilate ordered that “a guard” should be posted at the tomb and the grave stone sealed.  Matthew then goes on to tell us that the earth shook, an angel of the Lord rolled the stone away and the “guards” became “like dead men”.  Later he tells us that “some of the guards” went into the city and reported everything to the chief priests —then they “devised a plan” and gave the soldiers a large sum of money to say that the disciples came in the night and stole the body away while they were sleeping.  The chief priests also promised the guards that if the report got to Pilate (the governor) they would keep them out of    trouble.  Matthew’s witness concludes with—”And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” (“to this day” referring to the time in which Matthew had written his gospel, likely in 50AD and certainly before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD)

 To this very day (referring to the here and now) this same story remains the favorite among skeptics who mock the resurrection of Jesus; however, we will look at four of the most popular views and refute them all with evidence and logic:

 The Theft Theory Mark 14:50-52, 66-72

Let us look first to the stone that was rolled over tomb entrance.  The Archeology on such tombs of Jesus day reveal huge disks that would have required three to four men to roll away.  The stone was also sealed as we read in Matthew 27:64-65.  Such a seal consisted of a cord or beam that went   across the stone from top to bottom and was fixed in place with clay and sealed with the signet ring of whoever authorized the seal.  In this case it was the Roman governor of Jerusalem—Pilate.  The breaking of such a seal was punishable by death.  Let us also consider the guards at the tomb.  The Bible doesn’t say rather or not the guards at the tomb were Roman guards or Temple guards; however, the fact that the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate suggest Roman Guards.  If that was the case, historically,  “a guard” consisted of at least four armed soldiers (or more in multiples of four).  Each soldier took turns standing guard while the other three rested but were always at the ready.  The punishment for a Roman guard falling asleep at his post or dereliction of duty was always death.  If the guards were Temple guards then there would have been at least ten soldiers alternating on three watches throughout the night.  A captain was also assigned to check on the guards throughout the night with surprise visits.  If any were found asleep they would be severely beaten and oftentimes their garment would be lit on fire.  Rather Roman guards or Temple guards I think we can be pretty sure that the guards did not fall asleep as the widely circulated story said.

We also must consider the character and demeanor of the disciples who were the alleged “brave” body snatchers.  Mark said they all fled at Jesus arrest (Mark 14:50-52) and one of them even ran off naked! Peter denied three times that he even knew Jesus (Mark 14:66-72), and none of the men, but John, even went to the crucifixion. On the third day the ladies found the Eleven together in a room and told them that Jesus had risen but they all considered their words “nonsense.” (Luke 24:9-11). I think it is safe to say that there weren’t four men among them that would have risked death, alluded armed guards, rolled a stone away, striped the grave clothes off of Jesus (John 20:6-7) and carried away His lifeless body so people would believe that He had risen—and why would they do that if everything they had hoped and  believed in was now dead and gone anyway?

History doesn’t record rather the guards were all executed or not, just that the chief priests and  elders paid them and said they would keep them out of trouble if Pilate found out, but remember how they paid Judas and then mocked him when he returned? (Matthew 27:1-10)

The Soon Theory John 19:32-37

Another theory is that when Jesus was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Armathea, He was still alive.  After several hours, He was revived by the cool air of the tomb, arose and departed!  First of all this theory is no where to be found in the annuals of antiquity.  No record argues that Jesus was not dead.  The judgment of the soldiers said so. Those who propose such a silly theory would have to say that Jesus wiggled out of his grave clothes, shoved the stone over by himself (even in his pierced and beaten condition) and ran away naked alluding the guards!

The Hallucination Theory 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, John 20:24-29

A third theory says that all of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances were really only supposed    appearances, what really happened is that people had hallucinations.  First of all this theory assumes that a whole lot of people hallucinated or saw visions of Jesus over a period of 40 days and at      multiple locations without the aid of drugs and alcohol.  In most of these appearances there were two or more witnesses of the same event.  In one instance there were “more than five hundred’ at one time who saw Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).  Lastly, Hallucinations are not challenged by the   hallucination.  Remember that Thomas refused to believe until Jesus made him put his finger into the nail marks and his hand into the side where He was speared (John 20:24-29)Hallucinations also do not abruptly come to a stop as did the appearances after the ascension of Jesus (Luke 24:50-51).

The Wrong Tomb Theory Luke 24:1-8

The final theory is that the women, and subsequently everyone else, simply went to the wrong tomb! It is inconceivable that even if Mary and the other women initially went to the wrong tomb that Peter and John would have also succumbed to the same mistake.  Surely the Chief priests, Pharisees and Roman authorities would have simply gone to the correct tomb and revealed the dead body of Jesus to silence the resurrection story.  Remember also that Jesus’ tomb would have been the only tomb with a broken Roman seal on it.  I am also sure that Joseph of Armathea would have known which tomb was his own (Matthew 27:59-60).  It would have also been the only tomb with empty grave cloths in it. Finally, if all of these knuckleheads had gone to the wrong tomb then we must also assume that the angels did too because they were at that same tomb and said, “He is not here; He has risen!” (Luke 24:1-8) 

He Has Risen…Repent! Acts 2:22-24, 36-41, 2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-10a

In Acts 2, Luke recorded Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost.  There was no refutation given by the Jews to his bold (even insulting) proclamation of Christ’s resurrection.  Why? Because the      evidence of the empty tomb was there for anyone to examine if they wanted to disclaim it.  The  response of the crowd to Peter’s accusation that they had crucified their Messiah and that He had risen was an emphatic “Brothers, what shall we do?”   “Repent”, he said, and three thousand repented that day and became Christians because they too believed that Christ had risen.  

The passage of time and the love of sin causes many to accept such refutations of Christ’s resurrection and Lordship; however, the evidence clearly points to the fact that He has accomplished just what He foretold.  He will also come again “like a thief” in judgment of such nonsense…”Repent!”  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evidence for the Resurrection #2

Prayer The Gathering/Pastor Barry: Evidence For The Resurrection #2 Fulfillment of Prophecy  To hear this message and others download our free App in the App Store: Search The Gathering Connect or go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Messiah? Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Luke 4:16-30, 24:44-49, Matthew 16:16-17

The early followers of Jesus were convinced that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah; however, most Jewish leaders did not share their view so they crucified Him.  These leaders held that Jesus never fulfilled the requirements to be the Messiah. Today, all the main branches of Judaism maintain that Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah for the same reason.  These would say that the death and resurrection of the Jewish Messiah was never accepted or taught in Judaism.  This concept however is not correct. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1947) prove so. Of the documents discovered 40% are copies of texts from the Hebrew Scriptures. 30% are texts from the Second Temple Period which were not canonized in the Hebrew Bible and the remaining 30% are sectarian manuscripts that shed light on the rules and beliefs of Judaism in those time periods.  These manuscripts reveal that pre-rabbinic Jewish interpretations of Isaiah 53 during the second temple period saw the “suffering     servant” as the messiah who both dies for Israel and reigns eternal. The finding is significant because it dates the messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 over a century before Christianity and before the emergence of rabbinic Judaism.  The messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53 was not discovered in the Christian Church. It was already developed by Jews and found in Qumran.  One who is educated in the life and ministry of Jesus can not read the “Suffering Servant” prophecy of Isaiah and not see Him.

What Is Messiah?  The word messiah is derived from a Hebrew word which is translated “one who is anointed.” The concept of a particular Anointed One, developed within the Jewish Scriptures refers to a promised descendant from the line of King David who will redeem the Jewish people and reign on the Davidic throne. In the Greek Bible, the word is translated Christos, from which we get the English word “Christ.” Traditional Judaism and Christianity agree in principle that the Messiah will be a,    descendant of King David and establish a global kingdom. He is sent by God and will usher in a utopian era of peace. The oldest objection to the Messiahship of Jesus has been that he never established peace on earth and restored the Jewish nation, but Christians believe that there will be a “second coming”, at which time Jesus will fulfill the messianic functions originally expected of him. Traditional Jewish views focus on Messiah’s utopian reign. Contemporary Jews minimize or altogether reject the belief in a literal, personal Messiah. Reform Judaism rejects an heir of King David to ever arise.

The Biblical Messiah: The earliest reference to a prophetic son of David is found in          2 Samuel, approximately 1000 BC.  The prophecy says the “Messiah” will be born in the line of David according to 2 Samuel 7:12-13. Referring to David, these verses say, “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” The Davidic line reaches through the line of Seth to Noah, through the line of Shem to Abraham. Then through the lines of Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, and to Jesus.

The lineage of Jesus is recorded in two places: Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. It seems as if these two genealogies of Jesus contradict, but they do not. Luke is referring to the genealogy of Mary and the genealogy recorded in Matthew is of Joseph. The Matthew genealogy follows Joseph’s line (Jesus’ legal father), through David’s son Solomon. Luke follows Mary’s line (Jesus’ blood mother), through David’s son Nathan. Through both of these lines, Jesus Christ is David’s descendant and is eligible to be the promised Messiah. Tracing a genealogy through the mother’s line is somewhat unusual, but the virgin birth is unusual as well!

Jesus Claimed to be Messiah: Some say that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah, but they would be wrong again.  At the beginning of His ministry He made this claim:  Luke writes that Jesus went to Nazareth and unrolled the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and read from Isaiah 61:1-2a “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim  liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled the scroll back up, and said, “Today this  Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-30  Jesus quoted Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah and said that He fulfilled it! 

Luke also writes that after Jesus resurrected and appeared to the disciples in the upper room He said,  These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything   written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled… Thus it is  written, that the Messiah should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Luke 24:44-48 

Jesus also received Peter’s definition of Him as Messiah.  Matthew writes that Jesus said, “But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.… Matthew 16:16-17 

Jesus Proved to be Messiah: According to Jewish scriptures, there are proof positive prophecies that the Messiah must fulfill.  The first we have already established in Jesus;  1.) The Messiah must be a descendant of king David.  2.) The Messiah must be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-4).  Jesus was (Matthew 2:1-12).   3.) The  Messiah must be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).  Jesus was (Matthew 1:18-23).   4.) The Messiah will suffer and die to atone for sin (Isaiah 53, Zechariah 12:10).  Jesus did (Romans 5:8-11).   5.) The Messiah must come before the destruction of the second temple and fulfill a chain of events (Daniel 9:24-27) within the time line described by the prophet Daniel:  The sequence of events are as follows:  (A) the temple will be rebuilt in times of trouble,  (B) the Messiah will arrive,  (C) the Messiah will be cut off or be killed, and  (D) after his death, Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed by an army (Roman Army 70AD). All of these were fulfilled in Jesus, and He Himself prophesied His own death and resurrection (Matthew 20:18-19) as well as the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). All of this happened in the exact time line of Daniel’s amazing prophecy of weeks.

Note: The five prophecies we’ve reviewed about the Messiah were written by men from different times and places between about 500 and 1,000 years before Jesus was born. Thus there was no   opportunity for collusion among them. Bible scholars tell us that nearly 300 references to 61 specific prophecies of the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. The odds against one person fulfilling that many prophecies would be beyond all mathematical possibility.

Proof for the Resurrection? Ephesians 5:14

Jesus foretelling and fulfilling prophecy has everything to do with evidence for the resurrection    because it proves the point that Jesus must be supernatural. Resurrection from the dead is a supernatural happening.  None but Jesus could have fulfilled these prophecies and none but Jesus can raise himself up from the dead. 

How about you?  Are you feeling overwhelmed with life, even a bit dead?  Do you need a resurrection, hope in the midst of hopelessness?  Do you need a miracle.  There is no one else who has proven so well that He is able to do all that He has promised for those who trust in Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EVIDENCE for the RESURRECTION #1

JesusEmptyTombWomen

If Christ Has Not Been Raised 1 Corinthians 15:1-22

 1 Corinthians 15:12-22       The Facts of our Faith

It is hard to believe, but there are actually some people that call themselves “Christian” and do not believe that Jesus bodily resurrected from the dead.  Some say “his spirit” raised.  Others say “the story of the resurrection is simply a nice fable (like the virgin birth or the parting of the Red sea).”  Yes, there are “Christians” who don’t believe that those stories are real either.  In fact, many “Christians” do not believe that the Bible is wholly true and “God breathed” even though it says so itself (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but back to the resurrection for this is the series that we embark upon for the next four weeks: Evidence for the Resurrection. 

Let me begin by saying that if the bodily resurrection of Jesus is not true then there is absolutely no point in being a Christian at all.  “If only for this life we hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:19  Our faith is entirely based on the premise that we have a living God!  If God is dead then why are we here in church on Sunday?  If God is dead then why follow His word?  Where is the “good news?”  As the Apostle Paul said, “By this gospel we are saved, if we hold firmly to the word…otherwise, we have believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:2  In fact, “If Christ has not been raised…we are still in our sins” and will die in them (vs.17). 

1 Corinthians 15:1-11  Eye-witness Accounts

The Apostle lays out the facts for us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11. Paul dealt with numerous controversial issues that were problems in the church at Corinth.  In his first epistle he dealt with the issue of the resurrection. At the time, some were teaching that there was no resurrection of the dead! Paul makes the point to write that – in that day, you could actually find and talk to people who were personal eyewitnesses of Christ after His resurrection – people who saw Him, heard Him, ate with Him, and spent time with Him. Paul goes through the order of such people in verses 5-8 and his list harmonizes perfectly with all the gospel accounts. Most likely the gospels of Mark and Matthew were already written before Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians although some disagree.

Dating the Gospels:  Dating the gospels is very important.  If it can be established that the gospels were written early, before the year 70 A.D. (when the destruction of Jerusalem occurred thus fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy: Luke 19:41-44), then we would have good reason for believing that they were written by the disciples of Jesus Himself (as accredited).  If they were written by the disciples, then their reliability, authenticity, and accuracy are better substantiated.  Also, if they were written early, this would mean that there would not have been enough time for myth to creep into the gospel accounts since it was the eyewitnesses to Christ’s life that wrote them.  Furthermore, those who were alive at the time of the events could have countered the gospel accounts and since we have no contradictory writings to the gospels, their early authorship as well as apostolic authorship becomes even more critical.

Though some say that the New Testament was written 100-300 years after Christ  died (which undermines its accuracy), the truth is, if we are to believe what is written in it, then it was written before the close of the first century by those who either knew Christ personally, had encountered him, or were under the direction of those who were His disciples.  Paul says “what I received I passed on to you” (vs 3). He was talking about the gospel that he had received from Jesus’ apostles.  This statement is followed with one that says that eyewitnesses were still living at the writing of his letter.  1 Corinthians was written in about 55 AD when Paul was around 50 years old. Jesus had been  crucified (AD 30-36) no more than twenty years before when Paul was in his thirties. Paul and Jesus were contemporaries.  The evidence for the resurrection then is backed up by first hand documentation from eyewitnesses and supported by those who were contemporaries of the historic event.  If written statements about the resurrection had been embellished they would have been dismissed and not passed down through history as they have been— especially since it was an event that Roman and Jewish leaders would want silenced. 

Historical Eye-witness Documentation Romans 8:31-39

The Bible has been well established as a historical document and the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection written in it cannot be denied.  Below is a list of these testimonies: 

  1. Mary Magdalene (tomb) Jerusalem: Early morning Sun.   Mk. 16:9-11; Jn. 20:11-18
  2. Other women (tomb) Jerusalem: Early morning Sun.                                  Mt. 28:8-10
  3. Cleopas & another near Emmaus: Sun. Afternoon            Mk. 16:12-13; Lk. 24:13-32
  4. Peter alone in Jerusalem: Late Sun. afternoon                      Lk. 24:33-35; 1 Cor. 15:5a
  5. Disciples & others (not Thomas) Jerusalem: Sun. eve.       Lk. 24:33-39; Jn. 20:19-25
  6. Disciples with Thomas Jerusalem: Mon. (8 days later)            Mk. 16:14; Jn. 20:26-29
  7. Seven disciples fishing in Galilee: A few weeks later                               Jn. 21:1-25       
  8. Disciples (GC) Galilee: Near end of 40 days Mt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:15-18; 1 Cor. 15:5b
  9. 500 people in Galilee: Near end of 40 days                                                   1 Cor. 15:6
  10. To James (Jesus’ half brother) in Jerusalem: Near end of 40 days               1 Cor. 15:7a
  11. Apostles (Asc.) Bethany: 40th day Mk. 16:19; Lk.24:50-52; Acts 1:4-11; 1 Cor. 15:7b
  12. Paul Damascus Rd.: About 2 years later  Acts 9:3-5, 22:7-8, 26:14-16; 1 Cor. 15:8
  1. Note: The account in Lk. 24:33-39 and Jn. 20:19-25 (absent Thomas) are the same even though Luke writes “they found the Eleven”. The phrase “the Eleven” was a title for the disciples after Judas killed himself, formerly called “the twelve” and again called such after Matthias was added: Acts 1:12-26. This understanding reconciles both Thomas’ doubt, the “third appearance to disciples” written in John 21:14 and Paul’s use of the phrase “the twelve”  in 1 Cor. 15:5b. (inclusive of Matthias who must have been present when Thomas was not : see 5.)

James Believed:  During Jesus’ ministry, His brother James was a skeptic (see John 7:5).  He was likely among the family members in Mark 3:21-35 who thought that Jesus was insane!  We know that James later led the Jerusalem church (Gal. 1:18-2:1-10; Acts 15:13-21).  According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:7, Jesus appeared to James.  undoubtedly this appearance made James a    believer who would later even be martyred for his faith.

The Apostles: All twelve Apostles (Matthias included) and Paul preached Jesus as long as they lived.  Every Apostle was severely persecuted for their belief in the risen Christ.  All but John are verified to have died as martyrs for the gospel. They obviously all believed that Jesus had risen. Their knowledge of the resurrection, like Paul’s (Romans 8:31-39) must have compelled them.

The Growth of the Church: Historically the growth of the church through the ages—beginning with one man and a small band of disciples to become what is the largest religion in the world—is in and of itself a testament to the fact that Jesus did indeed raise from the dead.  If He did not then there is certainly a lot of people who are to be “most to be pitied”, as Paul said..  I do   believe in the testimony of these eyewitnesses, but there is still so much more evidence to show in the lessons ahead. He has risen. He has risen indeed!

 

 

All Things New (“Follow Me”) #4

FollowingJesusPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church:  All Things New Series #4 (“Follow Me”)                Hear this message: Download our App in the App Store: Search the Gathering Connect

Catching Nothing John 21:1-7a, Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-11, 2 Corinthians 5:17– 20a 

After Jesus resurrected He appeared multiple times to many different people.  John, in his gospel, speaks to four of these appearances (John 20:14-16, 19, 26, 21:1), but in looking at all of the gospel accounts we discover many more.  We will look at all of these appearances in our upcoming series: Evidence For The Resurrection. 

Before the ascension of Christ at the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, the eleven disciples went back to Galilee ( about 70 miles north of Jerusalem) for a period of time.  Then Peter and six other disciples had an encounter with Jesus while they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee.   

The Sea of Galilee has been known by a number of names (Sea of Tiberius, Buḥayrat, Ṭabarīyā, Lake of Gennesaret to name a few) depending on what people ruled the area at the time. When Jesus carried out his ministry on the shores of the freshwater lake, it is likely he would have called by its Hebrew name, “Kinneret” or “The Sea of Chinnereth.” The name “Chinnereth” appears in the Old Testament in Numbers 34:11, Joshua 13:27 and Joshua 19:35, but the exact origin of that name is not known. 

To go from Jerusalem to Galilee took three days of travel, if you went through Samaria. If you went around Samaria (through Perea) two additional days would be required. The Jews and the Samaritans got along as well as the Jews and the Arabs do today.  Most Jews would take the extra days on the journey. 

It is worthy to note that all seven of the disciples on that fishing trip were fishermen before following Christ, so in essence all of them had decided to go back to business as usual after Jesus had resurrected.  It is humorous to read “that night they caught nothing.” The disciples had obviously forgotten that Jesus had called them to be “fishers of men” (Mark 1:16-20). Jesus reminds them all of that fact when He called out to them from the shore: “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”  Although they didn’t recognize Him, likely because of distance and not expecting to see Him, the “lights” went on in John’s mind when they followed His direction to throw their nets on the right side of the boat and were unable to haul them in because of the large number of fish (John 21:5-6).  With that John cried out “It is the Lord!” Jesus had repeated the miracle of their first calling which had once astonished Peter, James, and John (Luke  5:1-11) and caused them to “leave everything and follow Him”.  We too need to be reminded that once we follow Jesus we can no longer just go about “business as usual” or we will “catch nothing” (that is worthwhile for the kingdom).   We have become “new creations” and like the disciples have been called to be “fishers of men”—”ambassadors of Christ!”  God chooses to make His appeal through us to reconcile the lost to Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-20a).

“New”, we all love it don’t we?  New clothes, new shoes, new  home, new car… no   wonder “new car smell is the favorite scent offered at car washes and detail shops.  What about new life?  Only Jesus Christ offers that.  Only He can make all things new and there is no imitation of His real deal.  He said; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus brings newness to everything He touches.  Do we love Him for this new life He brings? Jesus said, “If you love me then keep my commands” (John 14:15).  We are not to just be “fishing” for earthly things but to be living out the Lord’s prayer: His kingdom come, “His will be done on earth as it is in heaven”— not ours! (Matthew 6:9-13).  We must also remember that it is only by His power and direction that we can accomplish this call.  “Apart from Him we can “catch      nothing”—”do nothing” (John 15:5), but in Him we “can do all things”! (Philippians 4:13).  Christian: are you trying to go about business as usual and catching nothing? Follow Jesus and be kingdom minded. 

Jumping In John 21:7b-14, Matthew 16:24-27, Psalm 34:8, Revelation 21:5

As soon as Peter heard John say “it is the Lord”, he put on his outer garment, jumped into the water and swam to the Lord.  Culturally speaking, it was is not strange that Peter was fishing half naked in his underwear or that he quickly wrapped himself to respectfully meet the Lord.  What is strange is that John makes note of it.  At first glance we might be impressed that Peter’s joy was so great that he jumped into the water and swam to Jesus, but there is a deeper reason that John included this detail in his gospel account.

Impetuous  (acting quickly without thought or care) Peter was at it again! He was “right” and ready to get back to following Jesus, yet he still didn’t really understand what it meant to follow Him.  Do we?  Jesus, in not so many words, explained to Peter what “following Him” is about: “Oh, Peter,” Jesus might have said, “you are so quick to dress yourself and plunge headlong into the task. That’s what we are like when we’re young, is it not? But the time will come when another will dress you and take you where you do not want to go. You won’t be getting dressed and jumping in so quickly then!” (Peter was eventually crucified upside down in Rome). This is core of the message that Jesus spoke, “You rush to meet me, but you must realize by now that following me is the way of the cross?”  Jesus made this point clear when He asked Peter three  excruciating times  “do you love me?” (reminding Peter of the three times he denied knowing Christ: John 18:15-18, 25-27). Finally Peter gets a reality check and says: “You know all things” (“my self-centered ways); “you know (in spite of myself) that I love you.” 

Jesus response to Peter’s three fold confessions of love is “then feed my lambs”, “take care of my sheep”, and “feed my sheep”. In essence Jesus said to Peter: “stop acting quickly without thought or care and be about the business of my kingdom and not your own… be a fisher of men! (capture the lost and make them into disciples) “Follow me!” 

Impetuous Peter jumps ahead of his senses one last time and blurts out: “what about John?” (John 21:20-21). Following Jesus is less about what we want and what others are doing and more about where the way of the Cross takes us.  “Follow me” said Jesus.  These words take us to a cross (where we willfully give up our lives to follow Christ) , but that cross brings resurrection! He makes all things new!  Following Jesus is not a garment that we tie about ourselves lightly. So don’t jump in too quickly as Peter so often did, but count the cost (Matthew 16:24-27). If you will, then you shall see as Peter did, that business as usual is an unacceptable proposal to one who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalms 34:8).  His reward far outweighs any cross that we may bear.  Follow…He makes all things new!  (Revelation 21:5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Things New #3 (“Born Again”)

JesusResurrection2Pastor Barry/ The Gathering Church: All Things New Series #3 “Born Again” Easter Sunday

Dark Friday  John 19:38-42, John 3:1-3, 16-18

Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man (Matthew 27:57). The source of his wealth is unknown, but we know from scripture that he was “good and upright” (Luke 23:50), but then Joseph was a part of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:51)— that group of elite Jewish religious leaders who called for Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, but Joseph was opposed to the Council’s decision to arrest Jesus and was in fact a secret disciple of His. (Mark 15:43). Joseph of Armathea was once ashamed of following Jesus, but no longer! 

Nicodemus was an influential man, a Pharisee (religious leader) and also a member of the Sanhedrin (Surely another vote against Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, but the Bible doesn’t say so). Nicodemus made an appointment at one time with Jesus after dark so that he would not be seen by his peers and the public (John 3:1-2). We later read that Nicodemus stood “halfway up” for Jesus among his peers (John 7:45-52) sometime after that encounter with Him.  By that time he may have also been a “secret disciple” like Joseph.  Nicodemus was also once ashamed of following Jesus, but no longer! 

On the morning of that dark Friday Jesus carried His cross to Golgotha, that hill the people called the place of the skull where so many had been crucified before.  Those were thieves, murderers, and those who had broken Roman laws, but not Jesus.    Pilate, the governor of Rome himself, proclaimed “I find no  basis for a charge against him” (John 19:6).  The Jewish leaders could find no charge against Jesus either.  Their cry to crucify Him arose from the fact that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (John 5:18, 18:23)…and He was and is… say His disciples!  Are you one of them? 

Jesus was nailed to a cross and lifted up so that everyone could see Him and mock Him.  In fact He is still being mocked by many today— so many who believe in Him, like Joseph of Armathea and Nicodemus, are also “secret disciples” for fear of what others may think, say or do.  Are you a “secret disciple” of Jesus?  Do you stand up for Him everywhere you go or are you like His disciples who “deserted Him and fled” when He was arrested  (Mark 14:50)?      

Jesus, an innocent Lamb, hung on that cross for six excruciating hours, in the last three “darkness came over the whole land” (Mark 15:33). Darkness always comes without Christ.  Are you in darkness today? His disciple John was there at the cross with Mary.  Did John remember the Passover dinner he had just shared with Jesus and the other disciples?  Did he remember what Jesus said as He offered the third cup of redemption at the table?: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  Did he remember what John the Baptist had called Jesus on the banks of the Jordan?: “Behold the ‘Lamb of God’ who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29,35)?  Jesus, the willing sacrifice for our sin.  Jesus, our Passover Lamb.  And the prophet Isaiah said of Him:   

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before         its shearers is silent,  he opened not his mouth”.  Isaiah 53:7 

Were the “secret disciples”, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus at the          crucifixion?  The Bible doesn’t say.  Other members of the Sanhedrin were likely there…mocking. Were the “secret disciples” there standing in shocked silence? How do we respond when co-workers, friends or family mock Christ or use His name in vain…do we use His name in vain? 

If Nicodemus was at that crucifixion was he thinking about the incognito         conversation he had with Jesus when the Christ said: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”(John 3:3)?  Are you “Born Again?”  Did Nicodemus remember that Jesus said “the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15)?  How quickly do we forget that “God so loved the world” that He sent Jesus to save it , but without Jesus we are condemned (John 3:16-18).  Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)?  Did the “secret disciples” finally realize, on that dark Friday, that in the end all die… and there is only one who can raise us up?  Do you realize that? 

All Things New John 19:38-42, Matthew 10:32-33,

After the death of Christ all appeared to be lost, but we see something new! We always see new life in Christ (Revelation 21:5). We see the results of being “born again” in two men. We no longer see two “secret disciples” in Joseph and     Nicodemus. We see strength and resolve. Joseph goes boldly to Pilate and asks for the body of Christ. He could have been sentenced to death himself for such an act!  Nicodemus and Joseph spend a great deal of money and time lovingly wrapping the body of Jesus and laying Him in Joseph’s own tomb.  He gave Christ his tomb and Christ gives resurrection. This fulfilled a 700 year old prophecy by Isaiah which says: He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.  Isaiah 53:9 

Certainly Joseph and Nicodemus were thrown out of the Sanhedrin and lost their positions of respect and authority in Jerusalem, but they would move on as true disciples of Christ who said: “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven… (Matthew 10:32-33). 

Believe! Matthew 28:1-10, John 11:25-26

Whatever became of Joseph and Nicodemus we do not know for sure, the Bible doesn’t say.  Much has been made of them in legend, proclaiming them both to be active missionaries of the gospel, but two things are sure. They were greatly  rewarded for their faith only three days later when Jesus raised up from the dead (Matthew 28:1-10). We who believe also know that they are with Christ for He has said: “I am the resurrection and the life… ” (John 11:25-26).  At that time Jesus asked Mary if she believedLater He would tell Thomas to believe (John 20:24-31).  Now it is your turn… all that is written is so that you too will believe and that by believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30-31). Do you    believe?  If you do then live it out, shout it out!  No secret disciples.  He Lives!