Good Morning! Welcome to Hope City! Happy Easter Everyone!!! Man it is good to be together. We’ve got some great things in store for today. Because today we want to celebrate Easter and what that means for each and every one of us.
But Easter is one of those days where in order to get to the great moments of Easter, we had to walk through some of the dark moments. Here at Hope City on Easter we are celebrating the fact that Jesus Rose from the dead after being hung on a cross to die as common criminals did. In order to help us better understand Easter I thought we would look at some of the last words of Jesus.
But this week, I was wondering, “We know what Jesus’ last words were, I wonder what mine would be.” Too morbid for you?
I’m pretty sure that mine would be after some home repair job, standing on top of the ladder changing a chandelier or something, it would be “Whoops!” or “Did I turn the Power Off?”
Actually there was a moment when I was 26 when I thought it was absolutely “curtains for me”. You’ve heard that phrase before right? “It’s Curtains for you”? It is a theatrical term, to imply that your character was going to be killed off, snuffed out, or murdered. Which describes nearly every character on the Black List.
Well, my wife Tiffany, who is an amazing mom to our 3 kids… was in the thick of dealing with a sick child. It was my daughter Gracie, and she was almost two. Well, one week, Gracie got horribly sick. She had the ROTO VIRUS and was unable to hold in her food. It was coming out both ends. She was so little, and so sick. It was the saddest thing to walk into her room and find your precious child laying in her own filth and vomit. We had to bring her to the hospital 2 times because she was so dehydrated. My wife Tiffany cared for Gracie for what seemed like an eternity. You moms know what that’s like… It’s exhausting! Right? That’s what I’m told at least… well Tiffany was exhausted and she walks in to the bathroom after having just cleaned up Gracie’s bed to find me laying on the floor rolling in agony. It got me. And It GOT ME GOOD!
I can distinctly remember looking up at her through squinted eyes saying, “I don’t think I’m going to make it. I think I’m going to die. I need to go to the hospital.” She looked at me with compassion in her eyes and said, “Get back in bed! PULL IT TOGETHER” Here I was with a tummy pain crying I was going to die, and my poor wife had just been dealing with a real sick baby… I was just imitating one. But it felt like it was Curtains for me. Like it was over. I was done for.
But I know that my pain is minor in comparison to what is going on around the world. Pain is real. Suffering is real.
I know some of you in this room feel the pain of abandonment- maybe by a spouse, by a parent, or by a best friend, or by a company that you’ve given the best years of your life to. One day, they walk in and use words like Downsizing, Divorce, or Drama & you’re DONE. Curtains!!!
While others of you feel Hurt—or abused, in lots of different ways, and forms. Some of you have been verbally abused and you just shake that voice that is telling you how you aren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or satisfying enough. You still hear this voice playing over and over and over.
And some of you are in Physical Pain—Your body is racked with pain beyond your control. Yet others are self-inflicting their pain, whether that is by chasing after the next high, drinking the next bottle, bringing the next fling into your bed, or maybe even physically harming yourself.
Have you ever questioned God in the midst of your pain? Saying something like: GOD WHY?? Has life left you feeling so hurt and hung over that you just feel empty?
Life hits us where it hurts and when it hurts. Jesus faced it head on. In fact, we are going to look at one of the last words that Jesus said here on earth. And He spoke these words while He hung on the cross in the midst of incredible pain.
Turn in your bibles, or click over in your bible app to the book of Matthew 27… We’ve printed this on the backside of your notes as well. Matthew was one of the disciples that followed Jesus and he is writing this down so that you and I can see a picture of what it looks like to be in pain. The Jewish Religious leaders accused Jesus of being a liar, a political activist who was leading a rebellion to overthrow everything they had worked to establish, and they crucified Him for it. Let’s look at what Jesus said while hanging on that cross…
45From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabach thani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Jesus is hanging on a cross, with nails pierced through his hands, and feet, and what does he say? GOD WHY?? (curtain) This is one of the most haunting questions of all the gospels.
Does Jesus not know the answer? Does He not understand cognitively what is taking place with His physical torture and execution? No! Of course, He does. He is fully God, fully divine; meaning, cognitively He knew everything. Yet, He was also fully human, meaning emotionally He experienced everything as well. Jesus never lost His divinity, nor did He lose his humanity. Every emotion was ripping through the fibers of His body as He hung on that cross.
Have you ever asked a question when you full well know the answer? Maybe it was the day you lost your job. You scream, GOD WHY?! But cognitively you know why it happened. It happened because your company was downsizing due to profit loss. It only makes sense. But try telling your emotions that something makes sense. Something making sense just isn’t good enough. God Why?? (Curtain)
A few years ago I got a call I’ll never forget. My youngest sister was in labor after only 22 weeks. “She’s being rushed to the hospital right now” they said. “You need to pray. Just PRAY.” My nephew Will was born a few hours later weighing 16 ounces. His hands and fingers were perfect. His features were beautiful and right. He looked perfectly healthy, and yet his inside was a mess.
18 hours later, my sister and her husband had to withdrawal life support and say goodbye to their precious baby boy.
Cognitively I knew what was going on. At 22 weeks, there is a very low percentage that Will was going to make it. I understood that. I understood that His lungs were not fully developed and that his brain could be subject to bleeding. My mind knew what was going on but my heart was feeling something totally different!
And some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Your mind knows one thing, but your heart feels something entirely different.
In Mark 14:34-36 we get a picture of what Jesus was feeling even before going to the cross. In the garden of gethsemane Jesus was with His disciples and He says,
34“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death;” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” 35Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him.
36“Abba! Father!” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.”
It wasn’t the Splinters of the Cross that made Jesus cry out, it was the tearing of His Soul. It was the relational pain! Jesus is the Son of God who has been in an eternal relationship with God the Father. Yet here on the cross for the FIRST TIME, there is a separation between Father and Son, between God & Jesus. GOD WHY?? I didn’t really know my nephew Will, and I went through that pain. Try imagining a son wrenched from His Father’s arms, the ancient of days being ripped away. It was on the cross when Jesus was separated for the first time from His Father.
We tend to focus on the physical pain of the cross. The pain of the nails, the whipping, and the blood being poured out—But this is a cry of deep emotional heart ache. This is a tearing of the relationship between a son and a father, who up until this point in time had lived in perfect relational harmony. Our sin, the things we do our way rather than God’s way, was placed on the shoulders of Jesus and it separated Him from God’s presence. (Curtain)
This is what Sin does. It separates us from God. And Jesus took this upon himself. He became sin who knew no sin , he was cast from the presence of God. Anytime we look at Jesus on the cross, we should see our sin there with Him. We are who put Jesus on the cross our sin did that. And it was our Sin that tore Him from His Dad’s side. (Curtain)
In the Old Testament, God’s presence was found in the temple. (Flip on Light) This was their church, they were the first portable church! They would set up the tent of the temple, and in the inner court, in the center of the temple was a place called the holy of holies. This was where the presence of God resided. But there was one problem. Sin had separated people from being able to be in the presence of God. So inside the temple, there was a curtain that kept people from being in the presence of God. And only the high priest was allowed to enter into the holy of holies, the place where God’s presence was, once a year. [GO BEHIND THE CURTAIN] Only one person was able to go behind the curtain and into God’s presence. Only one person, one time of the year, got to be in the presence of God. And it certainly is not you. And it wasn’t you either. But even then they had to ritually purify themselves, meaning they had to wash their head, their hands, their heart, and their feet before entering into God’s presence. Walls were up!
King David writes Psalm 51:11 in the midst of his pain and suffering after his sin with Bathsheba,
Do not cast me away from your presence
What happens when you feel like God has abandoned you? What happens when you feel like God’s presence has been cut off? (curtain) What do you do when you don’t hear God’s voice anymore, or you don’t feel God’s presence? How do you peel back the curtain?
Typically people go to 3 possible places.
We Turn Inward. If you’re taking notes this morning, the first place we go is inward with their pain. People begin to look inside of themselves and wonder what is wrong with them! They ask, God Why?? It’s an age-old question. When Jesus hung on the cross, Jesus says those exact words.
On the cross Jesus gives us permission to question pain. It’s okay to ask God Why?? When I was laying on the floor clutching my stomach those few years ago, everything inside of me was wondering, “What did I eat?”, or more importantly “My God, why did I go to Taco Bell?” Pain leads us to deep inner thoughts. It can cause us to doubt, and to withdraw. The problem comes when we stay inward and we focus on these doubts and questions that our pain has caused. We begin to self-medicate, binging on Buffalo Wings & Blue Cheese, or shopping our pain away, or watching porn to escape our current reality.
God Why?? Will you ever answer my question?
When my nephew Will passed away it shook me. It made me angry with God, it made me angry with myself. I cried for the nephew that I wouldn’t get to meet on this side of eternity. The night that Will was born I prayed in a way that I rarely pray. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve prayed this way ever before. My response was visceral. It was aggressive. I was begging God. I was reminding God of who He was, and what He could do. And yet God seemed silent. (Curtain)
We have to move beyond this, because this will never move the curtain. Because just asking the question WHY will never lead us to the presence of God.
A second option is that We Turn outward. We can turn to the people that are around us for support and help. But at times this can also leave us wishing for more. Look back to the scene of the cross to see people’s response to Jesus.
47When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” (because what did Jesus say? Eli Eli Lama Sabach Thani… it sounds like Eli…) 48Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
People respond to Pain in funny ways.
Sometimes people try to interpret the situation. In Jesus case, they said, “He must be calling for Elijah.” But when it comes to you they say, “You know, if you stopped smoking or drinking, God would heal you.” People use if statements to interpret what is wrong with you. If you… God would… That just isn’t the case.
Or sometimes people try simple fixes. Again, Jesus cries out God Why?! And people say, “Oh, He must be thirsty. Get a sponge… You want a drink Jesus?” Do you know what they offered Jesus? WINE VINEGAR. Which is a mild sedative; it numbs the pain… He’s suffering. Oh, go pop a pill or drink till it doesn’t hurt anymore.
People say stupid things to those in pain. Like, here’s one, have you ever heard something like this one? “What do you think God is trying to teach you through the loss of your nephew?” Gee, I don’t know, what do you think God is trying to teach you through my fist?
Those statements leave you saying, GOD WHY?? Why do I feel this way. It just reaffirms what you already knew… The Curtain is Shut. You feel cut off from God, and cut off from others.
Or people simply spectate. People were standing around watching Jesus’ pain. Let’s see how this plays out. Let’s see if Elijah shows up. It’s what happens when people say, “Did you hear about her husband’s affair? Yeah, it’s terrible. I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do.” People watching isn’t a remedy for those in pain.
When our symptoms get so bad, and the pain is overwhelming you get to the point where you have to seek help.
Or you can even look outward for help from people like Counselors, Life Coaches, or even the church. As a pastor, we are here to help you! Our team is here to pray with you. And our Connect Groups are here to walk alongside of you through the challenges of life.
These things can be good. In fact, they can be great… But at the end of the day we’re simply other fragile human beings. And they can leave you looking for something else.
Several years ago, a man stumbled into my Dad’s office. My dad was a Pastor for nearly 30 years. This man introduced himself as Dr. Mike; one of the leading Pain Management Doctor’s in the country. People from all over the country would fly to seek this man’s help in dealing with their pain… Their chronic back pain, or their terminal disease. After a very brief conversation my dad looked across the desk at a man who he had never met before, and there were tears streaming down this man’s face. After a little bit of prompting, Dr. Mike came out and said that just a few days ago, he came home from work and found his wife lying dead on the floor having overdosed on pain meds. She had tried to self-medicate her inner pain. And he had no idea how to handle this soul pain. Dr. Mike said, I’m a pain management expert, the best in my class, and I have no idea what to do with this kind of pain.
And this is where we find ourselves this morning. See God has not been silent on the issue of pain and abandonment. In fact, Easter is God’s response to humanity’s deepest pain. One of Jesus’ final statements lays a framework for how we understand and experience pain. Jesus says, My God, God, WHY? And instead of looking inward, or outward, Jesus looks UPWARD!
Even the son of God looked upward. Look with me at the rest of the story.
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit.
Jesus gave up His spirit. In this moment Jesus put all of his pain, all of his hurt, and all of his anguish in the hands of God the Father and said, “I trust you. I give you my spirit.” I give you my pain.
Here was Jesus suffering what history has called the most excruciatingly painful way to die. He hung on the cross suffering unjustly, and he cries out GOD WHY?! Yet He still trusts the Father. He says, “I’ve been torn & judged & tortured by this cruel & sinful world… But Father, Daddy…. I STILL TRUST YOU!
If anyone of you says, oh Peter you have no idea what I’m going through or what it feels like. You’re right. Why are you in pain?
I don’t know.
But I do know that God knows what pain is. Jesus understands what Pain is. He went through it. He endured the cross. He experienced tremendous pain. He knows it all too well.
But God didn’t stop there. That wasn’t good enough. Because it is never good enough to have someone just say, I know how you feel and pat you on the back and tell you to keep going. No God went even further than that.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.
God Why?? Why are you in pain?
I don’t know. But I do know that God abandoned His Son Jesus on the cross in His pain, so that He won’t have to abandon you in yours. God sent Jesus to the cross so that you won’t have to go there. See, God has not left us without hope. Because in that moment the temple curtain was torn the curtain separating God’s presence from His people was DESTROYED. (TEAR CURTAIN) Now everyone is able to be in His presence.
God knew it wasn’t good enough to just say, “I know how you feel.” In this moment God said, “I will be with you AS you FEEL.” God is saying I will walk with you in the hospital room. I’ll be with you during your screening. I will walk with you through your divorce. I will be with you as you pack your office for the last time. I will walk with you through your abandonment. You will never be alone in your pain.
And unlike the priests who would enter into God’s presence, there is nothing that you have to do to be there. You don’t have to clean yourself up, you don’t have to dress a certain way. IN fact, you don’t even need to go anywhere. On the cross, God tore the divide. He broke the separation. God didn’t abandon His son so that you won’t face pain, NO! He abandoned His son so that you won’t face pain alone. On the cross the Son was TORN from His father. So that the Curtain separating you from God the Father could be TORN.
God may never take away your pain, but he will never take away His presence either.
I know that this is where some of you came in today. You thought you were here for an Egg Drop, with a helicopter, but I believe that today God has something for you.
C.S. Lewis has said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” In pain we learn what we would never see in comfort. All of our senses are heightened. The question is, will you use that heighten sensitivity to turn inward, or upward?
Here at Hope City we are #For Sarasota. We are #ForSarasota because we believe that God is #Forsarasota. And Here in Sarasota, we have recognized that there is a group of people who wake up every day and wonder if God has forgotten about them… In our county there are 1,600 foster care children. Kids who wonder Why has this happened to me? Why am I moved from house to house… place to place…
Has God forgotten about me?
At Hope City we want to do something about that. This Easter we are partnering with The Twig, which is a Non-Profit organization that exists to “Encourage and Inspire the lives of Children in Foster Care”. Here’s how they do that. Every month, Foster Kids are able to come and shop free of charge in their boutique. They’re given a bag and sent to pick out 7 items of their choosing for free! In addition to that every child gets a bag of new socks and a bag of new underwear.
What kind of a difference will this make you ask? Well, did you know that every day 2 children are added to the Foster Care System? And That 50% of foster care children won’t graduate high school, and 25% of them will end up homeless by the time they are 22. And we want to do something about this.
I went to visit The Twig and asked them what their greatest need was… and they said socks and underwear. In fact, I took this picture during my visit. You’ll notice that the bins are completely empty.
What if this year we did something about this? God tore the wall that separated us from Him. And we want to do everything we can to make sure that this often overlooked group of people know that they are cared for by God and by us! This isn’t just a good thing. We believe that this is a GOD THING!
In fact, today we want to give every single family in the room a Bag of Hope! Raise your hand, one person from your family… Attached to the bag is an instruction tag of what to do. We’re asking you to bring this home, go buy new socks and underwear and bring this bag back next week! Let’s be #ForSarasota Together.
Some of you woke up this morning asking GOD WHY?? You may feel stuck in your pain. BUT Easter is a day when we celebrate that God tore the curtain that separated us from Him… Easter is the day when we are reassured of our Hope! Jesus came back to life, defeating death and sin, so that you and I could have Hope! I wonder what could God breathe new life into in your life today?
On Easter Sunday, the disciples woke up and everything seemed like they were going to be stuck in the pain from Friday. But God had a different idea. They expected to see a cold lifeless body of Christ laying in a tomb. But on one of the darkest days in History, God’s light was the brightest.
On Easter Sunday we know that because of Jesus, we have life. Because Jesus lives, you can see new life! Even the darkest place in your life can be brought to light. The most painful situation can be endured because you aren’t alone. Because Jesus lives we have HOPE!