The Easter Experience- Day 6

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STATEMENT SEVEN

Brandon Bachtel, Lead Pastor

Christ’s final proclamation from the Cross is extremely significant.  Just prior, Jesus exclaimed loudly with a triumphant voice, “It is finished!”  Those words indicated that the end of His life drew near, while the beginning of a new life was available to all who would look to Him for salvation and transformation.  Yet, when He spoke this final statement is was also significant “And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46).

One of the most complex deaths in the history of mankind has been examined right before our eyes.  We see a group of zealous, yet wicked men lead people towards crucifying a perfect savior.  We see Jesus beaten, mocked, and rejected, yet Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief”.  In one sense it looks like Jesus was murdered by wicked men, on the other it seemed like His Father sent Him to the Cross.  Then you recall the words of Jesus when He claims that no one could take His life, but that He willingly laid it down. (John 10:17-18) This perplexing examination of Jesus’ death and last words are a triumphal display from God to remind us that He has always had a plan to redeem humanity and our sin problem.  

As a matter of fact, it should also remind us that Jesus was always in total control.  Though He laid His life down for His friends, he always maintained His sovereign will, even until the very end.  In Jesus’ humanity, He suffered an agonizing and brutal death.  However, in Jesus’ deity, everything we see in the final days and hours happened just as He said it would.  As “He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30), Jesus took His final breath in submission.  He calmly, yet magnificently displayed His humble, yet sovereign nature to the very end.  Though He quietly left this earth, He shook the earth in what He accomplished.  Wicked pharisees were not in control.  Roman soldiers were not the victors.  Satan DID NOT WIN!  

1 Corinthians 15, 54-56 says, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As few looked on Jesus, a man of no comely appearance (Isaiah 53:2) as He hung lifeless on the Cross, the greatest moment in the history of mankind had taken place before their eyes.  In just a few short days, Jesus would shatter death and the grave.  His quiet moment of death will demolish sin, death, the grave, and be proclaimed loudly through a resurrection that brings life to all who look to Him.

1.  Have you ever thought about the complexity of Jesus’ death?  Take a few moments and ponder that the God of the universe allowed wicked men to brutally beat and kill Jesus to fulfill His plan perfectly.

2. Jesus died quietly and humbly, yet He arouse in splendor a few days later.  What is your favorite benefit of knowing the resurrection story?

The Easter Experience-Day 5

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STATEMENT FIVE

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

John’s narrative of the crucifixion, like everything else, stylistically in his book, takes a different tone than the Synoptic Gospels and, being an eyewitness, he adds some statements not found in the other books. John, standing at the foot of the cross saw firsthand the agony his Lord suffered, as the wrath of God and the sin of the world bore down on him.

Jesus had been on the cross for close to 6 hours at this time. Dehydrated, unable to catch a breath without pushing up from the nails in his feet, causing immense pain…in agony. He uses his request for something to moisten his parched lips to point the bystanders, and us, to a pivotal event in the Old Testament.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. (John 19:28-29)

Throughout his book, John loves details, but why note the type of branch used? What is the significance of a stick used to hold a sponge full of vinegar?

Remember the story of the Passover in the 12th chapter of Exodus? The children of Israel, called by God to leave Egypt under the leadership of Moses, prepared for the Angel of Death to visit the land this way:

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.

So John, very aware of his Jewish history, is saying “Israel, here is your true passover lamb.” He echoes the words of John the Baptist, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” A spotless lamb sacrificed to temporarily save people from death in Egypt points directly to God’s spotless lamb sacrificed to save his people eternally at Calvary.

A hyssop branch is used to avoid death in the first Passover and used in the defeat of death in the final one.

1. How about you? What do you thirst for this week? Is it more of God, more time in His word, more time talking with him as you go about your routines in life? Or do you thirst for the things this world offers us? Temporary pleasures, fleeting things that dull our senses to the things above; things that, in the end, keep us from having the abundant life God wants for us.

2. The woman at the well in John, Chapter 4, came to draw water for her daily sustenance, and ended up with a living water from the source of all life, Jesus. Will you join me in taking a moment to pray that we all look past the day to day, focus on the eternal and see things, and, more importantly, see people from a heavenly perspective this week?

The Easter Experience-Day 4

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STATEMENT FOUR

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

Probably the most misunderstood phrase that Jesus uttered on the cross is found in Matthew 27:45-49

“And about the ninth hour (noon) Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”

There is an unfathomable mystery overshadowing this text. Jesus was both God and man united in one divine Person. His deity could not suffer and die, but his humanity could, and in this instance, it suffered the agony of separation from the Father. And He died, that we might, through repentance from sin and faith in Him as our Savior and Lord, be forgiven of our sin and reconciled with God.

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray…and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

But God the Father, with the sins of the world, past, present and future laid upon His son, had to turn away, because sin cannot be in His divine presence. Jesus not only bore man’s sin but actually became sin on man’s behalf, in order that those who believe in Him might be saved from the penalty of our sin.

Habakkuk 1:13 declared of God, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong.” God turned His back when Jesus was on the cross because He could not look upon sin, even, or perhaps especially, in His own Son. Just as Jesus loudly lamented, God the Father had indeed forsaken Him.

But, as He Himself declared, the supreme reason for His coming to earth was not to teach or to be an example but “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus, as we will see again tomorrow, chose his words carefully despite his pain. The phrase “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” is also the first verse of Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

Psalm 22, written by King David, is prophetic in reference to the suffering that the Messiah would endure on the cross:

I am poured out like water,

    and all my bones are out of joint;

my heart is like wax;

    it is melted within my breast;

 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,

    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

    you lay me in the dust of death.

 For dogs encompass me;

    a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and feet—

 I can count all my bones—

they stare and gloat over me;

they divide my garments among them,

    and for my clothing they cast lots.

So King David, over 1000 years before Jesus was born, is describing what eerily sounds like a crucifixion, at least 300 years before the Assyrians and Persians began the practice. David’s prophetic Psalm, known very well to the Jews at Golgotha, is being carried out in front of their eyes, yet they are unable to see it, even as Jesus points them to the scripture. He says “You were looking for a conquering King, but I came as a servant. But look at Psalm 22, this was all prophesied and fore-ordained by God to bring about the forgiveness that can only be found in the Messiah.”

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10

  1. We look back at the Jewish people of that era, adhering reverently to the customs and traditions set forth in the Old Testament, with wonder that they could miss the Messiah living (and ultimately dying) before their very eyes. But how often do we, as believers, see the handiwork of God playing out in front of us, and choose not to follow His leading? Where do you see God working, and how can you join in that work?
  2. Who in your circle of influence can you share the Good News of Jesus with today? Could you invite a friend to one of our four Easter Services this weekend?

The Easter Experience-Day 3

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STATEMENT THREE

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

In Luke 1, we see the story of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary in Nazareth to tell her that she would give birth to the Messiah, the one God would send to save His people from their sins.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

After the angel explains everything, how she would conceive the child miraculously through the Holy Spirit, Mary answers, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Some thirty three years later, at Golgotha, outside Jerusalem, standing at the foot of the cross, her son being crucified before her eyes, the full weight of her answer is realized.

Jesus’ third statement on the cross, “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother,” spoken to Mary and the disciple John, commits his beloved disciple to his mother’s care, and his mom to that disciple’s care. In some of his last moments on earth, in unfathomable agony, Jesus is concerned, not with his own condition, but with his mission and the welfare of those he is leaving behind.

Matthew Henry notes that Jesus calls her ‘woman,’ not mother, not out of any disrespect to her, but because calling her ‘mother’ would have only added to her already overwhelming grief. He directs her to look at John as her son: “Behold him as thy son, who stands there by you, and be as a mother to him.”

Henry goes on to say, “This was an honor put upon John, and a testimony both to his prudence and to his fidelity. If He who knows all things had not known that John loved Him, He would not have made him Mary’s guardian. It is a great honor to be employed for Christ and to be entrusted with any of His interest in the world.”

We as believers, have also been entrusted with a great honor from the Lord…the responsibility of sharing our faith with a lost and unbelieving world. It is not too late to invite someone to join you this Sunday for one of our Easter services. A simple text or phone call could be all the encouragement that someone needs to be shown the love of God, the care of His people and hear His saving word preached in simple terms, maybe for the first time ever.

Won’t you share the joy of your salvation with a friend today?

  1. Do you see yourself as entrusted by the Lord with a unique story of redemption? Or does the ‘eternal gravity’ of spiritual conversations keep you silent? Remember that we don’t ‘save’ people. Our job is to plant seeds, God is the gardener who makes spiritual conversion and growth happen. (Matthew 13:1-9; John 15:1-11)
  2. Who is the Lord leading you to have a faith conversation with today?

The Easter Experience-Day 2

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STATEMENT TWO

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:39-42)

Today, we look at the Jesus’ reply, the second statement he made on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (verse 43)

The compassionate side of me loves this sentence. For one, it shows that a simple acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God got this man into heaven. After arguing with his cohort over Jesus’ innocence, he makes the simple request to Jesus, “remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” acknowledging that Jesus is holy and who he said he was. Jesus, though in great agony, responds with compassion, and offers the man eternal life, despite his sins.

But the part of me that still thinks i have to ‘do something’ to be in God’s good will looks at the thief on the cross, the pattern of sin that had defined his life up until this point and says ‘it shouldn’t be that easy.’ Those of us who grew up in church, and led relatively moral lives (at least on the outside) sort of despise the fact that this guy ‘slid in under the wire’ and that his ‘deathbed confessional’ was enough to get him into heaven.

But that’s the God we serve. His rules. His way.

Those of us who are irritated at the ease with which this man ‘slips in’ are, much like the Pharisees, saying ‘we keep (part of) the Law, so God should love us more than some wretched sinner’ We fail to see that any sin, any failure, any leaven in the bread is an abomination to a holy God.

Isaiah 64:6 says “We have all become like one who is unclean,

    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”

Our ‘good enough’ is good for nothing—it is only through the sacrifice of the Son that we can be reconciled to God.

So, let’s celebrate the thief on the cross today, church…his realization that Jesus is who he said he is and that faith alone through God’s grace alone is what allows all of us into Paradise.

  1. Do you struggle with a ‘works-based’ salvation? Does your human mind find the idea ‘too simplistic’ that it’s by grace through faith alone that someone can be saved, and still feel that you have to ‘do something’ to earn your salvation? (Romans 10:9 and Ephesians 2:9 both put that idea to rest.)
  1. Is there someone in your life, who, much like the thief on the cross, has been written off by society, or worse, by the Christian community? How can you share the Good News with him that Jesus died for both the righteous and the unrighteous? (1 Peter 3:18)

The Easter Experience-Day 1

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INTRODUCTION

The crucifixion was and is known as one of the most heinous acts of death a person could face.  Due to the physical agony of the crucifixion, we know that a person would speak very little. Jesus chose His words wisely, although He only spoke seven simple, yet significant statements. As we prepare our hearts for our Easter Celebration, we will reflect on the seven statements that Jesus uttered from the Cross.

STATEMENT ONE

Brandon Bachtel, Lead Pastor

The crucifixion was known as one of the most heinous acts of punishment a person could face.  Due to the physical agony of the crucifixion, we know that a person would speak very little.  Jesus chose His words wisely, although He only spoke seven simple, yet significant statements.  As we prepare our hearts for our Easter Celebration, we will reflect on the seven statements that Jesus uttered from the Cross.

In the initial moments of Jesus hanging on the cross between two criminals, His beaten, ripped, mangled, and bloody body hung atop soldiers who gambled for His clothes, all the while they spit on Him, hurled insults, and defamed the person and work of God’s eternal Son, Jesus.  Even as this was taking place, the Great High Priest, Jesus began a Priestly prayer:

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)
As Jesus was High and lifted up on the Cross, His transgressors refused to look upon Him for salvation, matter of fact, they seemed to be crucifying Jesus out of sheer ignorance.  Jesus seems to be very clear in indicating that his oppressors did not realize the magnitude of their offense.

1 Corinthians 2:8 says, “None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

All the while, Jesus is fulfilling prophecy and pouring Himself out on the cross for the very people who harmed Him.  In spite of their foolishness, Jesus is bearing the sins of ignorant men.

Isaiah 53:12 says, Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

On that hilltop of Calvary, Jesus offered a prayer aloud for the multitude to hear.  He desired that the criminals he was perched in the middle of, as well as the soldiers who looked on would recognized their sin, so that He could grant them divine forgiveness.  Interestingly enough, Jesus desires the same thing for us.

Romans 5:8 states,  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus endured the agony of the cross for repentant sinners.  He was beaten and killed for criminals, sinners, and zealous, ignorant people.  The catch?  Well, salvation is offered freely to those who seek forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.  Any who look to Christ, High and Lifted Up with find salvation.  Jesus offered hope to the criminals on His right and left.  He offered forgiveness to those who left eternal scars and temporary death.  If Jesus offers eternal life and hope to them in their heinous acts, He can offer a new life and forgiveness for us too.


1.  Read and consider the following verses. (1 John 1:9, Acts 17:30, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

2.  Read Isaiah 53 and consider all the ways that prophecy was fulfilled through Christ and His resurrection.

Easter Sunday on the Prairie

EasterBob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Sometime early on Easter morning it start raining here on the prairie. I got up and got ready to head out on the ole trail to the church meeting place. Today we met at the local high school in Wills Point. On my way, I noticed my friends the cows didn’t seem to mind being out in the rain. They seemed more interested in the nice green grass that has started to grow again. I was asked to help with greeting as I usually am. I call it my “shaking hands and kissing babies time.” Lots of hands to shake today but not any babies to kiss.

The worship time was good as usual and then Pastor Brandon got up to preach. I was expecting to hear a resurrection sermon as one would, on this day. However, I was quite surprised by the course Pastor Brandon took. This sermon seemed to be more appropriate for “Good Friday.” than Easter Sunday. He talked about the trials that Jesus had to under go. As I recall, there were six of them all together. Three were with the Sanhedrin and three were political, the most prominent being with Pilot. Pilot pronounced Jesus innocent of any crimes deserving death right away. But he also wanted to please the people. Pilot decided to follow the custom of releasing a prisoner of choice to the crowd. The call came out “give us Barabbas!!”

Now came the point of the message. Along with Pastor Brandon, I have read these accounts countless times. I can’t remember consciously thinking about it, but the point was made that Jesus and Barabbas actually traded places. Barabbas deserved death because he was guilty. Jesus deserved to go free because He was innocent. Pastor Brandon said he was Barabbas!! He deserved death but instead, because of the sacrifice of Jesus on his behalf, Barabbas went free. Even more amazing to me, so did we, if we are indeed Christians. The mystery of salvation has always amazed me. I cannot fathom, being chosen by God to be His child before the foundation of the world, being forgiven of my sins, being pronounced as righteous even though I am anything but that. It’s doubtful if Barabbas ever thanked Jesus for taking his death sentence upon Himself. Thank you Pastor Brandon for pointing that we are Barabbas in this narrative. I pray we will never take for granted the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross and then proved he had power and authority to forgive us our sins through His resurrection from the dead. He has risen!!! He has risen, indeed!!!