God wants a relationship with all of us, and he has done everything he can to make it simple. But so often, we complicate the simple when we really don’t need to. In this special Easter message, Pastor Ed Young shows us the powerful reality of two short sentences that capture the essence of the Christian faith. And he reveals just how easy understanding God’s purpose and plan for our lives is. It’s all about 1…2…3!
Happy Easter to everybody. I’m sure you’re going, “Man, I love that suit!”
This suit is tailor made. I don’t usually get tailor-made suits. I mean, I could, I just don’t. In fact, this is the first tailor-made suit I’ve worn in my 28 years as being pastor of Fellowship. A friend of mine just gave me this suit. A tailor came by the office, measured me, I picked out the fabric, then he went, made the suit, and I put it on. Tailor made from head to toe. Somebody call somebody, somebody call the fashion police, because look, my name is on the inside. And check out this shirt, it’s also tailor made, he did this for me, too. My initials EBY. Is that sweet? So I’m feeling good. This Easter, I’m tailor made from head to toe.
But having a tailor-made suit is pretty much as easy and one, two, three, especially when it’s free. Step one, they measured me. Step two, they made this suit. Step three, I put it on. One, two, three.
You remember Michael Jackson back in the day? ♪ A, B, C ♪ ♪ It’s easy as one, two, three ♪ One, two, three. One, two, three.
I was thinking about one, two, three, because the subject I’m going to talk about today on this Easter Sunday is entitled, “1…2…3.” Say, one, two, three with me. One, two, three.
I thought about three-word phrases. There’s some powerful three-word phrases out there. One of them is “I love you.” Hopefully you’ve heard that today. Maybe your spouse said, “I love you.” Maybe your child said, “I love you.”
Another one is three-word phrase, “How are you?” How are you?
Now maybe if you’re married, this is a huge three-word phrase you need to recite and memorize, “Baby, you’re right.”
And here’s another one for the married folk, “Sorry, sorry, sorry.” If you say it three times, it means more.
Then, how about this one. “We are pregnant.” That’s the Millennial way to say it. It’s not “I am pregnant,” it’s “We are pregnant.” Powerful words.
And here’s another one, “Don’t post that.”
Try this one on, another powerful three-word statement, “It is finished.” Jesus was hanging between heaven and earth paying for the collective sins of mankind, of your mistakes and mine. He said in John 19:30, “It is finished.”
One, two, three. I’ve got to say that’s probably the most significant statement ever uttered, because it summarized eternity past, present, and future. Jesus said, “It is finished.” Because Jesus said that, I think we need to understand what it means.
We say all the time, “It is what it is.” Have you ever said that? This is the first time it is what it is was ever uttered. Because “it is what it is” is basically saying, “Hey, that’s reality, deal with it. You can either accept it or not.”
Jesus said, “It is finished.” And notice, it was not the cry of a victim or a snowflake, or someone who was soft or a martyr. No! It was the proclamation of our sovereign, singular Savior, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the magnificent one, fully God and fully man. He said, “It is finished. The work has been done, the price has been paid.” Jesus was saying, “I did what was done, and what was done, I did.”
He did everything perfectly, everything with complete righteousness. Now, the Greeks prided themselves in using a couple of words to communicate a lot. It’s almost like hip-hop artists or country music singers or rockers or poets or maybe politicians. They like to really say these pithy phrases, these phrases that mean a lot. Well, the Greeks they were into that long, long ago.
“It is finished” in the original language is pronounced, I’ll teach you a new word, tetelestai. Say it with me, tetelestai. I like that word tetelestai. And those of you who are really into language, tetelestai here is a verb in the third person singular perfect passive indicative.
Now why is that important? Because Jesus did not say “I am finished.” No, no, he said, “It is finished.”
What is it? That’s a pretty good question. What is it? It is finished, it is finished. Well, tetelestai is a word that means paid in full, it means it’s done. Don’t take something away from it, don’t add to it. Tetelestai.
ILLUS: I majored in the fine arts, and I remember when I would paint and stuff back at Florida State University, now and then I would do a painting and my art professor would come up behind me and he would go, “Ed, it’s done. Don’t add to it anymore. You have a tendency to overwork the painting. Stop. Done.”
What was he saying? Tetelestai.
ILLUS: I love animals. Anybody here like animals? I love them, I love them. Well, my son-in-law’s father has this enormous English mastiff, his name is Zeus. And he’s even hinted around about giving us this dog. This dog weighs 251 pounds. A dog. Not an ounce of fat on him. Jet black. He’s gorgeous. Now Lisa and I have had English mastiffs before, and when I saw him in the backyard, he got up out of this crater, he’s dug a crater about the size of this stage. Zeus just pretty much hangs out all day. When he got up, I’m like, “This dog is perfect! He’s the perfect specimen.” I mean, if you Google male English mastiff, I guarantee you, Zeus’s face will pop up. Again, that’s the tone and the tenor of tetelestai. “Wow, look at that.”
So, it’s an artist word. It’s a farmer’s word or a dog breeder’s word, you could say. Done, perfect, awesome. It’s also a real estate word. In the 19th century, I don’t want to go too historical (or hysterical) on you, but in the 19th century, there was an archeological dig and they found all of these real estate papers that had been maintained, because of the heat in the Egyptian desert. And on these real estate papers was stamped the word tetelestai, tetelestai. The deal had been done, the price had been paid.
ILLUS: Lisa and I have been married for 35 years, and we met 40 years ago in church. It’s the best place to meet someone. I mean, if I’m single, I would go to Fellowship Church. What a great place to meet somebody. The church should be a social place. Now, you might be going, “Wait a minute. You met Lisa 40 years ago? I thought you were only 36.” Well, I am, I don’t know how that happened. But we married 35 years ago. I met her about 40 years ago.
Lisa’s very gifted like with building things. Very gifted with real estate. She’s the handyman, not me. Well, she has a real estate company and she does some building. So she decided to flip a house. Now, knowing Lisa, like her dad, the house started out being small. She took it down to the studs. And I’m thinking “Okay, a small, little house.” Oh, no, no, no. Lisa and her friends and coworkers, I mean this house ended up being, to me, big.
Then, “Whoo! The house needs to sell.” I mean, you start feeling the pressure, right? You’re carrying that house. It needs to sell, it needs to sell. After three weeks, someone came in, paid cash money for it, paid in full, tetelestai. Tetelestai.
So this is a rich word, it is finished. It’s done, eternally done. Take nothing away from it, add nothing to it, it is done, it is what it is. So when Jesus said, “It is finished, the price has been paid,” it’s like he wrote “paid in full” over the 39 books of the Old Testament. Every sacrifice, everything in Scripture pointed to Jesus completing the incomplete, everything.
You might be saying, “Well, okay, Ed, it is finished, it is finished, tetelestai, that’s cool. What is finished? I mean, what is done?” I’ll tell you what’s done. The pain of our redemption is finished. The pain of our redemption is finished. Jesus took your pain and mine on his life as he was hanging on the cross. The Roman death squad had no clue, as they were digging the hole to put the cross in the hole; they didn’t know it, but they were digging the foundation of the gospel of God. Jesus suffered, Jesus felt the judgment that you should’ve felt and I should’ve felt.
People all the time, we’re going, “Hey man, don’t judge me, you’re judging him, you’re judging her.”
We have this judgment chip, don’t we? When someone, you know, messes us around, we go, “Oh, they’ve got to pay.” Jesus took that, your judgment and mine upon his life.
Also, we deserve hell. I deserve hell. You may be going, “Well, why?” Because of sin. The Bible says something very, very sobering. It says, the wages of sin, in other words the payment for sin is death. The wages of sin is death. I deserve eternal separation from God because of sin. So, one bad mood, one off day, one sin of omission and commission, I deserve separation from God. God is holy. God is not going to compromise his character, he’s not going to say, “Well, boys will be boys, girls will be girls. Come on in, I grade on a cosmic curve.”
No, no, no, God doesn’t do that. We have a sin problem. So when we sin, listen to me very carefully here; when we sin, it takes us outside the realm of God’s deep relational love and inside the realm of God’s condemning judgment. Whoa!
What did God do? Well, one, two, three. He sent Jesus to die on the cross, one. He was buried, two. He rose again, three. If we will make a faith decision, if we receive Christ and what he did for us on the cross into our lives, now we’re carried into the very presence of God, he treats us like children, because we have appropriated the righteousness of Christ in our lives. So when he sees you and me, he doesn’t see Ed the sinner. He sees, “Oh, that’s my man who has appropriated and received the forgiveness and the grace of Jesus.” And it only happens because of the death, one; burial, two; resurrection, three.
So as we talk about, “Jesus died on the cross for our sins, he died on the cross for our sins, he died on the cross for our sins;” that’s just one part of the gospel. The other part is the resurrection. Because without the resurrection, life is absurd. Without the resurrection, let’s just go home. Without the resurrection, sin dominates. Without the resurrection, let’s just go absolutely buck wild. But the pain, I want to announce to you, right here on this Easter Sunday, the pain of the redemption was finished. The pain was finished.
Also the plan of redemption was finished. See, God has this ingenious plan and the plan’s done. I mean, it’s still going on, because he’s coming back. But I’m talking about the death, burial, and resurrection. God’s plan.
Do you remember back in the garden of Eden, man sinned and God did something. When man sinned, man tried to cover his nakedness. God took an innocent animal, killed the innocent animal, skinned the innocent animal, and placed the skin over Adam and Eve, covering their nakedness; a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice that would go down at Golgotha.
This happened throughout the Old Testament, it happened in so many different ways and shapes and forms. Basically, an innocent third party had to shed its blood to atone for the sins of man.
So all of this was just compounding daily, it was compounding daily, and those men and women who went to heaven before Jesus, went to heaven by faith. They were saved by faith. But they knew something was going to happen that would culminate the whole thing.
So when Jesus said, “It is finished,” all heaven, man, they were chest bumping and high-fiving, they were like “I knew it. God’s genius plan has happened. Jesus has completed the incomplete. The price has been paid. The sacrifice has been made.” That’s what heaven said.
Hell also heard it. Whenever I talk about hell, I want to remind people that God does not send anybody to hell. People say that to me sometimes, “Oh, I just can’t serve a God that slam dunks people into hell.”
God doesn’t send anyone to hell. He doesn’t. He wants everyone to go to heaven. You send yourself to hell. It’s your choice. God’s plan is for everybody to go to heaven. So if you go to hell, you’ll have to go against the grain of what God wants you to do.
All hell, though, when they heard “It is finished,” they lost it. It was a punch to Satan right in his solar plexus. They knew forever and ever their fate was sealed. Before that, read the New Testament. You have people in hell begging and praying and then crying to people who were on the other side, “Turn to Jesus, follow him, you don’t want this existence.” What is hell? I’ll tell you what hell is. It’s the absence of God. The Bible says it’s a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. So yeah, hell was interested when Jesus said it is finished. And they probably thought, “Okay, wow, he died. I mean, he’s dead, all right!” But then the resurrection really messed them up.
You have people on earth, “It is finished,” I mean that still reverberates in eternity past and present and future. Those of us who know Christ, who made a faith decision, we’re like, “Yeah! I serve a risen Savior. He’s in the world today. I serve someone who came back from the grave. Yeah!”
Others are like, “Whoa! I’m not, I mean, I’m not sure, I’m not sure I have enough faith to make that decision.”
Sometimes I talk to people about the claims of Christ. And people will respond to me and they’ll go, “That’s interesting, that’s an interesting talk about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, one, two, three. But, I’m just not sure I have enough faith to make this decision.”
And I understand that. I get that. In the mystery of God, even faith is a gift from God. If you’re here today, and you’re like, “Man, I don’t have enough faith,” ask God for the faith. Faith is the gift, he’ll give you the faith.
And Jesus said, “If you have the faith of a tiny mustard seed, I’ll come into your life.”
Look around. I mean, everything screams about the resurrection. Look at night fall and then you have the rising sun. Resurrection. You get that. Changes of seasons, the resurrection, you get that. Caterpillar that builds a cocoon, it literally dies, butterfly. You got a bear that goes into hibernation. And he comes out. You got the death, burial, and resurrection everywhere you see. So it’s not just the death of Jesus.
Now sometimes, I wonder about some of the jewelry we wear. I mean, I’m not trying to put anybody on a guilt trip, but if you wear a cross, wear a cross without Jesus on it. Because he got down off the cross, they put him in a tomb, and he rose again. That’s really poor theology to have Jesus on the cross, because he wasn’t on the cross very long. He got down off the cross.
So again, without the resurrection, we’re in serious trouble. The resurrection of Jesus. It proves that Jesus was God. You can’t hold God down, can you? It also proves the death of death.
I thought about this. One day when I die, and I’m going to die, and so will you, I’m just going to tell you, everybody dies. You don’t like to talk about it. If you’re at a party and you want to like totally watch people run away from you, just bring up death. “I was thinking, you know, all of us are going to die one die.”
But, when I exhale my last breath here, I’ll inhale the first breath in eternity. The resurrection of Jesus Christ assures of me my dominion in heaven. And I tell people all the time, heaven is not flutes and harps and cumulous clouds. It’s not a boring church service with a cosmic pipe organ and a giant choir. I’m sorry, that’s not heaven. Heaven will be a place where we continue to use our unique abilities and gifts and purposes in a perfect and pristine way. For example, I believe we’ll see color like we’ve never seen color before. Colors we can’t even comprehend. We’ll experience love and relational connection like we’ve never seen before. Adventure, excitement, adrenaline, you haven’t even touched it. That’s how amazing heaven’s going to be. And it can start right now. One, two, three. One, two, three.
There were three people crucified that day, right? One, two, three. Three days in the tomb, one, two, three. Three hours of darkness before Jesus said it is finished, one, two, three. The Godhead, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, one, two, three. Three times Jesus predicted his death, burial, and resurrection, one, two, three. Three times Jesus said “It is finished” or the equivalent thereof, one, two, three. The redemptive work has been done. It’s finished.
Tetelestai. Three-word phrase. But after three days, Jesus rose again and another three-word phrase was being tossed around, “He has risen.” He has risen.
ILLUS: In my early 20s, a wealthy man summoned me to his house. His house was ridiculous. I mean, it was on 25 acres in the city. He wanted to talk to me about Jesus. And I thought, man, I’m a young guy and he’s older, but man, I’ll be happy to talk to him about it. So he began to tell me some things, what he believed, and I told him about the claims of Christ.
And he said, “You know, I’m kind of cafeteria guy when it comes to religion.”
I said, “Really?”
He said, “Yeah, I take a little bit of Buddhism, a little bit of Hinduism, sprinkle a little bit of Christianity here and there. And you know, it’s all about love, you know. And that’s just me, I’m just about love.”
And I said, “You know, there are obviously, because I’ve studied the world religions, there’s some great points in all the world religions. But,” I said, “Christianity is not like the other world religions. And I heard someone say this before (and the Holy Spirit of God just gave me this line), I said, “World religions are spelled D-O; Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. The world religions are like, ‘Oh, I got to do this or I can’t do that. Maybe, just maybe, at the end of the hunt, when my ticket is punched, I’ll cross my fingers, maybe I’ll get into heaven, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe.’”
I said, “That’s not Christianity. Christianity is D-O-N-E, the work has been done, the price has been paid, Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose again. And you go to the graves of all those other world religious leaders, they’re occupied. You go to the grave of Jesus, I’ve been there, it’s empty. We serve a risen Savior. It separates Christianity from all the other world religions out there.” One, two, three.
In 2 Corinthians 5:21, the apostle Paul said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, notice how the death of Jesus, the burial, and the resurrection are interconnected. Listen to this. “For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died, one, for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, two, that he was raised, three, on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
So the same power that brought Jesus back from the grave is available to you as you’re going through this period of mourning, because maybe a loved one or a friend has just died. The same power that brought Christ back from the grave is on tap for you. Maybe your marriage is hanging from a thread. That power is available. Maybe you’re wondering “What do I do with my life?” That power is available. Maybe you’re having a hard time forgiving someone who ripped you off. That power is available.
So it’s not just fact. You have the opportunity, I have the opportunity to make this personal, one, two, three.
Isaiah 64:6 says, “all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” I mean, all of my righteous stuff is like a ripped-up robe. It’s stitched with sin. It’s not going to get me anywhere. If I rely on my righteousness, I’m in trouble.
But, look at Romans 13:14. “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This tailor-made suit. One, they measured me. We’ve all fallen short. God’s measured your life and mine; we’ve fallen short. We’re ripped in rebellion, stitched in sin. But here’s what God did.
Two, God cut a new plan. He knew we couldn’t make it by our good works, by our righteousness. So God being God cut a new pattern, a new plan, and the person is Jesus. He died, was buried, he rose again.
There’s a tailor-made suit with your name on it. Jesus.
Number three, you either clothe yourself in him or not. No one forced me to wear this suit. Free. I just put it on. I challenge you to put on Jesus. One, two, three. Let’s pray.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]