The Art of Easter
Upside Down Easter
April 20, 2014
By Ed Young
If we take an honest look around our world, we’ll see that in many ways it is upside down. What is right is seen as wrong; what is wrong is seen as right. But when we live our lives upside down, we have the wrong perspective and aren’t able to experience life the way God wants us to.
In this Easter message, Pastor Ed Young shows us what it takes to right our lives. And through a unique and artistic illustration, he reminds us that there is nothing we can do on our own, no matter how hard we try. It is only when we hand our lives to Jesus that we can turn from upside down to right side up!
If you’ll just pardon me just for a second, I want to welcome – before I begin – all of our different campuses, all of our different locations. We’re one church in 10 different locations. Across the Pond in London, England, believe it or not. What’s up? Midtown Miami, South Miami, also beautiful Dallas, Texas. We’re in the city of Dallas also, Park Cities, how are you guys? Plano, welcome Plano. Right here in gorgeous Grapevine, of course, and where else do we have? Keller-Southlake, Fort Worth, Funkytown, that’s right, Allaso Ranch, and those who are watching online.
I want to say hi to my mother, too. She’s watching online. My mother has been sick for a long while and she’s watching, so Mom, how are you doing?
Pardon me, while I paint. Pardon me. That’d be a good message. Pardon me while I paint. While I paint. While I paint. While I paint. Do you remember when you used to finger paint? That was fun. I really miss those days. There’s something about painting.
Here’s a hypothetical situation. I Googled this so you know it’s correct. The most famous artist of all time is Leonardo da Vinci. What if Leonardo da Vinci, what if he was standing up here on stage and what if he had these art supplies, and he began painting. And then you saw Leonardo, of course anything he touches is a masterpiece, you know that. What if you said,
“You know, Leonardo, step aside. Give me the palette. I want the brush, I feel like I can paint better than you. I really do. And I want to paint, because I know how to paint and I know how to really use color, symmetry, balance. Let me paint. You stand over here, I’m gonna paint.”
That would be absolutely cray-cray, wouldn’t it? Who would do that? Well, I’ve gotta confess I’ve done that. We have the master artist right beside us. I’m talking about Jesus. But isn’t it true that we say, you know, I’m just gonna paint the way I want to paint, I’m gonna do life the way I want to do life. I’m gonna paint my own portrait, I’m gonna forge my own future. I’m gonna paint my own portfolio. I’m just gonna do my own thing. I just feel like I know, Jesus, better than you. Although you created me and made me in your image, I just feel as though I know more about this than you do. So, pardon me. I will take the art supplies, thank you, and I’m gonna do what I’m going to do. Wouldn’t that be interesting? Well if you think about it, that’s the story, if you will, of the Bible. That’s the story of mankind. God made us in his image. We’re works of art. The Bible says we’re fearfully and wonderfully made, yet because we have freedom of choice, we have chosen to take the art supplies, to take the palette and the paint brushes and we’ve decided to paint our own picture.
No one taught me how to do that. The Bible calls this behavior ‘sin.’ The word sin is simply an archery term. You sin, you miss the target. We’ve all missed the target. Yet, we still have taken the palette and the paintbrushes and we’ve painted the way we want to paint. Well, here’s the problem… After a while we paint ourselves into a corner. Here’s the problem… on our best days we’re just simply finger painting. We’re making a mess of our lives. We don’t have the right perspective, the right balance. We’re not using the right color. We have this master artist right here, The Master, our Savior, Jesus, yet we say, “Jesus, I’m just gonna do what I’ve got to do.” And we think we know more about life than he does. We don’t necessarily say that to him but by our behavior we do so. Does that sound familiar?
Think about the mess-ups in your life. I can think about the mess-ups in my life. What’s your biggest mess-up? What’s my biggest mess-up? Don’t blurt it out, just think it. Because left to our own devices we will mess up. We will paint ourselves into a corner. And maybe, just maybe you’re here, you’re dressed in your Easter best. You look fine, you smell good, the hair is combed, the makeup is on, you’ve got the suit or whatever. Yet in your heart of hearts you know that you’ve painted yourself into a corner.
I don’t know about you but now and then I will see something and I will go, “That’s upside-down.” I have this desire, I think human beings do, to take things that are upside-down and to turn them right side up. Even my iPhone. If I look at a picture upside-down, automatically it turns it right side up. We just have this desire. People say, “Well, I’m upside-down financially.” I mean, that’s a big thing to say, especially over the last several years in our schizophrenic economy. “I’m upside-down with my house.”
That means I owe more than the asset is worth. I’m upside-down in my car. I’m upside-down. I’m here to tell you, when you paint your own picture, when I paint my own picture, it is inverted. It’s upside-down. Maybe you’re an extreme sports guy or girl and you’ve been upside-down before. Maybe you like yoga and you’re upside-down. If you live upside-down for very long physically you’ll die because blood will pool in your brain and your heart will work too hard to pump blood to the extremities and you’ll clock out. We aren’t made to live upside-down, we’re made to live right side up. Yet I would argue that many of us in our culture today are inverted. What’s right is wrong and what’s wrong is right. And it’s wrong to talk about what’s right, and it’s right to talk about what’s wrong. It’s inverted. Our perspective is skewed. The colors are wrong. The symmetry, the balance, is not there. And maybe, just maybe you have a gnawing sense that it’s that way in your life.
Maybe in your marriage. You’re sitting next to your spouse but you know something is upside-down. Maybe in your relationship with your kids. Maybe you’re a single parent and your upside-down. Maybe you’re upside-down with an abuse of a substance. Maybe you’re upside-down because you’re hooked on pornography or maybe some other hurtful habit but no one knows about it. I mean, you look good. I mean you smell good. Your hair is combed, you’ve got the makeup on. You’ve got the suit on, the dress on, but you know you’re upside-down. You’re upside-down. Well, we’re upside-down.
In Luke 24 something interesting happened. The disciples, these cats who had a courtside seat, were upside-down. Now, I want to say how could these guys be upside-down? I mean, we’re talking the disciples! How could that happen? I mean, that’s really, really strange. Well, I’m gonna turn to a verse in the gospel specifically of Luke 24:17, and I’m gonna unpack that. We’re gonna camp out on that verse, do the KOA thing for a while, as I talk to you a little bit about how these guys were upside-down. I know it’s hard to believe but they were. Again, just pardon me while I pause a little bit and paint. You know it’s just… I’m just throwing some paint on the canvas that really doesn’t look like much. I don’t know if it is much. Wow, what am I doing? I don’t know. But I’m having fun.
In Luke 24 Jesus, to give you the Cliff Notes here, had been arrested, crucified. Now one would think the disciples would be like, “Jesus, I got your back!” You remember Simon Peter.
“Oh, I’ll never dis you. I’m the man! These other guys will turn on you. Not me! I’m the man of the hour, too sweet to be sour, the tower of committed power. I’m Simon Peter!” Jesus said,
“You’re gonna deny me. You’re gonna turn your back on me.” And sure enough, Simon Peter was confronted after Jesus was arrested by a little servant girl by a campfire. And he cursed a blue streak. He was like,
“Who in the blankety-blank do you think I am? I don’t know this guy. Who, Jesus? That’s a unique name!” Simon Peter!
So, Jesus dies, then he’s buried, and you would think the guys with Jesus would stand up and be like, “Oh, we remember you talked about the crucifixion and we also remember that you talked about rising again,” but they didn’t get it. They were upside-down. They were upside-down. So, some women… let me emphasize this… read it in Luke 24, some women came to the grave to anoint the body with spices. That’s how they worked with the embalming process, etc. So these women, they walk in and they’re trying to be a part again of this embalming process. The stone is rolled away, the tomb is empty, and these angels pretty much say four things: Come and see. Go and tell. Come and see where the body was. Now go and tell.
Why do you think God chose women to be the first ones on the scene? Well, I’ve gotta believe that God, of course, knows that women speak 14,000 more words a day than men. So, obviously you could not pick a better group of people to share the good news of the resurrection than women! And what’s so countercultural about it was the fact that women back in the day, they couldn’t testify in court, they couldn’t hold a public office, yet they’ve been chose. And finally Simon Peter, I think he must’ve been out of shape, he finally gets to the tomb and he looks and he’s like, “I don’t know. I don’t get it!” Well, the women tell the disciples and the disciples are like, “Well, I think he might have… I’m not sure…” they were still freaked out with fear!
Well, a couple of the disciples were walking to Emmaus, about eight miles away from J-town, from Jerusalem. Well, they’re walking along and the Bible says in verse 17 that they were down. It says that their heads were down, their heads were cast down. Let me read this because I’m gonna argue they were upside down. Luke 24:17, “He asked them (Jesus, because Jesus just appeared by them, the resurrected Lord), ‘Hey, what are you guys discussing as you’re walking along?’ They stood still, their faces downcast.”
They were upside-down. And they were so down they didn’t recognize Jesus. Could it be that some of you have had the opportunity to recognize Jesus but you’re so upside-down you can’t really see him? It’s my prayer, it’s been our prayer during this Easter weekend through all of these services, no matter where you are or who you are, it’s been my prayer and our prayer that you would see your life for what it is. That you would see that you matter to God. That you would see the power of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that you would see the fact that you’re upside-down and Jesus is in the business of taking those of us who are upside down and turning us right side up. That is the message of Easter!
So after Jesus had been with these guys for a while, I don’t know if they went to the Wendy’s or What-A-Burger, they began to eat together and then Jesus prays and passes out the food and they’re like,
“Dude! This is Jesus! This is our resurrected Lord!” It moved their lives from upside-down to right side up. Upside-down to right side up. Jesus is always painting in our lives. Always. Always, always, always.
I asked you earlier to think about your biggest mess-up. What is your biggest mess-up? Well, I don’t care what it is. I don’t even want to know what it is. God knows what it is. Jesus knows what it is, and here’s what he tells you. He tells you in no uncertain terms throughout Scripture, that he can take that and make it into something beautiful. He can take our mess-ups and turn them into something magnificent. He can take our disaster-piece and turn it into a masterpiece if we’ll only give him the supplies. Here is Jesus, just standing there. He doesn’t kick the supplies out of our hands, he doesn’t grab it, he doesn’t force himself on us. He just simply says, “I want to paint. I want to paint a picture. I want to paint a masterpiece from your life. Yes we’ll talk about it, we can collaborate, but just give me control of your life.” And here’s what is so beautiful about this. It’s the upside-down kingdom of God. When we give up control, that’s when we gain control. When we give up control, Jesus takes our lives from upside-down and he moves them to right side up.
Just for a second, as you look at this picture, this painting of Jesus, I want you to consider his hair. You know, hair is one of the most difficult things to paint? That’s why I’m just leaving the canvas black, to let your imagination run wild. Hair, though, is very tough because there are so many different hairs and the shadowing and this and that, and there are different courses you can take just on how to paint hair! Believe it or not.
God, the Bible says, knows the number of hairs on our head. Even though that number is diminishing for some of us, he knows us that well. When you look at Jesus, think just for a second, think just for a second about the hair. He knows you and me better than we’ll ever know ourselves. He knows us and he’s still crazy about us. Isn’t that great?
Not only does he know us (think about the hair) but also he hears. Think about the ears just for a second. Consider the ears. They’re right about here. The ears. He hears and the Bible talks about hearing, because Jesus hears your cry and mine. He hears us when we’re happy, he hears us when we’re sad. In Matthew 11:15 the Bible says, “Whoever has ears, let him hear.” So again, it’s our prayer that you hear what Jesus is saying to you. And what’s he saying to you? The same thing he said to me. “Give me the art supplies. I want to take your disaster-piece and turn it into a masterpiece.” And right now you might be going,
“Well, Ed, it’s not a disaster-piece because I’ve been painting by myself and it’s workout out pretty good.” It will. It might work out all right for a season, but I’m here to tell you after a while you’ll paint yourself into a corner, and that’s when you’re gonna have difficulty. And that’s when money’s not gonna solve it. That’s when popularity is not gonna solve it. That is when a self-help seminar is not gonna solve it. Only Jesus will solve it. Have you made the transfer?
Think about the eyes for a second of Jesus. Consider the eyes. The eyes, the eyes, the eyes of Jesus. Jesus sees. I think it’s interesting because the last series I did was called, “I’m a Big Hypocrite,” because I am a hypocrite and ethically so are you. We’ve all said one thing and done another. We’re all hypocrites. But there is someone I cannot be a hypocrite in front of. Who do you think that is? Jesus. Right. I cannot be a hypocrite in front of Jesus because he knows everything (uh-oh) about me. Is this risky with white pants on? Wow! I haven’t messed up yet. I mean, I’ve messed up in my life but not here yet. But Jesus sees us. And here is what he sees. He sees into the depth of who we are. He sees our heart of hearts. He knows everything there is to know about us and he sees you and me. He sees what we and who we were, where we are, and here’s the great thing, where we’re going. This potential for you and me is unlimited. Absolutely… that’d be a good place to clap! Absolutely unlimited, the potential that Jesus sees in our lives. And he sees us and knows us and again, he is absolutely crazy about us.
Now, move to the mouth. The mouth of Jesus. Jesus says things to us. Several things he says to us, and I love this. It’s right in your Bible. First of all he says you’re lovable. You are lovable. All we have to do is look at the cross and we see how much Jesus loves us. We know he loves us this much. Love has to have an object. We’re the object of Jesus’ love. We’re the object of it! If you ever wonder, am I loved? Am I loved? I’m not sure that people love me. I’m not sure this group loves me. I’ve got haters.. whatever. Jesus loves you. “For God so loved the world… For God so loved the world that he gave…” Jesus loves you. I’m lovable.
Also, Jesus tells me I am valuable.
ILLUS: Lisa and I, well really Lisa more than me, enjoys garage sales. And we’ve had some garage sales and the last one we did we did really good on the garage sale. We made a lot of money on our garage sale. Lisa likes that, and see I have a problem with garage sales because I think things, you know I will put these crazy price tags on and Lisa’s like, “No, Ed. That’s not worth $50. $5. That’s not gonna be worth $80, honey, $8 maybe!” And I discovered the last time we had a garage sale an object is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.
How much do I cost? I tell you how much I cost. I cost, you cost, the blood of Jesus. He shed his blood for you and me. He died on a cross, something we don’t deserve. Death couldn’t hold him down. He rose again. And now he says, “Can I have the art supplies?” the nail-pierced hands. “Can I have the art supplies? You’re lovable. You’re capable. You’re valuable.” And then Jesus says, “You’re forgivable.”
Have you ever considered Jesus took the initiative and has done the forgiveness work before we even have confessed our sins? Have you ever thought about that? He has forgiven. Preemptive forgiveness. He has forgiven you and me of all our shams and cover-ups, all of our impure thoughts, all of our wayward words and sleeping in the wrong bed, and doing this or that. He, before we ever entered the equation, paid the price on the cross for our sin, and then conquered the grave. That’s telling me that Jesus can take my mess-ups and turn them into something gorgeous. Something beautiful.
And that also tells me if I have ears, if I’m gonna hear, that I should regularly forgive others.
“Well, Ed. I’m gonna wait until they come crawling back to me before I forgive them, brother. I mean, you don’t know how I was hurt.”
I don’t. I’ve been hurt, too, and if I wait for people to do that I might die without having forgiven someone who’s hurt me. So if you’re waiting for someone to come back who’s messed you around they probably don’t even know they messed you around! So it benefits you to just release them. Forgive them! In a marriage, oh we want to play the frappuccino person, to ice people out, ice our kids out, ice our spouse out. Or we want to do the volcanic thing, to explode in anger. Just forgive! Forgive! All I have to do is look into the eyes of Jesus, all I have to do is just consider the cross and it drives me, it beckons me, it calls me to forgiveness.
I gotta walk out here for a second because I gotta see the perspective. Because the perspective gets all messed up when I’m up close. See if it looks OK. You know, Jesus has that perspective, doesn’t he? In all of our lives. There’s no way I can have true perspective. I mean, by myself I’m a mess, so are you. Finger painting at best, let’s be honest. Yet, with Jesus, whoa.
Now see I’m gonna have to add a little bit of black to the left beause his head is not quite…. See Jesus is always working on your life and mine, to get that proper balance if we’ll just let him. If we’ll just surrender and let him. Let me just do a little bit more right here. It might help with just a little bit… that’s what he’s doing. He’s just painting just a little bit. OK. Looks all right. I could work on this painting for hours and hours and still find areas of improvement.
ILLUS: Speaking about artwork, Cliff Barrows, who was Billy Graham’s right-hand man for years and years, has been a friend of our family’s for probably 40 years. In fact, he was a member of our church that I grew up in where my father pastored. Cliff told Dad a story about a billionaire and artwork that I will never, ever forget. And when I was thinking about this message I thought, I’m gonna share that story that Cliff Barrows shared. Cliff said that, and I don’t know what the gentleman’s name was, but there was a multi-billionaire who lived in New York City.
He and his wife had been married for a while and they couldn’t have kids. It was his desire to have a son or a daughter where he could pass his great fortune off to. Finally after going to all the specialists they conceived. They had a baby boy. The wife, though, died in childbirth. The boy that was birth was severely physically and mentally challenged. Horrendously handicapped. So this multibillionaire just shut down all of his wheeling and dealing and poured his life into his son with some nurses he had hired. And when the child was 12 the child died. And then a year later, the billionaire died, Cliff Barrows, said, of a broken heart.
There was an auction and all of the rich and famous and powerful people came to bid on this billionaire’s assets. And the auctioneer walked to the podium and he said, I’ve been instructed to submit this painting as the first item that I want the people to bid on. I was requested in the will to do so. So he uncovered this painting and there was an oil painting of this severely handicapped and disfigured boy, this billionaire’s son. And the audience was kinda taken aback and the auctioneer said,
“All right, let’s start the bidding, let’s start the bidding.” Silence. “Anyone bid for …” Silence. And finally a voice in the back said,
“I bid $25.” And the auctioneer said,
“$25. Do I hear $30? Do I hear $30? $25 going once, going twice, sold to the woman in the back!” and this woman stood and made her way forward through the crowd and some of the people recognized her as one of the nurses who had taken care of this physically challenged and mentally challenged child for 12 years.
When she received the painting the auctioneer took off an envelope that was taped to the back of the painting. It was notarized and signed and written in the multibillionaire’s handwriting. And it said, “To whoever loves my son enough to buy this painting, I bequeath to that person my entire fortune.”
That is the story of Easter. That’s the art of Easter! God says if you love my son, if you receive my son, if you give my son your art supplies, the brushes, the paints, you’ll have my inheritance. You’ll have my eternity. Forgiveness, mercy, grace, power, strength, perspective, color. Because God is saying to all of us, “I want to turn you from upside-down to right side up.”
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]