April 8, 2012
In life, there are things that seem to contradict themselves, statements that seem to say one thing but communicate another. We call them paradoxes.
In this powerful Easter message, Ed Young takes a look at the paradoxes surrounding Easter. And he reminds us that the greatest contradictions in the world are the very things that lead us to the greatest reality – the reality of a relationship with God!
I want to welcome everybody to our Easter services. We’ve had just a wonderful, wonderful time. How are you guys doing in gorgeous Grapevine? You guys doing well? Also, our campuses in Miami? I guess you guys are still kind of competitive over the heat. I understand. Not a big ovation, Miami, from Grapevine. That’s all right. There’s a little bit of tension. Also, too, Downtown Dallas, Downtown Forth Worth, Plano, and right now we’re launching our brand new online campus. Already backstage they were telling me we have people watching this from around the world. Crazy places. The Bahamas, Spain, Asia, right now.
And we have our own online pastor, how cool is that? Now that does not give you an excuse to stay home, no, no, no. But tell your friends about Fellowship Live. It’s online. You can check it out on our web site.
Easter Sunday. Wow. What a great, great time, what a fun time. Today I want to talk to you about a subject that I think you’ll find interesting. And as I’ve been studying about this and praying about this, I just saw it more and more as I thought about it. I want to talk to you about the paradox of Easter. That’s right, the paradox of Easter.
What is a paradox? A paradox is a statement that appears on the surface to be true, but it may or may not be true. It’s a seemingly contradictory statement that could be true or false. A paradox, a paradox. Like, I was on the freeway the other day and I saw a sign that said, “Express lanes congested.” That’s a paradox. Decaf coffee… paradox. I think decaf coffee is from the devil! You ever seen those advertisements in grocery stores? Fresh frozen food. It’s a paradox.
I went to a restaurant this week and the waiter said, “Hey, would you guys like some colossal crab claws?” I thought, how can a crab claw be really colossal? Again, a paradox.
Our twins are great runners. They’re 17, they can fly. We went over this bridge the other day and this bridge was ginormous. A big incline, you know, and one of the twins, Landra, goes,
“Dad, let’s run the bridge. It’ll be a fun workout.” That’s a paradox. Paradox. Easter is full of paradoxes. We say “Good Friday.” Well, is it really good? Jesus being tortured and bruised and battered and nailed on a cross, Good Friday? I don’t know. Maybe on one hand it would be. People talk about Holy Week. I would say it’s Hell Week. Holy Week? Yeah, you can talk about the righteousness of the Lord, but think about what he went through.
How about the Easter clothing that we wear? We think about our outfits, many people do, when we go to an Easter service. We dress in bright colors and that’s fine and dandy. It’s sort of a paradox, though, because we think so much about the exterior but so often, do we really think about the interior of our lives? Then I think about Easter Sunday itself. We have monstrous crowds. Over the years at Fellowship Church we have had Easters where we’ve had nearly 50,000 people showing up. And that’s great! I’m happy about that, but in reality, if we’re a follower of Christ, Easter should be celebrated not once a year, but 365 days a year. It should be. It’s a paradox.
In the book of Revelation, chapter 5, John had this vision of the throne room of Heaven, the Oval Office of Heaven. And he was told, OK, John, you’re gonna see the Lion of Judah. Jesus was called the Lion of Judah. That was a name, a phrase, they tagged him with. So John turned and in Revelation 5:5-6 he looked expecting to see the lion, but instead he saw the Lamb. It’s a paradox of nature. Contrast. Revelation 5:6, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.” So obviously the Lamb had died, yet the lamb was standing. The Lamb was alive. Jesus was called and is called the Lion of Judah. He’s also called the Lamb of God. You can’t just call him a Lamb without calling him a Lion. He’s a lion-like Lamb, and a lamb-like Lion. A paradox. A seemingly contradictory statement that may or may not be true. The Lamb and the Lion. The Lion and the Lamb.
<bleating sounds> The Lamb. An innocent lamb. <bleating> Whenever he does that he’s saying, “Amen.” The lamb is a docile creature. They like to follow. They’re kind and cuddly, compassionate. There’s nothing like a lamb. Jesus is called the Lamb of God. He’s also a lion.
You might be going, “Ed, wait a minute. You don’t have a lion here, do you? Surely not in church. A lion? You’re talking about Simba?” A lamb is meek, a lion is majestic. The lion is the king, the lamb is sort of quiet. The lion goes after prey. The lamb is prey. Jesus, the lion-like Lamb and the lamb-like Lion. A paradox, right? Let’s give it up for the lamb and the lion!
I gotta be careful. I can’t show this lamb to the lion, they told me. And also I can’t walk too close to the cage because he has been known to reach out and touch someone!
Well, let’s talk about a paradox. Here’s a paradox. Humility is confidence. Say it with me. Humility is confidence. Think about Jesus, just for a second. The Lamb of God. Jesus, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, that’s called the Trinity, right? Jesus, before the beginning of time, coexisted and coeternal with the Father and the Spirit. A paradox, before the beginning of time? Jesus, though, took on the form of a lamb. He submitted himself to the will of the Father. The Bible says he humbled himself. He became a Lamb. He was a Lion, the second person of the Trinity, he became a Lamb. He became a man. God became man. Fully man and fully God. Fully Lion and fully Lamb, a paradox.
Philippians 2:8, “He humbled himself (became a lamb) and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Jesus understood the way up, is down. Jesus, as vulnerable as a lamb, yet he asks you and me to join him in his humility, in his vulnerability. So the way up is down. When I humble myself before God, as a lamb, he gives me the heart of a lion. And that’s what Jesus did. Jesus humbled himself before God, became a man. Mary had a little Lamb, and his name was Jesus. He grew and at 30 years of age he kicked off his public ministry. His cousin (I mean, you can’t fool your cousins), his cousin looked at him, John the Baptist, and said,
“Here’s Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Then after Christ was baptized – the Lamb didn’t have to be baptized, he did it as an example for you and me. After his baptism he was driven out into the wilderness and tempted. Jesus was.
You might be saying, “Ed, you don’t realize what I’m dealing with. You don’t realize the temptation that is right in front of my face. The temptation to sleep in the wrong bed. The temptation to look the other way. The temptation to exaggerate, to lie. The temptation to abuse substance. You don’t understand what’s in front of me!” And you know what? I don’t. I really don’t. The Lamb does. The Lamb was tempted in ways that we’ll never be tempted. Yet he thwarted the temptation because he had the heart of a lion.
It’s so easy for us to think about Jesus as a Lamb. Isn’t it? Oh he’s the Lamb. Mary had a little Lamb, and his name is Jesus. I will carry him with me when he’s convenient and he’s so sweet and so cuddly, kiss-kiss-kiss, and I love little lambs. He’s just a lamb! He’s just soft and he’s nice and it’s sort of popular to say, “I have the Lamb of God with me.” But when it’s not convenient we take the Lamb and go, “Wait a second.” And we put the Lamb in his cage, a collapsible cage, that is. Shut the door and then we do what we want to do. Because if Jesus is just the Lamb he’s not threatening. He doesn’t get up in my grill, he doesn’t get in my business. He doesn’t get in my marriage. He doesn’t get in my thought life. He doesn’t get in my ethic so I will just keep him as a lamb. Shh… be quiet. Shh… shh… everything’s OK.
Others of us hyperfocus on the lion aspect of Jesus. He’s just the Lion and he will kick your be-hion! He’s a Lion. And you know what, if you have dissed me, I’m gonna ask the Lion of Judah to track you down and shed your blood and rip you apart. He’s all about revenge. He’s all about being tough and he’ll track you down. Both of those extremes are true in a certain degree, but sometimes people say to me,
“Well, Ed, how do you explain, man, what Christians have done throughout history. The first-century Jews, how they wanted to drag the Romans down and kill them. How about the Crusades and all the terrible things that have been done in the name of Jesus?” I go,
“Hey man, they’re just concentrating on one aspect of Jesus. He’s a lion-like Lamb, and also a lamb-like Lion. We have to become a lamb and humble ourselves before him, then he gives us the ability to have the heart of a lion at the right time.” We desperately need courage, don’t we? Courage to stand, courage to be disciplined, courage to resist the greener-grass syndrome, courage to fight for our marriage, courage to discipline our kids, courage to have ethics in the marketplace. We need courage! The heart of a lion! So we like to keep Jesus in a cage, we would rather him be lamb-like than lion-like because a lion, whoa man! He’ll kick your be-hion! He will get up in our face. And we forget the fact that Jesus had the heart of a Lion.
One day they were trying to kill Jesus, all these people. They were trying to kill the Lamb before it was time. You know what Jesus did? He had the heart of a lion and walked right through them. Jesus, as I always say, was not some pale, frail, blue-eyed, decaf-sipping white boy. He was the Lamb of God, but the Lion of Judah. You remember? When the topless dancer was caught in the act of adultery? And they drug this girl to Christ’s feet? And the crowds wanted to kill her. They were picking up rocks to kill her. Jesus, the heart of a lion, said,
“Hey, don’t you even think about throwing a rock unless you’ve never sinned.” Crickets. Then he treated this woman with the heart of a lamb. He said,
“Go, and sin no more.” One day, he had the heart of a lion as he talked to a wealthy young man, the rich young ruler. This guy had it all happening for him. And Jesus said,
“Do you know what is keeping you from the kingdom of God? Your wealth!” Basically Christ says it’s not your wealth and as you understand that and if you would give that then you’d understand what the kingdom of God was about. The heart of a lion. The love of a lamb.
A guy came to Jesus at night, named Nicodemus. Big, big, powerful guy, a political guy, a religious guy. And he said,
“Jesus, how do I know the Lord?” And Jesus said something paradoxical to him. He said,
“You have to be born again.” This guy was like, born again? I’m an adult! How cn I…? You’ve got a physical birthday, we need a spiritual birthday. Again, a paradox. A paradox.
I went to the mall with my girls a couple of days ago and I found myself walking by myself, because they were doing their deal, you know? I’m just walking and the mall’s getting ready to close. I’m just kinda in a zone, by myself, and I’m thinking about this message because I’m trying to pray, ‘God, just give me the words to say. Because I know a lot of people give God a shot during Easter when they wouldn’t normally give them a shot so I’m like, God, give me the words to say.’ And I’m trying to say a lamb-like Lion, a lion-like Lamb. That’s hard to do. Gotta get those phrases down where I can take something complex, like the Bible is in many ways, and make it edible, make it simple, for everyone to understand it. So I’m doing that, and I’m walking and I’m talking to myself, kinda, and praying. And I feel somebody beside me and I look to my left and it’s this young dude about 16 years old. He goes,
“You’re Ed.” I go,
“Yeah.” He stuck out his hand and he goes,
“Hey I saw you. My family and I were window-shopping and I just went over here and I was wondering… I was… I was wondering if I could pray for you?” A 16-year-old kid came up to me in the middle of the mall. We’re like all alone and he goes,
“Can I pray for you?” and I’m like,
“Yeah, you can!” So we joined hands and he goes,
“God, bless this man. Bless him Easter and give him the words to say to so many people. In Christ’s name. Amen.” Then he just walked off. And I’m saying to myself, was that an angel? Because you know the Bible says, and this is another paradox, that we’ve entertained angels without even knowing it so I don’t know. But I really appreciated that. I was just going over the message and praying and boom! This guy shows up! Crazy, crazy. This young kid had the heart of a lion, didn’t he? But also, the heart of a lamb. So you see the contrast. Humility is confidence.
Jesus knew who he was. He knew where he was going and he knew what the deal was. His identity, his activity, his destiny. That gives us confidence. You’ll see shirts around here at Fellowship Church that say ‘Godfidence.’ Confidence (I’m not talking about arrogance), Spirit-led swagger, comes from God, himself. Knowing who we are and whose we are. The Lion and the Lamb. The lion-like Lamb and the lamb-like Lion. A lion doesn’t have to advertise that he’s a lion. He doesn’t have a little sticker that says, “Hello. My name is Mr. Lion.” You just know he is a lion! The king of the jungle! Humility is confidence. Do you have that confidence? That Godfidence?
That brings us to another paradox of Easter. Death is life. Say it with me. Death is life. Is it just me or have you seen this too? Human beings are the only species that have an atonement consciousness. In other words, somebody does something wrong, someone commits a crime, someone hurts an innocent person, what do we say? Somebody has got to pay. We all have that. Lambs don’t have that. Lions don’t have that. My five dogs don’t have that. Your cats don’t have that. Your pet snake doesn’t have that, your iguana doesn’t have that. We have that. Why do we have it? We’re made in the image of God.
I was getting my hair cut about three weeks ago and the lady cutting my hair, she’s not a believer, she goes,
“Ed, does sin lead to death?” Out of the blue!
“Well,” I said, “yeah, but let me explain that. Sin does lead to death. God is holy. He’s righteous. He is perfect. He’s unable to err. He made us in his image. We have a choice and we’ve chosen to sin.” What is sin? Sin is simply an archery term. We’re missing the target. That’s a sin, an archery term. We all missed the mark. I have. You have. We’ve all sinned. I said,
“Sin causes a distance between ourselves and God. That is a problem.” And here’s what she said. This is brilliant. She goes,
“Well, how do I hit the mark?” and I said,
She goes, “I can’t?” and I said,
“No, you can’t. I can’t either.” She goes,
“You can’t?!” and I said,
“No, I can’t. Nor can you.” Then I said, “Jesus can and did. Jesus made up the distance caused by sin.” I said. The Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah. He died on the cross for our sins, for this distance, rose again, thereby giving us an opportunity to receive what he did for us. So I can’t hit the mark. He hit the mark. I simply receive the mark that he hit. I either choose to do that or not.” She goes,
“Well, I have these doubts.” I said,
“So do I. Everybody doubts. If I didn’t have doubts I wouldn’t have faith, nor would you. If I didn’t have doubts everything would be certain. And with certainty there’s no faith. Everything we do takes faith, doubts, blah-blah-blah.”
Whoop-de-do-da-day. Good for you. It’s OK. Doubt your doubts. Feed your faith. Jesus said if you have the faith of a mustard seed, a tiny seed, a micro-seed, he will come in and change our lives. So doubt your doubts. Doubt and faith go hand in hand. Like chips and hot sauce. For my friends in Miami, café con leche (that’s coffee with milk, get it? Yeah. I thought you got it). Thank you. I guess you’ve tried café con leche. It’s the best coffee in the world, man. Oh! It would be committing cosmic treason to order a decaf café con leche. I can’t even… I don’t even want to think about that.
Anyway, we’re atonement-conscious, right? We have that atonement mentality. You can see it throughout the scriptures. I will give you the Wikipedia of it. Think about the book of Exodus. Remember the book of Exodus? It’s basically God’s people exiting Egyptian slavery. They were in bondage for hundreds and hundreds of years. Egypt had a national symbol. You know what it was? A venomous snake.
This Monday we had a copperhead in our yard. It’s snake season. Watch out! Here’s the deal. Don’t walk where you can’t see your foot and don’t reach where you can’t see your hand. That’s when you get…. Struck by a copperhead. I’m telling you! So we saw the copperhead and we took the hoe out and now the copperhead is with the Lord. He crossed Jordan. He’s no longer with us. Egypt, their mascot was not the Cowboys, not the Heat, not the Mavericks, not the Dolphins, no it was a venomous viper. Pharaoh, who represents the enemy, the devil, had a big, ole viper on his crown. A viper on his scepter. Well, the Egyptians were sinning all over the place. God’s people were sinning all over the place. They had this atonement vibe about them and people started kinda thinking, ‘Somebody’s gotta pay. Somebody’s gotta pay for this sinful mess.’ You know what God said? God said, “It’s atonement time.” Yeah, God is patient but he has a fuse length. Here’s what happened. God said,
“I’m gonna take the firstborn of every child. I’m going to send a death angel and this death angel will take the life of every firstborn child. But,” God said, and here’s his attachment, “if you take an unblemished lamb, slay the lamb, apply the lamb’s blood on the doorframe of your house,” God said, “the death angel will pass over your home, sparing you.” That’s why our Jewish friends celebrate Passover. Then God said,
“After you apply the blood, build a fire and have a lamb barbeque.” Think about it. A quarter of a million Jews were having a barbeque eating lamb, and don’t you know the Egyptians were freaking out because many of their kids had been taken and they smelled this barbeque. God instructed them to eat the lamb. The fire represents the fires of Hell that Jesus went through for your sins and mine. When the people ate the lamb, the lamb was with them and thus freed them up to do what? To be liberated and to find ultimately the Promised Land. The Lamb of God. The Lion of Judah.
When you hear that lamb I want you to think about something… ‘cause he’s gonna continue. I want you to think about the Lamb of God calling you. Think about that. Because so many of you have never, ever responded to the call of the Lamb. Jesus, the Lamb of God, did what? He shed his blood on the cross. He submitted himself. You know what he said in the gard
en of Gethsemane right before everything went down? He said,
“God, if it’s your will may this pass from me.” I mean, he knew what was in the cards and he was like, I don’t wanna go through this! But like a lamb he submitted himself to the will of the Father. With the heart of a Lion he took those beatings. They pounded nails in his hands and feet. The Bible said every demon in Hell said, “Come down from the cross. Come down from the cross! You’re the Son of God!” but with the heart of the Lion, he thought about your sin and mine, your junk and mine, and he atoned for our sins.
Think about the garden. He’s saying,
“God, I don’t want to go through this. I don’t wanna go through this!” The Father said,
“Son, it’s atonement time.” And Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
Let me press the pause button because if you begin to research this the imagery and the history is absolutely stunning. When Jesus came through the eastern gates of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, while he was coming through with the heart of a lion, the king, do you know what was happening through the sheep gate? Through the sheep gate hundreds of lambs were being brought in by shepherds, Passover lambs, to be killed, commemorating Passover. So at 3:00 on Friday, when Christ was breathing his last breath, hundreds of lambs were being slain in the Temple. Unreal. And Jesus, when he breathed his last, said,
“It is finished.” The work has been done. The atonement has been complete. And because he was totally righteous, because he was just holy, fully God and fully man, a paradox we will never quite understand, they carried him out like a lamb, put him in the tomb. And with the roar of the resurrection he came out three days later. And with the roar of the resurrection the rocks were split. Graveyards were emptied. The Lamb, the Lion. The Lion, the Lamb. The resurrected One lives forever! He conquered the grave! Thereby securing your salvation and mine! Thereby securing and making up your distance and mine. Thereby hitting the mark, a mark that we can never, ever hit.
I’ve gotta ask you. You have applied the blood of Jesus to the doorframes of your life? Well, yeah, but I can put some diamonds up there, some gold, some good works and I can put some philosophies up there. Hey, that’s good. Only the blood. Only the blood. Only the blood. There’s life in the blood.
Even today, you go to the doctor and what’s the first thing they do? Check your blood. There’s life in the blood. The blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin. Have you arranged to receive the atoning work of Christ on the cross for your sins? Have you done that?
Or are you going to atone for your own sins? See, we have a choice. We either receive what Jesus has done for us, which is the good news of Easter, or we say, “I will just atone for my own sins.” But here’s the problem. If you atone for your own sins, you’re not gonna face the Lamb, you’re gonna face the Lion.
But if you can arrange, and you can, for Jesus to come into your life. And if you can receive what he did for you 2000 years ago, you’ll live forever in a place where the Lamb and the Lion lie down together. Is that good news?
Man, I need to hear that. Because as a follower of Christ it’s Easter every single day! The atoning work of Jesus Christ.
I want to give you an opportunity right now to make that arrangement. I can’t make the arrangement for you, I can tell you how to do it. But if you want to do that personally you can do it right now. Bow your heads. Every head is bowed. If you’re watching online, if you’re in Miami, Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, here in gorgeous Grapevine, just bow your heads. Many here, many here, need to pray this prayer and to receive the atoning work of Christ in your life. Because we have one of two choices. We either atone for our own sins, which we can’t do, or we arrange personally to receive what Christ has done on the cross for our sins.
You hear the Lamb calling. He’s calling you. He’s calling you to himself. If you want to make this arrangement personally just say this.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]