Jon implored us to recognize that we all have a calling.  That we all have a gifting and that the church needs all of us and our gifts to properly influence the world.  Pastor Jon shared the story of the woman at the well in John chapter 4 to illustrate his point.  He reminded us of two cultural taboos or social norms that Jesus broke in this time period. First; Jesus was willing to talk to a woman as an equal.  In ancient Jewish culture, men and women lived in separate social circles.  Second; not only was she a woman, but that she was a Samaritan woman.  As Jon explained, Jewish people didn’t think highly of Samaritans. They looked down on them and often treated them as an “other”.  However, Jesus missed the memo.  He invaded her life to transform it.  Jon used this story to remind all of us of our worth regardless of how culture views us or how we view ourselves.

On Palm Sunday, we looked at Jesus’ journey to the cross. We see the final leg of this journey in Mark 15, where Pilate (pressured by the Jews) condemns the innocent (Jesus) and grants freedom to the guilty (Barabbas), a picture-image of the freedom granted to each of us through the judgment Jesus suffered on the cross.  And when we take in a larger frame of the biblical story, we see that Jesus’ journey doesn’t begin when he enters Jerusalem during his final week, but instead reaches back to the Old Testament and begins in places such as Exodus 12 and Psalm 22.

 In Exodus 12, God is actively at work delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery by sending an angel of death over the land. To escape this judgment, God instructs each family in Israel to slaughter an unblemished, innocent lamb at twilight and put its blood on the doorposts and lintel of their houses. The blood of the lamb would allow Israel to live when the angel of death passed over the land. When Jesus hung on the cross and died at twilight Israel was, that very same week, slaying their Passover lambs in celebration of Exodus 12. Paul noticed the parallels and wrote, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7).

 Before giving his last breath, Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1. This psalm begins in despair (“My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”) and ends in hope (“Deliver my soul from the sword [and] . . . all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord”). Jesus knowing both the despair and hope of Psalm 22 invites us out of judgment he bore and into hope he brings.

 Pastor Jon concluded with three thoughts on the crucifixion: (1) Jesus rescues you, (2) realigns your thinking, and (3) recreates you.           

While on this Easter Sunday, we celebrate the historical event that was Jesus’s resurrection, Pastor Jon reminds us of the continued meaning and power of Jesus’s resurrection today. Pastor Jon reminds us that resurrection was not just an event, but a person, Jesus Christ – alive and working today:

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die’” (John 11:25-26).

Jesus’s action on the cross declares that we are forgiven. However, it is his resurrection that declares that sin and death have been defeated. We are reminded that resurrection only comes after death, when things are at their lowest point. God never wastes our hurt. If we choose to turn over our situations, our sin, and our lives to Jesus, we are resurrected with Christ and born as new creations (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). We now have a renewed purpose and destiny (Romans 6:4). As we live out our lives for Christ, we can overcome the habits of our old self by the renewing our minds through the word of God (Romans 12:2).

As we continue our series paralleling the Church of WNY devotional, we turn our focus this week to exploring the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the main message Jesus preached in His ministry. Jesus became us on the cross so that we could become Him on earth. The Bible is about God’s kingdom government coming down to earth. In the Parable of the Tares (Read: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43), Jesus explains “The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.” God is establishing His kingdom by putting the seed of Christ in us – we are a living, breathing demonstration of the lifestyle of God’s Kingdom (Romans 8:19).

Pastor Jon opened his message by explaining the fact that we desire to do something or be something significant, emphasizing this point by mentioning that we matter. He also pointed out that God’s will is to take us from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). During the 40 days that Jesus was resurrected before the ascension he revealed himself almost exclusively to the disciples rather than the large crowds He preached to in the past. Jesus was preparing them to take the ball (Acts 1:8). He gave us the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out His last words. Paul illustrates the life that was given for us on the cross in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” We are called to lead lives of significance, by yielding our desires to God’s. It is there where we find everlasting peace because our desires are synchronized with Gods. Pastor Jon’s conclusion focused on a call to challenge ourselves by entering into an attitude of discipleship (Matthew 28:19). Dr. Alberto Lanzot mentioned in his devotional writing that “we are called as witnesses to go and tell our story of what has happened to us”. The point is that my life matters, your life matters, and our lives matter.