Imagine with me for a moment if you will. For years you have been slaving at your job with nobody ever noticing your diligence or the backbreaking work you undergo on a daily basis. The hours are long. The work wears you out every day. The pay is barely enough for you to put food on your table for you and your family. You would have changed jobs years ago, but you never finished your education and therefore you feel stuck. One day, the CEO of the corporation walks out on the dock where you are loading a truck. He asks if he can talk to you for a few minutes and as the two of you walk and talk he makes you an offer. The boss says, “You were so young when you first came to us. You were full of energy and you’ve always been willing to do more than we’ve asked of you. You’ve been here for more than ten years now and there is nobody who knows more about the work that has to be done than you. The suggestions you have made through the years have all worked to enhance our efforts, cut our overhead, and increase our productivity. I am going to retire in two years. I would love to have you work with me as Vice President of Operations until that time. During the next two years I will teach you the business side of our company so that in two years you can step into my position as CEO and lead us into the next twenty years. What do you think?” What do you think!? Man, what a deal! From the dock to the Boardroom! From loading trucks to a truckload of perks and a leather high-back chair! From taking directions from an ego inflated supervisor to casting a vision for the entire company. I’d call it the great exchange.
It’s the story of Cinderella cleaning, cooking, and clearing the clutter of her wicked stepmother and in the blink of an eye becoming the belle of the Ball. It is the great exchange! It is the story of Aladdin, a petty thief who becomes the Prince. It is the great exchange. It’s the story of a bunch of slaves in Egypt becoming the chosen people of God in the Promised Land. It is the story of David, the little shepherd boy taking lunch to his brothers on the front-line and in the blink of an eye standing over the giant with victory swirling in the air and cheers rising up from the crowd. It is the great exchange! It is the story of a nameless woman, who we have come to know as Mary, pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ head to prepare Him for burial. The disciples were indignant with the woman for “wasting” the expensive perfume, but Jesus said that she would be remembered throughout history because of her beautiful act toward the Lord. Indignation exchanged for exultation – the great exchange!
Jesus was known for such things as these, but the greatest exchange He ever made was at Easter. On Friday, Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the world as He hung, writhing in pain, on a wooden cross. But on Sunday, the stone was rolled away, death was defeated, sin was overcome, the darkness was dispelled, agony and death were exchanged for glory and life everlasting. A crown of thorns was exchanged for a crown of glory! Oh, it’s the great exchange. That really is the story of Jesus. It is the Good News, the best news, given to you and me. It is the story of Easter. The great exchange.
This morning, in the time that we have to open God’s Word, I want to share with you the extent of the exchange. Before we do that you need to know that if the stone had not been rolled away there would be no possibility of exchanging anything. You and I would still be lost in our sin, death would still rule the hearts of people, and Easter would merely be a pagan holiday with no meaning, no purpose, and no hope. Everything about our faith ultimately depends on the resurrection of our Savior and the empty tomb. If they were to find the bones of Jesus then we would have to dismiss class–our faith would be useless. Paul said as much when he wrote to the Corinthians and said,
13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14 NIV)
The truth of our faith hinges of the fact that the stone was rolled away and death was exchanged for eternal life by God. John Stott once wrote,
Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed. (John R. W. Stott)
Another great Bible teacher, Matthew Henry, the great Bible scholar wrote,
All who believe in Christ have hope in Him; all who believe in Him as Redeemer hope for redemption and salvation by Him; but if there be no resurrection, their hope in Him must be limited to this life. And if all their hopes in Christ lie within the compass of this life, they are in a much worse condition than the rest of humanity, especially at that time and under those conditions in which the apostles wrote, for then they were hated and persecuted by all people. (Matthew Henry)
The good news is that Jesus is alive! Jesus has overcome sin, death, and the grave. You and I have the opportunity to exchange our state of alienation from God for intimacy with God. We have the opportunity to exchange our sin for His righteousness. We have the opportunity to exchange our guilt and shame for His grace and forgiveness. We have the opportunity to exchange our sense of hopelessness for the blessed assurance that He is our hope. All of this is made available to you and me through a relationship with Jesus Christ, because of Jesus death and resurrection. Pastor Tim Keller has written about the importance of our knowing the resurrection power of our Savior. He writes,
Look at the deadness in your life. Look at the anger. How is that going to be turned into forgiveness? Look at the insecurity. How is that going to be turned into confidence? Look at the self-centeredness. How is that going to be turned into compassion and generosity? How? The answer is that the dead stuff gets taken over by the Spirit of God . . . The minute you decide to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit comes into your life. It’s the power of the resurrection—the same thing that raised Jesus from the dead. (Tim Keller)
The foundation for the great exchange was put into place long before Jesus ever felt the excruciating pain of being whipped by a cat o’ nine tails with rocks and metal tied into its straps. The exchange was on the heart of God before Jesus ever carried that large wooden cross up Calvary’s hill. The exchange was a deep yearning in the hearts of people before the spikes were ever driven into Jesus’ hands and feet. All of humanity has longed for peace, forgiveness, and restoration, but there has always been one big problem that no human being could solve – only a perfect person could offer himself to pay the price for the forgiveness of our sins. Scriptures tell us that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. (Hebrews 9:22) The problem faced by humanity has always been that we are born sinners. (Romans 3:23) The Good News of Easter is that the Sinless One, Jesus, who lived and never sinned, offered Himself as a sacrifice for those of us who are sinners. In the midst of despair God foretold long ago that He would take our problem upon Himself. He would send a Deliverer. God spoke to the prophet Isaiah to comfort His people. Look at Isaiah 52:13 and read along with me.
13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness- 15 so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. 53 1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
Isn’t God good! God is always true to His promises and at just the right time – Jesus came to deliver us from the penalty of sin. The Son of God. Sinless. The perfect offering who willingly suffered death so that you and I could have eternal life if we would accept His offer of exchanging our grave clothes for His garments of righteousness.
How could anyone resist that offer? Why would anyone want to resist the offer of reconciliation with God? I hear so many reasons coming from well meaning people. I knew a young man one time who told me that he was planning on accepting Christ when he got older, but right now he wanted to live it up and have fun while he was still young. I have known many people who realized their need for their sins to be forgiven, but they felt that they couldn’t give their life to Christ until they cleaned up their life. I have known others who said, “I don’t want to hear all of that stuff about God because you know as well as I do that all of those folks in the church are hypocrites.” Those answers all avoid my question – “Why would anyone want to resist God’s offer of reconciliation?” Is there anyone here this morning who wouldn’t want to give up death and eternal separation from God in exchange for God taking you in His arms and calling you His child?
All of the responses I mentioned earlier deal with peripheral issues. My young friend who wants to “live it up” doesn’t realize that Proverbs says, 25 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25) My friends who say that they have to get their “act together” before they give their life to Christ do not understand that it is God who transforms us once we give our life to Jesus. Those who refuse to accept the exchange offered by God because of hypocrites have never heard the exchange that took place between the Pharisees and Jesus. Take a look at Matthew 9:10-13,
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)
If you or I had the ability to clean up our lives by ourselves then we would have no need for a Savior and God could have been spared the agony of having His only Son die on a Cross. Easter is a new beginning! The stone was rolled away and the Savior emerged from the grave with victory in His hands! Ever since Jesus rose victorious on Easter morning the great exchange has been under way. God’s desire is to exchange your sin for His forgiveness this morning. God’s desire is to exchange your hopelessness for His hope that springs eternal. God’s desire is to exchange your fear for His faithfulness. God’s desire is to exchange your shame and guilt for His mercy and grace. It is the great exchange!
The truly tragic reality that many of us face this Easter morning is that we are unaware that the exchange is even possible. We’re still living in Saturday with the tomb sealed, gray skies hanging low overhead, and hope wilting before us. We do not understand that Sunday has come, that the stone was rolled away so that our lives might be different than they are, and that we might be delivered from sin and condemnation. Jesus is alive, but many of us are living like the disciples of Jesus who were walking on the road to Emmaus. Let me read you the story found in Luke 24.
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 ?What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” (Luke 24:13-24)
They had hoped that Jesus would be the One who would redeem all of Israel, but they only knew that He had been crucified and died. They didn’t know that it was resurrection day! Jesus was walking right beside them, preserving their lives, keeping them company, but they did not know. There are many of us here for Easter that are unaware that it is resurrection day. There is a difference between Easter and resurrection day you know. Easter is a popular day when kids hunt eggs, get a basket full of goodies, and have to wear nice clothes. It is a day when it is popular in our country to take pictures with our Sunday best on in front of a beautiful flower bed spilling over with color. Resurrection day is something all together different. Resurrection day is the day of the grand opening! The grand opening of an empty tomb that couldn’t hold the love of God down. The grand opening of eyes that have been blinded by the enemy and the world for far too long. The grand opening of hearts that have become cynical and hardened by life’s difficult days. The grand opening of our spirit to the Spirit of the living God. Resurrection day is the day of the great exchange – the opening of life where there was only death, the opening of righteousness where there was only sin, and the opening of hope where there was only hopelessness. I’ve got good news for any of us who need a resurrection day. I’ve got good news for those of us who need to experience a grand opening. Let me read you more of the story of the disciples who were living in Saturday even though Sunday had come.
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! (Luke 24:13-34)
It is true my friends – Christ is risen! There is hope for you and me. There is eternal life for all who will come to Jesus as they are and allow Him to become King and Lord of their life. The world will continue to try and tell you that it is all a fantasy, a myth, a fable of epic proportions, but I want to encourage you today to accept the gift of eternal life that God has offered to you and me. Allow Jesus to take your sin, guilt, and shame and give you peace that surpasses all understanding, joy – unspeakable joy, and life everlasting. Jesus is the fulfillment of the longings of our heart. He is the remedy for the sin that is stealing of the life God desires for us, and He is the Victor who alone has overcome the grave. God wants to make the great exchange with you and me this very day.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
April 24, 2011