This message tells a story. But, we know ahead of time how this story ends. It is the story of the darkest day in all of man’s history but the brightest day in God’s work for man. It is the story of how mere creatures murder their Creator. But, it is also the story of how the Creator sacrificed Himself to give His creation life.
The followers of Jesus had expected that Jesus of Nazareth was going to establish His kingdom on earth and lead the cause to throw off Rome’s strong arm on their beloved Israel. Now all of the excitement of what “would be” is gone. The beloved Leader is dead along with all of their hopes of what could have been.
I. THE SCENE WAS HOPELESS.
Imagine yourself in Jerusalem at the time. Less than a week earlier Jesus of Nazareth had entered the city with His followers shouting His praise. We have called it His triumphal entry. (Matthew 21:8, 9) “And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”
And now just a few days later Jesus is dead. His followers are dispersed, hope has turned to hopelessness.
A. IT WAS A HOPELESS SCENE OF DEATH.
The story picks up outside the city of Jerusalem’s wall. There a hill stands with the distinct features of a skull. Thus the name, “Golgotha … a place of a skull.” Three men hang there with Roman soldiers on guard. What is their job? Their job began by nailing these men to their crosses. Their remaining duty was to make sure they died. They were there now to ensure that no one interfered with the death sentence that Pilate the Roman governor had pronounced. The three had no human hope of the sentence being commuted. Their death was certain.
B. IT WAS A HOPELESS SCENE OF DESPAIR.
Man’s fallen depravity had come to its fullness. The previous day a mob mentality in the city prevailed led by the Jewish religious leaders. They have one driving goal, get rid of this man Jesus. The people fall under the spell of the “fake news” propagating that Jesus had blasphemed the law of Moses and thus deserves death.
(Matthew 26:65, 66) “Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.”
The followers of Jesus are left to despair. Their hopes are dashed. The ugliness of man’s sin is in control. The words of Matthew 27:24 and 25 sum up the emotional and spiritual darkness of the mob.
(Matthew 27:24, 25 “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.”
The mob had a taste for blood and blood they would have. But, the followers of Jesus were left in hopeless despair. Their words reveal that they had no inclination of the gravity of their words.
II. THEIR HEARTS WERE HOPELESS.
Earlier in the day as the soldiers were leading Jesus through Jerusalem out to Golgotha we find that there were many who followed in great grief and sorrow.
(Luke 23:27) “And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.”
It is not hard for us to enter into the hopeless spirit that pervades the hearts of those who followed Jesus. They are witnessing their Leader being shamed, tortured and led to His death. We have the testimony of some of those.
A. THE HOPELESS HEARTS OF JOSEPH AND NICODEMUS. John 19:38-42.
The process that Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus went through to prepare the body for burial was hurried because of the time. They were preparing a body for the tomb. The other gospels tell us that their thinking was to complete this process after the Sabbath but, of course, God had other plans.
The point is, these men did not have hope that Jesus was coming out of that grave. They hopelessly place the body of the our Savior in the garden tomb.
If you have been to Golgotha you can appreciate the closeness of the garden tomb to the place Jesus was crucified. It was just a few hundred yards from the place of the skull to the garden tomb. God’s providence was surely at work to have Joseph prepare his own unused tomb for Jesus to be placed in.
B. THE HOPELESS HEARTS OF THE DISCIPLES.
They had lost all hope and deserted their Master. Mark records their actions with just a few words. Mark 14:50) “And they all forsook him, and fled.”
I don’t want to be too hard on the eleven disciples. With the giving of the Holy Spirit seven weeks later they would become a mighty force for the gospel. But on this night they deserted their Master and hid for fear.
Peter follows but at a safe distance. And we are very aware that he denied Jesus three times as the Lord foretold. The hearts of the disciples had lost all hope.
C. THE HOPELESS HEARTS OF THE WOMEN WHO FOLLOWED JESUS. (Luke 23:54-24:4-24:4a; John 20:1-15)
Do these passages not describe the hopeless hearts of these dear ladies. These devoted women along with Joseph of Aramathaea and Nicodemus showed more courage than the Lord’s closest disciples. The women follow as Joseph takes the body to his tomb so that they would know where the body was laid. After the Sabbath they planned to return and do a proper job of preparing Jesus body for burial.
What is the one thing that all these ones who had followed Jesus believed. They believed that Jesus was dead and their hopes in Him were gone. All this is a very important testimony to how important it is to pay attention to what God says. Early in His ministry Jesus revealed what was going to take place.
(John 2:19-21) “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.”
He also said in John 10:17, 18. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”
The fact is, there was no reason for the followers of Jesus to lose hope. God, as He always is, was in complete control.
III. THE HOPE THAT CONQUERED ALL HOPELESSNESS.
I am certainly thankful that that is not the end of the story.
A. JESUS CONQUERED THE HOPELESSNESS OF THE GRAVE.
The stone was rolled away. What was a dark tomb was turned into a place of great light.
(Matthew 28:1-3) “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow”
Beloved, hopelessness is a dark emotion. It seeks to hide any glimmering light of hope. But light does just the opposite. Light brings encouragement. The light of a fresh dawn vanquishes the darkness of night and brings with it the hope of the new day. And on this new morning the light of day and the light of this angelic being brought hope not just for that day but for eternity.
B. JESUS CONQUERED THE HOPELESSNESS OF SIN.
(Romans 8:1, 2) “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Are you saved? If you are you are in Christ Jesus. And you are you have been delivered from the hopelessness of sin. Sin’s hopeless condemnation has been lifted from you and you have been set free from its bondage.
C. JESUS CONQUERED THE HOPELESSNESS OF DEATH.
Jesus victory over all of these, the hopelessness of the grave, of sin and of death is boldly declared by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57. Listen to Paul’s words as he mocks all three.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
My heart always pumps harder when I hear or read those words. They never fail to excite me. They declare the momentous occasion when Hope conquered hopelessness.
On this resurrection Sunday can not we rejoice in them together? Hear the declaration of the Word of God. The angel declared in Luke 24:5 and 6 “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”
(Mark 16:5 ,6) “And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.”
(Matthew 28:5, 6) “And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
What tremendous words of hope. Matthew, Mark and Luke all declare the tremendous words of hope, “He is not here.” He, the One that you seek, is not here in this tomb, He is not among the dead, He is risen! Where is hopelessness now?
We don’t worship a dead Savior. He is the living Savior who had the total and complete victory over the hopelessness of the grave, sin and death.
CONCLUSION: as followers of Jesus we have plenty to hope in. Hope conquered hopelessness. Jesus is our hope. Dear ones, please be honest, do you have that hope? There is no greater day to make certain your relationship with the God who conquered hopelessness than on this resurrection Sunday.