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Apr 04, 2010

Our Emancipation Proclamation

Passage: Exodus 12:31-36

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: How A Savior Saves

Category: Redemption

Keywords: resurrection, gifts, justification, living hope, easter


God's redemption of Israel involved the plundering of Egypt, giving the Hebrews more than enough to move into a new life. Ephesians 4 tells us that Jesus' resurrection resulted in God granting us more than enough with which to live our new life in the Church. This sermon talks about some of the wonderful things God has given his people today specifically as a result of the resurrection of Jesus.


Our Emancipation Proclamation

Easter 2010


INTRO: Amistad is a 2 ½ hour epic movie by Steven Spielberg about the slave trade from Africa to the Americas about 1840. By this time, slave trading has been banned in England but not Spain.  In America, African-born slaves are no longer allowed to be traded, only those born on plantations outside Africa.

       Based on a true story, the movie chronicles the horrific and heroic journey of a group of enslaved Africans who overtake their Spanish captor’s ship and attempt to return to their beloved homeland.  But, of course, they know nothing about sailing.  Eventually their ship, La Amistad (Spanish for “Friendship”) is seized on the high seas and these men and women are brought to the United States where they are charged with murder and await their fate in prison.

      A legal tug of war ensues between various parties.  There is the Ambassador from Spain who represents Queen Isabella and her country’s demands that they be turned over to Spain (where they will certainly be executed).  Then there are the American sailors who intercepted the ship at sea and lay claim to its cargo. There are the Spanish ship’s owners who claim these slaves as theirs.  And finally, there is a group of Americans who seek to win them their freedom and return to Africa by arguing that these people were born in Africa and therefore must be returned to Africa according to American law.


We come into the story just after one of the captives has told the story of how the crew of La Amistad threw some 50 men, women and children overboard, chained together and weighted with rocks to drown them because the ship’s owners had miscalculated the amount of food needed for the journey and had to cut down the food consumption.  In true gut-wrenching fashion, Spielburg does a flash-back to the horror of that event in a way you will never forget if you ever watch the movie.  (It is this very scene that probably earns the movie its deserved “R” rating.) 


      The scene we come in on is in the courtroom where a British officer is being questioned by both the prosecution and the defense.  At one point you will see the judge go to pray for wisdom in a church. 

      One more thing.  One of the captives has been given a Bible. He carries it everywhere with him…from prison to court and back to prison, day after day.  But the Bible is in English, a language none of the captives understand.  Welcome to America in 1839. 


[CLIP of Scenes 13 & 14 of Amistad.]


Why is FREEDOM so precious to us as human beings? 

Why has there been, for countless ages, this tug-of-war between slavery and freedom, between subjugation and salvation?

You would think that we were made to be free!  J 

No one has to teach us.  That’s the longing of every human heart—to be free to make the choices that lead to the best life possible…even if you may mess up those choices along the way.


For the Easter message today I want to combine both an Old Testament passage and some New Testament realities.  Last week we left the Jews, the offspring of Israel, coming up on 430 years of slavery in Egypt.  It was, as is so often the case, a slavery that had turned deadly.  Egypt’s Pharaoh was demanding that the Hebrew midwives kill all the newborn Jewish boys.  The Jewish population was exploding…and Pharaoh was getting nervous. 


So as Exodus tells us, God sent Moses to lead his people out of slavery.  Preparation for that job took 80 years.  For 40 years he lived in Egypt as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  Then, in anger at what the Egyptians were doing to his people, he murdered an Egyptian and then spent the next 40 years living in the desert of Midian as a shepherd. 

      God then calls him at age 80 to go back to Egypt and confront Pharaoh in God’s name, demanding the release of ALL the Hebrews.  The first 11 chapters of Exodus chronicle the escalating severity God had to impose on Pharaoh and Egypt to get him to release His people.  Those horrific 10 plagues God used finally culminated in the plague of the death of every firstborn son in Egypt of every class and race of person who did not celebrate that 1st Passover by marking their homes on the doorframe with the blood of their Passover lamb. 


And if you were with us on Good Friday, you were reminded of the deep significance of that Passover lamb…and the thousands that were sacrificed after that first Passover…and THE final Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ, who shed his blood on that horrible cross at Golgotha to rescue the whole world from sin and death. 


All of that is a sort of living preview of what Jesus was going to do for the whole world but on an eternal level. 

      As we saw in Amistad being set free from slavery is an amazing thing.  It is something that should move us to our core time and again. It is something that should make us shout and sing.  It is something that should bring tears to our eyes when we think of the profound change God has accomplished for us in our past, present and future. 


But being set free from slavery is only half of the story. Emancipation is wonderful if you are a slave.  But without some real change in one’s own resources, you will probably end up, at best, a share-cropper.  You still won’t be free to follow your dreams.  You still won’t be able to get out of poverty.  You still will live in fear of abusive powers and people even though you have been emancipated legally.  There is a big difference between being legally free and being experientially, daily, actually free to pursue all that you were made for in life.  Just ask African-Americans who lived through the 20th century and the realization of true civil rights over 100 years after their grandparents had been “emancipated” by Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. 


God knew, way back in the book of Exodus, that it wouldn’t be enough for Egypt to just “let His people go.”  Pharaoh could have issued his own Emancipation Proclamation and the people of God would have walked out of Egypt empty-handed, destitute, without the resources needed to begin a new life with new hope in a new land. 


Exodus 12:31ff tells us the story of what happened that first Passover night when their slavery ended and their emancipation began. 

31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me."

 33 The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. "For otherwise," they said, "we will all die!" 34 So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. 35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.


The Hebrew word for “plundered” occurs several hundred times in the O.T.  I think God used a play on words (or “word”, in this case) here.  The Hebrew word (nasal) that is translated into our English word “plundered” is usually translated “rescued” or “saved” or “defended” or “protected.”  That’s exactly the opposite of “plundered/looted,” isn’t it?  Well, while the Egyptians were  being plundered, God was “delivering” and “rescuing” his own people, Israel. 


Just imagine the turn of events!  Here are people who, just the day before were enduring all kinds of indignities under slavery.  They were being driven, whipped, beaten, even killed.  They were being told how hard to work and how long to work.  They were slogging through mud pits making bricks and feeling the sting of the lash if they slowed down. They were being told how many children they could have and to kill their children if they had the wrong kind.  Every part of their lives was dominated by their oppressors.


Then, the next day, it all changed.  Now they are telling their former slave-drivers what it is they want.  “I’ll take that necklace…and that pair of shoes…and that tunic…and that silver goblet, that goat or cow.”  They were “plundering”…modern day “looting”…their formerly abusive Egyptian neighbors.  They not only got their freedom.  They got riches and resources beyond their wildest dreams to start a new life in a new place.  They had a completely new future with new hopes and a whole new list of possibilities. 


Do we realize that in a very real way, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has created for every one of us who live by faith in Him a new future, a change of reality, a more profound and life-altering experience than even that first singular Passover experience did for the children of Israel?  In the time that remains, I want us to see from God’s word just what it is that the Bible says has changed for us due specifically to the resurrection of Jesus. 


Ephesians 4:7-13

7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it[a] says:
   "When he ascended on high,
      he led captives in his train
      and gave gifts to men."
[b] 9(What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.


First, because of Christ’s resurrection (vs. 8), every believer in Jesus has received GRACE gifts from God (vs. 7).  Those gifts are given to enable us to serve God (vs. 12) with all the fullness of Jesus life he wants us to experience (vs. 13).


ILL:  Daniel & Andrew’s scholarships to Whitworth.  Those are “gifts” of grace from the University.  They are what enable both of them to apply their full efforts and attention to developing their mental, spiritual and physical capacities to their highest possible level.  They still have to study hard, discipline themselves to eat right, exercise, get good sleep, etc.  But those scholarships make it possible for them to rise to greater and greater levels of competence in their chosen fields.  They enable them to sit under gifted and knowledgeable professors who can prepare them for a lifetime of public or private service. 


So too, every one of us who is a follower, a disciple, of Jesus has been “scholarshipped” by the very resurrection of Jesus with gifts of God’s goodness that enable us to, as vs. 13 says, “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining tot eh whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” 

      In fact, vs. 11 tells us that part of that “scholarship of grace” is that God also gave the church (university), grace-gifted teachers/professors known as “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors & teachers.”


It is the resurrection of Jesus that let to this grand gift-giving by God to the church (Eph. 4:8). 


So, without the resurrection, you wouldn’t have been “grace-scholarshipped” by God.  You wouldn’t have the opportunity, the ability or the capacity to become more and more like Christ in this world.  You wouldn’t have the possibility of growing up your whole life so that you could actually live the kind of righteous, holy, God-filled and godly life that you were created and destined to live.  But because of the resurrection, every believer in Jesus got a full-ride scholarship to the best, most prestigious, most important university in existence—the Kingdom of God. 


2.  Let’s look at another bit of “spiritual plunder” you and I have access to due to the resurrection of Jesus?

The Bible uses a big theological word to talk about something that God does for people like us through and because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It’s called “justification.”  Now, before you go all glassy-eyed on me, let me make it as simple.


Justification is what God does to take sinners like us and turn us into righteous people like himself.  The stress is “on what God does….and what He is.” 

  • Like taking a thief and making him (both legally and actually) into a hard-working, extremely generous, philanthropist who gives millions away to others in need.
  • Like taking a drug lord and turning him into the Pope.
  • Like taking a politician and turning them into…well…ah… Pinocchio…Wait, they already are! 


That’s why if you don’t like what God is (holy, pure, loving, righteous, grace-filled, etc.), you won’t like justification.  But if you want your life and the world around you to look more like who God is and what He intended the world to be, then justification is absolutely necessary.  


Paul, talking about the amazing faith that old-man Abraham had to believe that God would stay true to his promise to give him a child in his (and Sarah’s) old age, tells us in Romans 4, beginning in vs. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.


Jesus’ death took care of our sin.  It canceled our rap sheet, cleared our bad record, forgave our debts.  It took care of all the down-side of our sinfulness. 

But it was Jesus’ resurrection that opened a new bank account and filled it with spiritual resources.  It was Jesus’ resurrection that attributed the good and holy life of Christ to our moral balance sheet.  It was the resurrection of Jesus that made our spiritual GPA a 4.00.  Because the resurrection of Jesus IS the power of God at work to reverse the effects of sin in this world an in our lives. 


Nobody wants to just spend life living just outside the gates to the state pen, in a shack living in squalor.  That would be spiritually speaking what was accomplished by Jesus death when he took care of our sin.  But we are all made for more than that in every way.

Wouldn’t you prefer to leave the state pen and move into a beautiful home with a view, take up a great job you love to go to every day and loving family you love to come home to every night? 

That’s what we’re talking about in “justification.”  Justification is God making us more than ex-cons; it’s about God making us into His kids—body, soul and spirit.  It’s about declaring us righteous, growing us righteous, making us righteous and giving us righteousness. 


In fact, Paul takes it one step further in that magnificent chapter on the resurrection in I Cor. 15:17 when he is arguing against people who were claiming that dead people can’t be raised from the dead, incorruptible.  “If that’s the case,” says Paul, “then Christ hasn’t risen from the dead bodily either.”  He says, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”  In other words, your sins may be forgiven, but you’re still stuck living in that same sinful life you had before you met Christ.”  Wow, saved for what?  So all I can do is continue to live in my sins?  Not much of a salvation if that’s it. 


The resurrection of Jesus is not only what made the church and an ever-better life together growing up in Jesus possible; it’s what made God’s work in every one of us to make us like Jesus—righteous—possible and actual. 


3.  There’s one final thing that Jesus’ resurrection brought us that I’d like us to be reminded of today.  It’s the only ultimately satisfying answer to life’s toughest question.  It’s the only hope for the future of every one of us. 

It has to do with something we will all experience in this room. 

It has to do with something that causes all of us pain, sometimes so deeply that it threatens to swallow us in darkness. 

It has to do with something most of us hate when it happens to others we care about. 

It has something to do with what many of us may fear will happen to us sooner than we would like. 

It’s that universal human experience called DEATH.  But the “plunder” that Jesus got from his resurrection that he now offers to us as his children is a future immortal, resurrection body and life…forever. 


Satan’s first recorded lie to Eve in the Garden of Eden:  “You will not surely die.”  Well, we’ve all seen how reliable he was on that one, right?  Anybody here question the reality of death? 

      So Satan changed the lie.  Now he confidently asserts in a million different ways, “This is all there is to life.  There is nothing after this.  And you, the “you” everyone recognizes and the “you” that is your personality, personhood and being, certainly will not experience a real “resurrection” from the dead. 

What’s the difference between resuscitation and resurrection? 

  • Lazarus was “resuscitated” from the dead…but he died again.
  • The 12-year old daughter of Jairus, the synagogue ruler, was resuscitated when she was 12.  Yes, she was raised from the dead, but she died again at some future time. 
  • The widow of the village Nain whose only son had died and was on his way to being buried, he was resuscitated, brought back to life.  But he died again one day, perhaps after he had experienced the pain of his widow mother’s death first like he had known the pain of the loss of his own father. 

All those were really “resuscitations”—a mortal, dead body coming back to mortal, real life.  But the “resurrection” that Jesus’ own resurrection guarantees for us is very different from these resuscitations. 


Paul tells us that much in I Cor. 15:50ff.

50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."[g]
55"Where, O death, is your victory?
      Where, O death, is your sting?"
[h] 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


On the one side of life we’ve got… “flesh and blood,” “perishable”, “death,” “mortal,” our mortality.

On the other side of life (eternal), we’ve got… “the kingdom of God,” “imperishable,” “change”, “immortality,” and “victory.” 


The resurrection of Jesus makes our own resurrection more than a possibility, more than a probability; it makes our resurrection a certainty in an unknown future. And it is that certainty that these bodies will be replaced some day by bodies that will never decay, never die, never degrade or age, that changes SO much about our present experience of death…and our present experience of life. 


ILL:  Just think of what the mere possibility of a resurrection did to change the life of one of the greatest examples of faith in human history, Abraham.  Hebrews 11 says, “17By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring[b] will be reckoned."[c] 19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”


If the mere possibility of a resurrection was enough to enable Abraham to do THE hardest thing God ever asked him to do, just think what the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and our own promised resurrection to immortality can do to our faith, to our walk with God, to our suffering and to our own obedience to God!


  • Look what it did to a Mother Teresa in her years on earth.
  • Look what it did to transform the lives of 11 Apostles who ran at the first sight of danger when Jesus was arrested but after Jesus’ resurrection boldly preached the gospel of the resurrected Christ, suffered great physical torture and eventually were killed for doing so.
  • Look what the truth of the resurrection did to 5 young missionaries in the 1950’s who gave their lives in Ecuador in 1956 so that a little-known tribe of Indians called the Huaorani (Aucas) on a little-known river called the Curaray would turn from their cannibalistic ways to the living God.  Their lives…and deaths at the hands of the very people they came to preach Christ to…sparked one of last century’s greatest missions movements world-wide.  Jim Elliot’s quote:  “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

ILL:  I’ve seen hundreds of times the difference the reality of the resurrection makes for people who are dying or have died…and people who love them and must go on living without them for the remainder of this life. 

  • I watched my good friend Greg Papst, a muscular 6’4” Marine, wither away to about 100 lbs. through cancer…and spend his days leading people who came to comfort him closer to Jesus and sometimes to saving faith in Jesus.
  • I’ve watched his widow Kari and their 3 daughters go on without Greg with great strength, great depth, great hope and great confidence of knowing they will one day hug and kiss and laugh and walk with Greg again…because they know that as certain as death is the certainty of the resurrection to come. 


  • Do you have that certainty of the resurrection?  Are you ready to face your own mortality and death…or that of someone you love…because you know the living Lord Jesus who shook the powers of death until they broke under his resurrection life?  (Call to faith in Jesus.)  (Call to Christians who may still fear death or the death of loved ones to embrace the freedom from fear in the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.)
  • Are you experiencing the resurrection power of Jesus Christ in your own “justification”?  Having escaped the judgment of sin through faith in Jesus’ death for you, are you going on to experience the wonderful fruits of God making you into a saint, a child of his, someone who shares his wonderful character?  Or are you satisfied to live in a spiritual slum, a squatters hut just on the other side of sin’s slavery and imprisonment?  Christ’s resurrection made such a full life with God possible, why settle for anything less? 
  • Ready to embrace those grace-gifts God has given to you and the rest of the church through deeper connections with God’s family?  Ready to stop going it alone and start taking advantage of the “spiritual scholarship” God offers to every one of his kids through growth together in His church?  Find some spiritual mentors.  Enroll in some discipleship classes.  Don’t stop spiritually at 4th grade when God is offering you a graduate degree.