Against All Odds
Easter Sunday 2020
Text – Exodus 15:4-5
Pharaoh’s chariots & his host He cast into the sea, & his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea. The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone.
AGAINST ALL ODDS!
If you buy a lottery ticket, what are the odds that you will win a multi-state power-ball lottery? They are one in 185 million. If you play baseball in high school, what are the odds of playing in the major leagues? One in 6,600. Those are the same odds of someone guessing your four-digit PIN on the 1st try.
What are the odds that you will be struck by lightning? One in 3 million. By the way, a man named Roy Sullivan holds the world record for being struck by lightning. He’s been struck seven times. You might want to practice social distancing if Roy is around.
And the most important “what are the odds” question is this: What are the odds that a man, brutally beaten & then crucified by the Roman Empire, would come back to life? The odds are astronomical, but get this – it happened! It really happened! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
The goal of this sermon is for us to profess Easter & to possess Easter. Easter happened. That’s profess. Easter is happening in me. That’s possess!
Wrapping up the sermon series on the book of Exodus we come to chapter 15. What are the odds that a group of Israelite slaves would defeat the most powerful military force on earth – the Egyptians led by that mean & mighty Pharaoh?
The drama began in Exodus 1:11, “The Egyptians put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor who worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick & mortar & with all kinds of work in the fields.” It gets worse! “No longer supply the people with straw for making bricks. Let them go & gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota” (Exodus 5:7–8). Pharaoh is using bricks, whips, & his best tricks! But it gets worse! As the Israelites flee Egypt they look back & see Pharaoh madly chasing after them screaming, “You’ll have hell to pay!”
It gets even worse than that! The Israelites become surrounded & stuck on all sides. Exodus 14:11, “They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?’” So when the odds were completely against Israel we come to Exodus 15:4–5:
“Pharaoh’s chariots & army He cast into the sea, & his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.” No wonder the Israelites sing, “The LORD is my strength & my song; He has become my salvation!” (Exodus 15:2) This is the first Hallelujah! Then, in Exodus 15:3, “Yahweh is a Man of War. Yahweh is His name!”
All of this, though, is just a peek, a prelude & a preview into the Bible’s greatest against all the odds story. Opposition began early in Christ’s ministry. Pharisees plot with Herodians. Detractors say he’s demon possessed. Scribes test Him with Torah trivia. His brothers ride & ridicule Him. Sadducees posture with pentateuchal pride.
And it gets worse. Christ Jesus will have hell to pay! Once arrested, Jesus is bound, accused, blindfolded & mocked. It gets worse. They strip Him naked & beat Him into a bloody pulp. It gets even worse. Jesus is blood-soaked & spiked to a tree for six hours – crucified, died & buried. Just when everyone thought it was all over, the angel announced:
“He is not here! He has risen just as He said!” Mary shouts, “Rabonni!” Then Thomas announces one for the ages, “My Lord & my God!” Against all the odds, Jesus lives! Hallelujah! So the goal of this sermon is for us to profess Easter & to possess Easter. Easter happened. That’s profess. Easter is happening in me. That’s possess! However, there are at least three common barriers to possessing Easter.
Maybe we grew up in a family that didn’t work. Sometimes we meet people who are walking zombies because when they were children something was broken inside. Now they’re a third or halfway through life & starting to think that what’s broken will never be fixed, what was lost will never be found.
I’m thinking of the 1 in 3 people whose parents got divorced. I’m talking about the 1 in 4 women who were sexually abused as children. I’m thinking of the 1 in 7 who grew up with an alcoholic parent. I’m talking about those who grew up in families with screaming parents, absentee dads, controlling moms, abusive siblings. You feel as though the odds are against you.
Maybe we experienced a devastating loss. For some, this means your spouse died, your marriage died, your child died, your father died. For others, it means your dream died. I’d venture to guess that for some your will to live has died. Most days it feels as if Mt. Everest sits on your chest, crushing what’s left of your life. You feel as though the odds are against you.
Maybe we are crippled by a destructive habit. What is it for you? Gambling? Drugs? Alcohol? Pornography? Work? A guy once said,
“I spent my entire childhood feeling invisible. There was no abuse or stuff like that. I just felt invisible. I wanted to say, ‘Hello! I’m here! I am a person with a love-starved heart. Would you please notice me & see me & convince me that I matter?’” It never happened.
Now he’s addicted to his boat & his booze & his big bucks. Can you relate? You feel as though the odds are against you. All the odds truly were against a man named Lee Capps. Lee, who did not know how to fly, took off in a private plane with a friend who was a pilot. When they got to cruising altitude Lee’s friend, the pilot, had a heart attack & died. Lee grabbed the radio & cried for help. An air traffic controller in Renton, Washington, heard Lee’s cry. He said, “This is your lucky day. I’m not only an air traffic controller; I’m also a flight instructor. Would you be interested in a flying lesson?” Being otherwise unoccupied, Lee Capps said, “Sure! Why not?”
The air traffic controller said, “Lee, you will have to take a shot at landing the plane. No practice, no dress rehearsal, no spring training!” Lee Capps came in like a drunk duck. He was all over the place, & he hit the runway hard. But Lee Capps walked away from it all with only a few minor cuts. Afterwards, the air traffic controller was interviewed by several TV stations:
“Did you think he’d walk away alive?” The air traffic controller responded, “Folks, Lee Capps made it against all odds!”
I know. I know. Stuff is going on – a whole lot of stuff is going on in your life, & it not just the virus pandemic. You are circling the runway & trying to land. Your greatest fear is that you will crash & burn! So let me remind you of two honest-to-God facts. Against all odds, Israel made it out of Egypt. Better yet, against all odds, Jesus Christ is risen today!
We profess Easter with every ounce of our being! But we also long to possess Easter with every ounce of our being! Paul says we can! “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).
Through the presence & power of the Holy Spirit, Easter can happen in you. God promises resurrection for everything that looks lifeless, hopeless & dead! Ask the Holy Spirit to make all of this real for you. In John 14:19 Jesus puts it this way, “Because I live, you also will live.” Easter happened. That’s profess. Easter is happening in me. That is possess.
We live now & we will live forever. We have a word for all this. What would that be?
Pastor Dean R. Poellet