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The World’s Greatest Comeback
We all love a good comeback story. A story about those who have been beaten down, overwhelmed, and who have come out of nowhere, out of obscurity and hopeless conditions to beat the odds.
The king of the comeback has to be Abraham Lincoln. Here’s a man who had less than three years of formal education and failed in two business ventures. He was twice elected to public office, but was defeated eight times. But then He made the political comeback of all times when he was elected as the 16th President of the United States.
In the business world Chrysler Corporation takes the prize as one of the biggest comebacks.
• After posting a 17 million dollar profit in its first year in 1924, and then remaining viable throughout the Great Depression, in 1979 financial problems threatened its existence.
• They hired Lee Iacocca from Ford and with the help of the Federal Government secured a 1.5 billion dollar loan and tax incentives. They introduced several new cars including the now famous or infamous mini-van, and brought back the convertible.
• So strong was their comeback they repaid their loan in three years, purchased American Motors, the maker of Jeep and the fourth largest car manufacturer in the U.S., and they also merged with Daimler-Benz, best known for it’s Mercedes Benz
• Now that’s a comeback story.
In the sports world there are two that stand out. The first was tennis star Andre Agassi. Actually he came back twice. He entered tennis with a head full of hair and a flair for winning.
• But in 1993 he underwent surgery, which dropped him out of the rankings. But in 1994 he entered the U.S open and won, and then in 1995 he won the Australian Open making him the number two player in the world.
• He dropped again out of the rankings only to come back in 1999, without hair this time and won the one Grand Slam title that eluded him, the French Open, and earned the number one ranking in the world. He was the first of two to win the Career Golden Slam.
And there are those Cubbies, that is, the Chicago Cubs. Before winning the 2016 World Series, the last time they won was back in 1908, that’s a 108 year drought, the longest in major North American sports.
Each of these comebacks was truly remarkable. But why do we love to see such comebacks? I think it’s because they give us hope. They bring a glimmer of light into the darkness of our self-doubt.
These comebacks say that our present condition, our past and present failures might not be the end of our stories; that maybe a comeback is looming somewhere in our future. They encourage us to rise above the setbacks in life.
I’d like to look at two qualities that those who experienced a comeback possessed.
1. They Didn’t Give Up
They didn’t fold up their tents and go home. They didn’t fade into the background. Instead they continued to persevere. And the same should be true for us. We need to persevere though the trials that assail our lives.
The Apostle Paul tells us,
“Stand fast in the Lord … rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.” (Philippians 4:1b; Romans 12:12 NKJV)
But the question is “why.” Why keep standing strong? Why keep rejoicing when all seems hopeless? Why should we be strong in trials that never seem to end? Why pray when it doesn’t seem to be doing any good?
The answer lies in a truism best summed up by King David who was himself a great comeback story knowing the heartache of being on top one moment and running for his life the next.
“His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5 NKJV)
The prophet Jeremiah says the reason joy comes, even in the most difficult of times, is because God’s mercies are always new towards us. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Even in the harshest times, God’s mercy and grace will being joy. To say it another way, in the darkest tunnel there’s always a light at the end, and it’s not an oncoming train; rather it’s the light of God showing us the way.
2. They Did What Was Needed
The story of the Prodigal Son is probably the best at describing this point. In this parable the youngest of two sons asks his father for his inheritance early, and then begins to spiral downward. He spent his money on a sinful lifestyle and soon found himself broke and working as a hired hand feeding pigs and wishing he could eat their slop.
He had sunk as low as he could go, but then the most remarkable thing happened. It says he “came to himself,” or he came to his senses. (Luke 15:17) He realized the severity of his condition and how far he had sank, but it doesn’t stop there.
Too many people stop at the recognition stage and don’t follow through on what they know is right. They either delude themselves thinking they’ll someday get back and get their lives right with God. But in the meantime they continue in their stinkin’ thinking that got them all messed up in the first place.
Others think that it’s too late, that there’s no more hope of a comeback and so they remain with the pigs.
But back to the Prodigal Son, he didn’t just recognize his condition, but he did what was needed to secure a comeback. He got up and returned to His father’s house.
That’s what some of us need to do. We need to repent. We need to return to our heavenly Father. In other words, we need to quit talking about doing it and just do it. And God’s not going to stand there with His arms folded shaking His head in disgust. No! He’s going to run to us with arms wide open and take the filthy rags of our sin and clothe us with clean garments of righteousness.
And so for most if not all of us a comeback is needed. And no matter how great those comebacks were that we just looked at they don’t hold a candle to the greatest comeback of all time.
The greatest comeback happened on this day that we celebrate as Easter. It was the greatest comeback of them all, the greatest comeback of all time, and it’s this comeback that will help all of us achieve that comeback we need.
What I’d like to do in our remaining time is to tell the story of Jesus and His remarkable comeback.
Jesus’ story begins before time itself began.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-3 NKJV)
Because of humanity’s sin back in the Garden of Eden, God knew humanity needed a comeback. The Bible states that there is no one who is righteous, that is, no one who is right before God, and everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, short of His holy and righteous standard for living. (Romans 3:10, 23)
God knew a comeback was needed if we were ever going to have a right relationship with Him. And since no one was ever going to be righteous enough, and since only God is righteous, God came down to us.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NKJV)
Jesus left the glory of heaven behind to come to this earth to be one of us, but without sin. He wasn’t born into royalty, but into poverty. He wasn’t born in a palace, but a stable. Even as a baby they sought to kill Him, as Herod sent his goon squad into Bethlehem to kill every male child up to two years old.
But being warned by God, Joseph and Mary escaped to Egypt with Jesus where they stayed unto Herod’s death. They then returned to their hometown of Nazareth where Jesus excelled in the sight of God and men.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52 NKJV)
We see an example of this when Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem when he was 13 years old. It says he amazed the rabbis with His knowledge and understanding.
The next time we see Jesus is when He was baptized by John the Baptist. John said,
“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29 NKJV)
After Jesus had been baptized the Father confirmed His Son.
“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17 NKJV)
Jesus then went into the wilderness for 40 days where Satan tempted Him. The result: Jesus won and Satan lost.
Jesus then began His public ministry teaching and preaching the Kingdom of God and performing many miracles along the way where the blind saw, the lame walked, the deaf heard, the lepers cleansed, the multitudes fed, and the dead were brought back to life.
The people flocked to Him, that is, with the exception of the religious leaders who harassed, gossiped, resisted, and attack Jesus, often trying to kill Him.
We see this when Jesus went back to His hometown of Nazareth. After reading from the prophet Isaiah about the coming Messiah Jesus said that the Scripture was now being fulfilled through Him. And it says they picked up stones to put Him to death.
You see, whenever Jesus brought forth truth and spoke against the religious establishment he found opposition to His message and mission.
This was made evident when Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead. Prior to this remarkable miracle Jesus told Martha, Lazarus’ sister:
“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. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Upon hearing of this miracle, the religious leaders basically said, “If we let this guy continue, everyone will believe in him, and not us, and then the Romans will come and take away our place.” (John 11:48 paraphrase)
And so with the help of Judas Iscariot they arrested Jesus in the middle of the night and convicted Him of being their long awaited Messiah, although they didn’t know that was what they did.
They handed Him over to Pontius Pilate and although he found nothing wrong to accuse Jesus with, he sentenced Him to death by crucifixion at the insistence of the crowd.
There were no last minute reprieves, no public defender to argue the illegality of not only the trial but also the death sentence. Jesus was then flogged, had a crown of thorns stuck upon His head, and delivered to be crucified.
“And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.” (John 19:17-18 NKJV)
As He was upon the cross the religious leaders wondered if Jesus would make a comeback. And so they mocked Him saying, “Save Yourself, and come down from the cross.” (Mark 15:30 NKJV)
But Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified because He and the Father had an even greater comeback in mind, one that would literally blow people’s minds, along with the door to death and the grave. It’s a comeback that Jesus Himself predicted saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19 NKJV)
Fearing a possible fake comeback the religious leaders had the tomb sealed and Roman soldiers placed outside. But no man, temple or Roman guard, no tomb, no grave, not even death itself could stop the greatest comeback of all times.
The Resurrection proved true, Jesus didn’t remain dead, but rather He came back in a very big way. He rose from the dead. He is risen.
But what does that mean to you and me? Peter sums it up the best saying,
“Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43 NIV)
It’s through our belief in Jesus Christ and what He did for us upon the cross, taking our place, dying the death we deserve, and paying the penalty due for our sins so that we do not have to perish in hell, but have eternal life with God. In other words, because of Jesus’ comeback we can have our own personal and spiritual comeback.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
Jesus’ story is more than just an inspiring story told on Easter. Jesus’ comeback paves the way for our own comebacks.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross pays the penalty for our sins, which is eternal death in hell. And for each person who places their trust in Him, He saves and delivers.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)
Jesus is calling out for people to believe in Him and thus get their lives right with God.
The sad reality, however, is that there are literally millions of people sitting in churches today refusing Jesus’ plea as He stands outside the doors of their hearts knocking, asking to be let in. Therefore they’re choosing their own ruin and stopping the comeback God has in store for them.
God Has A Comeback Waiting For You
There are some in here who were once close to God, but with all the distractions your enthusiasm has waned, where you find yourself in a sort of free fall with the bottom approaching fast. Or you’ve experienced some sort of failure, or you have a physical ailment or disease, or your finances are reaching the critical stage, and you wonder, “Is there a comeback for me?”
God has a comeback waiting, and it begins at the empty cross and tomb. It begins with the greatest comeback of all time.
So don’t despair or give up. The Bible says that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Remember that God’s mercy and grace are new for you each and every day.
We need to come to our senses and recognize our sinfulness and where we have fallen short of God’s holy and righteous standards for life. Today, begin that journey back to your heavenly Father. And when you do, the Father will see you and run to you with open arms and clothe you with His robes of righteousness.
Through Jesus’ comeback you can also have a comeback. And so the same question Jesus asked Martha He is asking today.
“Do you Believe This”
Wednesday Evening Bible Study