||Psa 118. 14 – 29
In the beginning of the Christian movement when the eleven returned to Jerusalem after the resurrection, they first had to name a successor to the traitor Judas Iscariot. He would have to be someone who had witnessed the resurrection , as stated by Peter: Beginning at his baptism until the day he rose from the dead, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection (Acts 1.22). And Matthias was chosen by lot. There was tremendous enthusiasm and support at that time by those steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship. In these early days they had all things in common. However, it didn’t take long for their enthusiasm to wane. Followers Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold some property, but witheld part of the profit from the dedicated group, paying dearly for their religious hypocrisy. In the book of Revelation we read of the church at Ephesus whose members had ‘lost their first love’ and were warned in Christ’s words to straighten up. Maybe just as bad were the Laodicians. In one more demonstration of general doctrinal decline in the early church, they were neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm to the good news of the gospel, their attitude anathema to the Lord Jesus Christ. "Oh, foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?", said Paul. "You preach a gospel that perverts the gospel of Christ; led astray by the Judaizers they had come to believe in the efficacy of the law, rather than Christ’s truth of salvation by faith and grace." One primary example of falling away so soon was in the denial of the humanity of Christ, called the spirit of antichrist, and said by John to be ‘already in the world : Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antiChrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is in the world ( 1John 4. 3).
Two thousand years later, chinks in the dyke of the gospel have become great, gaping holes, specifically in a regression to the Pharisaical belief that you can save yourself by your works. When you believe the serpent’s lie, ‘ that you shall not surely die’, are you listening to the voice of God, who says quite the contrary ? Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat; in the day you eat thereof you shall surely die (Gen 2.17). When you read the daily obituaries, where the deceased (by their own hand or others) evince a form of Godliness but deny the power thereof, we see a disparate interpretation of what the resurrection means to their eternal salvation, decidedly non-Biblical. Christ has become figurative in mainline Christianity; resurrection is not real at all, it is only a symbol.
Should we be surprised at what has happened? To the world and to us? Where there is no vision the people perish (Prov 29. 18). To solve the environmental and political problems of the world, humanists perhaps must become neo conservatives. The former, a rational non-theistic movement that holds that humanity is capable of self fulfillment. This less than successful movement is better displaced by the latter, who advocate individualism and traditional moral standards, namely because they take a more realistic view of human nature. In the wee small hours of the night do people cry out for help? Well, help is here. Hosanna–a cry for help, has become an affirmation. God will save. And this we celebrate today.
The resurrection is a fact, with far more proofs than are made for other historical facts that we so easily swallow hook, line and sinker. For people like Pilate, who ask but are not inclined to listen to the answer, there is no convincing them. Others believe, but they don’t know how to feel. How are you supposed to feel? "I wish I could feel like I’m supposed to feel", said a friend. You’ve heard TV reporters question victims of some recent personal tragedy , "How do you feel? In this touchy, feely age we live in , when it comes to religion, feelings supercede thought. I once heard that a donkey was let loose to clip clop down the aisle of St. Paul’s at Easter service, all to appeal, I guess, to the senses. Christians can be made to feel hypocritical because they are not in a constant state of euphoria. But look at it this way. We’re talking about words from an ancient sage. What are my feelings regarding the death of Christ? Well, I grieve for my father. Less so for grandfather. Didn’t know great-grandfather. Grief is a transitory, short lived thing. I don’t know how you are supposed to feel. We’re all different. I do know, however, that we need faith, manifested in the fruits of the spirit. I know we gain strength in the singing of hymns, or by praying together, but trying to increase our faith requires study and contemplation; not just staring at the pages of a book, but getting the message. When this happens our minds and emotions meld; faith burgeons into conviction.
Now we are convinced that the life of Christ must be a pattern for our own life. He was obedient even unto death–an unpretentious man–not self absorbed, compassionate and passionate–with the iron will needed to sacrifice himself for the good of man. Christ’s sacrifice was not just another tribal blood ritual. It illustrates the true meaning of life itself. Think about it. What has come to you from someone’s sacrifice and self denial? Learning to live as he did, and produce the feelings that flow from it can be compared to something as simple as learning to play the piano. You first learn the scales then attempt a Mozart sonata. The progress is slow and steady. Don’t be self absorbed and don’t follow the unproductive dictum ‘touch not, taste not, handle not’. Sometimes fools must rush in where even angels fear to tread, with the strong will to boldly approach the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4. 16) On this resurrection day-- at this moment-- remember this : two thousand years ago the world was turned upside down. And it has never been the same since. This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.