John 19. 14 – 22; Luke 24. 1 – 8|
It’s Easter Sunday and two billion Christians are celebrating the resurrection. It’s not my purpose to speculate as to whether they understand it’s meaning or not. Sometimes we contend and ask whether or not the resurrection is an irrelevancy if man has an immortal soul. Do we bask in a sense of theological superiority when we find it easy and pleasing to assume they misunderstand? We won’t argue that question now, but rather let’s consider what the resurrection means to us, or more to the point, what does it mean to you?
We all must admit that the resurrection is difficult to believe, particularly in these cynical times in which we live, but we can buttress our faith with real proof that Jesus rose from the grave. There’s plenty evidence for it, e.g. the great change in the characters of the disciples Peter and Paul, the testimony of contemporaneous secular historians, the explosive growth of this new religion, the unrelenting testimony of the apostles who actually saw the risen Christ.
But, during 2,000 years of the history of man’s inhumanity to man we are also witness to the precious lack of evidence for the love of God toward His creation. Unparalleled wealth, either in hand , or obtainable, or coveted, is—as they say—in your face—and has so addled our brains we can’t think straight. We’re hanging on to our faith by our fingernails. We’re like the first Adam, so blinded by the beauty of Paradise, he forgot that first and foremost his duty was to his Creator. Can we overcome the world, as Christ, the second Adam, did in the wilderness. Query: can we be better servants in the wilderness than in our 21st century Paradise? In our hearts we know that The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Our saving truth is built on that statement
Why do we celebrate the resurrection anyway? One reason is Jesus’ own claim to be God’s anointed, the Messiah and the Christ, names that are synonymous; his resurrection gave proof to his claim to be prophet, priest and king. He was a prophet, inspired by his Father; he was not a charlatan in an age when men pretended to be soothsayers and fortune tellers. Most important, his resurrection was the proof that he was the antitype of the Paschal lamb sacrificed under the law of Moses. Behold, the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. (John 1. 29). I am he that lives and was dead, so he said. (Rev 1. 18). These statements have meaning for us today. The proof is in the resurrection. We can believe them,
Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Heb 7. 24, 25 NIV).
Now we can say confidently;
Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith w possess. For we do not have a high priest who Is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. (Heb 4. 14, 15 NIV)
Christ took on himself all our sins. Paul said, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us. (2Cor 5. 20 NIV).
Are you moved by these testimonies? Alas, we suffer from theological astigmatism; we’re too near sighted to see what we really are. Do Jesus’ words apply to us?
Because you say I am rich,
And increased with goods,
And have need of nothing:
And Knowest not that you are wretched,
And miserable, and poor,
And blind, and naked. . . (Rev 3. 17).
In a few minutes this Easter Sunday, we will partake of this Memorial Service, comparable to the Passover meal , then go home to a wonderful afternoon with friends and family, and good things to eat, and traditional Easter egg hunt. How difficult was the Passover meal of those miserable and frightened Jews at the first Passover, recorded in Exodus 12.
Thus shall you eat it,
With your loins girded,
Your shoes on your feet,
And your staff in your hand;
And you shall eat it in haste:
It is the Lord’s Passover. (Ex 12. 11)
At the moment of their deliverance out of a hostile country, spared by the blood of the lamb, what lay ahead for them? A certain death, for all they knew. And so for us, death is nearby, but maybe not so real; our Passover meal may not be taken so seriously. Remember, your Passover requires a response. Can you be like the Good Samaritan who did for the robbed and beaten man what neither priest nor Levite were willing to do? Practically speaking, it was a good and desirable thing. But this parable says more: it responds to the big question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The parable reveals the answer: Go thou and do likewise. (Luke 10. 30 – 37).
Finally, Jesus resurrection validates his claim to be king of the Jews. When Pilate asked, ‘You are a king, then? Jesus replied, ‘To this end was I born; for this cause came I into the world.’ (John 18. 37) The believing Jews knew this, but were perhaps unsure exactly when. Now was not the time; it would be after the resurrection. Before his ascension into heaven his disciples asked him if he would now restore the kingdom to Israel. (Acts 1. 6). They had forgotten the parable of the nobleman who went into a far country to receive a kingdom. He gave his servants ten pounds, and said to them, occupy til I come. (Luke 19. 11 – 13). There was a probation for his followers that must be done.
Two thousand years is a long time—seems like forever for us to wait, but God is not slack concerning His promises. Take heart. The images are everywhere in the scriptures that tell of our coming king: John calls him the Lion of the tribe of Judah; he is the stone cut out of the mountain without hands who strikes Nebuchadnezzar’s image on its feet; God will give to him the throne of his father, David; he is the prince of peace. These images—and many more--will be a reality when the Lord returns.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time,
It speaks of the end and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
It will certainly come and not delay. (Habakkuk 2. 3 NIV)