Thursday, April 9, 2015

He is Risen Indeed

“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’” (Revelation 11:15)

This past Sunday was Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, and rightfully the most important holiday in Christian tradition. However, it’s not the most widely celebrated. That would be Christmas, because anybody and everybody tends to get behind the idea of having 'peace on earth' and exchanging gifts with loved ones. 

But Easter is more important, because Easter is the reason that Jesus was born into this world in the first place. Yes, he was a teacher, and taught us many good and wise things about how we are to relate to God, even modeling a perfect relationship with the Father. Yes, he was a healer, working many miracles in the lives of those who had given up hope of ever being whole again.
But, most important of all, Jesus came…to die.

He was arrested, beaten, and crucified, not because he did anything wrong, but because we did. All of the sins we have committed against each other, or will commit, the Father also keenly feels, because we are His children. Yet He laid the punishment for our sin upon His son, Jesus, rather than on us.  

The reason we celebrate Easter, though, is because that isn’t the end of the story. Days later, God raised Jesus from the dead. And so, as David pointed out on Sunday, every Easter we are forced to ask ourselves this question: “Will we believe in Jesus and devote ourselves to Him? Or refuse to believe and reject the Son of God?”

When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb on that first Easter morning (John 20:1-18), I wonder what she was feeling. She had devoted her life, her time, her energy, her money, her very heart, to this man, this Rabboni (or teacher), as she called him, witnessing his miracles, experiencing his presence changing her from the inside out. Imagine seeing the darkness falling as Jesus died, seeing the stone rolled over the tomb that held his broken, lifeless body, unable to give her friend and teacher a proper burial as she was forced by religious tradition to take a day of rest for the Lord. Do you think that during that Sabbath she felt like celebrating her God?

Now imagine how she must have felt walking in the darkness of the early morning to the tomb, seeing the stone rolled back, no sign of Jesus anywhere. To have even that moment of closure, of washing and perfuming his body, seemingly taken from her by thieves that had stolen him and hidden his body. To run, desperate, back to the disciples, only to have them look for a moment, then desert her to go home again, leaving her behind to weep for the loss of her Jesus.

And then...imagine how she felt when she looked again into the tomb, and beheld angels where Jesus had been! Turning around, still weeping from confusion and sadness, she saw a man she didn’t know, her vision clouded by her tears. And then…he said her name, and she finally realized- it’s Jesus! He is alive!

In the face of this miracle, is it then too that she also began to realize that He was Jesus Christ, “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” (Revelation 1:5)?

When I think about this life, it seems to me that we are all waiting in the darkness around the tomb of the world. But, while Mary could not work out what had happened, we have a promise that Jesus is coming again. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him” (Revelation 1:7). Indeed, the kingdom of this world is already becoming the kingdom of our Lord, wherever His Holy Spirit is present (Revelation 11:15).

So even though we are in the darkness, we can see the stone has been rolled back, and we know that soon we will be with the risen Lord. What will we ourselves feel in that moment, when we meet Jesus? When He comes again? When we see the “one like a son of man,” with eyes like “a flame of fire” and a voice “like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1:13-15)? Will we weep with joy, our hearts bursting with the gladness of it, just as Mary did? Will we fall at His feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17)?

In the meantime, in this darkness, we must continue to put our hope in the heavenly realm, and build up our treasures there, for surely, this life will not last. We must preach the Gospel, live the Gospel, breathe and be the Resurrection people that God has called us to be. As David told us two weeks ago, the Gospel is both bitter and sweet, sweet for those who have accepted its truth, but bitter in that there are so many still who have not heard the truth and who desperately need to hear it (Revelation 10:8-11).

As a church, then, let us be witnesses to the people of this world and of the time we are in. Let us be the peace bearers and the truth bringers, the olive trees and the lampstands (Revelation 11:4), faithful witnesses walking with the power of the Spirit of God. Let us choose to love others, as He loved us, even to the point of death, knowing that, ultimately, even if we should die, our witness will one day be vindicated. Just as Mary’s was. Let us devote our time, our heart, our energy, our very lives, not to just a good teacher or to just a miraculous healer, but to the very Son of God, the one who knows us intimately and completely, and who loves us in a way that no one else can.

Oh, how He loves us.  

  1. Mary knew it was Him by the way He said her name. Jesus said the sheep know their shepherd by His voice. When is the last time you heard God speak to you, in word or music or other means? If you feel so moved, try to take five minutes to sit silently, and ask Him to speak to you again or even for the first time.
  2. The resurrection and the cross completed God’s act of salvation, but the final redemption of the world is still coming. Spend some time reflecting on your role as part of God’s “resurrection people”- who are the people at work, at school, at home, or elsewhere that you feel called to speak to about God? What is one step you can take to show them God’s love in the next week?
  3. Pick a book or song from the following recommendations and just spend some time allowing  His Spirit to work through it to connect you to the heart of God.
    • Recommended Reading: 
      • John 20:1-18, Luke 15
      • "Guess How Much I Love You?" by Sam McBratney
      • "The Runaway Bunny" by Margaret Wise Brown
      • "King's Cross" by Timothy Keller
    • Recommended Music:
      • "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe
      • "How He Loves" by David Crowder Band
      • "Savior King" by Hillsong United
      • "God Speaking" or "He Will Come" by Mandisa

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