Friday 30 March 2018

Today is Easter Sunday and we meet this morning to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ from the dead.

The gospel reading tells of Mary Magdelene being the first person to discover that Jesus had risen, and in a distressed condition found Peter and John who confirmed her story. Subsequently she met Jesus in the garden without initially realising to whom she was talking.

In the evening of that first Sunday, the Apostles were gathered together in a locked room when Jesus appeared. You can imagine the reaction of the Apostles who must have thought they were hallucinating, for most people do at some time have visions, especially if you are longing for someone whom you never expected to see. The Apostles were delighted to see the Lord however.

Jesus greeted them with the traditional Jewish greeting Shalom, words which mean not only ‘peace be with you’, but every kind of blessing. He then showed them His hands and side to prove that it was the same Jesus they had known when they were with Him, but by showing His wounds it verified that this was the Jesus who had been on the Cross and was now an alive person

Then Jesus gave them command saying, just as God had sent Him He was now sending them out to preach the gospel in His name. This is essentially and fundamentally what the Church should and must be doing, preaching the gospel that He left us and abandoning all the modern fancy ideas aimed at pleasing society. We don’t go out saying the Bible says…,but, I’ve got a better idea, we go in His name saying what He said.

Jesus then when parting He again said ‘peace be with you’ as a form of good-bye, and then breathed on them. At His baptism the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus, and He now tells the Apostles as God had given Him the Holy Spirit, He (Jesus) was giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to go out and tell the world about His offer of eternal salvation for all who accepted and believed in Him. If anyone did not, they were condemned eternally.

Jesus has passed on this mission to the Church all down the ages to go out and speak for His message, so that when people hear that message from us, they are indirectly hearing the words of our Lord.

In this morning’s Epistle, Paul wants to establish the historical reliability of the resurrection in order to give a firm foundation for his teaching. He is reminding the Church it was he who brought the good news and which was not invented but given to him by the Lord.

By believing and accepting this great event, you too may be released from the fear of death. But there’s a question you must answer. “Do you really believe this?” The devil believes in God, and many people who never go near a Church do so, they just don’t want him to interfere in their life, but hypocritically expect to be accepted by him when they die.

Paul stated they stood in the gospel; the function of the gospel is to give stability and power in a world so hostile to the faith. It was something in which they were being saved, and the glory of salvation is that gets better, and one of the wonders of Christianity is that it is limitless.

The essential basis of Christianity is that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins of all people; that he was buried but God raised him from the Dead as had been prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures.

Having come to faith it has to be guarded for there are so many temptations pushed by those opposed; life has its valleys from which at times it seems hard to climb out of. This means we cannot be casual; the faith that collapses has not been true faith.

We now have to look at how this applies to us in our present Christian journey.

How important is it to believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus? For quite a lot of people it is an immense barrier to overcome; Christianity is fine for being kind, meek and mild and providing nice backgrounds for wedding and baptism pictures, but why bring in religion. Why not just see it as a nice story instead of intimidating and upsetting people?

This chapter will not be fully explained in some Churches today as there will be a problem, namely that there are clergy who do not believe in the physical resurrection.

A man who had challenged the resurrection in unpleasant terms was some years ago, being consecrated into his Office as a Bishop in York Minster. Later the same night a bolt of lightning struck and blew out the rose window of the Cathedral. When this was suggested to be God venting His anger, that was mocked and ridiculed by the liberal establishment, yet there was no such experience in any other part of the city; why the Cathedral. People have yet to learn you do not mock God.

People will say about a passage you can’t expect me to believe that, it is now 2018. Yet they will believe many things even harder to understand. They will use a pocket phone to contact someone any place on earth just by pressing buttons on the phone, and the uninterrupted words will cross thousands of miles within seconds. They certainly wouldn’t be able to explain how that happens, but accept it. People don’t limit man’s powers, why limit the Almighty God? This where faith comes in; faith is believing what you can’t see or explain and where true believers are shown against the fake ones.

The New Testament was written by men of honesty and intelligence who had seen Christ crucified, dead and buried, finished, gone. There were thousands in Jerusalem who saw Jesus die, and hundreds who saw him after he had risen. There can be no equivocation, Jesus died and rose; it is the most attested to event in history.

To those Apostles the future was dark and uncertain without any indication he was coming back. If they preached they were risking their lives, placing themselves in jeopardy of being stoned or killed.

When told by the women that the tomb was empty they dismissed it only to find out for themselves it was true, they saw the linen cloths there folded where the body had laid. So the body had gone and they knew not where.

There have been several explanations suggested, none of which have any credibility. The Apostles knew they faced death if it was found they had intervened, but they did not have anywhere to take it.

The |Jewish authorities would not have been involved; they had a guard placed there and a heavy stone to keep the body in. They having denied the resurrection so would have been glad to have Jesus’ body to devalue him by exhibiting the body.

Another suggestion was that grave robbers took it, but they would not have left the cloths and valuable precious spices untouched for they would have been worth a lot of money.

An even more popular thought was that Jesus just play acted and swooned to be revived and do a Houdini act. Jesus would not have been in any physical condition to do anything; he wasn’t even able to finish his walk to the place of execution and had to have help from an onlooker having been lashed 39 times with a metal studded belt. Would such a sinless, honest, man do such a thing; of course not?

Most people believe in the eternal and desperately want to know what lies on the other side of death. The answer is quite simple. If you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour, what lies on the other side is resurrection and life. If you have not accepted him, you have no hope at all. The Church generally has not preached this with the vigour it deserved; we have service liturgy which assures everyone the deceased will go to heaven which is unequivocally dismissed in the Bible.

If people choose to live life without God and Jesus, that is their choice, but when they do so they have nothing left but vain speculations and idle dreams. How sad it must be to come to the end of life and to believe that after death this is nothing at all.

Paul’s argument is that it is foolish to follow Christianity if you reject the resurrection from the dead. If Jesus had not risen from the dead there would be no Church, all our preaching would be a waste of time and effort. If there is no hope for the future, what purpose is there in setting aside the worldly pleasures to endure the isolation and scorn of being a Christian? We may just as well sell of our buildings and do what the rest of the world does on a Sunday.

We believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so important to us as Christians because we believe he did not die as a private person, but as the Saviour for all put their trust in him. The Bible states that God promised he would always be with us and never leave us; he created the world and still maintains it.

Continue to pray that this nation may once again become a truly Christian nation, and may the Lord always bless

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