Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Post-Easter Life

How quickly Easter comes and goes. Unlike Christmas, the tree and decorations (what few there may be) don’t stay up long after the holiday. In a few days the lilies lose their blooms; the candy is all gone and we’re thinking about what to get Mom this year.

In our culture (see last week’s Newsweek cover) it does seem that the impact of such an event as the resurrection of Jesus takes second place to sales and colored eggs. I did a Google Image search the other day and typed in “Easter”. Guess what? Page after page of pictures came up of baskets, flowers, jelly beans and bunnies. Where is an empty tomb? To steal from a stale presidential campaign slogan, “It’s about the resurrection, stupid”.

The central figure of the Easter story is Jesus Christ. When a man predicts his death, the way he would die and that how he would rise from the dead in three days, then it all comes true, that’s pretty significant, don’t you think? But He didn’t do all that solely to prove His deity or to validate His message. He also did it for our sake.

The promise of a risen Savior not only promises us hope of our own life after death, it promises us hope of a changed life now. He conquered death so that we could as well. He overcame all that the world could throw at Him so that we could overcome it, too.

You see if the resurrection doesn’t have a personal application it’s a great story at best. But it wasn’t meant to simply be a phenomenon of history. It was meant to phenomenally change lives.

The best examples are the very men who knew Him best. Their lives and their willingness to die for their faith are such a challenge and encouragement to us today not to forget about the resurrection until next spring. Let me mention three ways Jesus resurrection gave them the power in life to overcome.

First, they overcame their fears. From the moment of Jesus’ arrest to the day of His resurrection these eleven men were in hiding. They feared for their lives. It wasn’t like they were anonymous. Palm Sunday they were no doubt walking beside Jesus as the entire city cheered Him as their Messiah. Seeing the sentiment of the citizenry do a 180 and cry “Crucify Him!” in a matter of days, then seeing it happen scared them to death.

Yet they soon would be seen in the Temple and streets of Jerusalem openly and boldly proclaiming a crucified and risen Jesus before the very people who had Him crucified.

Second, they overcame their doubts. On Sunday morning when the women (who discovered the stone rolled away from the tomb’s entrance and Jesus gone) ran back to tell the disciples they doubted. John and Peter ran to the tomb to see if it was true. When they returned to tell the others, they still couldn’t quite believe. That is until Jesus showed up in the room with them and challenged Thomas to “touch my wounds”. The doubters quickly became believers when they saw Him alive.

Third, they overcame their guilt and shame. A few days after Easter Jesus had a conversation with Peter. “Peter, I want you to shepherd my flock.” Peter’s mind had to go back to his denials of Jesus the night of His trials. Yet now Jesus was graciously saying, “Peter, I’ve forgiven you. Move beyond your guilt and shame and know that you are very useful to my Kingdom”. Peter’s past became past and His future was that of leader and chief spokesman.

Fears. Doubts. Guilt and shame. They continue to plague us all but so unnecessarily. When you put your trust in the risen Christ as your Savior the overcoming power of His conquering of death becomes His power in your life to enable you to overcome whatever life throws at you.

So don’t allow Easter just to be a spring event. Make its hope and life changing power something you celebrate and embrace all through the year. And if a jelly bean helps you to remember, then go for it.

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