Apr 5, 2021
Join us as we explore God’s ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
We just enjoyed a grand Easter celebration because Jesus is alive. But it shouldn't be a once-a-year celebration. Jesus is alive. Think about that a moment. Two thousand years ago, something happened that changed the course of human history, so much so that most of the world determines the date by the man whose death and resurrection caused that change. Today, secularists changed the name of time from BC and AD to BCE to CE. However, the calendar divisions still coincide with Jesus' birth as described by the calendar developed by Dionysius in 524 AD under Pope John I. They can change the name, but they cannot change the fact.
Jesus' resurrection proved him as Israel's long-awaited Messiah. God's promised King of all creation to bring freedom and rule over all the world. In Jerusalem, the political and religious leaders thought they defeated the uprising Jesus led with his band of followers proclaiming him Messiah when they nailed him to the cross. The resurrection proved them wrong. But Jesus' uprising did not want to overthrow Rome or even the priesthood. He brought peace, forgiveness, and hope to the world. The promises God gave Abraham, David, Moses, and Israel in his covenants with them. The message they were supposed to share with the nations to bring others into the family of God, expanding his kingdom to all people.
Since that day, Christians have heard from non-believers that Easter is just a story, Jesus' followers made it up to keep the revolt alive. Just look at the differences in the gospels, they say. Of course, they disregard the fact that if all the testimonies are identical in a court of law, the opposition will tell you the witnesses were coached. No one sees an event or talks about a traumatic event the same way. Without some trivial differences in the testimonies of witnesses, juries must conclude serious doubt. That's what we see in the gospels, trivial differences. The event is the resurrection. Who got to the tomb first, whether the angels were inside or outside the tomb, whether there were one or two angels, how the linens were arranged, these are trivial compared to the fact that a dead man was no longer dead, but alive just as he predicted.
Then some would not believe it because the first who saw the risen Lord were women. The gospels reported Mary first seeing the risen Lord in the garden at first thinking him the gardener. In that culture, a woman's testimony wasn't considered trustworthy. If the gospels writers wanted to make up the story, they would use men, not women, to tell of the resurrection. We notice by the time Paul begins telling the story for the church, the women's testimonies are left out, the disciples' and other followers' testimonies support seeing the risen Jesus, but not the women. Why? Women's testimony would cast doubt on the event in his culture.
Then we have the martyrs. Why would ten of the eleven disciples, Paul, and thousands of others willingly go to their death, refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus and his resurrection if they did not believe it? All they had to do was say the words, and they could save their lives, but they did not and would not do so. For those who were Roman citizens, death came quickly as they were beheaded. Rome could create indescribably horrible torture for those who were not Roman citizens before their end finally came.
One such form of cruelty described by the historian Josephus, a Christian would hang by one hand over a pack of hungry dogs while they jumped and clamored over one another to eat what flesh they could. If the victim didn't die, they would haul them back to the prison cell to be brought out again to feed other animals or tie them to horses and pulled apart. Still, they would remain loyal to Christ. Incredibly, their suffering and death often spurred others to come to Jesus because of their unshakeable stand for him.
So, what did Jesus do that caused the world to change so dramatically? Why would the calendar and the world turn upside down because of him? We read the words Peter spoke to Cornelius and his household in Acts 10 that describe part of his work.
Peter began to speak: "I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Those who fear him and do what is right are acceptable to him, no matter what race they belong to. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the Good News of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know of the great event that took place throughout the land of Israel, beginning in Galilee after John preached his message of baptism. You know about Jesus of Nazareth and how God poured out on him the Holy Spirit and power. He went everywhere, doing good and healing all who were under the power of the Devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of everything that he did in the land of Israel and in Jerusalem. Then they put him to death by nailing him to a cross. But God raised him from death three days later and caused him to appear, not to everyone, but only to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death. And he commanded us to preach the gospel to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God has appointed judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets spoke about him, saying that all who believe in him will have their sins forgiven through the power of his name." (Acts 10:34-43 GNT)
Jesus came as the human God wants all of us to emulate. Paul tells us in Philippians that he did not exploit his divinity but set it aside and became man to fulfill man's role as the reflection of God, the embodiment of God, to draw all men to the kingdom. Jesus came announcing peace. He wasn't the warrior king the Jews wanted in a Messiah, but the King of kings bringing peace and justice to all nations prophesied by Isaiah. He went about doing good, healing people of every sickness, and driving out demons. We hear little about demons in our day. The world will tell you they don't exist. It's all part of the story, make-believe. Indeed, some of the issues the middle-ages thought they dealt with were mental illnesses, but we went too far in the other direction, I'm afraid. I believe there exists a spiritual realm we cannot see in which spiritual warfare continues between good and evil, and we behave as willing players on one side or the other. We stand either on God's side or not. We have a choice, but we cannot stand in the middle; there is no middle ground.
Then Jesus died on the cross, according to the scriptures, as Paul says. It's much easier to see in hindsight than with foresight, which I think is why Jesus had to explain the scriptures about himself to the two men on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter morning. Now we can look at scripture and see all those verses that tell us his suffering, scourging, death on the cross, the casting lots for his robe, and so many other points in his life that fulfill prophecy. He did what Israel and no other self-proclaimed Messiah had done or could do.
What did his death on the cross do? Once and for all, he made a way for us to break away from the power of idolatry, whatever that idol might be. Today, it is most likely to be money, power, or sex. Those are the big three. Those might be absorbed in jobs, material things, family, position, pornography, affairs, or anything you put in front of God. But Jesus' death on the cross, his lifeblood cleansed the place where God and man meet on earth. And his sacrifice means we can come into God's presence repentantly and our sins will be passed over, forgiven, because of the blood spilled on our behalf, just as the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites at their Exodus from Egypt. We are freed from the power of evil. Free to worship God as we should.
Jesus' resurrection vindicated him from the Jewish leaders' accusations and others who discredited his role as Messiah. Those who followed the scriptures believed the Messiah could not die, especially before returning the Israelites from exile and seeing God return to revisit his people. His presence had not been seen in the Temple since Ezekiel's vision of his glory departing the city and stopping above the Mount of Olives. Messiah would restore the dwelling of God and return his glory. But this Jesus died on the cross. The empty tomb, his bodily resurrection, proved his victory even over the power of death.
Jesus did one more thing with his resurrection. He pulled the future into the present. Some Jews and other pagan religions believed in a resurrection at the end of time when God would judge our actions in this life, and we would be rewarded or punished for our deeds. Jesus brought that future into the present with his resurrection. No others have or will experience it until the end, but he brought the 'age to come,' as the Jews refer to it, into the present. As Paul described him, he is the firstfruits of the resurrection, and we will follow him with renewed bodies into a renewed creation at his coming again.
The kingdom has come. God's spirit dwells in those who believe in him for salvation. Heaven and earth come together in us as heaven and earth came together in the Garden of Eden and the tabernacle in the wilderness and the Temple in Jerusalem. One day, Jesus will return, and the New Jerusalem will appear; the new creation has begun, and we who believe in him are part of it. Our mission is to share the message of his life, death, and resurrection. We are to share the announcement of the new creation coming and that we can all be part of the kingdom he ushered in by his actions on the cross and that first Easter morning.
Every day is a day to celebrate the fact that he has risen, and he is coming again. In the meantime, share the message that Jesus is now and always will be King of all nations, Lord over all powers and people, Master of everyone and everything. Let us worship him in renewed strength, giving him all the glory he deserves as we await his return.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked GNT are taken from the Good News Translation®: Scriptures taken from the Good News Translation® (Today’s English Version, Second Edition) Copyright © 1992 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.