Jesus’ Resurrection Did Not Have Fanfare

Empty tomb

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, most churches had special services planned for Easter. Easter Sunday is the most attended church event out of all 52 weeks. Many churches use it as an outreach for people who only bring their families for Easter services. Bigger churches put on Easter plays and some have full production teams. The resurrection of Jesus is definitely worth celebrating!

This year has certainly changed things dramatically. LifeWay Research in Nashville did a recent survey among pastors in the US and, at the time of the survey, they found that 47% of churches will be closed on Easter. Only 3% said they will have in-person gatherings no matter what, and many said they will wait and see what the recommendations are at Easter time. A lot of churches are worried about funds, as the economy has slowed and many people have lost jobs. As Christians, we are all forced to rethink both how we do church and how we are the church.

The best place to look is to Jesus Christ. His resurrection did not have fanfare. While there was an earthquake, Jesus did not seek out big crowds. He could have walked the streets of Jerusalem, proclaiming victory over death. He could have walked to the Temple and announced that he was risen. Much like our Easter of today, Jerusalem was swarming with people who traveled for the Passover. Thousands would have heard of Jesus’ death. Jerusalem was primed for a huge resurrection Sunday appearance by the king of the Jews.

Instead of a large gathering, Jesus left the tomb and didn’t appear to anyone until later that day: “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” (Luke 24:1-3 ESV). The women found two angels and were told to tell the disciples. Peter and John went to the tomb to see with their own eyes and found it empty, exactly as the women had reported. For an entire day, the disciples marveled at the risen Christ but still had not seen him until evening.

Jesus instead walked with two people on the road to Emmaus, a village that rested seven miles from Jerusalem. They didn’t know that it was Jesus until he revealed himself in the breaking of bread: “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). The two men ran the seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples, and that’s when Jesus showed himself to the eleven disciples for the first time.

Jesus chose to only reveal himself to a few people. Over and over again, Jesus is revealed to small groups. Yet the gospel spread very quickly. The great news about the resurrection is that we don’t need huge church gatherings for Jesus to continue to reveal himself. He works through small groups, and in unconventional ways. The word of God is powerful and effective, and will continue to bring salvation to many!!

Photo used with permission under Creative Commons.

Resurrection of the Dead

empty tomb

To be honest, I feared death as a kid. I remember, at a young age, having my imagination go wild. What if I died? What if a parent or sibling died? What happens to them? Are they gone forever? Will we ever see them again? It’s natural for us to think of these kinds of questions. I no longer have a fear of death. Death is something that brings life. It’s spring right now. The grass is gorgeous! Flowers are blooming. Trees are in blossom. Life is emerging from death.

Paul says, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Corinthians 15:36). He was talking about Christ’s resurrection. There were people who denied the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees were a sect of the Jews who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Paul is clear, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:13-14). Earlier Paul told the Corinthians that he decided to know nothing while he was with them except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Without death there cannot be life. The seeds that are sown are dead and, when they take root, are raised up with life. Paul rightly says that we are resurrected with Christ. At our baptism there is a death to our old self. We crucify our old selves with Christ and are raised up a new person. We share in his resurrection! The good news didn’t stop with Christ being raised from the dead. That was just the beginning! The good news is that we are raised with Christ-that he is our salvation and we will live for eternity. Christ is our hope. The empty tomb is the heart of the gospel. There is so much to celebrate as we remember the empty tomb!

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

I Am the One Who Helps You

desperate

I recently watched the 2013 Netflix documentary on trafficking called “Tricked.” It follows both former trafficking victims and current pimps who go on camera to talk about the industry. Human trafficking is a multi billion dollar industry that has increased exponentially in recent years. Because of the threats to prostitutes and the dehumanization of the victims, it’s virtually impossible to catch the pimps and incarcerate them. Police departments are completely overwhelmed and, because they are losing ground, governments are cutting money from the departments.

One District Attorney’s office said, “We’ve cut $1 million per year for three years. So they’re asking us to do more with less and with fewer people. At some point I have to weigh, can we continue to handle all these cases at the normal level? When somebody brings me four or five times the number of cases, I may not have the staff to handle all those cases.”

One of the detectives in the documentary said that pimps used to scout for women and young girls who came from broken homes or who had a past of abuse. With the advancement of technology, they said that everyone is a target, no matter how stable their home life is. He said that this is why trafficking has gotten uncontrollable so quickly. Trafficking is called “modern slavery” for a reason. Nobody goes into this “work” because they want to.

But it’s not just trafficking that has people distraught. There is a crisis at our southern border. Thousands of people every day are risking their lives to desperately cross into the US because they are running from dangerous gangs. There is a global crisis of oppression. The questions are “How did we get here?” and “What do we do about it?”

Many people will be packed into church buildings across the world on Easter Sunday to celebrate the risen Christ. I know there is a real temptation to use Easter as “outreach” in order to grow the church and reach those visitors. But maybe a better way is to talk about the desperation in the world and how Jesus came to redeem it. There is so much oppression, poverty, and sickness. The world needs redeemed from it. People need a refuge–a safe fortress. Isaiah 41:14 says, “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”

A few verses later says, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” God feeds and waters the poor. He is a fortress and a refuge for the oppressed and weary. There is hope in the resurrection. We need to share in this hope. We need to let people know that only in Christ can there be restoration and redemption from the pain and suffering of this life. And Christians need to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people who are suffering to remind them that God is the one who helps us.