Summary: Easter visitation to the disciples tests ones loyalty while Acts demonstrates it in public
he Best Picture in 1981 went to a little recognized film called Chariots of Fire. It chronicled two British runners, Eric Liddell, a devote Christian and Harold Abrams who were to run in the 1924 Olympics held in Paris. Liddell refuses to run his race because it is to be held on Sunday and his belief in the Sabbath makes it impossible for him to compete.
During a meeting with various British members of the British Olympic Association, a telling conversation takes place.
His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales, "We have to explore ways in which we can help this young man to reach that decision"
Eric Liddell, "I’m afraid there are no ways, sir. I won’t run on the Sabbath, and that’s final. I intended to confirm this with Lord Birkenhead tonight, even before you called me up before this inquisition of yours."
Lord Cadogan (chairman of the British Olympic Association), "Don't be impertinent, Liddell!"
Eric, "The impertinence lies, sir, with those who seek to influence a man to deny his beliefs!"
Cadogan, "In my day it was King first and God after."
"Duke of Sutherland, a committee member, says, "Yes, and the 'war to end wars' [World War 1] bitterly proved your point! "
Eric, "God made countries. God makes kings, and the rules by which they govern. And those rules say that the Sabbath is His. And I for one intend to keep it that way."
For those who may not know Eric Liddell was the first Chinese born athlete to win in the Olympics. Following the 1924 win in the 400 meters, he returned to China as a missionary and later an ordained pastor. His family left for Canada while Eric remained behind dying in a Japanese internment camp in 1945. "According to a fellow missionary Liddell's last words were, 'Its complete surrender'(1)
In a 2008 UK Telegraph article,(2) Eric's daughters went to China. Patricia tells the reporter, "I heard from a Chinese official that my father was known in the camp as 'Uncle Eric' because he was so selfless in his concern for others. He was also offered a chance to return home as part of a prisoner exchange, but reportedly turned it down and gave his place to a pregnant woman instead."
He is not the first to declare "complete surrender" upon seeing the risen Lord. In Acts 5 Peter and John are again before the Sanhedrin. They've already been in jail twice and now, after an angel had released them they are teaching again in the temple area and brought by the temple guards before the religious rulers.
When asked why they are violating what they were told before they explain, "We must obey God rather than men!" So enraged are these leaders they threaten, flog and finally release them. And their response is to rejoice at the idea of suffering disgrace for "the Name."
What causes Eric Liddell to risk the fame of a race he can win for the unknown of a longer distance? What is it that puts John and Peter in the cross hairs of their religious teachers? What is it that motivates an actor like Neal McDonough, and thousands of others to do the right thing and cost themselves jobs, money and power for the sake of their loyalty to Christ?
The answer is, they know the reality of Christ's resurrection. I'd like to say that this is a given in today's world but after an article(3) on March 21st about Preachers Who Don't Believe one cannot make such an assumption.
Here is the truth—Jesus is NOT an idea, concept, philosophical construct, worldview, theology, force, or one of many divine guides. He is God, made flesh, fully human/fully divine. He is the exact likeness of the invisible God and if you can't get your mind around that--join the crowd. Jesus was arrested, tortured, mocked, executed and raised to life. And he went through that so you and I; we, don't have too. Because of all this, Jesus has the right to receive and expect our loyalty.
What brings someone from a place of unbelief to a place of loyalty? I'd suggest those closest to him are a good place to begin. His followers have heard the body is missing and about angels telling the women Jesus is alive. Still that night they are locked away behind locked doors afraid the Jewish leaders would be coming for them next.
Suddenly Jesus is there. His first words are, "Peace be with you". More than a greeting, it is a timely promise for those locked in fear, worry, and about what will happen next. Once convinced they are overjoyed and Jesus repeats his greetings and adds a little something to it. "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." Jesus' peace is not only the cure for our fear but it prepares us to go where he sends us.