Summary: Easter 2: Easter makes a difference. It changes cold, hard, self-centered people into a community that cares for one another. It gives boldness to weak hearts. It gives hope to suffering spirits. It provides a perspective.
Christ is Risen! He is risen, indeed – Alleluia!
Life in the time of Jesus was hard – maybe even mean. There are plenty of examples of this. Justice was often quick and oftentimes harsh. Look at what happened to Jesus! He was celebrating Passover with his disciples on Thursday night, and by 3:00pm the next day, He had been executed. Look at the stories of the various disciples – thrown in jail, beaten, stoned and chained – not even a remote hint of 1st Amendment rights here! Life could be very harsh. If a widow did not have a family to take her in – living as a beggar was not altogether uncommon; neither was starving to death. If one came from among the poor, a harsh life and deprivation of all types was the expectation. One of the most poignant stories in the Bible is the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Remember how much Lazarus suffered as he hoped to get the most meager bits of food from the rich man – even what fell off the table would satisfy poor Lazarus. Life could be very harsh.
And then came Jesus – turning the world upside down. He talked about living life as servants. He talked about radical things: like telling his followers that the if one desired to be the greatest, then the path to that is by serving others. He said things that challenged the conventions of the time: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5.5-10) This was radical stuff for the people of his time! He said this to a culture that viewed wealth and power as signs of God’s favor. Jesus came and turned the conventions of his day and age on their head!
The Resurrection makes a huge difference! When Jesus rose from the dead – it placed a huge exclamation point at the end of his teachings. Because of the Resurrection, what our Savior taught and what He did continue to impact the lives of his followers – even to this very day! Is it any wonder to read what Jesus’ early followers did?
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4.32-35)
I want to tell you friends that the Resurrection makes a difference. Because of the perspective that the Resurrection gives to the things of this world, the early Christians were not tied down to their things – their possessions. They knew that nothing could compare to the relationships that Christ offers – with God and with each other. It provides us with a perspective that is radical and otherworldly. The Resurrection tells us that this life – the years that we live here – are but a grain of sand among the mounds of millennia that God will grant to us. The Resurrection tells us that our troubles and trials here in this life cannot compare to what God has in store for an eternity. The Resurrection elevates God’s love for us in Christ and our love for each other beyond anything else that this world can offer. It puts everything into perspective.
A friend of mine served a church in southern California. He was having a very bad year. The pressures he felt were affecting his relationships and even his health. Because of his troubles, his life was miserable. Behind the property where his church was located was a tall hill. One day, in frustration he stepped out of the church office. He saw the hill and – almost out of frustration - decided to climb it. As he ascended, he began to notice that the church was getting smaller and smaller. As he climbed – the church property began to blend into the surrounding area. By the time he reached the top, the source of all his troubles and trials and sufferings became a little postage stamp-sized patch in a huge quilted sea of humanity. He thought, “How could I have let this little, tiny piece of the big picture cause me so much agony?”