Summary: Using E.T as an illustration to link children with the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ
Acts 17: 22-34 Paul the Apostle in Athens
Story: I wonder how many of you have seen the film ET - that was first released 20 years ago (on 11th June 1982) and which has now just been re-released.
For those who haven’t seen it – like me – the plot of the story goes like this.
An alien botanist from outer space (called "ET") becomes stranded on earth.
A 10-year-old boy named Elliott befriends him. With the help of his brother Michael and sister Gertie, Elliott tries to keep ET a secret from his mother and all other adults.
ET explores his earthly surroundings with a childlike curiosity, and stumbles upon a Buck Rogers comic strip. This inspires him to try and contact his own people in space, or as he puts it, "Phone home."
ET begins sharing his feelings with Elliott, and the two soon become bonded.
Eventually however ET gets sick and dies. Elliott is heartbroken. As he peers into the coffin where ET lies and says good-bye, Elliott tells him "I’ll believe in you all my life."
As he closes the coffin lid, suddenly ET’s heart-light comes back to life.
Elliott is so happy that his friend has returned to life that he tells his brother, "He’s alive! He’s alive!".
It is news that Elliott can’t keep to himself. (My thanks to http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/et.htm for the information on ET)
And in a similar vein, Paul- in this evening’s lesson -has news that he can’t keep to himself.
Paul had come to Athens, which was, at that time, the intellectual centre of the World. Very much like the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge are today.
And he thought: “These guys are really sad. So many shrines to useless idols .” He just could keep his mouth shut and had to tell them about Jesus.
The Athenians prided themselves on listening to and discussing new ideas. And the forum for such discussions was a place called the Areopagus.
So it was to that forum that Paul was invited to speak. He opened his speech to his audience in the Areopagus by saying:
“Men of Athens! I notice that you are very religious. For as I was walking along, I saw your many altars. And one of them had this inscription on it “To an Unknown God”. You have been worshipping him without knowing who he is, and now I wish to tell you about him… (Acts 17: 22-23 NLT)
And he then proceeded to tell them that their unknown God was the God who created the world.
He was a God that doesn’t live in man-made shrines, nor is he a God who needs their human shrine offerings either.
What God really wants is that all nations should seek Him.
And Paul went on to say:
“And now God commands people everywhere to turn away from these idols and turn to Him. And what is more he has set a day for judging the world with justice by a man whom he has raised from the dead. “ (Acts 17:31 loosely on NLT).
Up until that point, the Athenians in the Areopagus had been on board with Paul’s arguments. However once Paul spoke about someone rising from the dead - that was the last straw. They thought he had flipped his lid and switched off.
Paul was no fool. From other passages in the book of Acts and in his letters, we know that Paul knew how to argue a case successfully.
So why did he bring up the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead? It was so hard a concept that it was bound to fail. Obviously he hadn’t read Dale Carnegie’s book “How to make friends and influence people”
The reason I believe Paul did this is because the Resurrection is a cornerstone of the Christian faith.
Paul couldn’t honestly talk about the Christian faith without mentioning the key to the faith that he was talking about.
That key was that God had approved of what Jesus had taught and said - by raising him from the dead after evil men had killed him.
Easter, one of the two great festivals in the Christian year is all about Jesus being raised by God from the dead – what we refer to as the Resurrection.
The Resurrection is not something Paul made up.
In a letter known as 1 Corinthians, Paul when talking of the Christian message said:
“I passed on to you what was most important - that Christ died for our sins… He was buried and was raised from the dead on the third day as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles. After that he was seen by more than five hundred of his followers at one time, many of whom are still alive but some have died. He was then seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all I saw him too.” (1 Cor 15:3-8 NLT)