Summary: EASTER reminds us of what mattered most to Jesus now that his work on earth was finished...He shared what he wanted his followers as far away as the 21st century, to remember.
Many of you have had the experience of standing at the bus stop, train station or the airline terminal sending your child off for that school trip or launching them into the scary world of university campuses.
•Parting words – “Behave yourself; make me proud; don’t get into trouble; be careful who you hang around with; call me!” Things said are important for your own peace of mind.
EASTER reminds us of what mattered most to Jesus now that his work on earth was finished and he was about to hand it over to his followers. Before he returned to God, he left them with a parting word, the burning thing on his heart which was of greatest importance. He shared what he wanted his followers as far away as the 21st century, to remember.
• The burning message: verse 15 – “Go…Preach”
• 277 words in verses 9-20 of Mark 16. Only two of them are imperative commands (which means the subject to whom the command is given is implied): - “You Go…You Preach”
• Matthew 29:19 – “Go…Make disciples.”
Emphasize the importance of this responsibility:
• After Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness – Matthew 4:17 – “From then on, Jesus began to preach, “Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Kingdom of heaven and forgiveness of sins – restored relationship with God – is the Good News he preached and wants preached.
So, here we are in the 21st century wondering what we are to do with this personal instruction. The times are in our favor actually. Leonard Sweet, Church historian, author and futurist, says in his book “Aqua Church” that we are in a very “unstable, unsteady and turbulent postmodern world.” Sweet goes on to offer that “what we face can be seen as a threat, but also as an opportunity of perhaps unprecedented proportions.” (p. 8) He argues that people have never been more open to the supernatural and spiritual discussions than they are today.
• E.g. - “The Da Vinci Code” – more than 3 million copies in print
• The Passion of the Christ – #1 film three weeks in a row
Another comment by Sweet however does not correspond to the reality of people searching for answers. People’s interest in spiritual things which includes Jesus is not pursued in the life of the church. Sweet shows us that people are actually hostile toward the church and organized religion.
I believe his comment is a stinging wakeup call for the church. We hold the answer to life in the Person of Jesus Christ. We commemorate his crucifixion and resurrection annually and claim to personally experience the resurrection of Christ in our own lives. If however there is hostility toward the church and organized religion, something about the resurrection of Christ is out of sync. To what extent has the resurrection of Christ engaged our total person beyond Easter Sunday? With whom have we shared the Good News lately – the message that there is forgiveness for sins and God’s Kingdom is open to you? To what measure are we speaking to and witnessing about Salvation on a personal level? Are we finding that our talk and expression of God is often confined to our corporate time on Sunday morning? We need to honestly face the answers to these questions because the answers will give some important clues as to whether or not we are out of step with the message of resurrection.
If we have failed in any respect in this matter of “go…preach” it is probably related to our limited understanding of what the church is. Bishop Leslie Newbigin, labeled as “one of the leading influences on the theology of mission” (Wilbert R. Shenk) in the 20th century, was once quoted as saying, “The key focus of the church’s mission is not the church but the world.” Have we gotten off track? Have we been influenced to compromise the message of Jesus Christ for man-made religious piety? Have we been guilty of focusing internally instead of externally; more concerned about being coddled than caring for the lost; more intentional about ourselves when it should be about ‘them’? Are we well-intentioned and at the same time missing the mark?
We need to look to our relationship with Jesus Christ. I contest that we cannot walk in fresh experience of God, of resurrection Sunday and not be affected that there are thousands, even millions, who don’t know Him. If the world’s response to organized religion and the church is hostile, seeing an exclusive group that is more concerned about itself than the world, then we are called into question whether or not we really have experienced the resurrection. The fire that ignited the disciples to “go…preach” was one of experiencing God through the Person of Jesus Christ. One cannot experience the resurrection and be a spiritual recluse (a hermit) and hold the view, “Glad I have a whole and lasting life, too bad you don’t.” It cries “I have a whole and lasting life and I want you to know what it’s like!”