OF EASTER AND “IDENTITY CRISIS”
Let me begin with a Tarzan story! Well, this is as real as it is surreal. Johnny Weissmuller, the Champion Olympic swimmer who donned the role of Tarzan the ape man in the Silver screen with as much aplomb in 1930s & 40s’ as he dominated the Olympic swimming lanes in 1920s’, had a close encounter of a different kind with the Pro-Fidel Castro’s soldiers in late 1950s’. When the Cuban uprising was reaching its peak, he and his golf mates (on a recreational tour to Cuba) on Havana’s suburbs were surrounded by gun-toting Cuban revolutionaries, who on mistaking them for Pro-regime supporters were intent on kidnapping them. When all his pleadings to convince them that he was the harmless movie Tarzan on a normal tour (with no political links) failed to convince them, he came-up with a spectacular ‘Tarzan act’ immaculately. Thumping his chest in a typical Tarzan style, he gave out a blood curdling yell “KREEGAH TARZAN BUNDALO”, so much so that the highly impressed Pro-Castro’s men immediately curtsied with the words “Welcome Tarzan, welcome to Cuba" and escorted him and his friends to a safer area. Let me cut this story short here but doesn’t this story in a small way mirror the anguish of our own Lord in identifying Himself to his disciples post-resurrection? Mary of Magdalene failed to recognize him at the first instance (John 20:14-15), ditto it with his followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13), throw in the confused disciples and the other followers who mistook him for a ghost on his sensational appearance (Luke 24:37) and the picture of ‘identity crisis’ of a special kind would be complete. No wonder there is a record of the Master rebuking them for unbelief (Mark 16:14)! Ah Tarzan...before going any further on this blessed Resurrection day morning aping the apeman shall we give a full-throated cry (no chest beating, just with hands raised, pumping the fists) "THE LORD IS RISEN"!!!
This Easter, continuing with the ‘Identification theme’ I have split my message into five parts,
1. Identifying the Resurrection prophecies and their significance thereof
2. Identifying the Messiah’s purpose
3. Identifying ourselves with the Messiah’s cause
4. Identifying ourselves with the Resurrection power
5. Identifying the times, we are living in
1. Identifying the Resurrection prophecies and their significance thereof
When so many events relating to Jesus’ life had been prophesied such as…
a) his virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14)
b) triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (celebrated as Palm Sunday in Christendom – Zechariah 9:9)
c) betrayal by an acquaintance (Psalm 41:9, Zechariah 11:12)
d) sufferings on the cross (Psalm 22:15)
to name a few, it follows that an event as paramount as Resurrection would also be foretold in the Scriptures. Well, it was in Psalm 16:10/ 49:15 in oh-so-clear terms that its fulfillment should not have come as a surprise to His ardent followers but it sadly did, so much so that the good Lord had to remind some of them of the same painstakingly (Luke 24:27) on the Easter evening. Why so many Prophecies, even without a single prophecy our good Lord could have come to Planet Earth , finished the redemption plan and gone back. You see there is no shortage of rationalists in this World who demand a proof for everything before accepting any Divine act as Divinely inspired. ON ONE SOLITARY LIFE OF THE SAVIOUR, HINGED THE ENTIRE SALVATION OF MANKIND! Lest the rationalists’ attribute the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), place of his birth (Micah 5:2), atoning death on the cross (Psalm 22:16/Isaiah 53), resurrection (Psalm 16:10-11, Acts 2:28) and his victorious ascension (Psalm 68:18/Eph 4:18) to a sheer accident or coincidence, the Heavenly Father in infinite wisdom had everything written down in “black and white”, several centuries before those landmark events even occurred. Let me illustrate…
Last Christmas, the womenfolk of our Church went to a reasonably distant Departmental store to buy gifts for the widows/orphans/Sunday school children of our Church. When, they came back it dawned on one Sister (in faith) that she had forgotten her purse containing many valuables in the parking lot of a huge, busy commercial complex. Praying profusely, the entire “Purchase committee” rushed back to that hustling, bustling area after full one hour (traffic snarls you see) where a unguarded purse has as much chance of remaining unpicked as an ice-cube would have of not melting in a fiery furnace. Hallelujah, they found it safe and secure! Now if I were to share this thrilling account with a rationalist giving all glory to the prayer-answering God, (you guessed it right), he would attribute this “miraculous recovery” to sheer “coincidence or luck”. But ponder for a moment, if this entire account had been foretold and documented in a book, say 20 years ago, would he still attribute this true story to a mere coincidence. He would have no other option but to accept it as an Divine act! Ditto the same, with several of the Messianic prophecies, including the one about His resurrection.
Yet another significance of fulfilled Prophecies...if the promise keeping God has faithfully fulfilled all His prophecies time and again, it only goes to reinforce the fact that He is bound to bring to fruition the the other unfulfilled prophecies in the Scripture…especially that of His Son’s II Coming in mid-air (Matt 24:30-31/I Cor 15:51-53) Oh how true that prophesies’ are nothing but history written in advance. Does the prospect of our Lord’s II Coming in mid-air excite us? It should…if we are ready for it.
Now let’s move onto the second point...
2. Identifying the Messiah’s purpose:
Post resurrection, not only were Jesus’ disciples and his followers guilty of failing to identify their blessed resurrected Lord, they were also guilty of still not identifying their Master’s purpose for coming into this world, which was to shine as a beacon light to the entire world and not only to the Jews (Luke 2:32). Despite being with him all these years and listening countless times to His sermons proclaiming himself to be the Saviour of the whole world, his disciples were still trying to come to terms with Jesus original purpose behind His I Coming, so much so, we see them posing a witless question in Acts 1:6 “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” Oh how much it must have pained the Saviour that they were yet to fully comprehend His agenda behind His I Coming, which had nothing to with anything political but had everything to with all things spiritual. More than occupying any earthly throne, Jesus’ had always been keen on occupying the thrones in the hearts of men. COME LORD JESUS TO REIGN IN OUR HEARTS!
Onto the third point...
3. Identifying ourselves with the Messiah’s cause:
It is one thing to identify the Messiah’s cause and quite another to identify oneself with the same. Just as disciples to whom his cause was revealed were called to identify themselves with their Master’s cause by being his witnesses in “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:9), His followers through the ages to whom His cause has been revealed have also been called to don the same role. Witnessing for Jesus stripped of all its fanciful trappings is as simple as telling everyone what Jesus has done in one’s life much in the same way a terminally ill cancer patient operated upon and healed by a Doctor would tell others’ of his/her Doctor’s wondrous surgical skills. Then again, just as a patient who had a brush with death would do this passionately, starting with his family members and then relay this news all on his own in ever-widening circles, we too who have tasted His redemptive love and have been saved from far worse ‘eternal death’ are called to testify in a centrifugal manner about our ‘experience’ beginning with our family members, first. Note Jesus in the above-captioned scripture portion in italics put Jerusalem first signifying that his disciples were to start the work of relaying the Good news of Jesus’ saving power right at the place of their stay and then proceed onto other places…yes …’even to the ends of the world’. That we are reading this piece, most probably in a place faraway from Jerusalem is proof enough of the fact that Jesus’ disciples-their many weaknesses’ aside- did a commendable job, when it came identifying themselves with their Master’s cause! How are we faring on this front?
Now coming to the fourth sub-topic...
4. Identifying ourselves with the Resurrection power:
Dear Friend, if you have "identified" your sinful condition but are unable to liberate yourselves from the clutches of sin, the Resurrection power (Romans 8:11) is for you to avail and break free from the grasp of sin and for those who have been Christians and have received His call to be used mightily in His vineyard, the Good News is that our Lord does not call the qualified but qualifies the called. Looking into the History of the Early Church would give you the needed inspiration.
Post Easter, the Resurrection power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11) was now the Disciples’ to appropriate and advance the Kingdom. If on Easter Sunday, the Resurrection power emptied the grave and brought the Son of God out, fifty days later on the Day of the Pentecost it filled the Disciples emboldening them mightily (Acts 2). From that day onwards the same men who fled from the Master on the night of His capture in the Garden of Gethsamane were “capturing men in the net of the Gospel” for remainder of their lives. Ever wondered from where the Early Church got its highest compliment albeit unwittingly “THESE MEN HAVE TURNED THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN” ? Not from its friends but its enemies (Acts 17:6). Talk of a Republican Presidential candidate giving his Democrat counterpart a Thumbs up or vice-versa....That’s Resurrection power for you and its available even today for us to use (Heb 13:8).
Finally, let’s zero in on the fifth and final sub-topic...
5. Identifying the times, we are living in:
The end-time prophecy recorded in Daniel 12:4 “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” would always resonate in the minds of all discerning Bible students for it identifies the time, we are living in as the end time, for at no other period in human history than in this cyber age have global business tours catalyzed by technology revolution become more commonplace and knowledge grown more exponentially. Latest inventions are the order of the day so much so it is News only when a new discovery in the field of science IS NOT MADE in a 24-hour span.
Also it would be foolhardy to ignore other ‘signs’ such as earthquakes, famines and wars (Luke 21:10-11), which Jesus announced, would precede his II Coming. Isn’t Mass media littered with news of earthquakes ravaging several countries, famines stalking various parts of the World and wars being fought within and between nations?
As though to refute a rationalist who would attribute the afore-mentioned ‘signs’ to common occurrences’ of the past centuries too, the good Lord sent yet another irrefutable proof on 26th Dec, 2004 and on March 2011 respectively in perfect fulfillment of His prophecy in Luke 21:25b (TLB) “And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and STRANGE TIDES.” If an earth-shaking event of the magnitude of a Tsunami (the very definition of a strange tide as it is caused not conventionally by heavy winds but by an Earthquake in the Sea surface) that hit several coastal cities in Dec 2004 and Japan in March 2011, doesn’t convince us that His II Coming is on the anvil, then nothing else will! Yes, our hearts go out to the victims but secrets behind some Sovereign acts can only be understood in eternity (Deu 29:29).
Have we identified the fact that we are living very close to the zero hour when the Church would be ‘raptured’? Are we ready to meet our Master? Oh may we all rejoice SOON in seeing his radiant countenance even while hearing his words of commendation “Well done, my faithful servant’!
Prayer: Father, even as we Your Children are identifying the fact that we are very close to the Church rapture times, enable us not only to be alert but also to alert others lovingly and passionately. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.