Summary: Christians rejoice always because Jesus isn’t dead - he’s risen!
In the late 1800’s, no business matched the financial and political dominance of the railroad. Trains dominated the transportation industry of the United States, moving both people and goods throughout the country. Then a new discovery came along – the car – and incredibly the leaders of the railroad industry did not take advantage of their unique position to participate in this transportation development. The automotive revolution was happening all around them, and they did not use their industry dominance to take hold of the opportunity. In his video-tape The Search for Excellence, Tom Peters points out the reason: The railroad barons didn’t understand what business they were in. Peters observes that “they thought they were in the train business. But, they were in fact in the transportation business. Time passed them by, as did opportunity. They couldn’t see what their real purpose was.”
When you lose track of your purpose you end up frustrated, disappointed, and defeated. That same type of danger exists for this Christian congregation. Perhaps you shared some of my disappointment and frustration last Sunday when the rain fell and many of the chairs we had rented stayed empty while we celebrated our community outdoor that quickly became an indoor Easter service. I felt frustrated, disappointed, and defeated because I thought that this year we were going to have the biggest and the best outdoor service this congregation has ever had – but when all was said and done I’m relatively certain that we drew the smallest number ever to Friarsgate Park. But, perhaps that’s the reason God allowed things to happen the way they did. In this vivid way God refocuses our attention on our real purpose as a Christian congregation. Last Sunday God reminded us that we’re not in the business of hosting the biggest and the best Easter service in the Midlands – we’re in the business of making disciples for Jesus. We’re in the business of bringing people to their Savior on Easter Sunday and every other Sunday of the year so that together we might Rejoice in our Risen Lord. That’s what God reminds us of through the Apostle Peter as he encourages us to rejoice in our risen Lord because he gives us living hope. We rejoice because he gives us genuine faith.
I read a story about a small boy who was being raised in a frontier town by his grandmother. One night the house caught fire. The grandmother, trying to rescue the boy who has asleep in the bedroom upstairs, was overcome by the smoke and died in the fire. This frontier city didn’t have much of a fire department. A crowd gathered around the house and they heard the small boy crying out for help. The lower floor was a wall of flames and no one seemed to know what to do. Suddenly, a man pushed through the crowd and began climbing an iron drainage pipe that ran to the roof. The pipe was hot from the fire, but he made it to a second floor window. The man crawled through the window and located the little boy. With the crowd cheering encouragement, the man climbed back down the hot iron pipe with the boy on his back and his arms around his neck.
A few weeks later, a public meeting was held to determine in whose custody the boy would be placed. Each person wanting the child would be allowed to make a brief statement. The first man said, “I have a farm and would give the boy a good home. He would grow up on the farm and learn a trade.” The second person to speak was the local school teacher. She said, “I am a school teacher and I would see to it that he received a good education.” Finally, the banker said, “Mrs. Morton and I would be able to give the boy a fine home and a fine education. We would like him to come and live with us.” The presiding officer looked around and asked, “Is there anyone else who would like to say anything?” From the back row, a man rose and slowly pulling his hands from his coat said, “I offer my love to this child.” A gasp went up from the crowd because his hands were scarred terribly from climbing up and down the hot pipe. When the boy saw the man’s hands – he recognized him as the one who saved his life and he ran into his waiting arms.
At Easter time we are brought to see the one who has rescued us from death and given us a new lease on life. At Easter time we clearly see the one suffered the scorching heat of God’s wrath and the searing scourge of hell to rescue us from the flames. At Easter time we too are blessed to see the hands of our risen Savior whose conquering love is written in the place where the nails penetrated his flesh and the spear pierced his side. Easter is the powerful proof that Christ’s love has overcome our greatest enemies and Easter motivates us to run into the waiting arms of our Savior who has prepared an eternal inheritance for us with him in heaven, one that never perishes, spoils or fades. That’s the living hope that is ours because we rejoice in our risen Savior!