Summary: Jesus Rising and dying changes everything
For those who haven’t been with us over the last few weeks, we have been talking about spring training for Christians, a time the ancients have called “Lent.” Over the past six weeks, we have been encouraging everyone to get more connected to their faith by practicing any a number of spiritual disciplines. The hope is that just like a baseball player practices his hitting, catching and fielding to improve his game, we would improve our spiritual game by reading scripture, meditating, fasting, praying, almsgiving and or serving. Now we do all this, not so we can earn a spot on the team because we are already on the team but so we can better understand how God wants us to play the game his way on opening day.
Opening day at the baseball stadium is always filled with more excitement and pageantry than any other day. The teams are introduced with a little more zeal. The people cheer a little louder for every hit or foul ball. People pay more attention to the ceremonial first pitch and sing louder during the national anthem. However, personally, I have always loved the jets coming in fast, low and loud over the field. The whole series of events builds excitement on itself.
This Easter morning is supposed to be very much like that. We have been building up to this day for over forty days. Lent, like pre-season baseball, builds in intensity as we increase our use of the spiritual disciplines and they become more apart of our daily routine. Our game is raised. We have done what we can and now, we are on the field listening to the Christian national anthem (Up from the Grave He arose) and our watching the jets fly over.
In that moment, there are some, usually those who really appreciate the gift of being on the opening day roster, who reflect on all the hard work: the running, the batting practice, the weight room and the situational drills. They take it all in: the crowd, the smells, the feeling of the wind. They marvel at the singing of the national anthem and think of the sacrifices so many paid just so they could play a child’s game. The armed forces saying, “freedom isn’t free” takes on real meaning. There’s a realization that this life comes at a cost of resources, time and money. It also comes at the cost of lives that most will never acknowledge or know.
On this Easter morning, we gather to first and foremost acknowledge and celebrate the one life that paid the ultimate sacrifice only to rise from dead so we can have real freedom. In His death, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law by becoming our sin sacrifice. The law represented an agreement between God and man. It was supposed to be a guardrail for humanity to protect itself from what God knew they would do without it. As such, the law required animal sacrifices for human sin. Today, in the civilized world, it seems weird and even ridiculous for God to tell us to kill a goat as a symbol of our sin and a sign of our willingness. I am not sure many in this room would even know where to get a goat. Can you see yourself down at the Jewel asking for 10lbs of goat? The butcher just looking at you the same way a pharmacist looks at a teenage boy buying condemns. However, in that day the system would have reminded them of God, His teaching and His role in their life. It also provided them an immediate incentive to adhere too because Goats and chickens were expensive. However, Man perverted God’s teaching in such a way that Law became a series rituals people felt encumbered by, not loved and protected. We gather here this morning to celebrate that Jesus presence and actions changed all that. The event is the cornerstone of our faith and it’s why every Sunday is supposed to be a “Little Easter.” A reminder that God is so omniscient that He planned his arrival through hundred of prophesies.
Peter saw the event in Psalm 16:8-11, Psalm 110:1 and Isaiah 53:10. Paul saw it in Leviticus 23:9-14 and Psalm 2:7. Jesus even referenced it throughout his ministry and at one point, even used the book of Jonah to teach of the reality of His life. However, it wasn’t until after his “Opening Day” that His disciples began to understand God’s amazing love for us, His wayward creation. It’s in this ultimate love; we turn our lives over too. As we do, we experience a deep transformation: transformations so complete that over time our desires and motivations change. Our will seems to fade and His will comes to the forefront. Symbolically, we die to self through His presence and are raised to a life beyond our wildest dreams. When I really committed my life to Christ, I did not think anything needed to be changed but God showed me differently. He also taught me that its not me who leads but him. So on our opening day, when we are the underdog who makes the roster, gets up to bat and swings for the fences, the result for where the ball lands is not in our control. It’s up to Him. This is the true grace and freedom being a Christian brings. It reminds me of a story.