Summary: The great benediction in Hebrews encourages us to take advantage of Easter.
“The Road to a Batter Life: Take Advantage of Easter”
A man named Gianni Versace was being interviewed about his successes in life. He concluded, “I’m happy to live, I live intensely, and I don’t have regrets.” Then he was asked if he was religious. His expression changed to a mischievous grin. “Yes, I believe in God, but I’m not the kind of religious person who goes to church, who believes in the fairy tale of Jesus born in the stable with the donkey. That, no – I’m not stupid. I can’t believe that God, with all the power that he has, had to have himself born in a stable. ... it wouldn’t have been comfortable!” (1) He failed to take advantage of Easter; God, the Father of Jesus, didn’t fit his perspective of life. If only he had understood and responded to this wonderful benediction in the book of Hebrews, chapter thirteen, verses 20-21; it tells how to take advantage of Easter.
First, LET GOD EMBRACE YOU. Verse 20; “May the God of peace...” God wants to embrace us WITH PEACE. Peace is a major concept throughout Scripture. The Old Testament word – shalom – is more than the cessation or absence of war. It encompasses all our daily relationships - with the world around us, with God, with others, and with ourselves. It stands for wholeness, well being, and harmony. Yet God is seldom referred to as a God of peace; rather He is seen as a God of power, war, strength, the mighty warrior. But in the New Testament this harmony and well being are associated with God. The New Testament begins with angels singing hymns of peace and leads to a picture of celebrating the unbroken union with the Father. Jesus said (Jn. 14): “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
No matter what you’re feeling today, no matter how turbulent your life, no matter how tempestuous the storm that swirls around you, no matter how shaky or fragile your relationships – God wants to embrace you with His peace. Take advantage of Easter.
To be sure we understand this peace the author continues: let God embrace you WITH HIS ETERNAL COVENANT. “…who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the Sheep…” God brought Jesus back from the dead for the sole purpose of allowing us to be at peace with God. God had promised to forgive when the proper blood had been shed. Jesus’ blood paid the price. As the Apostle John put it (I Jn. 4:10), “…God loved us and sent his Son as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away our sins.” GOD IS FAITHFUL TO FORGIVE. No matter how grievous you feel your sins are, no matter how heavy your load of guilt, because of Easter you can be forgiven. As Paul later wrote (Rom. 8:1 GNT) “There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.”
“…for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.” Back in chapters 8-10 Hebrews talked about the new and living way into the presence of the Father. Remember that when Jesus died the curtain in the temple was torn in two. From that moment on we could be in the presence of God and experience not death but peace, not eternal damnation but grace. Both Paul and Hebrews are urging us to make a firm commitment to Jesus Christ.
In his novel, Edge of Eternity, Randy Alcorn has the main character, Nick, reflect upon how different things are now that He has encountered the risen, reigning Lord Jesus Christ. “I remembered now why I'd stopped looking at the stars. They made me feel so lonely, so disconnected. But not anymore. Seeing the stars now was like rereading a book after meeting the author – it seemed like the very first time. I'd lived an unconnected life. But I was connected now, to the King, to his creation, and to my traveling companions. I'd grown bone-weary of playing God. It was a big job, and I'd finally discovered I was too small to pull it off. It was hard to abdicate the throne – but what a relief now that I had.” (2) WE MUST GIVE UP OUR INDEPENDENCE AND NEED TO CONTROL AND UNDERSTAND. Take advantage of Easter.
As a young doctor, Dr. Tom Dooley organized hospitals, raised money, and literally poured out his life in the service of the afflicted peoples of Southeast Asia. He abandoned a career in the United States for missionary service. He died at the age of 34 from cancer. Shortly before his death he wrote to the president of his alma mater, Notre Dame. ”They’ve got me down. Flat on the back, with plaster, salt bags, and hot water bottles. I’ve contrived a way of pumping the bed up a bit so that, with a long reach, I can get to my typewriter...Two things prompt this note to you. The first is that whenever my cancer acts up a bit....I turn inward. Less do I think of my hospitals around the world....More do I think of one Divine Doctor and his personal fund of grace. (He explains the spread of his cancer). “...But when the time comes, like now, then the storm around me does not matter. The winds...do not matter. Nothing earthly can touch me. A peace gathers in my heart. What seems unpossessable, I can possess. What seems unfathomable, I can fathom. What is unutterable, I can utter. Because I can pray. I can communicate. How do people endure anything on earth if they cannot have God?