Sunday, April 16, 2017

When the Easter Bunny Isn't Enough

“God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.  Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand.  And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.  For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said,  ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.”’  “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”  Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”  Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”  Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”  Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.  A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.  And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.  They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.  And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:32-47(NLT)
ack in the days when you could still ask the question in the public schools, a third grade teacher asked her pupils:  What is Easter all about?  Many of the children gave their answers, mostly about colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, and the like.  The dismayed Christian teacher was about to give it up when one little boy offered, Easter is when Jesus died on the cross and then he was buried.  The teacher thought:  All right!  At least he's got it. But the boy continued, And on Easter morning Jesus comes out of the tomb, and if he sees his shadow we get six more weeks of winter.
Sadly enough, many children today know this (and less) about the greatest event ever to happen in history.  We teach them about George Washington, Martin Luther King, and how to wear a condom, but the most important thing they need to know for time and eternity is left to chance, or relegated to fable. 
May God have mercy on our souls! 
We will need mercy, because if the constitution falls, as so many governments do today (and all through history); If the condom fails and AIDS is the diagnosis; If the lipstick on the collar isn't yours, wife; If the brakes fail and the truck coming the other way doesn't see you; If..If..If.....WHEN it happens, you will need Jesus. 
When the Easter Bunnies of this world are not enough to meet the crises of your real life, you will need Him.   
And Easter is the reason why.  And if you depend on the Son of God rather than the Easter Bunny of fables and merchandizing, here is what you’ll have:

Resurrected Christ

In Peter's sermon to the gathered crowd he told them emphatically, God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
Without the resurrection, life is meaningless, and religion then becomes no more than ritual, or the kind of fanaticism that can end up in a cult that drinks the poisoned Kool Aide. 
Peter said that they were witnesses.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most verified miracle of all. 
·       He was publicly executed during the busiest season of the year in Jerusalem. 
·       He was pierced in the vital organs with a Roman spear. 
·       He was stone cold dead, laid in a tomb from Friday to Sunday –and then appeared, touched, ate with and taught more than 500 witnesses for a month before ascending to heaven in front of all those witnesses. 
The church, established in His name, has not been perfect.  But, believers have suffered and died in His name for the last two thousand years. 
Why?  What is the value?  The value is what the death and resurrection of Christ means. 
Speaking of Jesus, and those who have trusted in Him for salvation, Paul wrote: 
If we die with him, we will also live with him.; 2 Timothy 2:11b(NLT)
That's the value! 
Without resurrection this life is all there is.  We might as well be the grabbing, selfish society we see gripping the whole world.  Grab the gusto!  Get all you can; first man to the top; the one who dies with the most toys.....And so on!!! 
Ah, but with the resurrection there is different meaning.  This life is but a preparation for the life to come – an eternal life with a living, resurrected Lord, Jesus! 
When the Easter bunnies of materialism, prestige, and other human appetites begin to lose their luster, and life falls apart at the doctor's office, or the bank, or the grave – there is a Resurrected Christ who says, Come unto Me...and I will give you rest! 
What else do we get, preacher?  He is also a:

Raised Christ

On earth things are fickle.  Last week (Palm Sunday), Jesus was a hero, entering Jerusalem triumphantly, tree palms made a royal carpet road to welcome him with upraised palms of hands in worship. 
By Friday, Jesus was crucified as a common criminal, spread-eagle on crossbeams, naked on the town garbage heap.  There are countless stories of rags to riches and back.  That would tell the story of Jesus for certain, if this life tells all there is to the story. 
But Dr. Luke says we are to be assured of this,
God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah  Acts 2:36b(NLT)
On earth Jesus was despised and rejected of men; in heaven He has been exalted, and sitting at the right hand of the Father. 
Beloved, all people have a sense of judgment.  We know that fire burns us, sharp things pierce the skin, radiation kills, and cancer will literally eat you alive. 
There is a judgment, and the throne Jesus sits upon will utter the judgment one day.  You will need Him when the Easter bunnies of earth are long past. 
Everyone must make a decision for Easter Bunnies or eternal blessing!  Only a resurrected Christ, and a raised Christ can offer you eternal life. 
That means everyone must make a:

Radical Change

When the people Peter preached to on this occasion heard of the resurrected and raised Christ, they were convicted, cut to the heart!  They wanted to know what to DO about it. 
Peter said, Repent!  To repent means knowing that you are guilty of sin, sorrowful over that sin, and willing to change – to be different – to be God's kind of person.  The Scriptures call it Godly repentance.
Many people in jail are guilty and sorrowful; they’re guilty because they DID it, and sorrowful because they GOT CAUGHT.  The problem with that kind of sorrow is they’re not really willing to change.  If they could find a better way to do what they did, so they wouldn’t get caught they’d do it again a hundred times!  Godly repentance is being willing to turn from doing those same sins again. 
This is what happened in Jerusalem.  Three thousand people allowed Christ to be savior and Lord of their lives! 
Here’s what they did:
They DEVOTED themselves to the apostles' teaching, prayers, giving to those in need; their lives changed dramatically!  
The key word, devoted, means they changed, or rather allowed the teaching of God's word to change all their ways.  That's what coming to Christ is all about.  It isn't church services, giving money and giving up the weekend drugs.  It's about having your life so altered that Jesus' priorities become your priorities.
Beloved, the difference between an Easter Bunny faith and miraculous Christianity is allowing Christ to fill your life. 
Do you want to belong to a church?  Fine! 
Do you want to be known as a Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian or Methodist?  Fine! 
Do you want to attend services, and help with doing good stuff in the community?  Fine! 
Those are all representative of the kinds of changes Jesus will bring. 
That's not resurrection power.   
Have you let Christ into your heart? 
Are you willing to let a
                        raised Lord
                                radically change you? 
Are you willing to have a new life?  Are you?


[i] Title image: Gerbil [GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

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