Walking along the scenic South Pacific shore early one Easter morning, she met her soon to be son-in-law. So she uttered the traditional Easter greeting, “He is risen!” Expecting to hear the customary “he is risen indeed,” she was surprised to hear the young man’s response. “I’ve been up for quite some time. Thank you,” replied the young man.
A young woman visiting a jewelry store advised the counter clerk that she intended to purchase a golden cross necklace. Eager to help, the sales associate responded, “Did you want the plain one or the one with the little man on it?”
A radio talk show hosted “on air debate” regarding the term Christmas or has he preferred, “the winter holiday.” Some insisted that it would be better called “twinkle time,” rather than Christmas. The speaker went on to clinch his argument: – “The next thing you know the church will be trying to takeover Easter as well!”
The above statements were each made several years ago – some in Australia and one in Pittsburgh. Things have not improved. While I was writing this post, I observed a link on the FoxNews website. Show host Bill O’Reilly had dispatched his “man in the street” to interview people about Easter.
I got the impression that the responses were supposed to be amusing. To me, they were sad – very sad. Young people who were interviewed had no idea of the meaning or significance of Easter or Good Friday. One young lady responded: “I think Easter is when Jesus was born or something like that.” Most had no inkling and just giggled at the inquiry. The reporter finally found one young girl who indicated that it celebrated the rising of Jesus from the dead. She suggested that her Bible teacher, standing nearby, should be proud of her.
The “man on the street” made his report to pundit Bill O’Reilly. He summarized that most did not know that Jesus “died on cavalry (vice Calvary) on good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter.” Even O’Reilly missed the slip – or at least he let it slide.
It is blatantly obvious that we live in a Post-Christian culture – biblical ignorance abounds. Not only has biblical knowledge dissipated, but Judeo-Christian values and concepts which once permeated our principles and beliefs have evaporated. The influencers of our culture tell us that times have changed and we must change with them. Former values usually called traditional, are antiquated, outmoded and no longer apply.
Christians moan and brace for the worst… But, it is in this kind of context that Jesus charged his followers, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So, the followers of Jesus are to make disciples of Jesus among all nations. This includes baptism in the name of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus further mandates instruction to bring about obedience to everything which he taught.
Not long before he made this charge, Jesus made a statement, which we can regard as a promise. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16.18). Putting these two together. I understand that Jesus is building his church through the preaching and teaching of his word to the apostles. This teaching is preserved for us in the writings we know as the New Testament. The point I’m making is that Jesus uses his Word proclaimed or announced by his followers, to build his church, which he will establish even though all hell opposes it.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul makes a defense of what we should believe concerning Jesus Christ. Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive…
So this is the gospel that Paul received and preached: Christ died for our sins in agreement with the Scripture; Christ was buried; Christ was raised on the third day in agreement to the Scriptures. Paul goes on to invite them to check out the truthfulness of this claim (the resurrection of Jesus) by interviewing certain named individuals and over 500 eyewitnesses! He stresses the importance of believing these facts about Jesus, who is able to save them from sure and certain eternal punishment.
It is instructive for us to recognize (both accept and believe) that this is the gospel truth that the apostle Paul taught. It is also insightful to see how he preached these truths. 1 Corinthians 3.6– 9 highlights his pattern: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
In other words, God uses some of his followers to plant and others to cultivate but he alone causes the growth. I am encouraged that the all-powerful king of the universe uses the humble efforts of his people as he extends his kingdom and builds his church.
So, when I hear statements like this from one of my caregivers: “I thought that Easter was all about chocolate, bunnies and eggs… Now I know that there is a little more to it!” I am encouraged to know that God is at work – planting through some, cultivating through others, but all the while causing growth himself.