Easter Sermon: He Has Risen!Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012
By Al Gray
Folks, we are in a maelstrom of forces that threaten us all and by “all” this writer means mankind in the broadest sense, Americans in the national sense, and as individual souls in the common sense. We find ourselves in a technologically complicated world with unimaginably hideous weaponry in the hands of men whose base emotions, fears, reasoning, and limitations are unchanged since the times of Genesis. We pretend otherwise, one supposes, in order to sleep.
Read the Bible. Quit feeding the evil beast who entices under the worship of false patriotism, the admiration of authority, and the comfort of a modern lifestyle. You must do this soon. These times hearken in frightening ways to the power of the state and religious zealotry openly displayed during the trial of Jesus. Of more recent vintage, even unbelievers note the parallels to the fall of the Roman Empire, the French Revolution, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, and the rise of the Nazis. We tend to think of the people of those times as either being evil or victims of evil. Is it really that simple, or were people fooled by the worst of their weaknesses?
In the last decade there has been constant erosion of our rights under the United States Constitution by both national political parties, Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. New laws like the Patriot Act and the recent National Defense Authorization Act give the state vast powers to cancel our most precious rights on a whim, an arbitrary decision, or just plain mistaken identity. These powers extend to cancelling our very lives, yet the response we lovers of liberty get goes something like - “Well, if you are not doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about?” from left and right. We have all heard this refrain. Let’s recall for a moment the very beginning of the Trial of Jesus.
Stunning words explode at us from John 18, verses 29 and 30, as recorded in the New American Standard Bible.
“ 29 Therefore Pilate went out to them and *said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” 30 They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.””
Are you getting a little more awake now? It got worse, a lot worse at the hands of the statist chief priests who trumped law with mob rule.
31 So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death,”…. 35 Pilate answered, “… Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”
The priests had already decided nothing short of the death penalty would be acceptable, so they changed their tune when the imperial justice system would not be stretched to invoke a death sentence. At five junctures, Pilate expressed doubt about Jesus’s guilt, straightforwardly stating “I find no guilt in Him.” In In John 19, the religious hierarchy changed its tune claiming:
“We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”
It is written that Pilate finally succumbed to the political pressure of the religious zealots and priests. Politics trumped law.
12 As a result of this Pilate [d]made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king [e]opposes Caesar.”
These dastardly ‘leaders’ were not just content to kill the Truth found in Jesus’ teachings they, like our current day religious and statist bunch, wanted to SPIN it in their favor.
19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 20 Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in [k]Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
See the parallels? There is nothing new under the sun, human nature has not changed through the eons, and corruption accrues to the brazen. Indeed the historian of the Fall of Rome Tacitus wrote “He also wrote
Jesus lived a life of constant miracles. The biggest of them all was His Resurrection, which overcame the temporal, corrupt powers of men and the evil of Satan. It was a triumph of truth over collective fraud, sin, ambition, and false power that seems to accrue to all institutions, too often including the church. Yes, faith in Jesus overcomes the sins of all who believe, but the most uplifting aspect of the Easter story is that salvation is an individual acceptance of the Truth – that truth being that acceptance of Jesus as one’s personal savior overcomes everything else that we face.
Let’s return to John 18, verse 37.
37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Who on that awe-filled and awful day was of the truth and heard His voice? Was it an institution, a mob, a bunch of disciples, or a legion of soldiers? Is and was the TRUTH individual or collective? Has the truth been better served since that day by the institutions of man or by different men, women, and children of faith through the generations? Those last hours on Golgotha are informative.
One of the criminals being executed saw not truth, but took a collective, demanding approach to salvation. He saw the three condemned men as a group with the same problem - death - and the same interests in escaping it, yet saw the situation from the viewpoint of the corrupt establishment. This part of the story comes from Luke 23, verse 39.
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was [a]hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the [b]Christ? Save Yourself and us!”
Ah, here is perhaps the most beautiful part of the Easter story and certainly the most inspirational for sinners such as each of us, for there was one man on that brutal hill who was of the truth and he heard the voice of Jesus.
40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving [c]what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come [d]in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
That criminal admitted the truth about what he had done and the truth that Jesus was the greatest of all truths and the way to salvation. It was a personal, individual profession of simple faith. It lifted that man, judged by society and law as a criminal, to heaven that day. That was enough for him. That is enough for me……and you.
Salvation is not by the state, clergy, or any other failed or failing human institution. None of these collectivist entities can obtain it for you.
Reach for Jesus. Leave them to their worldly power, just as that thief rose to heaven that day and left those chief priests to their momentary temporal triumph.
Tomorrow morning the sun will rise on a very dangerous world of men not remarkably different than that morning more than two thousand years ago. What is different is this:
“He has risen.”
So might it be for each of us.
No government needed. That is the truth.
You don’t have to be a condemned thief to be desperate to get it, nor is any institution empowered to get it for you.
Brother Al Gray... High Reverend of The First Church of What's Happening Now
Brother Al Gray... High Reverend of The First Church of What's Happening Now