Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Because of the Resurrection

            According to Mark, Jesus warned his disciples three times that he would be arrested, tried, and killed by the religious leaders with the help of the Roman authorities. He also told them that he would rise again after three days. Naturally the disciples did not understand his warnings and they were afraid to ask him what he was talking about. Since their conception of Jesus was as a conquering military hero (their view of Messiah) set to punish the Romans and restore the fortunes of Israel, they had no room in their minds for Jesus to die. They simply could not imagine Jesus dead!

            The cross cruelly crushed their hopes that Jesus might be the Messiah. It must have been devastating to have seen so much power and authority in Jesus and then to watch not only Jesus, but all their dreams, die in a horrible way. Their whole faith structure collapsed and they were not sure what to do with their lives. The only thing they were completely sure about was that Jesus was dead and buried. And then the stories started coming in on a Sunday morning… Jesus is alive – he has resurrected! They all doubted. They simply could not imagine Jesus alive!

            What a weekend the early disciples experienced. They could not imagine Jesus dead because they did not understand the willingness of God to wade into our pain and loss, taking upon himself our sins, frailties and mortality. They could not imagine Jesus alive because they did not understand the power of God to turn tragedy into triumph and death into eternal life. Luke says they “still did not believe it because of joy and amazement!” They did not want their faith to be based on wishful thinking, but on the rock of truth. And Jesus said, “Do you have anything here to eat?” Wishful thinking does not eat broiled fish. Jesus was truly alive.     

            Confronted by the resurrected Jesus, challenged to grow in their faith, and recommitted to their mission to serve as witnesses of the resurrected Savior – the disciples took the message of Jesus to the known world! It was not an easy task. The resurrection was as hard for others to believe as it had been for them. Their tale of a crucified God was non-sense to many people. But the power and beauty of the gospel did touch many hearts and lives and the church experienced amazing growth. In the resurrection of Jesus people found hope that gave meaning to life and removed their fear of death. The resurrection became the heart of Christianity, for if the resurrection is not true then Christianity is dead. But if it is true that God raised Jesus from the dead – never to die again – then an awesome power has been unleashed in the world that changes everything we thought we knew. Because of the resurrection, death has been defeated and life wins!  

- Kenny Payne

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Agony of Death, the Power of Life

          At least three times Jesus tried to warn the disciples of his approaching arrest and death. Though he spoke plainly about these events, the disciples did not comprehend what he meant by his words. The first time Jesus spoke about it, Peter took him aside and rebuked him for saying such things! The next two times the disciples responded by jockeying for position and making requests for seats of authority in the new world order! Jesus must have sighed…

When Jesus died, the disciples were devastated. They were too loyal to just go back to their former lives, but they were too disappointed to know what to do next, so they hid behind locked doors. And then the stories started flying around that Jesus was alive – resurrected! Hope was reborn in most of them and it turned out to be a well placed hope. When Jesus conquered the grave there was a sense in which his death did not matter anymore, all that mattered was that he was alive! But then, questions nagged. Why did Jesus die? What about God’s protection of his chosen one(s)? How was Jesus’ death and resurrection different from, say Lazarus’ experience? Theological wheels started turning.

It may have been tempting to just write off Jesus’ death as a horrible accident, or an unfortunate case of injustice. Blame could be assigned to the religious leaders and the Roman governor and the issue would be solved. But the very words of Jesus would not allow that, for on the road to Emmaus he told two disciples, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26). What ever the death of Jesus was, for God it was neither an accident nor a surprise!

Peter claimed that God was fully aware of what would happen to Jesus: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:22-24)  Jesus tasted death so that he could conquer our greatest enemy. I love the claim of Peter – it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him!

Because of what Jesus did for us all on the cross, it is impossible for death to keep its hold on us! Just as Jesus was resurrected by the power of the Father, we too will experience the mighty power of God that conquers death!

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death!” (Hebrews 2:14-15) The death and resurrection of Jesus was the event that unleashed the mighty power of God the creator to reverse the curse and free all his creation! What a reason to celebrate!

- Kenny Payne


Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Importance of One Another

             You do not have to read very deep into the New Testament before coming to the conclusion that God thinks his family should be deeply meaningful to one another and a great resource for enriching our lives. That is not the experience that everyone has of their church family! Sometimes, to quote the Apostle Paul, we are guilty of “biting and devouring one another.” But we also know we are wrong when we act that way and in our better moments we repent and make peace with those we have sinned against.

            The most often repeated one another command is to “love one another!” Most of the other one another passages reinforce and flesh out the command to love. Notice these passages:
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7)
…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Corinthians 12:25)
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. (1 Thessalonians 4:9)
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)

            Living in these ways creates a very powerful community – the Body of Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for the Palo Alto Church of Christ – for my experience of you is in line with these passages. Right now we have a lot of families in pain and transition, dealing with sickness, disease and loss. In those moments of pain, confusion and loss it is crucial that we have the love of one another to lean on. I am thankful that our God is the God of all comfort and that he gives us the blessing of one another.
                                                                                                           - Kenny Payne