“Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven."
This past Sunday we talked about our goal of becoming more public about our faith. This does not mean becoming more strident, judgmental, or overbearing. It simply means that as Christians we should not hide who we are. And there is no better time to do this than Easter.
Easter is the announcement that Jesus Christ of Nazareth has risen from the dead and all things are becoming new. So if this is the news we are called to proclaim, how do we go about it?
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
For the most part, the early Christians did not engage in public preaching. It was too dangerous. There were no mega-church, celebrity pastors. In fact, there are only a handful of evangelists or missionaries whose names we even know (Paul, Apollos, Timothy...). They weren’t extremely seeker-sensitive either. After Nero’s persecution in the mid-first century, the churches in the Roman Empire closed their worship services to visitors. Deacons stood at the churches’ doors, serving as bouncers, checking to see that no unbaptized person, no “lying informer,” could come in
And yet the church was growing.
Officially it was a superstition.
Prominent people scorned it.
Neighbors discriminated against the Christians in countless ways.
Periodically the church was subjected to violent riots.
It was extremely hard to be a Christian.
And still the church grew.
Because people were fascinated by it.
They were drawn to it as to a magnet.
Their concern for the weak and the poor.
Their integrity in the face of persecution.
Their economic sharing.
Their sacrificial love even for their enemies.
And the high quality of their common life together — attracted nonbelievers to the gospel.
Once nonbelievers were attracted to the community by the lives of Christians, they became open to talking about the gospel truths that were the source of this kind of life.
The order here is crucial.
All of the great preaching in Acts comes in response to a question. Something has happened which makes people aware of a new reality and they wonder “What is this new reality?” The communication of the gospel is the answering of that question. When Jesus sent out his twelve disciples in Luke 12 he gave them a mandate to heal the sick, drive out demons, and proclaim the kingdom of God. In other words, their preaching is an explanation of the healings.
We are called to do both.
On the one hand, healings, as marvelous as they are, do not explain themselves. They could be misinterpreted. On the other hand, the preaching is meaningless without the healings. Preaching is an explanation of what is happening, but if nothing is happening, no explanation is required and our words are empty.
We are called to bear witness with both words and actions.
On the first Easter Jesus Christ raised from the dead says go and bear witness.
Proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Tell them the kingdom of God is near.
Tell them the Scriptures have been fulfilled;
Sin and death have been defeated;
The evil one has been overcome.
Tell them Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again!
Notice, Jesus is calling us to proclaim an objective, history changing event. If he was just a prophet then the message of Jesus Christ would just be advice. If he was just a teacher then his message would just be an interesting or inspiring way to live.
But if Jesus Christ is who he says he is,
if he is really the King of Kings, Lord of Lords,
Son of God crucified, buried, and risen victorious from the dead,
then his birth, his gospel, is a history changing, momentous event.
and nothing can ever be the same again.
You have to respond to it.
That is the point of our message!
Jesus’s messengers, his people, his church are supposed to proclaim that Jesus Christ is the King AND to display to a watching world His kingdom coming near.
The resurrection announces that God has not given up on the world.
God is redeeming and restoring and renewing.
This is an objective thing that is happening.
The situation has changed.
and if you reject this then history will pass you by.
This is the beautiful, mysterious, and even scandalous message we are called to announce this Easter and this is a message you have to see to believe.