Easter Challenge – Does your ‘Hope of the Resurrection’ touch others?

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the lord!” But he [Thomas] said to them, “Unless I see…I will not believe.” (John 21: 25)

Easter poses a challenge to all Christians who believe in it. How do we intelligibly talk about Jesus’ resurrection to our friends and colleagues? Will the postmodern mind ever accept this fact, or will they dismiss it just as a fiction or myth? Clearly, Thomas did not believe when he was told by other disciples, that they had seen Jesus. If Jesus’ ten disciples could not convince one of their own, how can we convince anyone at all?

It is definitely something that we should all consider looking into. But how do we go about it?

One can find the answer to this in the event narrated a couple of passages after the transpiring of the above incident. Here, Peter was preaching to a crowd of Jews who were at Jerusalem for a festival. In his preaching he said that “God raised him [Jesus] from the dead…because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2: 24). Most of the people must have not seen Jesus or hear him preach as they are from far away country. It is certainly possible that they have heard about his fame or at least heard about the events of the cross, which had happened few days back. When they heard Peter preach, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2: 37).

If we were to talk about the resurrection of Jesus, surely a debate will follow on whether the phenomenon of resurrection is possible at all, or how religion is deceiving people with myths, and so on. But here we see that they simply accept the message. Note that this is the same message which Thomas refused to believe.

Did these Jews have something different that Thomas did not have?

No! But there was a change in the personality of the preacher.

Peter and the other apostles are the same lot of people in both the events. In the first event, they saw a resurrected Christ but did not have the HOPE OF RESURRECTION in their hearts. That is why when Jesus revisited them seven days later, they were still locked up in their rooms – scared and afraid of the authorities. This could surely have been the reason for Thomas’ preference to see Jesus in person and verify this piece of information by himself.

But on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down and indwelled with the disciples, the hope of resurrection was revived and was evident in their personalities. They became bold and they exhibited the life of resurrection. This incident made the people present, to see the truth in their message and accept it.

Today, winning a debate about resurrection would not make others Jesus’ disciples; but a life filled with hope in midst of trials and suffering, will speak the gospel more purposefully and loudly. So the question that remains for all of us is, do people see the living HOPE in you through your life?

The early church grew more in hope and faith during times of persecution. The early Christians displayed their hope in the resurrection in their sufferings even till the point of death. Many accepted Christ because of this steadfast witnessing.

Will our daily life remain consistent with this belief? We are called to live a life of hope and trust in the providence of our heavenly father as we work through the challenges in our lives. When we do that, we will be the “Light of the world” (Matt. 5: 14); and by seeing our joy in midst of suffering, many will ask for ‘the reason for the hope” we have (1 Peter 3: 15).

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Palm Sunday procession- Proclamation of Jesus’ kingship

See, your king comes to you… riding on a donkey.” Zechariah 9: 9

In ancient days after winning a war, the victorious king would often take a procession in the capital city of the defeated nation. This is to proclaim the defeat of the incumbent king and to establish and install the new king over the kingdom. Looking at the jubilant procession, people would know that this is their new king.

This custom is practiced when a prince succeeds his father as the next king. King David while making his son, Solomon, king over Israel, tells the priest, “have Solomon my son, mount my own mule, and take him down to Gihon… [and] anoint him king over Israel” (1 Kings 1: 33 & 34). A procession on the royal mule surrounded by the priest, prophet and other trusted aides of the king, was a sign to the people that it was king David who made his heir, Solomon, the new king.

We see the same phenomenon when Joseph was installed as the second-in-command of Egypt. “Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger… He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command” (Gen 41: 42 & 43). When Mordecai was honoured by the king, he was taken in a similar procession in the king’s horse around the city (Esther 6: 8).

A royal procession is a sign of authority and is done with the intent to establish authority.

Jesus seems to be doing the same thing on his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He had been to Jerusalem before, but this time He had a decisive plan – a plan to fulfil the purpose for which He came to earth. He purposively travels to Jerusalem and asks His disciples to find a donkey (Matt 21: 2). He rides on the donkey surrounded by the disciples. Then the crowd which accepted His proclamation as King, joined Him in the chorus to sing – “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matt 21: 9).

But sadly, this proclamation elicited a mute response from those who were in power. They plotted to kill Him and rebelled against His kingship.

His disciples were not very far from misunderstanding Jesus’ kingship. They failed to understand the true nature of His kingship. They were expecting Jesus to overpower the Romans. But Jesus was on a kingly procession only to be crucified, so that He could save mankind from the clutches of sin.

Season of Lent

Season of Lent

Even now… return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning” Joel 2: 12

The Season of Lent is an important period in the Christian calendar. This Lent period was used to prepare the new believers for Baptism on Easter. These forty days (excluding the 6 Sundays), beginning from Ash Wednesday to the Holy Saturday, are days of fasting, prayer and about learning the basic truths of the Christian faith for many catechumens of the early church. This season has been passed on to us by the Church for our own spiritual benefit.

Many question the observance of lent by asking whether it is prescribed in the Bible. In the book of Joel, God summons His people to return to Him with fasting and weeping and mourning. Thus, the takeaway for all of us from this narrative is that this time of intense self-examination is a real boost to our spiritual life. These days could be used exactly for this noble purpose. When we question a useful tradition of the Church, we destroy the strong historical link we enjoy unbroken from the early Church.

Lent is also a time of preparation which leads us to meditate on the events on the Cross and the empty tomb. How else can we learn to appreciate the sacrifice of the Son of God, other than sacrificing on our luxuries and lavishness of this worldly life for a short while? Lent is a time of reflecting on the life of Jesus and understanding the purpose behind His coming. Extended time of prayers would lead to humble submission in His hands and fasting would help us to deny some of our favourites to remind us of how Jesus left his heavenly glory to die for us in this world – making this Season of Lent a spiritually beneficial time.

This is an open invitation to join the believers of Jesus worldwide to spend time with God for our own spiritual benefit. This is an opportunity to participate with the local believers in special prayers to grow as one in the body of Christ. This is a time to grow in the Lord through the spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer. Let us follow Joel’s instruction, “Rend your heart, and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God.” (Joel 2: 13).

Ability to submit

Bridled Horse

Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding, but must be controlled by bit and bridle, or they will not come to you.” Psalm 32: 9 (NIV, 2011)

Animals at times act intelligent and behave in surprising ways. But their intelligence also has certain limitations. As the scripture reveals that animals cannot be tamed unless trained to do so. A horse or a mule needs bridling and guiding too. When these animals are trained repeatedly with external inducements, they tend to develop a pattern that we humans find useful. But note that animals cannot be talked into doing things, like human beings for instance.

Human beings are bestowed with a unique ability to understand things and rationally weigh different options presented to them in a given situation. When an instruction or an advice is given, only human beings can heed them or submit to them. It is also us humans who can heed to the promise given by God in the previous verse, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (verse 8).

Psalmist is presenting these two contrasting views in the verses to highlight the fact that only human beings are bestowed with the ability to heed to instruction, learn the ways taught to them and take guidance from the counsel given by God. By mentioning about horses and mules, God is only urging us to exercise our unique ability to submit to God’s leading and guidance.

We are special and unique in so many ways in the whole universe because of the rational powers we’ve been vested with. We do not need external inducements or exertions to obey God. We can voluntarily submit our will to him and heed to his instruction. As Christians, we know that God leads us and instructs us in many ways. Only sensible thing for us to do is to submit our lives to him on our own so that he might lead us.

Press on!

“… Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called me heaven-ward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 13 & 14.

As we enter into a new year, let us heed the words of Paul and forget what is behind and move forward to the goal which God has set for us.

Paul is delineating what he is leaving behind in verses 5 & 6 – his pride of being a perfect Jew in birth and also in all the legalistic righteousness. But he is moving in a different direction now and he can reach his goal, only if he leaves behind the heavy baggage of the past.

We might also have baggage of fear, pride, anger, bitterness etc., in us. If we are to enter into the New Year with them, we would be the same sad person. But if we choose to leave them behind and ponder upon the goals God has given to us, we would move forward.

It is not only the negative things,  but we also need to leave behind our successes and achievements of the past year to reach newer levels in the coming year.

We should not be struck with, either the problems or the victories of the past year. But we need to seek God’s grace anew to face new challenges of the New Year and move forward.

Cherishing People

I thank God every time I remember you” Philippians 1: 3 (NIV)

Paul was genuinely grateful for the people whom he encountered in his life. He cherished them and made sure that they knew about it. That is why in most of his letters we see this phrase about praying for others and remembering others’ good deeds.

When Paul was writing this, he was almost at the end of his ministry and in prison. He did not have much material achievements to cherish. Only thing he could find boasting about was the relationships God had given him with people through the apostolic ministry. He had earned many people through gospel.

When he remembered Philippian church and all their love, he was bubbling with joy and praising God for their lives.

God has given many people in our lives – Big or small, influential or normal. God expect us to cherish them in our lives. We should remember them and thank God for them.

We also need to remember the love of Philippians towards Paul. How much they warmed his heart. Are we living a life which bring smile to others? Will there be people who say “I thank God for you in my life and without you my life would not be enriched like this”?

Let us strive to remember who love us and cherish them.

Let us also live a life which would bring smile to others.

Grace and Peace

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ” Philippians 1: 2 (NIV)

Grace and peace are words which are loaded with theological meaning. But it could simply be said that these two are the essence of a content life. After all what a man needs except God’s grace and God’s peace to make the life happy.

Paul is greeting the Philippian church members with the wish that they might have this grace and peace. It is the common greetings he uses in most of his letters. In this way he also reminds the readers that his desire for them is to receive these two important things which Christ offers.

Paul defines the gospel to the Ephesian leaders as gospel of grace of God (Acts 20: 24) and gospel of peace (Eph 6: 15). It is the gospel or the good news of Jesus Christ which brings grace of God to us through salvation and ultimately results in bringing peace between God and man.

This peace is the result of Grace of God!

This peace is the unshakable peace!

And this peace is not dependent on the circumstances and it is given to us as a gift from God because of the Grace.

The modern man is driven by many ambitions in life. He is too busy pursing happiness without realizing that it is only by receiving Grace and Peace from God he could be happy. This is what we strive for throughout our lives through our jobs, families and other activities. God is giving these things free through the gospel of his son. When we humbly receive this, we will have a fulfillment in our jobs, families etc.

Let we also desire to experience this grace and peace which God gives through Jesus Christ every day.