The whole point of the Easter Festival is something we miss most years.
Easter – the Resurrection itself – turns the World on its head.
Jesus challenges us to look at the actions and values through His eyes and through the light of His Cross, Death and Resurrection. When we do we see a horrifying picture.
A few years ago I watched, and thoroughly enjoyed, a TV series called “Angel” starring David Boreanaz in the central role. As the story develops, the character, a re-ensouled vampire named Angel, becomes conflicted by his past and the constant battle he fights with himself. He goes into a deep depression, and ultimately utter despair. The character attempts to end his existence by seeking the source of evil in the world and is taken through magic to that source. He enters an elevator which descends into the source of all pain and suffering and the doors open as it arrives – exactly where he had got in. Earth, this world. He sees nothing but the pain and misery and realises he cannot fight it or destroy it – he simply doesn’t have the power to overcome it in himself.
We spend much of our time in the same situation as Angel. We spend our time looking at the world through despairing eyes and see nothing bu the horror of this existence. As we proceed through the days we trudge wearily on, expecting and receiving nothing but pain and suffering. We prioritise the smallest minutia in an effort to numb ourselves to the massive Truth – we’re too small to do anything about it ourselves.
And we are.
Our righteousness, as Paul describes it, is filthy rags. The inferrence, I have been told, specifically refers to the cloths a first century woman would have used during menstruation, the most “unclean” item Paul could think of to liken our righteousness outside Christ to.
But the acceptance of Jesus’s death and His invitation to New Life does away with that. Our filthy rag is replaced with His Royal Robes, and God Himself looks at us as fully Righteous by means of the ultimate Sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. We become clothed in Christ’s Righteousness, and the whole world turns upside down for us.
Before we accept the Easter Promise, New Birth, we are steeped in a mire of filth so deep we can never hope to get out. The new Birth does that exactly for us. We don’t just get clothed in Jesus’s Righteousness, in God’s eyes we become it. He looks at us and sees the righteousness of His Son as ours.
But there’s a price. The price is rejection. It is alienation. Ridicule. In less “evolved” societies it may even be imprisonment and death. As I write, a young Christian woman is sitting in a Sudanese prison awaiting execution for no crime other than being Christian. Her father was Muslim so their sharia law deems her to be. She has never embraced islam, rejects it and married a Christian man. The court refuses to recognise the marriage and has condemned her to death by hanging. Their only “merciful” act is that she may live long enough to wean the baby she is pregnant with.
A price for refusing to reject Christ.
Unlike this lady, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, Sudanese but married to an American man, how many of us will compromise our statement of faith to avoid offending a neighbour? She risks her very life to stand up for the name of Jesus, and we refuse to risk not being free to borrow they guy next door’s lawnmower.
Our priorities need to be turned over. We need to return to the way Peter thought when he was arrested for speaking about Jesus – do what you wnat. I won’t shut up! That’s the basis of the entire book of Acts. Paul, Peter, Stephen and thousands since have been murdered for proclaiming Jesus’s name rather than compromise. Their priority lay in John 14’s promise that in the Father’s House anre many mansions. An eternal perspective, not a temporal one. We cave to the pressures of today’s society when we should take a stance against it. Jesus spoke in terms of Black and White. Not a single shade of grey in His teachings on anything. Money? – Give it away if it’s your idol and follow me. Not keep a bit and that’s ok – I can deal with a bit of idolatry. Sex? Flee immoral behaviour. Whatever the reason you’re a eunuch, deal with it. Don’t get into sexual sin. Greed? Surrender to Jesus and let Him free you from the weight that crushes you like it was Zaccheus.
Zaccheus was hated by the townspeople. A collaborator with Rome who fleeced for personal gain. When he repented, he would perhaps have been forgiven by the town, but Rome would not have been happy – yet he risked it for the sake of Jesus.
Nicodemus spoke for the Christians in the Sanhedrin having met with Jesus secretly. He would have been ridiculed and faced expulsion as he understood what being Born Again meant – Everything.
And today. In our comfortable Western or semi-Western societies, we pander to the liberals to keep the tax benefit for our businesses. We compromise and surrender what we believe in private in our public lives. As a freelance writer I have a certain latitude as I mainly write articles to submit to Christian publications, but even these need to be “edited” to avoid over-the-top attitudes to some extent. We refer to it as “tailoring”. It’s so much more palatable than “recanting” or “renouncing” the aspects of the Gospel that are certainties.
The World celebrates doubt and uncertainty. It needs desperately to have something solid to build on. It looks to science, the same thing that has declared the world to be flat, air to be weightless and cannot make up it’s mind how many planets there are in our own solar system.
Hardly solid ground. They realised the earth was round, a fact stated in scripture over two millenia before by Isaiah (40:22) air had weight (Job 28:25) and it argues with itself over how many planets there are! Yet we build our worldly priorities on these “facts” deduced by scientists. Evolution is a theory. From the fossil records it can appear to be accurate, but there are still many holes in it. Creation, scientists – who haven’t bothered to realise seven “days” may not be literal 24 hour periods due to the complexity of the written language – dismiss the possibility. They can explain how molecules come together in strings, but not why. They can produce synthetic diamonds and even mix synthetic protein chains to reproduce food, but I have yet to hear of a single scientist mixing the elements together and producing an acorn that can grow into an oak tree. They can clone it – but only by using another acorn. Science cannot explain the existence of life or reproduce it.
And yet we prioritise our life on this foundation of quicksand.
Easter should – if we take Jesus seriously – invert our priorities from being politically correct to being right with God – irrespective of numbers.
No matter how many are screaming “Science, Science” we must remember the majority also shouted “Crucify, Crucify”.
Following blindly and not realigning our beliefs to a more “primitive” way of thinking may, in fact, lead to the loss of our very salvation if we fail to accept the whole of it.
So even if it costs us everything: friends, family, reputation. Follow Jesus.
And get the Priorities right side up.