A warm welcome to another edition of Brooklands Digital Church, where we look back at Easter and the living hope that we can have in Christ.
The message is given by our Pastor Karl Stanfield, and can be listened to as audio using the LISTEN button above. An audio MP3 is also available via the SAVE button.
The Bible readings are taken from John 20:24-31 and 1 Peter 1:3-9.
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I take my title this morning from a verse in our reading, 1 Peter 1: 3 ‘he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…’
So much happened over those 40 days leading up to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ that we often want to stay there and soak it all up. It’s like a really lovely day at the seaside or some beauty spot and you don’t want to go home, or an experience so wonderful you don’t want to end. Many of us linger long in these days because it feels good!
Just think how much the ‘Cross’ features in our times of worship, hymns & contemporary songs; When I survey the wondrous cross… There is a green hill far away, or Matt Redman’s Sing & Shout (Your cross! Your cross! It leads me to your heart…”
What I want to say this morning is not original; many people have said it before! It was not what God’s people wanted to hear, but God sent prophets to say it.
Two main points struck me forcefully and I humbly leave them with you today.
The first point seems an obvious one…
1. The Cross
There have been many famous paintings of the Cross and the crucifixion scene. As we approach Easter each year people display Palm Crosses in their homes. Many people watching just now have a cross on a chain around their neck. Most of the cathedrals we have found breath-taking to visit were built in the shape of a cross.
The history of the Cross is a rich and worthy one; but have you ever thought that the viewpoint we have of the Cross is from an on-looker’s perspective! I should expect that those who were crucified by well-trained Roman soldiers didn’t see the cross; you saw people watching you on the Cross! You probably closed your eyes or looked away as you were nailed to the beams.
Public crucifixion was a warning to people not to get involved in criminal activity! Otherwise, this is what will happen to you too.
People saw the brutality of the Cross, but the one crucified saw people watching. Next time you think of the Cross, or sing of it, think people (for whom Jesus died). That was why Jesus was crucified, was it not! The Cross can be used as a glorious symbol to gaze at as we worship God [it’s a great inspiration!], but we must not stay there. Following on from our Worship we must go into the world to serve and help the needy and lost.
In the early chapters of Acts it is spelt out plainly in helping the needy, the sick, the outcast, the foreigners, the orphan & widows. When we help these people we are being Jesus to our world. In Matthew 25, it’s the other way round. When we help the hungry & thirsty, we are helping Jesus too! We can’t just stand and gaze at the Cross!
Jesus said, ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25: 40)
I heard someone say it recently and the truth of it had never really hit home until this global Covid.19 pandemic came upon us.
We say Jesus died upon the Cross, but what did he die of?
Crucifixion! What does that mean? This is what we mean… Jesus died from asphyxiation! He couldn’t breathe… It was the see-sawing motion upon the cross that just exhausted victims.
It was only when they forced themselves to rise up on their feet (which nailed to the upright beam) that they could take a breath! Then when the pain was no longer bearable their whole weight collapsed upon their arms (nailed to the cross beam). Then when they could breathe no more they forced themselves up once again in agony. And so it went on… for days.
There are thousands of people on ventilators fighting for breath just like Jesus was on the cross. Jesus knows how they feel.
2. The Empty Tomb
The Empty Tomb was not a place to gather because Jesus was no longer there. The Empty tomb is as powerful as the Cross but we would never dream of lingering there.
The point is more obvious here; if you are standing in the empty tomb, the only thing you can see through the doorway is the world where people dwell.
The discovery of the empty tomb was initially a tremendous shock. You have Thomas who had his doubts, the Emmaus disciples who struggled to recognise their ‘travelling companion’; not forgetting the disciples ‘hiding for fear of the Jews’.
Maybe someone has a relative struggling to breathe on a Covid.19 ward. That’s where you will find Jesus today! Both the One being cared for and the One caring – that’s where Jesus is today. For this Living Hope in Jesus, we give thanks! Amen.