Pastor’s Thoughts – April 2018

Dear friends,

It’s Sunday 1 April, and today we celebrate Easter Day. Jesus the eternal second person of the Trinity, found in human form, suffered and died as a servant to us all. This was not a mistake but Jesus’ intention in coming to earth. As he explains during that last journey with his disciples:

‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!’ – Matthew 20:18-19

For that was the point: not only that he would die but that he would rise again.

Rumours about this began to spread even though they were not even taken seriously by gis disciples. Matthew tells us in chapter 27:62-66 that on the Saturday morning, the Pharisees and Chief Priests went to Pilate and told him of these rumours, requesting that the tomb be sealed and guarded. They were afraid that Jesus’ body would be stolen.

They were right to be afraid; not about it being stolen but about Jesus’ promises. On the third day the tomb is empty, the stone rolled away, the guards smitten with fear in the presence of an angel. Jesus is alive. Death is conquered. The penalty of sin has been paid and eternal life is possible.

This is the good news. ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8)

It wasn’t good news for the Pharisees and the Chief Priests though. The Pharisees believed it was only through obedience that salvation came. Only by painstaking adherence to the commands of God that his forgiveness might be possible. Jesus’ message is that we can never be good enough for God, so God has come to us to make forgiveness available through Jesus’ sacrifice for us. The Sadducees didn’t believe in eternal life at all. For them there was no resurrection at all. So to be confronted with the risen Jesus punched a hole in their belief system, which in the end was really about finding political solutions to Israel’s problems.

That we celebrate on 1 April this year is an amusing idea. All Fools’ Day is the day of resurrection. Of course, there are many today who would suggest that we are foolish to believe that resurrection is possible, that all we claim about Jesus is possible. It is something that appears to be impossible – unless it actually happened. To me, the weight of evidence that it did is overwhelming. This is why I came to faith because no other explanation seems credible. No other story explains what happened to Jesus’ body, what happened to the disciples, and, lastly, what happened to me.

When I came to accept that this was the truth, I experienced such a sense of the rightness of it, of the power of it, that my experience backed up what my head had been telling me. It may look like foolishness to many but this is the truth that sets us free and gives our lives meaning.

Paul knew how this looks to the world, he wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25:

‘It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.’

Yours, a fool for Christ’s sake,
John