Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

Vol. 6, No. 30
Daughters of Mary Instruction
11 April 2017
Lynn D. Clapper

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a mighty act of power.  It is the pivotal moment in the story of salvation that tells the tale of an almighty and powerful God and his love for the people he created to worship only him.  Beginning in an ancient time when gods did not chose a people, and peoples did not worship only one God, it is a history that spans thousands of years.  It is an unbelievable story of an unbelievable God.

The story starts at the beginning.  Genesis recounts the mighty act of Creation and the world of order and beauty that God created for the man and woman he made in his own image.  Placing them in a lush garden where they walked with their creator, God offered Adam and Eve unlimited freedom with only one caveat.  “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree, you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die” (Genesis 2:9).  Adam and Eve could not resist the forbidden fruit, however, after Eve listened to the sly encouragement of a serpent who suggested that she could be as wise as God.  After trying to conceal their shame from a God who only barely concealed his disappointment in them, God banished Adam and Eve from the garden.  But, the LORD God’s harshest words were reserved for the serpent. “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all the animals…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you will strike at their heel” (Genesis 3: 14-15).  With these words, the LORD God promised to send a redeemer to restore the lost fellowship between God and man.  The plan for salvation was put in motion.

God’s design for his creation, however, always included a people who would choose to love him.  With Adam and Eve banished from the garden, Genesis tells us that Yahweh chose Abraham to be the father of the people who would glorify him before all the world. Yahweh intervened mightily in the lives of Abraham and his wife, Sarah.  Telling Abraham to leave his home and travel to a land that Yahweh would show him, the Lord promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars, and a land they would call their own.  Abraham obeyed, but years passed and Abraham and his wife Sarah remained without child.  Never forgetting his promise, Yahweh sent an angel to Abraham and Sarah predicting the birth of their son, and Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old.  Isaac’s son was Jacob, who was father to the twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel.  Abraham’s descendants began to become as numerous as the stars.

But, before they became the twelve tribes of Israel, the sons of Jacob were brothers, and God revealed his mighty hand in the story of Joseph.  Envious of their youngest brother, the others reconsidered their plot to kill Joseph and sold him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph, full of grace and wisdom, ultimately rose to a position of power second only to that of Pharaoh. Surreptitiously offering to help his family during a severe famine in their homeland, Joseph invited his brothers and father to seek refuge in Egypt.  There, the tribes of Jacob became a people.

Four hundred years went by.  Exodus describes some of God’s mightiest acts of power as Yahweh raised up Moses to lead his now enslaved people out of Egypt and deliver them to the land he had promised Abraham.  Yahweh worked a series of horrific plagues, parted the Red Sea, guided the people by cloud and pillar of fire, provided manna, water, and quail, and led the Hebrews in battle. Through Moses, Yahweh delivered a set of laws that formed the Hebrews into a people set apart only for him.  Israel was now a nation. Yahweh was their mighty God.

The Books of Samuel and Kings explain, however, that once in the land the story of salvation soon became a harrowing tale of a chosen people who forgot Yahweh’s acts of power as they cried out to become a nation like the other nations. Still acting mightily in the lives of his people, Yahweh raised up Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the other prophets who warned Israel they would be banished from their land if they did not heed the words of their God.  After centuries of only half-hearted attempts to heed the prophets’ warnings, the nation of Israel was exiled to Assyria and Babylon.  The mighty hand of Yahweh dispersed his people to the far corners of the world.

After seventy years of exile, Ezra and Nehemiah tell us that Yahweh mightily prevailed upon the Persian king to release the Jews to return to their land.  Now fiercely determined to obey the laws of Yahweh, the Jewish people became increasingly convinced of their own wisdom and their hearts drifted farther and farther from God as the centuries passed.  Interpreting the LORD God’s ancient promise of a redeemer to mean a kingly ruler destined to restore Israel to the greatness it had known under David, the Jews of the first century scoffed at the news that their Messiah had been born. God’s mighty act of power, the birth of the Son of God who had come to dwell among his people, went unnoticed by the very ones he was sent to save.

On Easter Sunday, Matthew tells us that at dawn on the first day of the week, two women visited the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and found it empty.  After three years of tumultuous ministry, during which Jesus’ mighty acts of power failed to convince the hardened hearts of the Jewish people that their Messiah at last had come, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, died, and was buried.  Three days later, in an act that was more powerful than that of any man, and mightier than that of any other god, he rose triumphantly from the dead. The offspring of a woman had crushed the head of a serpent.

In the years that have followed the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has continued to work mighty acts of power in the lives of his chosen people.  No longer a Hebrew nation led out of slavery in an Egyptian land, the descendants of Abraham are numbered among any people who accept Jesus’ call to follow him.  No longer unable to recognize a savior even when he comes to dwell among us, God’s chosen people now see Jesus Christ with the eyes of men born blind.  No longer bound by the seductive lies of a serpent who would only draw God’s people away from their God, Cindy’s commentary today will tell us that it is faith in what we do not understand that defines those he chooses to follow him. It is still an unbelievable story of an unbelievable God.  On Easter Sunday, Jesus Christ is risen.  Alleluia!

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