Joyous greetings to all – as we encounter the Lord Jesus as the risen King and celebrate the Empty Tomb over the Easter weekend!
Although Easter fell on the 1st of April this year [April Fools’ Day], the reality of the Empty Tomb is not a practical joke played by the frightened early apostles nor a piece of “fake news” spread by the desperate, lost and disappointed early disciples.
Miraculous “Fact News”
It was “fact news” – as demonstrated in the testimony of Thomas, who was absent from the room where the risen Christ appeared to the disciples gathered there [John 20 :19- 28]. Not unlike many in the world as well as in the Church, Thomas kept only to a predominating mono-dimension of understanding reality ie via the “realm of reason and understanding”. So unsurprisingly he blurted out spontaneously as we read in John 20:25: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Then eight days later, the risen Christ appeared in the locked room to them again. At that time Thomas was present. Jesus then said to him in John 20: 27 - “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
That was when, a probably broken Thomas exclaimed [John 20:28] - “My Lord and my God!”
Had Thomas come to a “scientific understanding” of the fact of the resurrection as seen in his risen Lord standing right before him? Obviously he had not – he just knew that it was a fact! In the words of that great preacher Martyn Lloyd Jones – “So it is not a question of understanding – it is a question of the facts”. By then, Thomas elected to believe even though he could not explain the resurrection.
Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” [Matthew 28:1] elected to be at the tomb even when they could not explain what seemed to contradict their expectations of the “power and glory” of their Messiah Lord Who had instead been crucified. They, along with the other disciples, had an “earthly ambition” for the Messiah that missed the plan and purpose of God in sending Christ into the world as an atoning Lamb of sacrifice before He rose again to become the Lion of Judah. Their “power and glory” expectation for the Messiah was measured by earthly standards alone and doomed for dissolution and decay and had been demonstrably rejected by the Lord Jesus in His temptation in the wilderness [Matthew 4:1-11].
“Holy Saturday Moments”
Many of Jesus’ followers would have thought that if the powerful Romans could crucify Him, then He just could not be the Messiah. That apparent defeat did not stop courageous Joseph of Arimathea from going to Pontius Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus. Unlike Peter and the others, he had elected not to be afraid of being identified as an accomplice or sympathizer of Jesus who had been sentenced to death.
The Church of the risen Christ will need to elect to act in the present, just like Joseph did, when we encounter “Holy Saturday moments” – just before Easter Sunday. During “Holy Saturday moments” – the Christian faith agonizes over apparent great defeats and there is nothing to do except wait. The early Church endured Holy Saturday moments – when the mighty Roman Empire tried to exterminate the Christian faith once and for all at the end of the third century. But to their astonishment and that of historians – within a few years - more than half the Roman Empire had turned to Christianity and the new emperor gave in!
We have also witnessed the “Holy Saturday moment” in China after the victory of the Chinese Communist armies in 1949. Suppression of religion followed and the members of all missionary societies departed or were expelled from Chi- na. One report stated that in 1950 there were an estimated 700,000 Protestants in China. But it is now estimated that there are more than 100 million Protestants and nearly 12 million Catholics in China [by Professor Yang Fenggang, director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University].
The sceptics and enemies of the Cross will continue today to “keep Jesus safely dead” as on Holy Saturday two thousand years ago. They would want to “keep the tomb safely secured” [Matt 27:64] by making “science has disproven God” claims etc. But the resurrection on Easter Day demonstrates that God will do what God will do, in God’s sovereign time.
Like Thomas, we must elect to believe even though we cannot explain the “fact news” of the resurrection. Like the two Marys, we must elect to be at the tomb even when we cannot explain events in life and ministry that seem to contradict our anticipations of the “power and glory” expected of our beloved Lord. Like Joseph of Arimathea, we must courageously elect to not stop doing what needs to be done when we encounter the “mad, sad and the bad” of Holy Saturday moments in our world today.
General Election 14 – 9 May 2018
At the time of writing this message, the Malaysian Parliament has just been dissolved and the General Election 14 will take place on 9 May 2018. God’s people called Methodists must elect to apply concretely the reality of the hope and power of the “fact news” of the resurrection firstly through praying – exercising faith to ask God for His help, and with humility receive it in His terms.
Next, we must dutifully, determinedly and discerningly elect to cast our votes at the appointed time. Again like Joseph of Arimathea, we must courageously not stop doing what needs to be done even when we encounter the “mad, sad and the bad” of the political “Holy Saturday moments” in our nation today.
As God’s people, we shall reverently pray for and act, including registering as polling and counting agents as we bless this fair nation of ours. May Almighty God bless our fair land with leadership of governance hat is wise, just, honest, compassionate and righteous - that would sincerely serve the people and committedly deepen their welfare, uphold the rule of law, honour the Federal Constitution and courageously act to unite the people of Malaysia.
Let us not forget the words of Billy Graham: “In a world that might say one vote doesn’t matter..., it does matter because each person is of infinite worth and value to God... Your vote is a declaration of importance as a person and a citizen”.
May the Almighty God of Easter fill us with His peace and hope as we make godly “elections and choices”; as our nation heads for GE 14, may the Sovereign God Who “controls the course of world events.. [Who] removes kings and sets up other kings... [Who] gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars “[Daniel 2:21] – bless and watch over Malaysia.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, ²¹ equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
- Hebrews 13:20
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Romans 15:13
Bishop Ong Hwai Teik