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Stand Up

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2010-04-11 (am) (Easter) Luke 24:36-49 Stand Up!

            Before we dive into our text this morning, I want to highlight a few things that happened between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

          On Saturday, the chief priests and the Pharisees, break their Sabbath observance.  They go to visit Pilate.  Now, what in the world would make them break Sabbath, something they were loathe to do?  The day before, when they brought Jesus before Pilate, they scrambled to make sure that everything should be finished before the Sabbath started.  So why are they breaking Sabbath?

          Matthew fills us in.  He says, the Pharisees and the Sadducees remembered what Jesus had said about rising from the dead after three days.

          Now, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection, but the Sadducees did not.  But as neither wanted to lose their power over the people, the Sadducees went along with the Pharisees, under the pretext of stopping the disciples from stealing the body and trying to fake the resurrection—think Weekend at Bernie’s.  Both groups considered Jesus a fraud, but the Sadducees figured that if Jesus’ disciples could claim that Jesus was raised from the dead, there’d be no stopping them.

          Now, it is interesting that they bring this up, the bit about the disciples; because we know that the disciples had no such plan.  They were devastated.  Though prepared by Jesus, warned that he would be given into the hands of men, be killed and after three days he would rise, they didn’t understand what he said.  The resurrection was the last thing on their minds.  They fled, they feared for their own lives, they didn’t go anywhere near the grave until Sunday.

          But the Pharisees and the Sadducees remarkably took Jesus at his word, even though they considered him an imposter.  So, they asked Pilate to secure the tomb.  The Sadducees wanted to stop the disciples.  The Pharisees wanted to stop Jesus.  Pilate ordered a huge rock placed over the tomb; he had it sealed, so that no one could tamper with it.  He gave them a guard of soldiers.

          A typical Roman guard was 60 soldiers.  This guard may have included as many as 60 soldiers.  Coming from the Sadducees, this was a good tactical move.  Such a strong, well-trained guard would have had no problem dealing with the disciples, if their plan had been to steal Jesus’ body.

          Coming from the Pharisees, this plan was just plain dumb.  It was dumb because the disciples weren’t going near the place, and because they should have known that no force on earth that could prevent Christ from fulfilling his predictions.

          There is no force on earth that can prevent Christ from fulfilling his predictions.

          Jump now to Jesus’ words for his disciples, for us, in the passage I read. 

          There is no force on earth that can prevent Christ from fulfilling his predictions in us.  Listen:

          Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  Think of a pitched battle.  The General surveys the situation.  He gets reports from his sentries.  He understands the lay of the land; he anticipates the way the war will go.  He has to make the plan plain to his subordinate commanders, so that they can lead the soldiers in the fight.

          Jesus opened the disciple’s minds to understand the scriptures.  This is the battle plan.  Stop fighting people.  People are victims.  The battle is “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).  Congregation, the battle isn’t being fought here among us, or among the people of the world, whether they identify themselves as Atheists, Pagan, Muslim, or anything else.  The battle is against the forces of evil that blind people, that binds them and keeps them in darkness.

          We are soldiers of the light.  We raise our weapons of truth, which shine bright light into the dark places, so that their minds can be opened to know the truth, to understand God’s revelation of how the world really is, as described in the Holy Bible.

          From the beginning, the battle has been spiritual.  Satan tempted Adam and Eve.  The result was sin; the wages were death.  And that’s why Jesus had to die.  In order to win forgiveness of sins, Christ had to conquer death.   

Jesus goes into battle.  On Good Friday, Satan throws the fatal blow.  Christ goes down, down into the grave.  On Sunday, today, Christ comes up from the grave, alive.  Jesus binds Satan.  Jesus destroys Satan’s greatest weapon, death.  Christ’s followers preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins—the removal of the death sentence.

          And ever since then, this good news has been preached throughout the world.  Yes, it began in Jerusalem and quickly spread throughout the world.

          Jesus’ disciples were witnesses of these things.  They witnessed the resurrection.  Jesus stood there before them in flesh and blood.  He was really, truly alive!  They all saw it.  It is fact.  The Pharisees got it right, and were powerless to stop it!  Jesus is alive!  Jesus was standing right there! 

          We don’t have to have Jesus stand right here in order for us to believe.  We have the disciple’s testimony.  But Jesus wasn’t just speaking to those disciples alone.  He was speaking to us as well.  There are two things for us to act upon, Stand up, and be clothed with power.

          We are Christ’s disciples, are we not?  We are soldiers in the Lord’s army, are we not?  Didn’t the children sing, “Stand up!”  So, that’s the first thing Jesus calls us to do.  We stand up for him.  We bear witness to his resurrection.  We tell people that Jesus is alive, he is the messiah, and he is the Lord of our lives.

          How do we do this?  Well, we could go door to door, and ask people if they know about Jesus.  We could hand out helpful tracts, and stories.  We could highlight good things that we do as a church and a denomination.  But really, that’s been done before, and, I don’t know about you, but it isn’t very effective when people come like that to my door.

          What is another way, a better way?  Really, the best way is to take Jesus as your Lord, by giving your life to him.  Do you know what they used to do during the medieval period when knights would swear loyalty to a king?  They would approach the king who was sitting on the throne, with their drawn sword in hand.  They would lay the sword down at his feet, then lay face down on the ground with their hands extended like this.  Then the king would put his foot on their neck.  Then they would promise their service to their Lord.

          We offer ourselves in the same way.  We humble ourselves, we lay down our tools, we let Jesus put his foot on our necks and we pledge our allegiance to him.  We willingly give our lives to serve him, in whatever way he demands.

          Then we live our lives as Christ commands us to live them.  We do our very best to be faithful.  We work hard at our jobs.  We work hard at our volunteering.  We work with integrity and honesty.  And we look for opportunities to share our faith.

          Someone asks you what you did on Sunday.  I went to church to pay tribute to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Because he lives, I have the assurance that I will live forever. 

          Hey, do you want to join us for lunch?  Sure, where’re you going?  We’re going to the stripper bar.  No thanks.  Why not?  The view is great, and besides the food is excellent.  No thank you, I love my wife far more than that.  What do you mean?  You’re not even married!  No, but I hope to be one day, and I’m keeping myself pure.  You’re crazy!  Maybe, but why risk God’s wrath, when I can easily avoid it?

          Hey, wanna go drinking?  Nope, I’m not old enough.  So, I know where to get it, man, they don’t even check.  Nope.  I’ve got integrity.  I’m going to keep the law.  God commands us to obey the authorities he has placed over us.

          You can bring God up into just about any conversation.  Someone talks about the weather.  You can easily steer that to God.  Suppose they say, “Did you see the storm Mother Nature sent on Vancouver Island?”  “Yeah, now, that’s interesting, you just said Mother Nature did that, who is she?”  And then you can get into a conversation of who really is in control of the weather.

          Need more examples, read the book of Acts.  Do what the disciples did.  Talk to people.  Ask questions, answer questions.  If someone stumps you, tell them you’ll get back to them, then come and ask me.  If I don’t know the answer, chances are I’ll know where to find it.

          So that’s the standing up part.  The second part is being clothed with power.  Since the Holy Spirit already came at that first Pentecost, we don’t have to wait as the disciples did.  If the first part is stand up, the second part is the power of the Holy Spirit who makes us stand.

          If we try to do things by our own power, we’re doomed to fail even before we start.  But when we call upon the power of God, when we trust in God’s power to fill us, there’s no end to what we can do.  Jesus said, “You will do greater things than I’ve done.”  Because of the Holy Spirit at work in us, we can do greater things.

          But it is a battle.  It is battle in our hearts, in our minds, in our families, in our communities, in our church, in our schools, in our workplace.  Not against flesh and blood!  It is never that.  It is against the powers of the darkness.

          We clothe ourselves with the Holy Spirit’s power in order to fight the power of sin in us.  We study, we learn, we train our minds, we work, we battle against the darkness the clouds our thoughts, we take every thought captive to Christ, we bind it, we turn it over to our Saviour, and he kills it.

          We give our hearts in pledge to Christ, we seek to become great warriors of the faith, loyal, trustworthy, disciplined, these are all things of the heart.  We serve Christ, wherever we are.  Christ is the head, we are the body.  It matters not at all to Christ where you are.  Where you are is where you are serving Him.  Church, school, work, home, you are all his servants.  Be faithful to Christ, work hard for him.

          We turn our attention to fight not just as individuals, but as Christians, as fellow members of a congregation, a war band, if you will, that works together to accomplish a common goal, fighting the powers of darkness, setting the captives free.  We work in families, teaching our children the faith.  Shedding light all around us.  Teaching our neighbours, our friends, our extended families.

          And we have as our goal, the glory and honour of our risen saviour.  Therefore, we sacrifice ourselves for him.  We turn aside, petty things, like personal recognition, acknowledgement of wrongs committed against us.  Instead, we bear them as wounds that show our faithfulness to our king.  We can absorb all kinds of abuse and wrongs against us, because in that, we share in Christ’s suffering, and we are glad to do it.  Actually, we complete, or make perfect Christ’s suffering. 

          Jesus is alive, and his life flows through our veins.  We are alive, really alive!  We are alive to do His will!  We are alive to stand up as his witnesses.  We are alive to be clothed with the power of God, the person of the Holy Spirit!  Celebrate the Saviour’s victory over death!  This afternoon, when you gather with friends and family and share a meal, raise a glass, of wine, beer, milk, whatever, in honour of our King, the King of kings and the Lord of lords!  The King who lives and reigns forever!  Amen!


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