THE EASTER POTENTIAL
By Pastor Glenn Pease
One of the reasons that Ferdinand and Isabella supported Columbus in his scheme to find a new world was their hope that he would also find the fountain of life. When Columbus landed he searched for it, and he questioned the Indians about the legendary fountain that would make old men young again. These Indian legends made their way back to Spain, and they told of how old men could make love again to a young wife and bear children, if they drank from this fountain. King Ferdinand, not long after Columbus sailed, sent out Ponce de Leon to find the island where this fountain was supposed to exist.
The Spaniards did want gold for the present, but they wanted the fountain for the future, for they wanted life that lasted forever. This was one of the powerful motivating factors in their drive to explore the new world. Men have always longed for life that was immortal. Animals do not, but men do, because they are made in the image of the Immortal Creator, and so they have an inherent desire for immortality.
Ponce de Leon went from island to island drinking the water, but with no effect. On Easter Sunday he landed on what he thought was an island, and he called it Florida. They drank water from many springs, but no miracles. Again, they asked the Indians questions about the fountain of youth. He was convinced that Florida was where it was at. The Pope was informed that they were on the right trail, and he too was excited about the search. It was a Christian mission to find paradise, but instead, Ponce de Leon found death by an Indian arrow, and the search ended. This deep devotion to the notion that somewhere across the ocean there is a potion that will give eternal life has always been a part of the human drama.
Ancient stories tell of how men have been able to drink the Elixer of the gods, and thereby be restored to youth. The Greeks tell of Tantalus who became immortal by drinking of the nectar and ambrosia of the gods. The Koran tells of a fountain of life where dying fish are renewed by drinking of its water, and a dead fish dropped in it will swim away as a young and active fish again. Alexander the Great was told of a fountain in Arabia that would make a man immortal if he could drink but one drop. In the middle ages Christians thought India was the place where the fountain could be found. Many went in search, and Prester John developed a Christian kingdom in India, and he wrote to the Pope that the fountain of youth was there.
The legend has become a part of cultures all over the world, and texts on the pyramids of Egypt talk of the everlasting beverage and the water of life. Whenever you have such a universal legend you can assume there is some foundation for it in fact. Man wants to be able to drink some water that will give him eternal life. Is this sheer foolishness, or does the Bible encourage us to believe there is such a fountain of life? David writes in Ps. 36:8-9 about God's provision for those whom He loves, and He writes, "You give them drink from your river of delights, for with you is the fountain of life." So the idea is not far fetched, but just the direction men go to seek it is foolish. It is not in Arabia, India, Florida, or on any island. The fountain of life is with God.
Man in his rebellion against God seeks to find the fountain of life on his own, and become independently immortal. Jer. 17:13 shows the prophet lamenting the folly of Israel in choosing death instead of life. "For they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water." Like Ponce de Leon, men want to find their own fountain and not be dependent upon God. They always find death, however, instead of life. This is the folly of man all through history.
In Jer. 2:13 God describes this universal conflict: "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns can hold no water." The reason men are forever seeking for a fountain of life is because they refuse to take the water of life as a gift. They do not want it as a gift of grace. They want is as a result of their own labor and discovery, so they can say they found it, and they did it, and they achieved immorality by their own wits and works. Meanwhile the Bible gives clear directions to the treasure that men desperately seek. Prov. 14:27 says, "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death."
In the New Testament the entire plan of God for man is all wrapped up in Jesus Christ leading the redeemed to the goal for which they long. It is the goal for which they are made, and it is that they live forever in perpetual youth. Rev. 7:17 says, "For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd and he will lead them to springs of living water." In Rev. 21:6 we read this climatic statement about the fountain of life. "It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life."
You cannot find this water, or make it, or buy it, or in any way acquire it by human effort. It is God's gift, and Easter is the day God made it clear to man that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to find the fountain of life. He, and He alone, has the power to make life immortal, and the right to give everlasting youth. If you want to quench the universal thirst for the water of life you need to simply ask Jesus to forgive your sin, and come into your life as Lord. Easter is a day on which we celebrate His victory over death, but it is also the day we celebrate our own victory, for by faith in Jesus we too will live forever and drink of the fountain of life.
That which men have sought for and been willing to pay anything for is available to all who will take it freely as a gift. The only catch is that you must let Him be your Savior, and give up the task, once and for all, of trying to save yourself. You must surrender to win this greatest of all battles. Man loves life and naturally so, for God made him that way. The thirst for everlasting life is a God given thirst, but it is also a thirst that only He can quench. Men are constantly tinkering and tampering with life in the hopes of gaining some kind of control over it. We are living in an age of biological revolution as science learns how to manipulate life. This is the age of the surrogate mother, the artificial body parts, the sperm bank, genetic engineering, and cloning. Most of what men can do is at the beginning stages of life, but he is working on the other end also, and striving to prolong life, but he has not come close to the fountain of youth yet.
Men can do a lot with life, but they cannot make it start, or make it last. The origin and on going of life are in God's hands. Man can prolong life for sometime, but only God can make it permanent. The potential for this permanent life, as well as abundant life, is what Easter is all about. Jesus died young, but on Easter He arose in that same young body to live forever in the prime of life. Jesus found the fountain men have ever searched for. Violet Storey put it in poetry.
And He was only thirty-three...
The year had come to spring-
And He hung dead upon a tree,
Robbed of its blossoming.
Sorrow of sorrows that Youth should die
On a dead tree 'neath and April sky.
And he was only thirty-three...
Anthems of joy be sung-
For, always, the Risen Christ will be
A God divinely young.
Glory of glories, a Tree, stripped bare,
Shed now Faith's blossoms everywhere.
That tree, the cross, is now no longer a symbol of fear and shame, but a symbol of victory, for now it represents the fountain of youth. The resurrection of Christ changed everything; the past, the present, and the future. It transformed the cross, and has in it the potential to change everything. We want to focus on the Easter potential as we see it when the risen Christ appeared to His disciples that first Easter evening.
We see the risen Christ offering to His disciples the very two things that men have sought for in the fountain of youth, and they are perpetual pleasure and power. These are the keys to the joy of life. Take away pleasure and power and life is no longer a treasure. Life is only truly life when there is some degree of pleasure and power. Permanent and perpetual pleasure and power is what the Easter potential is all about. Let's look at these two ingredients of a happy now, and a happy forever.
I. THE EASTER POTENTIAL FOR PLEASURE.
The disciples got no pleasure from their first encounter with the risen Christ, for they feared He was a ghost, and seeing a ghost has never been man's idea of fun. The first thing Jesus did was to give them a lesson on ghosts by letting them touch Him, and feel that He had flesh and bones. These, He points out, are conspicuously absent in your typical ghost. Jesus is saying that ghosts do not have physical bodies, nor do they enjoy physical pleasures. If you discover your left over steak missing from the refrigerator, you can rule out ghosts right away, for they do not have the privilege of indulging in the physical pleasure of eating. Jesus, however, asked for and ate fish in their presence, and by doing so demonstrated that the resurrection body will go on enjoying the physical pleasures of life. The Easter potential is everlasting physical pleasure, which is the very thing that motivated men to seek for the fountain of life.
This will be ours in Jesus Christ, and we will enjoy the marriage supper of the Lamb with our Lord, not merely symbolically, but literally, just as we enjoy a festive banquet now. The resurrection conquers all that death robs us of, and restores us to a state where we can enjoy pleasures at His right hand forevermore. Death is man's greatest obstacle to eternal pleasure, but Jesus reversed what is lost in death so that man can have eternal health and pleasure. The paradox of life is that many worldly people refuse to submit to the Lordship of Christ, for they feel this would mean they have to give up some of the pleasures they enjoy. What they are really giving up is the eternal pleasures they might have. Jesus is the one who made us, and He knows our love for and capacity for pleasure. He is the one who made life as it is, and He desires that we have life to its fullest. He came that we might have life abundantly, and that means a pleasurable life.
All of the commands of Christ to practice self-control and self-denial, and to take up the cross and follow Him, are not pleasure eliminating commands, but pleasure enhancing commands. They lead to the disciplined life that develops a far greater capacity for pleasure. The Prodigal had his fling, but it was like the fire of the tumbleweed. There was a burst of flame and then ashes, and they Prodigal's pleasure trip ended in the muck of the pig pen. Such is the end result of those who seek pleasure as an end in itself. But the Prodigal went home and entered into the enduring pleasure of a loving relationship with his father. This is lasting and positive pleasure, and the kind God expects all of His children to enjoy forever. This is part of the Easter potential-pleasure forevermore. Phillip Doddridge wrote,
Live while you live, the epicure would say,
And seize the pleasures of the present day.
Live while you live, the sacred preacher cries,
And give to God the moment as it flies.
Lord, in my view let both united be;
I live in pleasure, when I live to Thee.
Salvation and pleasure are linked all through the Bible. When God led the people in the Exodus out of Egypt, it was to give them the joy and pleasure of freedom, and to lead them into the land flowing with milk and honey. God loves His people to enjoy the pleasures of life, and to escape the pains of sin. The Passover Feast was to be a perpetual reminder to Israel of the pleasure of salvation.
Come ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness.
God has brought His Israel
Into joy from sadness.
In the New Testament the cross is the Exodus-the bringing us out of bondage to the kingdom of darkness. The resurrection is the entering into the promise land of joy and pleasure. The cross was painful, but Jesus endured it with joy because of the end result which He saw, and that was the eternal pleasure of the redeemed. This was the promise of the Father, and David in Ps. 16 prophesied the reward of the cross that kept Jesus looking beyond the cross to the resurrection. Both Paul and Peter quote this Old Testament passage in reference to the resurrection of Christ. Ps. 16:9-11 says, "Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
This was the destiny of Jesus, and the reward of His resurrection. Because of Easter and the reality of His resurrection, this is now the potential destiny of all people. The fountain of life, and the well of endless pleasure is at God's right hand. Because of Easter that which is actual in the life of Jesus is possible in the life of all who receive Him as Savior. That is why Easter is the most special day of the Christian year. It is the day God revealed to man the way to the fountain of youth.
Awareness of the beauty in nature all around us will give us pleasure in nature.
Awareness of the pleasant odors of food cooking will give us pleasure in anticipating in eating.
Awareness of beautiful music in the background can give us the pleasure of peace of mind in our environment.
Potential pleasure is everywhere waiting to become actual by means of our awareness. And so it is with the Easter potential, for pleasure is awaiting us as we become more and more aware of the reality of the risen redeemer.
"God-let me be aware," pleads a poet.
Let me not stumble blindly down the ways...
Stab my soul fiercely with others' pain...
Let my hands, groping, find other hands.
Give me the heart that divines, understands...
God, let me be aware.
Angela Morgan writes as one who is aware in this poem:
I am aware,
As I go commonly sweeping the stair,
Doing my part of the everyday care-
Human and simple my lot and my share-
I am aware of a marvelous thing:
Voices that murmur and ethers that ring
In the far stellar spaces wherein cherubim sing.
I am aware of a passion that pours
Down channels of fire through Infinity's doors;
Forces terrific, with melody shod,
Music that mates with the pulses of God.
I am aware of the glory that runs
From the core of myself to the core of the suns...
I am aware of the splendor that ties
All things of the earth with the things of the skies.
When we become aware of the presence of Christ in our lives we will enjoy the pleasure of drinking from the fountain of life.
II. THE EASTER POTENTIAL OF POWER.
Power and pleasure go together, for power is pleasure, and one of life's greatest pleasures is to have power to do the will of God, and be an effective servant. Jesus says to His disciples on that first Easter that His resurrection has created all kinds of potential for new power in their lives. He says in verse 45 that He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. The power of illumination is theirs because of the living Christ.
Not one book of the New Testament would have been written had Jesus not risen. The disciples would have gone back to fishing, and the movement would have been over, and been a mere footnote in history. But in the risen Christ was the potential for the New Testament; the new book of God to man; the new day of worship, which is Sunday, and the new people of God-the church. Easter had in it all of this potential power to change the course of history for all mankind. It changed everything, and continues to do so, for the full potential of Easter power can never be exhausted.
Jesus goes on to tell His disciples that they will be clothed with power from on high, and they will be witnesses to the message of the cross and Easter in all the world. The whole history of Christianity is the potential of Easter becoming actual. When a king stoops to pick something, it has to be of great value. Jesus stooped to pick up sinful mankind because He wants them to be saved as eternal treasure. Jesus said that without Him we can do nothing, but Paul knew that with Christ he could do all things, and that is why he says in Phil. 3:10, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection." In the power of the resurrection is the potential to do everything that God wants done in history.
The Greek word here for power is dunimis, which refers to latent power, that is the power that resides in dynamite, or the electrical charge in a battery. It is potential power ready to be used for purpose. In raising Jesus from the dead God created a new power source in the universe, and it was the most powerful ever created. "All power in heaven and on earth is given unto me," said Jesus. Easter means endless potential of power.
A tomb is the last place from which you would expect good news, but from the empty tomb of Jesus comes the powerful message of joy, because life is stronger than death; love is stronger than hate, and light is stronger than darkness. Easter is the good news that in the resurrection of Christ there is the potential power for good to conquer all evil. Jesus lives, He loves, and He leads, but best of all, He lasts. This means we do not have to despair when evil is powerful, as it was when He hung on the cross. We do not have to throw in the towel and become weary in well doing when the power of darkness seems to dominate the scene. As powerful as evil is, it is temporary. Only the power of the resurrection is permanent.
In the Easter message is the power to be a perpetual optimist. If we can be ever aware of the presence of the living Christ, we can have this power. Jonstone G. Patrick wrote, "The Gospel which the church proclaims to the world ever Easter is not an embalmed memory of something that lit up the screen of the past-it is the offer of an up to the minute fellowship with a living Person, risen and radiant, vital and victorious."
Potential power is not necessarily actualized, however. We see this on the first Easter. Jesus was alive, but the disciples were not jumping for joy and dancing in the streets laughing at death. They were hiding fearfully behind closed doors, and they had very mixed and confused emotions with doubt and belief, fear and faith, all mixed together. Easter was a reality, but the potential power of it was not yet made actual in their lives. This is still true today. The potential power of Easter is not yet made actual in millions of lives, and even in the lives of us who believe the potential power of the resurrection has not been fully actualized.
Every relationship in life if full of potential that is not made actual. Every marriage, every friendship, every neighbor, and every relationship you can imagine has the potential of becoming more. How much more so the relationship of the risen Christ with His people? It is a lifetime adventure to keep growing in our awareness of the presence of Christ, and to tap that source of power for the abundant life. Science is forever striving to better understand how to tap the mind-boggling potential of the atom. The Christian is to strive to do the same with Him who made the atom.
The more we do tap this infinite potential of power, the more we taste of the things to come, and drink now of the fountain of life. We do not have to wait until eternity to drink. Jesus said to the woman at the well that if she would drink of the water He would give it would become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Eternal begins now, and not just after death. The power to live forever begins in time in the power of the resurrection. The potential of Easter means there is never an end to progress. There is always more life to be had, and more love, more joy, more peace, and more of all the fruits of the spirit. Easter means we are to live in a perpetual state of anticipation.
Because Jesus is alive with all power in heaven and on earth, we can at any moment experience new insight into the Word of God, or new power to do His will, and touch some life for eternity. This kind of potential is was enables the Christian to keep pressing on living for the ideals of the kingdom of God. Phillips Brooks wrote,
Be such a man, and live such a life
That if every man were such as you,
And every life a life like yours,
This earth would be God's paradise.
The fact is, it will be paradise again one day because of the power of the resurrection, and in that power God will restore this fallen world to its pre-fall state. Life as we live it now is our expression of faith in that precious hope. Spring is such an appropriate time for Easter for nature itself is a witness to the message of potential power. All winter the forces of life are real and potential, but not actual. Then spring comes and we see the actualizing of that potential. Charles Kingsley wrote,
See the land, her Easter keeping;
Rises as her Maker rose;
Seeds so long in darkness sleeping
Burst at last from winter snows.
When the potential becomes actual there is life, joy, beauty, and all the positive emotions of life. So it is in the spiritual life of the Christian. There is never more joy, love, and wonder than when we become channels of the power of the resurrection. In the valley of Chambra in India there is a spring which flows from the hillside, which makes the area a place of beauty and fertility. The legend is that the valley was once desolate, and both plants and people were withering with thirst. A princess who loved the people and felt their sorrows deeply went to an oracle to find out what she could do to relieve the suffering of her people.
He told her she had to sacrifice her life for them. She chose to do this, and so her grave was dug, and she was buried alive. Then out of her tomb on the hillside a spring began to flow and run down into the valley, and this restored life and beauty. Ever since this spring of life has given pleasure and power to all who live in the valley. This legend illustrates what Jesus did. The world was perishing for want of the water of life. Jesus died and was buried, and from His cross and broken grave poured forth the river of the water of life for the quenching of man's thirst.
No longer does any person need to live in the desert and wilderness of life trying to survive on the husks of the swine. Now there is life abundant, and life with beauty, and life with pleasure and power. That is the Easter potential. The challenge for us to know Christ is to make more of that potential become actual by the perpetual growing of our awareness as to His presence. The challenge for those who have never received Christ as their Savior is to stop trying to find a fountain of life on their own. They need to just surrender to Jesus, and take His free offer as a gift. "To as many as receive Him God gives the power to become children of God." He invites us to freely drink of the fountain of life right now and begin to experience the abundant life, and the life that will be forever. Receive Him now and enter into the Easter Potential.