Sermon: An Easter Challenge

Pastor Choi talks about resurrection today: Christ affirms that there is resurrection.  He raised the dead.  He even raised Himself from the dead.  In the same resurrection we will partake after our physical death.  At the end of the sermon, Pastor Choi invites the congregation to take up an Easter Challenge: to worship the Lord every Sunday to walk close with God.

An Easter Challenge

 

Following is a summary of the sermon:

 

An Easter Challenge                                    Matthew 22:23-33

Matthew 22:23-33  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Jesus Answers the Sadducees

23 On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him,24 asking, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother as next of kin shall marry his wife, and raise up children for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; 26 so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. 27 Last of all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.”

29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” 33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

Introduction

The human mind is a curious thing; it sure is a curious thing.  Our brain houses the mind.  In this football-sized brain, we can contain the entire universe, the vast universe (E.g. The Sun is 93 million miles away, our own galaxy the Milky Way is so huge that it takes at the speed of light 100,000 years to travel across it.  It is the size of a quarter when the Sun is a microscopic speck of dust on it; whose orbit is the flat disc of the coin—NASA).

The human mind is curious about anything in the world; both visible and invisible.  It has an insatiable appetite for knowledge.  It is in the constant search of truth and information.  It engages itself in ever going exploration of the unknown.  In the past 30 years, technology and information have advanced in an unprecedented rate.  E.g. IBM computers in the 1980s took up the entire room.  Now, in the 2010s, we feel we need to upgrade our computers every three or four years due to the fast pace of innovations made.  Another example is genetic engineering: not only have scientists mapped the entire human DNA, but they also alter the genes across various species, cloning, cross-breeding, both plants and animals and even humans (it’s perilous times we are living in).

The same mind has been curious about one thing ever since Day-1 of human history: the afterlife.  What’s out there after we die?  There seem two beliefs: don’t know/nothing or something.   Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (in the book written by Walter Isaacson) once said about life after death: don’t knowMaybe it is like a switch “on-off.”  50-50. This theory follows the logic that since we don’t exactly know what’s out there let’s not talk about it.  Death is followed by complete darkness.  No one knows what’s out there.  No one has been there and come back to tell us.  Science can’t prove it.  No one can explain it.  Today, many scientists follow this approach.

At the time of Jesus, the Sadducees (religious leaders and members of the Sanhedrin—the Jewish Council—along with the Pharisees) also took this approach, not through science but through logic.  They thought of themselves as rational (scientifically-minded in today’s term).  Has anyone come back to life after death and tell us what it is like?  No, then, why bother with something you don’t know well?  Why bother with something invisible and intangible?   So, they said, let’s focus on what we have here.  All we need is the idea of God and the principles to live by.  Not miracles.  Not resurrection. Not even angels.  Stop talking about supernatural things.   Just give me the Book of Law (Torah—the first five books of the Old Testament). 

That’s what today’s story is about: one day the Sadducees brought a hypothetical question to Jesus.  A woman was married seven times, they said.  If there is resurrection, whose wife is she going to be in the end?   A tricky question that no one was able to answer until Jesus cleared it up.  Jesus said to them, “Two things you don’t understand: the Scriptures and the power of God.”  There is resurrection, Jesus asserts.  It’s a sure thing.  Your question is invalid in itself, too, because there is no marriage in resurrection.  All will be like angels.   After all, Jesus concludes, God is the God of the living, not of the dead.

The second approach is the belief that there’s something out there after we die.  In this belief, there are two schools of thoughts.  One is reincarnation (Hinduism and Buddhism): basically, it is the recycling of life.  Born over and over again with no end.  Like a circle with no beginning and no end.  Continuous cycle of life for eternity.  The next life form you will be born into is determined by how good or bad you have been in the present life: born into a lower form of life if you had been bad and vice versa.  You will be born as a worm if you had been bad in this life.  A dog can be born into a human form in its next life if it had been a good dog.  The other branch is Christianity.  We believe in the resurrection.  Every human soul with no exception will be resurrected.   All will stand before God’s judgment throne.  They will either enter into eternal life in Heaven or eternal judgment in Hell.  God determines each one’s eternal fate.

So far, I talked about beliefs on the afterlife.  Now, if you were inquisitive, the Bible would be a good place to study further on this subject (e.g. 40 occurrences of the word “resurrection”).  It is filled with stories and teachings on resurrection, in both the Old and the New Testament.  For instance, Elisha the prophet in the Old Testament raised the son of Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:32-37).  In the New Testament Jesus raised the dead at least three times: resurrected the only son of a widow in Nain (Luke 7), raised the only daughter of Jairus (Mark 5), and raised Lazarus from the tomb (John 11).  Peter the Apostle raised a woman called Tabitha/Dorcas—Acts 9:36-41.   Paul the Apostle too raised a young man named Eutychus—Acts 20:7-12.  The Bible presents real proofs of physical resurrection.

Now, we can raise the bar another notch: Can Jesus, who taught about the resurrection and also raised others from the dead, raise Himself from the dead?  Yes, He can and He did.  He rose from the dead on the first Easter Day, every Apostle and every writer of the Four Gospels testified with their own lives.  He is the first fruit of resurrection, the Scripture says.  The risen Christ appeared to three ladies first, to His ten disciples, then to the doubting Thomas.  Later He also appeared to more than 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:5).   Then, He ascended into Heaven.

Since then, the Church of Christ celebrated Christ’s resurrection for the next two thousand years.   Please note here that the risen Christ never appeared to those who rejected His teachings or to those who refused to believe Him as the Messiah.  If I were Christ, I would’ve appeared to everyone who doubts God’s power to raise the Christ from the dead (this approach of mine is dangerous because it puts God to the test and brings Him down to the human level).  E.g. an atheist professor dares God, if He exists, to strike him down with lightning.  Nothing happens so he claims that there’s no God.  Just remember: God doesn’t respond to those who put Him to the test.  He appears only to those who sincerely seek Him.   E.g.2. an atheist teacher asks the children in classroom to look at the sky.  He asks if they see God in the sky.  When the students say no, he says, “See?  There’s no God.”  Johnny the student asks his peers if they can see the teacher’s brain.  When they say no, he says, “See?  He has no brain.”

Finally, I want to place an Easter challenge before you.  I hope and pray that all of us will take it.  The challenge is to renew our relationship with God through worship for the next year.  The goal is to worship the Lord at least 52 times in the coming year.  Yes, that means, once a week.  Every Sunday.  Perfect attendance for a year.  Challenging, maybe.  But, it is doable.

Why the challenge?  Let me explain.  I am thankful that we all share the same faith in Jesus’ resurrection.   Every one of us believes that Christ has risen from the dead, right?  Otherwise, you would not have been here this morning.  We believe that we too will partake in the same resurrection as Jesus, that is, to have the same resurrection body that Jesus had, that transcends time and space.  We also believe that we will be in the presence of God forever along with our loved ones in the place called Heaven.  So far, so good.

I must point out to you, though, that it would be very naïve of us to believe that having such intellectual agreements alone would carry us all the way to Heaven’s gate even when we neglect to worship the Lord on a regular basis, let’s say only a couple of times a year.  You know that there’s such a word in the Church nowadays, “Chr-easter-s” combined word of the two words: Christmas and Easter referring to folks who go to church only twice a year on holidays.

I am not criticizing anyone.  Because there are some reasons why people don’t worship the Lord often enough.  You work on Sundays, you have families over, you are tired, you want to sleep in, and so forth.  You don’t have to explain to me or defend yourself.  It is between God and you.  All I am saying is this: even though worship itself doesn’t guarantee your seat in Heaven, it will help you to stay the course without drifting away from salvation.   It is delusional to believe that we still have a good chance or even a guarantee in Heaven without worshiping the Lord.   If I were you, I would make sure that I clear out my Sunday mornings so that I worship God with God’s children every Sunday.  Why?  Because in worship we encounter the living God.  Worship establishes and reaffirms our covenantal relationship with the Almighty God: who we are and what kind of God we serve and honor.  Worship, like an anchor to a ship, keeps us from drifting away from God.  Worship also provides the opportunity to cultivate the attitude of gratitude.  In worship we encourage one another.  We will miss out on all these great opportunities if we only go to church a couple of times a year.

Think this way: Jesus was in very nature God.  However, when He was on earth, He would worship the Lord every week along with other believers either at synagogue or at the Temple of God.  How much more do we need to do so?  By the way, if you got hurt in the past by the Church, or by “the organized religion,” for whatever reasons, I sincerely apologize on behalf of the believers.  However, that shouldn’t keep you from worshiping the Lord, because it is Satan’s scheme to keep you from the Body of Christ by all means.   After all, as the Day of Judgment is approaching, God commands us never to neglect worship (Hebrews 10:25).

I pray all of us will take up the Easter Challenge so that next year you come to me and say, “I have completed my challenge!”  And, I will say, “Good for you!  Praise God!”  Take up the challenge, and you will be forever blessed. Your life won’t be the same.

Amen.

 

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