“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:1-6 ESV)
A resurrection begs questions and answers. The most important question is, so what? Or what does this mean? It means many, many things, but this Easter I want us to see this through the prism of a time warp. So what is the future like?
We know what the present is like. And we know what the past is like. All the people of the past, their items are in the Smithsonian, their stories are in history books, and their bodies are in cemeteries. You likely drove by one recently. What did you think when you looked? We’ve trained ourselves to not think really anything, especially the reality every cemetery provides. Someday that’s me.
“And when they had crucified him.” (Matthew 27:35 ESV)
This verse is holy. Matthew doesn’t dwell on the physical sufferings. He is more interested in the theological meaning. Further, his audience would have known and probably seen crucifixions, so he didn’t have to go into detail. Since we haven’t witnessed one, let’s make sure we understand why these moments are so holy.
“They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:7-11 ESV)
The whole city was stirred. The Greek word for stirred is the root of our word seismic. The city was shaking. Rocking and rolling. This didn’t happen quietly or for just his followers. That Sunday exploded with emotion and fervor so much that the city was seismic. Clearly this was intentional and planned by Jesus. For what?
How is Loving My Neighbor an Oblitunity?
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:35-39 ESV)
When what I have to do is what I want to do, it’s an oblitunity. The goal is not to go out and dutifully be kind to people while seething with hatred toward them inside. Our hearts need to change toward people. Real people. We need to actually love the real flawed people around us, not theoretical ones.
I’ve seen on-the-street interviews with the protesters during this whole immigration debate. They are holding up signs welcoming people into our country. “Would you have a refugee in your home?” Astonishingly, many say no. It’s pure ideology with no application. That’s the challenge. It’s easy to hold to a theoretical ideal; it’s much harder to personally love people sacrificially. We always want other people to do that.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36–40 ESV)
How can you command love—especially in our culture where the word “love” is misapplied to describe everything from how you feel about your cat to your allegiance to your country? We love our dishware and we love our children. The same word is used. Love is often viewed as a feeling or an emotional wave that comes over us. So we describe love as something that can happen at first sight. Love is applied to sexual relations between a man and a woman. Then we come to a text like this and we could think it’s a command to feel about God like I feel about my cat or my wife. The argument goes that if love is a feeling then it can’t be commanded; it must flow mysteriously and organically from within us. How can God command a feeling?
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:7–13 ESV)
The Extent – On Earth as it is in Heaven
This little phrase could be applied to all three previous clauses, “hallowed be your name,” “Your kingdom come,” and “your will be done.” But it most specifically applies to “your will be done.”
Jesus provides a measurement. Heaven! Heaven is where God’s decreed will and revealed will are perfectly fulfilled. By whom? The angels to start with. God’s every will is their every delight. Many of us like Chick-fil-A where they are trained to respond to every question with, “My pleasure.” If Chick-fil-A feels like heaven to you, it is in that respect. It is the angels’ highest and greatest pleasure to do God’s will. They do his bidding immediately. They fulfill his desire fully without any internal sinful tension.
Who else is perfectly fulfilling the will of God in heaven? The saints of God. Gossipy Mrs. A. in heaven speaks kindly. Angry Mr. B in heaven is loving. Miss C. who used to struggle with addiction is free to love God more than anything. Mr. D. who had a little bit of a potty mouth now hallows God’s name. In heaven, nobody prays, “your will be done” because they don’t have to.
Only on earth is God’s will defied and denied. That’s where we live and in our own hearts we feel the tension every day between my will and God’s will.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” (Matthew 6:5-13 ESV)
“Your KINGDOM come.”
Here is our now familiar word as we have been teaching on the kingdom of God for several months.
We have to understand the kingdom of God to ever properly understand the kingdom of man. We were born in the kingdom of man. Raised in it. It feels normal to us. The kingdom of man is also known as the kingdom of Satan. Remember, this rebellious kingdom began in the heart of Satan as he rebelled against God. He birthed it by temptation in the heart of Eve and then Adam and his rebellion against God spread and infected the cosmos. Satan became the king of the universe:
- The prince of this world (John 14:30 NIV)
- The god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV)
- Ruler of this world (John 12:31)
- The power (kingdom) of Satan (Acts 26:18)
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, Satan offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world. Jesus didn’t dispute they were his to give.