The Transformations of Easter
The Change to Our Demographics
† IHS †
May the mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so heal and transform our lives that we continually hear His desire that all come to the same healing and transformation. And may we dedicate our lives to this very work!
Whose conversion would leave you “out of your mind”?
Have you ever been so confused that you felt out of place? That life all of a sudden was so jumbled that you wondered if you were out of your mind? That life didn’t make all that much sense, that your world seemed to be turning upside-down, inside-out and backward,
You aren’t alone. I’ve had those days myself. Matter of fact, I’ve had more than my share of them!
So did the apostles. Imagine how you would feel if at the next combined service – with two hundred people to feed, we only had 5 filet-o-fishes from McDonald’s, and Jesus said, “No problem, let me pray and then hand out what you’ve got?”
Or the time Jesus was asleep in the middle of the storm, wakes up and tells the sea to be still. That one left them more afraid of Jesus than the storm.
Think about how things changed that night when Jesus, who they witnessed dying on the cross, just walked into the room and told them to stop being afraid, to stop being anxious. That confused them a bit, don’t you think?
The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus transforms everything in our lives, and sometime, okay, most of the time, we aren’t even ready for it.
Like in the story from Acts today, when the Roman soldier and his family, the enemies of Israel are saved. The word for amazed in our translation is the word existemi – to be displaced, or more bluntly, to be out of your mind.
That’s what happens when God transforms your enemies into your brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
Yeah, your enemies. God wants to transform them and welcome them to our family.
Whether that is the ISIS leader, some politician you don’t like, your neighbors whose dog keep you up last night, there is someone whose salvation might confuse you a bit.
You see one of the transformations of Easter is God changing the demographics of His people, to include people of every group on earth.
the Challenge of Grace
As we walk through life, we are going to encounter those people who are described with words like enemies, adversaries. They may seriously threaten us, or they may simply irritate us.
For the most part, the Romans were counted among the former group in Peter’s day. And the animosity and fear were mutual. Jews were taught that non-Jews were not people because they weren’t allowed to be people of God. That isn’t what the Bible taught, but it was so often heard in synagogues that it became part of the religion.
This resulted in a culture of fear, and the oppressive Roman government didn’t help much, nor did the extremists like the zealots, who made every issue a critical one. Jewish men weren’t supposed to go into the homes of Gentiles, whether, Greek or Roman.
We may not feel this way about a nationality or race of people today, but most of us do have people we find hard to love or accept. Maybe it is because they are of a different economic class, or because they belong to a different political party. Maybe they are family, these people who you would struggle with, And maybe your own reaction to them causes you to grieve, to be filled with anxiety, to even give up hope for reconciliation and healing.
Maybe we have even been dealing with the brokenness of a relationship so long, we believe it beyond God’s ability to heal?
For the Jewish people, these relationships with Greeks and Romans, even with their Samaritan neighbors, had long since been shattered. Even though, God had promised Abraham that his descendant would bless all nations, even though David and Isaiah wrote about it, even though Solomon dedicated the Temple to both Jewish and non-Jewish people praying to God there….
The relationships were shattered; there was nothing there but animosity, fear, resentment, division and hatred. Simply put, they were shattered by sin.
As have our relationships…indeed all relationships… until the hope of Easter transformed our relationships.
Among the things we can “take away” from this passage, it is the hope that realizing how “out of their minds” the Jewish believers were, when they witnessed their natural enemies and adversaries being touched by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit who they counted on, who they were comforted by, who transformed their world, in a moment healed the broken relationship Cornelius’s family had with God, and therefore healed all the brokenness between them.
It is as radical as if we got a call from the leaders of Isis, to come share God’s love with them, and we ended up baptizing them and their families.
It is as radical as the guy who killed and captured pastors, coming to know Christ’s love, and becoming an incredible missionary,
It is as radical as God saving you, or I.
Making us the body of Christ, the people of God, the friends of Jesus.
As it happens, as God transforms this Roman military commander, and his family and household, there is confusion and joy and a myriad of emotions as they realized that God doesn’t have a list of types of people that are welcome before His throne.
There are people of every nation, every culture, every language, every economic class. People who grew up worshipping idols, people that grew up knowing of God, but needing to know Him. All types, all kinds, all ages,….
And those who, when God begins working in them, cause us to pause, to wonder, and then to be beside ourselves with joy!
That is why we don’t lose hope for those we struggle with; that is why we try to live at peace with them, care for them, love them. That is our hope for dealing with them and seeing reconciliation happen.
Because it can, and it has….
Because of a cross, a burial and a resurrection of Jesus Christ the son of God.
Yes, because of that we can all know the peace of God, which passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.