IT was Easter Sunday and the partial lockdown was still on. We joined many others to celebrate this joyous occasion online, each in our own homes. SCAC President, Rev Dr Tie King Tai’s sermon was entitled “Because He Lives”, taken from the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 28:1-10.
Rev Tie began by singing the chorus of the hymn, “Because He lives”. The tomb is empty because Jesus is alive. Jesus is alive today! He had appeared to many witnesses. The passage this morning recorded one of His appearances to His disciples after His resurrection. When He appeared to the people, they were fearful and afraid (verses 4-5).
Three days earlier, Jesus had been crucified on the Cross. But, three days later, Jesus had risen. The angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled back the stone at the entrance of the tomb and sat on it. The guards were so afraid that they shook with fear. But to the women who were at the tomb, the angel told them not to be afraid. Then, they were commissioned to tell the others about the resurrection of Jesus. The women were fearful but happy. For us today, we are living in the midst of a pandemic. Are we fearful? Maybe we are fearful because our income has been affected, the education of our children is also being affected and so on. Jesus is saying to us, “Don’t be afraid”.
We may be fearful but Jesus tells us not to be afraid. He says, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:30-31). Jesus tells us not to be afraid because we are worth more than many sparrows. He will take care of us. Jesus died for us. We are worthy because Jesus died for us.
There was an incident whereby the disciples were terrified. Matthew 14 records, “When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”’ (Matthew 14:26-27). Jesus is with us. Don’t be afraid.
There was a myth which goes like this: if one counts the number of times the phrase, “Do not be afraid” is mentioned in the Bible, he will discover that this phrase is found 366 times. However, it is not true. This saying of Jesus may appear over a hundred times in the Bible. In our daily living, Jesus is telling us, “Don’t be afraid”. Like the women who were at the tomb that morning, we can be fearful but happy at the same time. When you have fear, remember Jesus tells us, “Do not fear”. We experience His encouragement daily because He is alive.
BECAUSE HE LIVES: COME
Because Jesus lives, He invites us to come to Him. Just as the angel had said to the women, “But he is not here. He has risen from death, as he said he would. Come and see the place where his body was” (verse 6), Jesus also invites us to come to Him.
In verse 9, Jesus appeared to the women and stood there in front of them. At once, the women went to him, held on to his feet and worshiped Him.
Jesus is the King of kings, He is in control. Often times, He would call people to come to Him. Early in His ministry, He would call the adults to come and follow him. ‘“Come follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people”. At once they left their nets and followed him’ (Matthew 4:19-20). When they heard Jesus’ calling, they immediately left their nets and followed Him.
Jesus called out to the adults. Yet, Jesus also never neglected the children. He says in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me”. Children are humble and simple. We need to be like them in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
Apart from calling the adults and the children, Jesus also calls out to those who are burdened and weary to come to Him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus will be with us until the end of the age. Come to Jesus, and enjoy rest in Him. There is no condemnation in Christ. Come to experience Jesus afresh. Fear not, come and see.
BECAUSE HE LIVES: GO
Over and over again, Jesus calls us to “go”. In verse 7, the angel says, “And go quickly and tell his followers: ‘Jesus has risen from death. He is going into Galilee and will be there before you. You will see him there.’ Now I have told you”.
Afraid and yet filled with joy, the women ran quickly to tell His followers what had happened (verse 8). Suddenly, Jesus appeared to the women. “Then Jesus said to them…Go tell my followers (brothers) to go to Galilee. They will see me there’ (verse 10). This is the first time Jesus refers to His disciples as “brothers”. Jesus is our big brother. We must go and tell others about His resurrection.
Jesus not only repeatedly says, “Fear not”, “go”, but he also says, “go tell” others about Him. “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hill and go to look for the one that wandered off” (Matthew 18:12)
Go and find the little ones who are lost. We must go and find them, especially those who are in our home. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus has called us to go, baptise and teach others about Him. We need to go to the ends of the earth to preach the Good News. Unfortunately the church is comfortable and is reluctant to go.
The first church in Jerusalem was also reluctant to go out to share the Gospel. They were enjoying fellowship among themselves until persecution came. They were forced to go and preach in Samaria, Judea and to the ends of the world.
A few decades ago, the Foochows from China were forced to come to Sarawak due to circumstances back home. Upon arriving, they built schools and churches. They were enjoying fellowship among each other until they experienced curfew in the town some 50 years ago. The churches were then forced to be dispersed. They were forced to go to Kuching, Miri, Bintulu, and even to Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America, England and beyond. It is a blessing in disguise that we were forced to go to different places so that the Gospel could be preached.
Another 50 years later to the present day, we are now forced to go online. Because of this lockdown, we are in touch with people we don’t usually come into contact with. As the church goes online, prayer meetings have doubled in terms of the number of attendance. Through the Internet, we can reach out and share the Gospel to even more people. We can use the Internet to go to the ends of the world.
During this pandemic, we are forced to go home to be with our family members. We may have disagreements with our family members at times but the lockdown is a treasured time for us to be with our family and our children. This is the time for us to enjoy the Sabbath God has given to us. During the lockdown, parents are now carrying out their primary responsibilities as parents to disciple their children. Let us treasure our time together as a family. Make our homes powerful for Jesus. We are like missionaries being sent by God to share His love with our family members who do not yet know Him. If discipleship is being done in the families, then the whole world will hear the Good News.
“Fear not”, “come see” and “go tell’ about His love.