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Care Instructions for a Life Worth Living - Monday, April 27, 2015

Sunday Changed Everything

Sunday changed everything, but not in the way many people think. From our point of view two thousand years later, many people think of Easter as a comforting story that says, “Spring is coming. Flowers are blooming. Life is eternal. Everything is going to work out.” But the response to the resurrection on the first Easter in the Gospels consistently includes fear. In fact, people were more afraid after the resurrection than they were before. And none of the gospel accounts have Jesus or the angels saying, “Now you don’t have to worry about dying anymore.”

Jesus followers’ believed he was the Messiah, that he would overthrow Rome and usher in God’s kingdom. But Jesus died. When this happened, even though he had predicted it, none of his followers said, “Everything is going according to plan now.” All four of the Gospels give us very unflattering portraits of what happened when he died. His disciples were disheartened, dismayed, disappointed, disillusioned, and dispirited. And then suddenly they weren’t.

They saw an empty tomb, which told them their sightings of Jesus were not hallucinations. They saw a live person, which told them the empty tomb was not a result of body snatching. They remembered what Jesus said not long before he died:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

They began to understand.

My old preaching professor Ian Pitt-Watson used to say there have been only two great revolutions in the history of humankind. He said the first revolution began when somebody started to farm. Up until this time, human beings had been hunter-gatherers; they lived from day to day. They moved from place to place. There was no such thing as home. Then someone noticed that if they dropped a seed in the ground and walked away, something happened. Normally that’s how we get rid of something. But not here. Something in the dirt calls to something in the seed. “Hey seed! Wake up! Send me a little root.” Then something above the earth says to the seed, “Send up a little shoot.” And the seed does. The seed becomes a plant or a tree, and it produces fruit. It achieves its destiny. But it could never happen if the seed didn’t die first.

There is a second revolution. This time we know the revolutionary’s name. We know where he lived. We know how he lived. We know what he taught. We know how he died. This is, Jesus said, the way life works. You have to be willing to sacrifice something if anything is ever going to be the way it is supposed to be. No sacrifice, no harvest. Only it isn’t seeds this time; this time it’s you.

What got released on Sunday was hope. Not hope that life would turn out well. Hope that called people to die: die to selfishness and sin and fear and greed, die to the lesser life of a lesser self so that a greater self might be born. And many people did. This hope changed things. Because of their belief in the resurrection of the body. Because of Sunday.

Jesus released a new kind of hope. Where are you most aware of a need for this kind of hope in your life right now? What lesser thing do you sense God may be asking you to die to?

© 2014 by Zondervan. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Visit JohnOrtberg.com for more about John Ortberg's work and ministry.