November 06, 2019 | Articles by Rev. David Bodanza
Many of us suffer from low expectations in religion. We see statues rather than saints and ritual rather than reality. Others have no expectations and are just going through the motions of a tired tradition. It is like having a superficial relationship with an old acquaintance. You never get past a "Hi, how are ya?"
Jesus clearly told the apostles about His coming crucifixion. "Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.' The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about." (Luke 18:31-34) He told them He would be betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter and abandoned by the rest. It came true, just as He said it would. He was arrested, tried and convicted for being "the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One." (Mark 14:61-62) He was condemned for declaring who He really was.
God the Son would be mocked, spit upon, flogged and beaten. They would parade Him through the streets. His own creation would put a purple robe and a crown of thorns on the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Again and again, they mocked and paid false homage to Him, and hit him on the head with a staff and spit upon Him. Ultimately, they would drive nails through His hands and feet and pierce his side with a spear. They killed the author of life. (Acts 3:15) He went willingly. He laid down His life like a lamb to slaughter. The laid Him to rest in a rich man's tomb that first Good Friday.
They expected that he was the one who would set Israel free from Roman rule. Yet, their expectations were too low. His mission was not merely about freeing one nation from another. His mission was to free all the nations from the tyranny of sin. His kingdom was not temporal, it was eternal. He came to solve humanity's biggest problem, the consequences of the one that plagues us despite our technological advances and seeming sophistication. It could only be solved by the sacrifice of the God-man we call Jesus Christ.
Despite the fact that the rescue mission of Jesus was prophesied in the Scriptures and explained by Jesus Himself, they still expected to embalm a dead body early that Sunday morning about 1,981 years ago. They brought their embalming spices. They were depressed and exhausted, having lost all hope.
"They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, 'Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' ' Then they remembered his words." (Luke 24:2-8)
"Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, 'What are you
discussing together as you walk along?' They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, 'Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?' 'What things?' he asked. 'About Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied. 'He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.' (Luke 24:13-24)
He said to them, 'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, 'Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.' So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'" (Luke 24:25-32)
True Christianity is not a dead religion with a memorialized leader. It is not dry as dust. It is neither boring nor irrelevant. It involves people from all walks of life who are awakened by grace to a new life with a living Lord and Savior. He is the one and true living God who hears and answers our prayers and speaks to us through His holy word. Our eyes are opened and our hearts burn within us while He opens the Scriptures to us.
What is your expectation from your religion, a living Lord or a dead idol? A few years ago, two sailors were on leave in Memphis. While walking around, they asked a local man where they could see Elvis Presley. He gave them directions to Graceland. The man felt it important to add some unsolicited advice at the end of his directions, "Now, you know he's dead?" The sailors laughed. They weren't fooled by the "Graceland Hoax," the one that claims Elvis is still alive.
The true Christian is not fooled by dead religion, the kind that acts like Jesus is dead. The true Christian knows that Jesus is alive, even though some seek Him in dead traditions and with cold hearts. The true Christian does not practice religion but enjoys a real relationship with the risen Christ. "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" He is not resting in a mausoleum, He is risen in heaven!