Sounds too good to be true

Luke 24:5

StMarksThere is a saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is” and in this day and age of scams that is pretty good advice. Interestingly, yesterday when I was researching that saying on Google, I was directed to another statement or saying to that of “Opportunity knocks but once” in which alongside the English explanation of such a phrase- was an advertisement from “Charm” inviting me to date beautiful Russian girls. How in the world this saying was linked on the World Wide Web to the previous saying about being “too good to be true” I’ll never know, because if you had seen how that young lady in the advertisement was dressed and looking at me-you too would have known it was not a scam.

Obviously, I had to turn her down but at least I did reply to the email I received from a compassionate Nigerian General promising me great wealth if I gave him my bank details.

When I receive it I might send some to that girl so that she can buy some more suitable clothing for the Russian winters.

From the book of Proverbs: Chapter 31, verses 4-6: “It is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!”

And the Apostle Paul’s words to “Pastor/Evangelist” Timothy in the 1st book in his name: 1St Timothy Chapter 5, verse 23: “Do not drink water only, but take a little wine to help with digestion and illness.”

It’s like looking in a mirror: Beer for the struggling, wine for the Pastor. Twenty four hours in a day and twenty four beers in a carton: co-incidence-I think not.

Words used for myself out of context and most unlike those of the two angels at Jesus’ empty tomb who after seeing Mary Magdalene and friends looking to tend to His body greet them with a quizzical: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ and then continue with ‘He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you that on the third day he would rise again.’

And as we heard from the scripture reading: Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  But these words seemed to them ridiculous – too good to be true – and they did not believe her (Luke 24:5b-11).

We face the same challenges today.  People will believe in just about anything.
Pills that burn fat so you don’t have to diet or exercise.
Creams that make you look younger.
Ancient secrets to living longer.
People will spend money to take the risk in case it is true.  But try to tell them about Jesus, who rose from the dead and now offers eternal life to anyone who believes? I’m sure you would off heard some more than once: ‘It’s all make-believe.’  ‘I’ve never heard of such a thing!’  ‘It’s too good to be true.’

And, you’ve may have even heard other, not so nice responses to the news of the Resurrection.

Believing in the resurrection was never going to be easy.  It wasn’t then; it isn’t now.

But why?  Isn’t this what everyone wants?  And if it’s true – isn’t this then it is the answer to all of life’s concerns.

Life is full of suffering: death; grief; worries.  Knowing that at the end of this life we will experience eternal life means that the hurt is limited.  The emphasis of Paul in his writing today is that the resurrection of Jesus is victory over every oppressive power in our life, including, and especially, death (1 Corinthians 15:19-26).  The last enemy to be destroyed is death!  And so whenever we doubt or disbelieve in the resurrection of Jesus, death is still the power in our life.  That is when we and others look for anything that will help relieve the suffering, pain and death.  For many it becomes their life search – their job, their wealth, their success.  And when these fail, as they ultimately do, then so does hope for the future.

Even as Christians, these other things can all too often become the focus to bring hope and meaning into our lives.  But when we look to anything but the resurrection then the message of the angels is spoken to us too: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”  Nothing in this life can bring us any comfort despite the promises they make.  When we listen to the media telling us about how to find true meaning and happiness in the idols of this world, then we are looking for the living among the dead.

Amos, the first earthly prophet announced to the Jewish people that: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.  People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east: They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.”

Words said to those awaiting the Messiah in Old Testament, and yet, Words that could be said for those looking for the meaning of life still in these days, and Words said to us when we seek the idols of our world that never stop asking for more and more of the same.

Copy a recipe from the endless cooking shows: but still hungry the next day. A world traveller: but still weighed down with those 22 countries I “haven’t done yet.” The latest and greatest gadgets: that are already outdated by the time they’re released. Good things in life that we know are gifts from God, like that of the Gift of God truth’s truth that shows that they still are only things.

Because our hope is in the resurrected life. Our hope that changes the way we live our lives from as if our earthly life is the only life we have, to a life living as witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and declare with absolute joy and confidence like that of Mary Magdalene that  “We have seen the Lord.”

It’s natural to feel the pain and heartache of this life.  When we suffer, we hurt.  When a loved one dies, we grieve.  When we lose a job, we are concerned about paying the mortgage and other bills.  But it’s where we go to for comfort and assurance that matters.  Mary went to the right place, but was looking for the wrong answer.  She went to see Jesus, but didn’t understand the meaning of the empty tomb.  Mary was despaired, but was pointed to Jesus.  When we face our own empty tombs – when we face those times when we feel loss and despair, pain and grief – we are pointed to Jesus.  The empty tomb meant that Jesus was no longer in the grave but is now living with us and in us.

Jesus said before his death, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it” (John 2:19).  On the third day Jesus rebuilt his temple – His risen body, His Holy Church and in His people

We are now living witnesses to the Lord. We have seen the Lord and now we share this living hope in a dying world that has put its hope in the wrong things and still looking for the living among the dead.

Proverbs Chapter 31, verse 6: “Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish.”

Yes there is an element in that proverb of deadening the pain of life, but greater the element of deadening the pain of death.

The death faced by the criminals on their way to execution on the cross who were given by  the ladies of Jerusalem a drink of medicated wine to help deaden the pain of suffering.

The wine like that offered to Jesus said to be of vinegar, gall and myrrh.  A cheap Roman wine mixed as a drug to dull the senses of the person being crucified that they may a little easier endure their cross.

The same pain relief offered to but rejected by Christ who willed to taste the full bitterness of death and suffering, that we when bearing our cross see not hope in the perishable of the world, but in the imperishable of Himself, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ here with us today as we will be with Him in eternity.

The Easter story is our story and as He has risen, forgiven in Christ so shall we.

So whether you are here each week, each month, each year – or whether it’s your first time here – let this Easter Story be your story.  Let it renew your life and hope in the living Lord, so that you no longer look for the living among the dead but become the place where others can find life. Amen.

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