Dear family of St John’s
In my preparations for this past Holy Saturday’s Service of the Light, I believe the Holy-Spirit led me to examine the lives of the early followers of Jesus and how Jesus’ resurrection subsequently formed and shaped a new way of life for them. Giving them an unshakeable hope that changed the very fabric of their lives.
In his writings the late Anglican theologian John Stott writes, “Perhaps the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection.”
If you are familiar with the occurrences after Jesus’ resurrection, one finds a marked shift in the lives of those who followed Jesus. We find Peter who denies Jesus three times at Jesus’ trial (John 18:15-18;25-27) then in Acts 4:1-22 we find Peter alongside John proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus boldly! Later we find Saul who was persecuting and murdering Christians becoming a follower and Apostle of Christ boldly, then preaching Jesus as the Messiah.
So, the question is what happened? I believe those early Apostles were confronted with a truth so profound in Jesus’ resurrection and subsequent ascension that it gave them an unshakeable hope. I believe Jesus’ resurrection shifted the focus of where they found their hope.
In Psalm 16:8 the word of God tells us: “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”
This Old Testament psalm gives us a window into what was a part of what fuelled those early followers of Jesus’ profound and bold new way of life. They had become eye-witnesses to a defining moment in history and because of that their eyes were firmly fixed on the Lord, Jesus, and it led them to have an unshakeable hope.
Because as Psalm 16:10-11 then continues, “because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful (holy) one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Beloved, they became eye-witnesses to the Holy one of God, Jesus, not seeing decay, but rising from the dead. That gave them an assurance of a new path to real life. A joy that could not be shaken because of a new eternal perspective. A new hope that was won for them in Christ Jesus.
No longer were circumstances or favourable circumstances the bed-rock of their life. But the living hope they found in Jesus became the foundation of their lives which gave them a new eternal hope. Why? Because it was not rooted in anything of the world.
I can assure you, their lives were not easy going after Christ’s ascension. In fact, persecution of The Way (Christians) was ramped up. But yet, despite the persecution, despite the world around them shaking, they held onto this new unshakeable hope by keeping their focus on the resurrected Jesus. And the world still feels that legacy today.
I believe the Holy Spirit has led me to share this with you because we live in a time where everything seems shakeable. Where it seems that everything is being shaken up in all the wrong ways.
In our city we are battling a drought. In our country we are battling an energy crisis which in 3 days has virtually spiked from stage 1 to stage 6 load-shedding. The cost of living is increasing. These are external issues, but what about the internal shakings or “tremors” we experience. We have internal shakings of a frantic pace of life, family disintegration, broken marriages, broken friendships, poor health and the reality of the shadow of death.
These are all things that shake us up on the inside.
However, beloved of Jesus, the encouragement is there. That in our lives, in our circumstances, we can keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. So we can have an unshakeable hope.
And this is not an impractical turning a blind eye to the reality of what we go through. But this is our only remedy to gain clarity and wisdom in how to navigate those things that are shaking us.
Because hear what the Psalmist says in Psalm 16: 5-7: “LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the LORD who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.”
This has profound implications for us. Because of Jesus rising from the dead, He is our portion and cup, He makes our lot secure(vs.5). In verse 6 Jesus’ resurrection has shown us that we have a delightful inheritance of eternal life. That for us in Jesus, death is not the end, now it leads to a new life with Him in eternity. Lastly, we now, in Jesus, have a councillor. The very Holy Spirit of God lives in us who believe. He is available and accessible for us to find the wisdom we need, as we cry out to Him when we need it. (John 14: 15-18)
And beloved, all of this grace that Jesus has won for us should lead us to live lives of praise. To live lives of worship. Praising God for all He has done for us, yesterday, and what He can do for us tomorrow, because of this great grace He has given us. Not becoming pessimistic at the state of the world, but being fuelled by new hope, because Jesus is making a new heaven and a new earth!
Beloved of Christ, what is shaking you today? I encourage you turn your eyes and focus on who is unshakeable. Where do you need wisdom? Where do you need comfort? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you and spend time in His word. He is there for us. If you are battling, please know, that there is no condemnation for us who are in Jesus. And that growing in keeping our focus on Him is a process. Just as it was for Peter and Paul and the rest. So it is for us. And if you are battling, ask God to send saints who can pray for you and guide you to truth.
I encourage you today. Don’t turn a blind eye to the shakings that are in the world and in you. But also, do not turn a blind eye to the one who remains unshakeable through everything.
Practically, focus on Him by spending time in His word. Don’t forget the written word leads us to encounter the living word as Luke 24:27 states, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”
People of the resurrection, more than 2000 plus years later the world still feels the effects of the early Disciples of Jesus’ focus being on our unshakeable Lord. Imagine the effects that we can leave behind as we keep our focus on Him. Because the world needs this hope that is found in our precious Lord Jesus. To the world there is no hope. But we have been given grace to know better.
You are loved, you are fully known by God in Christ. Trust in His unshakeable hope today.
Rain will come in this life, winds will blow in this life. But there is a rock that we can stand on and build our lives on. Jesus Christ of Nazareth, our resurrected Lord, Great High Priest and King of Kings. He will not fail you. He will do exceedingly more than what we can ask or think. Not in what we think is the best way, but in the ways that He knows are ultimately good because He is good and altogether lovely.
I love you with the love of Jesus,