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THIS IS IT! - by Ted Schroder


by Ted Schroder
Easter Sunday
April 16, 2006

If you were asked what you believed was at the heart of the Christian faith, what was essential to be believed, what would you say?

St. Paul put it this way: "I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved.... This is what we preach, and this is what you believed." (1 Corinthians 15:1,2,11)

He is underlining what he considered the heart of his message, the essential core of his communication to them, which he received from the other apostles, and what he passed on to them of first importance. This is the foundation on which they have built their lives. This is the truth by which they are experiencing the salvation of God. This is the eternal reality which is transforming their lives. This is what they are to hold onto and never let go. Whatever else fails it is this which will pull them through. This is of first importance. What is it?

First, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He took our place on the Cross and died so that we might be forgiven and made acceptable to God, and ourselves.

Secondly, that Christ was buried. He really died, and he really was buried. Despite being the Son of God he experienced all the sufferings and terrors of dying and death. He truly took upon himself our sinful and weak humanity.

Thirdly, that Christ was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. He fulfilled the prophecies and defeated death and judgment on our behalf. His resurrection made it possible for all those who follow him to be victorious over sin, death and evil.

Fourthly, he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. He appeared not to gullible and expectant followers, but those who were depressed and disbelieving. Peter had denied him in the courtyard of the high priest. The other disciples were hiding for fear of following Jesus to death. Thomas wasn't there when Jesus appeared to the others, and had to be persuaded by the wounds in Jesus' hands and sides that he had indeed risen from the dead.

Fifthly, he appeared to more than five hundred of his disciples at the same time - probably in Galilee, where many of them had returned after the crucifixion - when the apostles gathered them together for a reunion. Luke tells us that Jesus "gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3) Most of these were still living when Paul wrote to the Corinthians so their testimony could be corroborated.

Sixthly, he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. James was his half-brother who would have been the last to believe that Jesus could do anything miraculous. He thought Jesus was out of his mind when he began his ministry (Mark 3:21). His brothers did not believe in his claims to be the Son of God. (John 7:5) But Jesus came to him after the resurrection and James was persuaded and became the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

Seventhly, he appeared to Paul himself, an enemy and persecutor of the church, who supported the martyrdom of Stephen. We are told that he began to 'destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them into prison." (Acts 8:3) This antagonist of the faith was arrested by Jesus on the road to Damascus, where he was going to continue his persecution. He was stopped in his tracks by a blinding light from heaven which flashed around him. This is how singer Johnny Cash described the appearance in his novel of St. Paul, entitled Man in White.

"Before he could cry out, he was overwhelmed by pure light. The awesome brilliance of a light far greater than the sun burst through the gulf between heaven and earth. The Shekinah glory streamed with such force that Saul and his companions fell to the ground. The nucleus of the light's power appeared before his eyes in such splendor that instant prostration was the result. One moment he was on his feet, the next he was on his back, his face blistered and his hair singed. Though the center from which the light emanated had been before him, he felt its heat all over his body. He quivered in shock.

"The light, the beautiful, horrible light. And there before his eyes, manifested physically in glorified reality, for just a split second, was the figure of the Man in White. The Man, carried to the earth to appear before Saul in a stream of wonderful, dazzling beauty, a flowing stream of divine substance, came in a white so white, so pure, so brilliant that his eyes were seared and scaled over.

'He raised his head from the ground to try to look again at the Man in White, but he was blind. On the back of his eyelids was a negative of the Man. A negative so clear that his inner vision strained against looking at even the negative. But his mind remembered every detail of the Man. He would never forget the image. In startled wonder he recalled the magnificent sight that struck him blind. The Man's bare feet shone like gold, much, much brighter than the polished brass lamps that hung from chains in the synagogue. There was a well-healed wound on the arch of each foot - even the wound sparkled and shone.... He knew, but would not, could not yet accept the fact of the identity of the Man in White. His arms were outstretched and on his beautiful hands were wounds, one in each palm.

"Saul could not distinguish the features of the Man's face. The light had prevented it. But his hair was as snow-white as his robe. His mouth was open, ready to speak. The Man's eyes pierced through the light and touched Saul to the depths of his being. Eyes of love. Eyes of sorrow. Eyes of compassion, of understanding. Terrible, captivating eyes.

"The light bridged the void, the unbreachable time-space from heaven to earth, and in that instant that Saul had seen all this' he saw also around, above, and for endless reaches of space behind the Man in White were angels - thousands of angels, tens of thousands of angels." (pp.118,119)

He heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"

"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." (Acts 9:5,6)

That appearance of the risen Jesus eventually transformed Saul of Tarsus into St. Paul the Apostle. The grace of God was not without effect.

This is why he is underlining what he considered the heart of his message, the essential core of his communication to them, which he received from the other apostles, and what he passed on to them of first importance, because he had experienced it at first hand. This is the foundation on which he built his life. This is the truth by which he experienced the salvation of God. This is the eternal reality which had transformed his life. This is what he held onto and never let go. Whatever else failed, it was this which would pull him through. This was of first importance. This is it!

What about you this Easter? What is of first importance to you? What is the foundation on which you build your life? What is the eternal reality which transforms your life? What is it that pulls you through troubled times? The risen Jesus stands ready to share his life with you today.

An audio version of this presentation is to be found on www.ameliachapel.com

Amelia Plantation Chapel,
Amelia Island, Florida

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