Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Someone sent me this story about three men that died and are at the pearly gates of heaven. St. Peter tells them that they can enter the gates if they can answer one simple question. St. Peter asks the first person, “What is Easter?” He replies, “Oh, that’s easy! It’s the holiday in November when people get together, eat turkey, and are thankful…” “Wrong!” replies St. Peter, and he doesn’t let him in.
St. Peter asks the second guy, “What is Easter?” The second one replies, “Easter is the holiday in December when we put up a nice tree, exchange presents, and celebrate the birth of Jesus.” St. Peter looks at the second guy, shakes his head in disgust, tells him he’s wrong, and sends him away.
Then he peers over his glasses at the third guy and asks, “What is Easter?” The third guy smiles confidently and looks St. Peter in the eyes, “I know what Easter is.” “Oh?” says St. Peter incredulously.
“Easter is the Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Jesus and his disciples were eating the last supper, and Jesus was later deceived and turned over to the Romans by one of his disciples.
“The Romans took him to be crucified. They made him wear a crown of thorns and hung him on a cross with nails through his hands. He was buried in a nearby cave sealed off by a large boulder.”
St. Peter smiles broadly with delight. Then the third man continues, “Every year the boulder is moved aside so that Jesus can come out…and, if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.”
A miss is as good as a mile! I wonder if this could happen today. Do we have any human on earth that doesn’t know what Easter is about?
There are two parts to Easter: historical fact and present reality. Joe Rogan asked one of his interviewees, “How could you even know if Jesus existed since it was 2,000 years ago?” My answer would be simple; the calendar we use begins with the birth of Christ, but who cares about the birth of Christ if there is no resurrection of Christ?
The resurrection of Jesus Christ divided human history into two parts—B.C. and A.D. (or, to be politically correct, BCE and C.E.) Now everyone on earth makes reference to Jesus Christ when they put down their signature. Christian or not, when you sign a document, you must put the date next to it, referencing the Anno Domini—the Year of the Lord.
So, when I look at the calendar, I see the evidence of Easter. However, Easter is not just a fascinating historical event but has an equal impact on our present reality. We believe not because Jesus changed our history but because he changed our lives by adding meaning to it. Easter empowers us to do great things. Jesus said,
“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” (Jn 14:12).
That means Christians are not supposed to be pew potatoes but commissioned to do greater works than Jesus did. Don’t ask who am I to do such things, but ask how Jesus has empowered us to accomplish greatness. Last week, when I talked about the Last Supper, I quoted Shakespeare. I want to remind you again because Easter completes this same theme.
“Be not afraid of greatness.
Some are born great, some achieve greatness,
and others have greatness thrust upon them.” ― William Shakespeare
Which category do you belong to? Are you born great? Have you achieved greatness? Most of us belong to the third category—we have greatness thrust upon us because Jesus left us with a Great Commission to reconcile the world.
Easter empowers you to rise above yourself and fulfill the greatness thrust upon you, reminding you not to settle for less. As Shakespeare said, “Be not afraid of greatness.”
So, as we celebrate Easter, let’s renew our faith, courage, and commitment to RISE and shine! And live the greatness thrust upon us. Jesus wouldn’t expect us to do greater things without giving us the tools and power to do it. Let’s look at how we can make it happen based on Jesus’ last words before he returned to the Father. So, let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Matthew 28:1-10; 16-20. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:1-10; 16-20).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
Easter doesn’t end with the great miracle of Jesus’ resurrection but with the Great Commission for us to reconcile the world. It empowers us to rise and shine and fulfill the greatness thrust upon us. Based on this passage, I will use the mnemonic acronym RISE to cover the four steps to achieving greatness.
1. Release Your Imagination
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.” (Mat 28:5-6).
The Gospel of Mark says the women came to the tomb, bringing spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Even though Jesus had told them many times that he would rise from the dead on the third day, they still came to treat the dead body according to the custom. They also came to mourn.
No matter how we are taught, our environment limits our imagination. When my parents visited the United States for the first time many years ago, I showed them around the country. As a civil engineer, my father was greatly impressed by the infrastructure he saw. When he returned to Burma, his friends visited him and asked him about what the United States was like.
He told them, “Close your eyes and imagine the best country in the world.” After that, he told them, “Are you ready? America is 100 times better than that!” I agreed.
When you live all your life in a third world, your best mental image of the first world falls short because your environment limits your imagination. In the same way, since we live in this fallen world of suffering, our imagination of heaven and eternity becomes limited.
Your limited imagination also limits the way you live your life. Let Easter release your imagination. Just like a blind receiving sight for the first time, you will discover there is entirely another way to live. The difference is like that of the caterpillar and butterfly; the same creature but two ways of existence.
Just as Easter changed the lives of the eleven disciples from a bunch of cowards to heroes, let the power of the risen Christ release your imagination and make you live a life of greatness. When you feel your imagination is limited, take the next step.
2. Invoke Providence
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. … And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mat 28:18, 20b).
One of Jesus’ nicknames is Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us.” He was with us when He walked the earth, and He is still with us because of the empty tomb.
Don Emmitte said if Easter says anything at all to us, it is that Jesus will always be with us. The pyramids of Egypt are famous because they contain the mummified bodies of ancient Egyptian kings. Westminster Abbey in London is renowned because the bodies of English nobles and notables are in it.
Mohammed’s tomb is noted for the stone coffin and the bones it contains. Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C., is revered, for it is the honored resting place of many outstanding Americans.
But the Garden Tomb of Jesus is famous because it is empty!
Jesus promised you Providence. Since every promise in the Bible has a premise, the premise is in between those two verses.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20).
That is the greatness or the Great Commission thrust upon you. As you fulfill it, his Providence is with you. That means Jesus doesn’t leave you to do it on your own, but his power and authority accompany you. Over these two thousand years, believers have done many great things around the world. We have a cloud of witnesses before us; now, it’s our turn. The next step is:
3. Suspend Fear and Doubt
Doubt and fear are natural for us humans because we are vulnerable creatures. Our Creator compares us to sheep. Sheep are defenseless—they don’t have claws to hunt, fans to fight, and distant vision to see. It’s natural for humans to have imposter syndrome when attempting greatness. You are not alone; look at what the disciples felt.
So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. … When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (Mat 28:8, 17).
Jesus knew you would have fear and doubt. Even in this short passage, we find the encouragement “Do not be afraid” twice—once by the angel and another by Jesus.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Mat 28:10).
At this moment, they were still in Jerusalem. The authorities were hunting for Jesus’ lost body and trying to arrest the disciples, accusing them of stealing the body to fake the resurrection. So, for their safety, Jesus decided to meet them in Galilee, their home turf in the north.
Fear and doubt can cripple our actions. James said,
The doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:8).
Even if we cannot stop fear and doubt, we can suspend them momentarily to take a small action. Even a small action will bring us success, and success will eliminate bigger doubts and give us the courage to take more action. It’s like an upward spiral. All we need to do is to suspend the doubt and take a baby step.
At his last supper, Jesus taught us to suspend doubt and imposter syndrome by submitting ourselves as servants and messengers. You don’t have to carry the burden of success and failure as a servant or messenger because all success and failure belong to your boss, so it sets you free to imagine and innovate a way to fulfill the greatness thrust upon you.
I call it the “Michelangelo Code” because Michelangelo produced his masterpieces as a servant or messenger, not as a creator. You’ve heard of the Da Vinci Code, which is fiction, but the Michelangelo Code is practical. It eliminated fear and doubt by giving all glory to God.
4. Enlighten the World
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:14, 16).
You might ask, who am I to enlighten the world? This passage explains it clearly. Jesus commissions you to be the light of the world. Hiding the light is a mistake. Remember that God doesn’t like the servant who buried his talent.
On the other hand, greatness, like success, fame, and power, can destroy us. That’s why Jesus wants you to pursue greatness not for yourself but for God’s glory so that greatness cannot sabotage you.
So, relax! You are not shining your light for your own glory, but for the glory go to your Father in heaven. That’s what the Michelangelo Code is about. You don’t have to worry about winning or losing when you don’t take credit for your greatness. That allows you to set your light free and shine your brightest.
So, RISE and shine, and live your greatness using these four steps that form the acronym RISE.
- Release Your Imagination
- Invoke Providence
- Suspend Fear and Doubt
- Enlighten the World
Be not afraid of greatness! Let’s RISE and shine together starting this Easter and fulfill the greatness thrust upon us.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.