Whose Report Will You Believe?

We have gotten through Holy Week and celebrated Easter and now its Easter night.  The disciples are all sitting behind locked doors debating a message they had received earlier in the day.  Certain women had gone to the tomb early in the morning to anoint the body of Jesus.  When they arrived they found an empty tomb.  According to John, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, found it empty, and ran back to tell Simon Peter and John about what she had found, and claiming that someone had moved the body, and she had no idea where they had taken him.

Then the three of them returned to the tomb and Simon Peter and John saw the empty tomb and believed it was empty and that Mary was telling the truth.  Simon Peter and John left and returned to their own home.  Mary lingered for a bit longer weeping, and then she saw two angels, and then had an encounter with Jesus.  She then went back to tell the disciples she had seen the Lord.

Meanwhile, according to the Gospels, several other women had visions of angels and encounters with Jesus, and they too reported back to the apostles to let them know that Jesus is alive and well, and what He had said to them.

The news is met with skepticism by the apostles who refused to believe the women.  In the longer version of Mark 16 it says that Jesus appeared to the disciples as they sat behind locked doors and rebuked them for their unbelief.  So what was the problem? Why couldn’t the apostles believe and accept the testimony of the women, especially when two of them had seen the empty tomb and knew Jesus had to be somewhere.  The women were providing the answer to the where part but no one was listening.  So again the question is why?

In that time women were considered to be property, a little above an animal.  They had no rights and were at the mercy of either their fathers or husbands.  They could not testify in court or be a witness to anything.  They had one purpose in life – to bear children, take care of the family and home, and please their husbands.  They were forbidden from studying scripture or participating in the worship services, which were restricted to men only.

Women and children were either restricted to the balcony or to one side of the room behind a veil.  They could see what was going on but that was it.  The men would have felt that only men could hear from God.  After all, when God founded the priesthood it was made up of men only, and women were excluded.  When God spoke through the prophets, again they were mostly men.  Almost all of the great heroes of the Old Testament were men.  Obviously, in their eyes, God made men superior, and women inferior, to submit and learn from them.  For Jesus to appear to the women and send them with a message for the men, would have been totally unheard of, and I am sure shocked the disciples.  As they discussed what they were hearing they might have said or thought, those poor women, so overcome with grief that they are having hallucinations and thinking they’ve seen Jesus, or something similar.  Can’t they remember how the religious leaders and the Romans killed Him and we buried Him on this past Friday?  Once dead always dead.  No one has ever come back from the dead, so it just can’t be that Jesus is alive and well, but He was.  All their doubt and unbelief couldn’t change the simple fact, Jesus was resurrected alive and walking around just as He had before the crucifixion.  They didn’t have to understand how it happened, but just needed to believe that it had happened, and that the despised women were, in fact, telling the truth, and had been used by Jesus to carry a message to them.

Today there are many voices in the land.  Some, just as the Pharisee’s and religious leaders claimed to hear God and were able to speak for Him, claim to know who is saved and who is going to hell, without exception.  They also believe they have the only correct understanding of the Bible, and what God requires of those who follow Him if they want to be or to stay saved.  However, there is another voice rising in the land which equally claims to be the prophetic voice of God for today.  Its message is one of inclusion, love for all, a cry for an end to violence and war to be replaced with peace.  It is a cry for biblical justice for all – i.e. to restore a person back to where they were before they fell, or to an even better place than before they fell.  It is a message of love, and praying for our enemies, and building bridges of understanding to them, and taking the love of Jesus to them.  When we can begin to understand one another we can learn to not fear anymore.  It is about brotherhood, and realizing that we are all children of God by creation.  It is also realizing we are all in this together, and we either sink or swim, depending on what we do.  We have only one planet as our home in which we all have to share and take care of, if we wish to survive.

However, for many there is one problem with the message I have just described – the messengers.  Many of those who are proclaiming this message are Liberals, women, LGBT people, immigrants, poor, homeless, old people – the marginalized of society that many churches, in their “divine” wisdom, have chosen not to hear, and to close the door of their churches.  They are convinced that God could never use or speak through people like these.  Yet I believe the Bible and history show otherwise.

Throughout history, when change has come, it has quite often come through people working outside the walls of the established churches of their day.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington and our founding fathers, and many others won freedoms and rights by working outside the traditional organized churches.  Churches have done a lot of good and thank God for that.  However, more often than not, they have been the cause of much pain, suffering and damage, as they have had their crusades and wars in the name of “God” and for His glory.

Equally the church has quite often found itself in opposition to change and in firm support of the status quo, and seeking to squash all opposition as being “heretical” which they need to stamp out, leading to many religious wars over who is right. 

The current prophetic opposes and stands against all that.  It stands with the practitioners of non-violence as taught and used by Gandhi to independence for India, and Dr. King to win civil and voting rights for his people.  It is doing or supporting what many of our youth are doing, which is marching and crying out to make their voices heard against school violence and shootings such as Parkland, Columbine, Sandy Hook and many others.  All they want is a safe place to study and learn without fear, and to make sure there will be no more school shootings, and no one else will have to endure and go through what they have suffered.  I believe it’s a shame they have to do it, as many adults won’t, placing their guns over the lives of innocent children, among other things.

Today God is speaking loudly and prophetically.  God has chosen what many might consider “undesirables”, “filth”, “the scourge of society”, “the ones who will bring down the judgment of God”, and is using and speaking through them today.  They are the bearers of good news, of change, and of a new day coming.  They are the ones who are the hands and feet of Jesus to a dying and lost world.  This they do not with words, fancy sermons or theological discussions, but by going out and acting as Jesus would.  They are out feeding the hungry, healing the sick, clothing the naked, seeking to make a better world for all until the day the visible kingdom of God becomes reality over planet earth, with Jesus at its head, ruling over all.

We have two choices.  One is a message of the Conservative right, which insists that climate change is a hoax, war is a glorious thing and God’s will in certain cases, and those of us who disagree are a threat to the “church” “Christianity” and their beliefs and way of life.  They believe that God is about to judge America because of gays, Liberals and a host of other issues. 

However I believe there is the prophetic voice of God which is flowing today and pointing us to a better way and day, which takes us back to the question I posed at the beginning “Whose Report Will You Believe?”

We can be of the doomsayers prophesying fear, the need to build walls, to separate ourselves from those we perceive to be different than us, and looking for God’s Judgment on America for her “alleged” sins.

OR

We can join the prophetic stream of God, resist those who say America’s best days are lost and we need to make America great again.  Instead we can declare that America is already great, and will become even greater than she is now.  We can take the message of the resurrection, that Jesus is alive, to all the world, in the love of Christ. 

The world is hungering for the “real deal” and through Jesus we can be the “real deal”, the world changers, the ones through whom Jesus can reach out to the hurting, the despised, the downtrodden and to all who believe no one cares about them or loves them.  We can show them Jesus.  We can get them on the path and get them started on their journey to God and heaven.  We can also be there to travel with them and help them so they, along with us, can complete the journey successfully and spend eternity in heaven and in the kingdom when it comes to earth.  So again I ask, “Whose report will we believe?”  The choice is ours.

As always the views expressed here are strictly my own.  I believe it is time for a new vision and call for our nation and world – a vision/dream that will ultimately lead to peace on earth and the establishment of the visible kingdom of God here on earth for eternity.  If you agree please join me in that dream and proclaim loud and clear until it becomes reality.  Comments or thoughts always welcomed.