Editorial Note: The author of this feature is a biology professor, ordained and licensed minister, and international evangelist; relationships, marriage, and family counselor.
Dr. Samuel Kisseadoo in this article ponders over the events of Easter, trying to dig out and understand some of these "hidden messages" (as I call them), and decided to share 5 of the thoughts that he discovered.
1) THE EMPTY TOMB (St. John 20:1-2; Luke 24:1-3)
We have usually associated the word "empty" with negative implications such as "nothingness", "poverty", "failure", "disappointment", "lack of provision and resources", "useless" etc. A common example is our constant reference to people making "empty promises".
But emptiness can signify tremendous success and very positive outcomes. An empty prison means freedom for prisoners; empty nest (which might have even fallen to the ground) could mean that the birds have grown and flown out of the nest to become productive adults; an empty classroom means the students have either graduated or gone out to engage in useful activity or gone home after good teaching sessions; an empty hospital bed could mean the sick person has been healed and discharged; you might feel more of the solemnity and Presence of God in an empty church building as you pray and meditate more than when it was full of people.
On top of it all, the empty tomb of Jesus (really the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea that was borrowed) signified a tomb actually "filled' with power, hope, and freedom from death, for Jesus and the entire human race (for all who accept and obey Him).
The caution here is to be careful how you try to think that anything that appears empty must be filled with something by all means, so you hurriedly fill every space you find empty with your own substitutes, in order to "see and feel full of something". People have done so (especially by competition and comparison or envy and greed) and rushed or forced to "fill" empty rooms of their lives with rushed and half-baked ministry; rushed or ungodly dating, courtship and marriages; dubious ways to obtain wealth and property; wrong friendships; inappropriate positions of authority and leadership; overambitious projects and programs; unorthodox or illegal means of obtaining promotion or documentation; misuse of resources and opportunities; unethical or ungodly ministerial methods and gimmicks; unholy pursuits of pleasure and sinful lifestyles etc.
Allow the resurrection power of the Savior to fill "your empty tomb" and replace all that is dead in that tomb of your life with God's glory.
God was able to do (and still does) what is impossible for us to accomplish (Mark 10:27; Luke 1: 37). Don't quit praying, obeying, and believing. Quitters don't win; winners don't quit.
Even when you make mistakes along the way, the Blood of Jesus was shed to completely take care of your past, present, and future sins and all mistakes. Truly repent, make 180 degree turn, strive to do what is right by depending totally on God's power, pick up the pieces, and move ahead in life by faith in God's unfailing promises.
NEVER CLOSE THE CHAPTERS OF YOUR HISTORY BOOK WHEN GOD HAS NOT FINISHED WRITING YOUR STORY!
Keep pushing and knocking hard. Stretch your faith all the way to the end. Ask, seek, knock hard and it will be opened. (Mathew 7:7).
At the tomb of Lazarus (before Jesus raised him from the dead), Jesus told his sister Martha: "Didn't I (Author of life) tell you that IF YOU BELIEVE you will see the glory of God?" (St. John 11:40).
The resurrected body of Jesus moved out freely to operate, bear fruit, shine with God's glory, and demonstrated the power of God. Let us learn to walk in freedom in all of our relationships, work, education, ministry, and all of our activities, and let us allow people to live in freedom as well.
Do not also carelessly or ignorantly bring back what God had emptied out of your life. Replace the void with God's Spirit, His word, prayer, good testimony, and fruitful service.
2) UNNECESSARY WORRY
My first Pastor in New York City some years ago in 1985-87 (the famous Bible teacher Dr. Donald Hubbard of Calvary Baptist Church at 57th Street of Manhattan) often said to the congregation: Be concerned, but don't worry.
The women who came to the tomb of Jesus early that Sunday morning were worried as to who would roll the stone away at the entrance of the tomb for them to go in and embalm the body of Jesus. "They said among themselves, 'WHO will roll the stone from the door of the tomb for us? But WHEN THEY LOOKED UP, THEY SAW that the stone had been rolled away --- for it was very large" (Mark 16:3, 4)" (Mark 16:3, 4).
If only we learn to constantly "Look Up (to God)" (rather than always looking around to rely on human strength and sympathy of men instead of God's guidance, comfort, provision, and grace), then we will always see that God takes care of every need in advance before we even set out to do His will.
Some of us are chronic 'worriers' who worry so much that even when God gives us peace, we begin to feel uneasy about our freedom and then start to worry as to why we are not worrying!
3) SACRIFICING MONEY AND RESOURCES FOR THE LORD'S KINGDOM
I don't know why for several years I read the word "bought" as "brought" in the Bible for Joseph and the women who came to the tomb of Jesus. "Joseph of Arimathea BOUGHT fine linen to wrap the body of Jesus" (Mark 15:46), and "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome BOUGHT spices, that might come and anoint Jesus" (Mark 16:1). Easter teaches us to sacrifice joyfully, and use our resources to promote things pertaining to the Lord's business, and not give Him leftovers that will cost us nothing.
4) RESPONSES TO THE WORKS OF GOD
In St. John 20:1-18, Mary Magdalene initially saw the stone rolled away from the tomb but reacted by telling people around (usual behavior of the majority us). Those that she told (Simon Peter and the other Disciple) ran to the tomb, but the other Disciple who outran Peter merely "stooped and looked" without going into the tomb.
Peter who came after him "went into the tomb" and saw more of the miracle (the wrappings actually folded and lying there like a cocoon indicating that Jesus came out Himself without anyone unwrapping the linen around his body).
Despite all the years of experience with Jesus they still "did not know the scriptures that He must rise from the dead" (vs. 9).
Let us take time to go as far God allows us to go, and see all that He wants (and expects) us to see, in order to give the best response to what he is doing in our lives today, in the midst of all the family, ministerial, political, social, economic, local and global events of our time. The best and the worst will continue to occur side by side, and the important lessons, manifestation of God's power and glory, and the final victory depends on YOUR INSIGHT AND APPROPRIATE RESPONSES.
5) THE LOVE AND ROLE OF WOMEN
A) God appeared to a woman (Mary) before His coming into the world to redeem us (Luke 1:26-38) whose positive response to God's word initiated our Salvation. "Then Mary said, 'behold I am the maidservant of the Lord! (With excitement) Let it be to me according to Your word." Elizabeth commended and affirmed Mary to let her know that she started being blessed when she began to believe what God had said to her: "Blessed is she (Mary) who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45).
B) Women ministered to Jesus and "provided for Him from their substance (out of their means)" (Luke 8:1-3). c) Women "mourned and lamented Him (Jesus)" out of love and compassion on His way to the Cross (Luke 23:27).
C) "By the Cross of Jesus stood His mother" (St. John 19:25).
D) Mary Magdalene "stood outside (alone) by the tomb of Jesus weeping (refusing to go away like the men did -- Peter and the other Disciple), and as she wept she stooped down (persisted with the love for her Lord burning in her heart) and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white....who said to her .....she turned and saw Jesus standing there ..... Jesus said to her ..." (St. John 20: 11-18). Mary Magdalene had the most tremendous experience that none of the disciples, men around her or any other human being would ever have, because of her deep love for the Lord that "would not let her go."
As a matter of fact, "Go and tell" (preach the good news of the resurrection power of God) was first given to women who first saw Jesus after He rose from the dead (Mathew 28:7, 10).
We must recognize the unique and important roles of women, who have been graciously given to men by God to bring forth more human beings into the world for God's worship and Kingdom expansion. We must do the best we can to enable women to fulfill their God-designed roles in society and for the church of Jesus Christ.
Each woman must also recognize her own unique role and importance in society, and become inspired to abide in humility, obedience, holiness, purity, and effective service. They should seek God more intensely, and MARRY PROPERLY (pure courtship that is free of immorality in all shapes and forms; one man married to one woman, and blessed properly by a Minister of the Gospel).
Women must delight in having children and join their husbands to train them; cooperate with men and submit to their leadership for them to be true leaders and providers for the family, and tap into all the resources at their disposal from the Lord that will enable them to give the required help and support for men in the society (especially their husbands) and their families, as God created and endowed them to do.
The men must create the best environment for the women to be free and grow to be spiritually and socially mature, help the women to develop their talents and gifts, lead them in Bible studies and fervent prayers, make time to share their minds and hearts with the women in their lives, and bond very well with their wives. Men must strive to be fully committed to the women, love then deeply and genuinely, deal with them honestly, handle them with patience and gentleness, desist from trapping them to engage in immorality or other sinful activities, share resources equally with them, and stop cheating and abusing women and children.
If the Lord tarries and we are still here by Easter of 2012, we pray and hope that all of us will have testimonies to share about God's faithfulness, and his abundant grace upon us that has borne abundant fruit.
Remember, God actually produces the fruit; you only bear (carry) the fruit (St. John 15:1-8, 16). You can produce only what the Spirit of God has produced in you for you to manifest.
That is why the 5 loaves of bread did not multiply in the hands of the Disciples to feed the 5 thousand people (Mark 6:35-44). The disciples only distributed what has been multiplied in the Hands of Jesus.
Nothing multiplies in your hands.
Make every effort to yield everything to the Lord in humility, obedience, and faith, and let God break you more to be shared as a blessing to a hungry world.
It takes a broken man to break men.
Remain blessed as always, develop a sharp focus, and build a life of integrity into your system.