Football fans hit their peak the first Sunday of February; there are bowl games aplenty, but there’s only one Super Bowl (so the story goes). Attention is riveted to the field – or, the screens – for 60 minutes, plus time-outs and commercial breaks as the battle for victory consumes the weekend for millions.
Christian churches hit their highest crescendo yesterday with the celebration of the Resurrection. The earthshaking (literal and figurative) impact of the Resurrection informs the weekly worship of Christians, but the once-a-year commemoration still brings out the crowd. Super Bowl and Easter are anomalies; the folks who show up regularly – between Christmas ~> Easter ~> Christmas – are more likely tuned in on the Big Picture. Are they?
Here’s the 400-word compression of the New Testament storyline. In case someone would like to know what they missed at church, you can fill them in. The Christian Era, in three bullets:
Great Confusion: we know it as “Palm Sunday.” For three years, Jesus – the carpenter’s son from Nazareth – had been gathering momentum from his miracles and messages. The national longing for the promised Messiah had the attention of the Passover crowd gathering in/around Jerusalem on Jesus. Their history was marked by stories of heroes defeating overwhelming forces and benefiting their Jewish forebears. Their belief: Messiah would fulfill all prophecy and restore their dignity through conquering their occupiers. That’s the Confusion: Jews don’t believe in Jesus…
Great Commission: that week, Jesus finished the beginning of God’s New Covenant plan with his Resurrection. Within the next 40 days he would follow that with the Great Commission – extended to his hand-picked next-gen leaders – that would become the underlying emphasis of all done in his name for the time that would stretch from his last appearance to his next appearance. This work (he didn’t call it the “Great Commission,” but he never coined the terms “Christmas” or “Easter,” either) would become the marching orders for the faithful until he would return. (Note: most of the people at church yesterday don’t know about the Great Commission.)
Great Conclusion: the Great Confusion was birthed by the deep desire to see all things made right and new: for God to recreate Paradise on Earth as he had promised he would. Their confusion was over timing; they lacked insight about the plan of redemption and the patience of God. The last page of the story – in Revelation 22 – paints the final scene: “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (v. 12-13).
Without the Great Commission – and, the insight about the return and rewards that accompany the Great Conclusion – the religious festivities of the last week are at risk of being modern-day reenactments of the Great Confusion. The pursuit of power can even compromise the command of the King to his followers – the Great Commission – to disciple, not to defeat.
He didn’t come the first time to establish his Kingdom; he’ll be back to do that at the Great Conclusion. His followers (that’s our role in his story) aren’t here for conquest; we’re here for conversion. His Kingdom is – still – not of this world… yet.
Yesterday was great… but the Great Conclusion will be the epic spectacular finale, to which you’ve already been invited!