TIGHTEN YOUR "SEAT-BELTS"
Let me begin with a Tarzan story! Well, this is as real as it is surreal. Johnny Weissmuller, the Champion Olympic swimmer who donned the role of Tarzan, the ape man in the silver screen with much aplomb in the 1930s & 40s as he dominated the Olympic swimming lanes in 1920s, had a close encounter of a 'different kind' with the Pro-Fidel Castro soldiers in late 1950s. When the Cuban uprising was reaching its peak, he and his golf mates (on a recreational tour to Cuba) on Havana's suburbs were surrounded by gun-toting Cuban revolutionaries, who, on mistaking them for Pro-regime supporters, were intent on kidnapping them. When all of Weissmuller's pleadings to convince them that he was the harmless movie Tarzan on a normal tour (with no political links) fell on deaf ears, as it were, he upped the decibel levels melodramatically! Simply put, the original Tarzan turned the clock a bit by coming up with a spectacular 'Tarzan act.' Thumping his chest in typical Tarzan style, he gave out a blood curdling yell " Kreegah Tarzan Bundalo," so much so that the now impressed (mightily, I should add) Pro-Castro men immediately curtsied with the words “Welcome Tarzan, welcome to Cuba” and escorted him and his friends to a safer area.
Let me cut this story short here; but, doesn't this bizarre story in a small way mirror the anguish of our own Lord in identifying Himself to His disciples post-resurrection? Mary of Magdalene failed to recognise Him at the first instance (Jn. 20:14-15), ditto it with His followers on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13), throw in the confused disciples and the other followers who mistook Him for a ghost on His sensational appearance (Lk. 24:37) and the picture of 'identity crisis' of a special kind would be complete. No wonder, there is a record of He rebuking them for unbelief (Mk. 16:14)! This Easter, continuing with the 'Identification theme,' I have split this message into four parts.
1. Resurrection Prophecies
When so many events relating to Jesus' life
a) His virgin birth (Isa.7:14),
b) triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zach.9:9),
c) betrayal by an acquaintance (Psa. 41:9/Zech. 11:12),
d) sufferings on the cross (Psa. 22:15),
had been prophesied, it follows that an event as paramount as Resurrection would also be foretold in the Scriptures. Well, it was in Psalm 16:10/49:15 in clear terms; its fulfilment should not have come as a surprise to His ardent followers; but it sadly did, so much so that the good Lord had to remind some of them of the same painstakingly (Lk. 24:27) on the Easter evening. Now as then, the significance of fulfilled prophecies is the same. If the promise-keeping God has faithfully fulfilled all His prophecies, time and again, it only goes to reinforce the fact that He is bound to bring to fruition the only other paramount, unfulfilled prophecy in the Scripture…that of His Son's Second Coming (Matt. 24:30-31). Oh, how true that prophecies are nothing but history, written in advance. Does the prospect of our Lord's Second Coming excite us? It should…if we are ready for it.
2. Messiah's Purpose
Post resurrection, not only were Jesus' disciples and His followers guilty of failing to identify their blessed resurrected Lord, they were also guilty of still not identifying their Master's purpose for coming into this world, which was to shine as a beacon light to the entire world and not only to the Jews (Lk. 2:32). Despite being with Him all these years and listening countless times to His sermons proclaiming Himself to be the Saviour of the whole world, His disciples were still trying to come to terms with Jesus' original purpose behind His Coming, so much so, we see them posing a witless question in Acts 1:6, "Lord, has the time come for You to free Israel and restore our kingdom?" How much it must have pained Him that they were yet to fully comprehend His agenda behind His Coming, which had nothing to do with anything political, but had everything to do with all things spiritual. More than occupying any earthly throne, Jesus had always been keen on occupying the thrones in the hearts of men. COME, LORD JESUS, TO REIGN IN OUR HEARTS!
3. Messiah's Cause
It is one thing to identify Messiah's cause and quite another to identify oneself with the same. Just as disciples to whom His cause was revealed were called to identify themselves with their Master's cause by being His witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:9), His followers, through the ages to whom His cause has been revealed, have also been called to don the same role. Witnessing for Jesus, stripped of all its fanciful strappings, is as simple as telling everyone what Jesus has done in one's life much in the same way a terminally ill cancer patient operated upon and healed by a Doctor would tell others of his/her Doctor's wondrous surgical skills. Then again, just as a patient who had a brush with death would do this passionately, starting with his family members and then relay these news all on his own in ever-widening circles, we too who have tasted His redemptive love and have been saved from far worse 'eternal death' are called to testify in a centrifugal manner about our 'experience' beginning with our family members, first. Note Jesus in the above-captioned Scripture portion in italics put Jerusalem first, signifying that His disciples were to start the work of relaying the Good news of Jesus' saving power right at the place of their stay and then proceed to other places… yes…, 'even to the ends of the world.' That we are reading this piece, most probably in a place faraway from Jerusalem, is proof enough of the fact that Jesus' disciples--their many weaknesses aside--did a commendable job, when it came identifying themselves with their Master's cause! How are we faring on this front?
4. Identifying The Times
The end-time prophecy recorded in Daniel 24:4, "But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase"(NLV) would always resonate in the minds of all discerning Bible students for it identifies the time we are living in as the end time, for at no other period in human history than in this cyber age have global business tours catalysed by technology revolution become more commonplace and knowledge grown more exponentially. Latest inventions are the order of the day so much so it is no longer News, when a new trendy gadget is invented; on the contrary, it is news only when a new discovery in the field of science is not made in a 24-hour span! Also, it would be foolhardy to ignore other 'signs' such as earthquakes, famines and wars (Lk. 21:10-11), which Jesus prophesied, would precede His Second Coming. Aren't newspapers littered with news of earthquakes ravaging several countries, famines stalking various parts of the world and wars being fought within and between nations?
As though to refute a rationalist who would attribute the afore-mentioned 'signs' to common occurrences of the past centuries too, the good Lord sent yet another irrefutable proof on 26th Dec. 2004 in perfect fulfilment of His prophecy in Luke 21:25b, "And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides"(TLB). If an earth-shaking event of the magnitude of a Tsunami (the very definition of a strange tide) that hit several coastal cities 3 years back, doesn't convince the world that His Second Coming is on the anvil, then nothing else will! Sadly, if we fail to identify the obvious, there would be no one to indemnify the colossal loss!
How about us? Have we identified the fact that we are closer to the zero hour than ever before and tightened our "seat belts" suitably for the ethereal "flight of rapture"? Long-awaited rapturous joy of the Church is in fact now poised, closer than ever before, to rendezvous with the reality. Are we ready to meet our Master? May we all rejoice in seeing His radiant countenance even while hearing His words of commendation: "Well done, my faithful servant!” Doesn't the identification of the fact that fruition of the blessed hope (Tit. 2:13) of the Church, is just round the corner, make this Easter a happier and a special one? Sure it does for me; hope it does for you too!