On 04 April 2021, Apostle Peter Lambert conducted the central AVT Easter Sunday divine service at Silvertown congregation. The divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language (SASL) at the altar by Beryl Botha.
He was accompanied by Shepherd C Esau, a small music ensemble and the NACTV crew. This divine service was made available on NACTV, Cape Town TV on DSTV channel 263, as well as Radio KC, Radio Teemaneng and SABIE stereo. For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: Blessing and honour (EH:507)
Bible word: 'But now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.’ (1 Corinthians 15:20)
My dear brothers and sisters, I welcome you this morning to God's house. What a wonderful day to be in God's house. It's always wonderful but special on a day like today. And because it's a festive day, we have a Bible reading:
Bible reading: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; 20-28
My dear brothers and sisters, already, we can feel everything that we've experienced now since the divine service has started. The prayer, our communication with God, our reflection on what this day means, what we heard from Scripture, it underlines this beautifully. We can call it the statement of joy that the Apostle Paul expresses when he says, ‘But now Christ is risen from the dead’. And for us, it's important to note that it says, ‘But now Christ is risen from the dead’ because, yes, Easter is this wonderful day on our calendar, but it's been on the calendar before. In fact, it's been on the calendar every year. And one could easily come because it's that kind of celebration. It's the celebration of what happened once in the past. It’s the celebration of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. It's a celebration perhaps of this wonderful history, but we do not celebrate history today. We do not just celebrate a story today, we celebrate the fact that for us, Christ lives. Jesus is risen for us today, and that is why our souls can listen to this word printed on paper, spoken by somebody with a human voice. And yet, it speaks to the very reason why we can live in Christ because Christ lives and gave His life for us.
On that morning, one could say it was a day like every other day. It was dark, and there was no one around. The Bible says Mary Magdalene went to go and anoint the body of Jesus. And the Apostles, they were not there, it started like every other day. And yet, when they realized what had happened on that day, it changed their entire perspective. It changed the way they saw everything because we must understand that they had just come through, I can use the word, trauma. They had just come through a traumatic event, losing this One who was in their midst, who was the anchor, the centre, the pillar of their fellowship. And who had become the centre of their life, even then, in that period already. And to see Him just humiliated, to see Him lose His life when He could raise others from the dead, when He could help others who were sick, when He could perform miracle after miracle and just having witnessed this - it was a blow that one could not express in words.
And now Jesus rose from the dead, and now they realized, among others, that good had triumphed over evil. Brothers and sisters, don't we often get the feeling, when we look at how the world is today, it's exactly the same. Don’t we often feel that there's just the sense that evil always seems to get the upper hand. Evil even seems to get the most news coverage, much more than the good that is done. And for the disciples to have witnessed the death of Jesus, where it was clear that the people that wanted to take Jesus' life. The people that wanted to crucify Him, they were experiencing what they thought on Good Friday was a wonderful victory. They must have felt very good that their plans had worked out, that they seemingly had stopped the plan of God. And now the disciples realized, but the evil victory was actually just a hollow victory. That's why the question could be asked ‘death where is your sting? Grave where is your victory?’ Because it turned out to be a hollow victory. And dear brothers and sisters, once that happened, the world did not change around the disciples. It did not become suddenly a wonderful, pure, righteous and holy world. The same evil world that existed before Jesus died, that same evil world still surrounded them after the resurrection. But everything changed inside of them. They could now go into this evil world; they could negotiate the powers and the forces that were opposing them. They could go into that world, with faith, with courage, with joy. In fact, they even had to go into the reality of having to sacrifice their own life for their faith, as we know many of our brothers and sisters in the early church, they died for their faith. They had to face this reality, but the resurrection changed their perspective. The resurrection told them Jesus lives, and that yes, you may get your victory, you may be able to do to my body what you want to do, but it's a hollow victory. Like the enemies of Jesus could not see what was going to happen beyond the cross, so it is that today, the powers of evil, they hear what we are taught. But, dear brothers and sisters, like us, no eye has seen, no ear has heard what is in store for us. And the Lord wants to say to us today as we go into the world that we must live in today, remember what waits beyond the resurrection. We have to face the difficulties, but the resurrection of Jesus tells us that evil will not be able to keep its victory.
They also realized that nothing could stop the almighty God, nobody, nothing will stop the plan of God. What was God's plan? Yes, that Jesus had to die, but that was not the end of the plan. God's plan was, He would resurrect His Son and His Son would ascend and take His seat at the right hand of the Father in glory. That was the plan, and nobody could stop that. No injustice, no abuse of power, and there was plenty of that. No violence, and there was plenty of that, that Jesus had to experience. And dear brothers and sisters, the same applies to us today, that all the violence, all the unrighteousness, all the injustice, all the abuse of power, all the moral decay, whatever it is that seems to be overwhelming, nothing will stop the plan of God. God has a plan to resurrect us. And He has a plan to take us into eternal fellowship in His kingdom, and nobody's going to stop that plan. That is the assurance that comes out of this wonderful resurrection of Jesus.
On the way to the resurrection, the Lord wants to say to us, practise to love that resurrection life, because if the victory of evil is a hollow victory, brothers and sisters, are we not often faced in our life with the opportunity, and in fact, the temptation, to indulge in hollow victories? Isn’t that so? Often, when we have to deal with confrontation, provocation, we are in a relationship where there's conflict, we're in a situation where somebody has injured us, we're in a situation where someone attacks us, where we have the power to take revenge, we have the power to retaliate, we have the power to let the worst of what is inside of us come out of us. Don’t we all have that? We are human, we become angry, we are hurt, we lash out, we don't take things lying down, that's in our nature. And dear brothers and sisters,
the Holy Spirit says to us, remember what the resurrection life chooses. The resurrection life chooses the way of Christ. The resurrection life chooses the way which feels like loss, which appears to be that you're the one coming off second best. Isn't that what Jesus experienced? Didn't He look as if He was the one that was losing? He was the biggest loser to everybody, even to the believers who looked at the physical picture of Jesus on the cross. He must have looked like that was defeat. That was the picture of defeat. When we face those opportunities in our life where we have to decide how do I react, how do I respond, let us remember evil has a hollow victory. It has a victory, but it's empty because when it stands before the righteousness of God, when it stands before the power of God, then we see how empty it is. And may we always choose the way of the resurrection life, because that is the life that we will be able to live, and the only life that we will be able to live in the kingdom.
The disciples also had a living hope because Jesus said certain things. Before He died, He said to Martha, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die’. What a statement. He said this just before He raised Lazarus from the dead, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’. But dear brothers and sisters, when Jesus said those words, He Himself had not yet died, He Himself had not yet arisen. Great words, powerful words, but after the resurrection, the disciples could see that Jesus is the resurrection. Jesus is the life. And so, brothers and sisters, Jesus also said something else. He said, ‘I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.’ And those words He also said before He died on the cross. And so, what is our perspective of those words? Today, the fact that Jesus rose, and that Christ is risen from the dead, it tells all of us, that He will return. Jesus keeps His promises, He has the power to keep His promises. And brothers and sisters let us keep that promise of Jesus, ‘I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.’ May it never be just a beautiful verse, may it never be just a symbolic statement of Jesus. We have a living hope that He will fulfil.
The moment Jesus resurrected, then the Jewish authorities at the time, immediately took action to make sure that this story remained just a rumour, and that they counter this rumour that no Jesus did not rise from the dead because they knew that if it's true, then it means everything this Man was teaching is true, everything this Man was standing for, is actually correct. This Man, Jesus, said to them that salvation is only through Christ, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’. Not through the Mosaic law, they were the purveyors and the custodians, and the teachers of the law. They had authority. They had status, they had control, they had power, they had influence, because they knew the law, they taught the law. Unfortunately, what they lived was not what they taught. And Jesus also put His finger on that - the double standards behind the teaching. Jesus put His finger on the self-elevation, the self-importance and He says, but if you want to serve, you serve in humanity. You don't serve from the top down; you serve in humility.
Jesus also would not buy into the prejudice of the time. Sometimes even His own disciples would ask why are You associating with this one? Why are you associating with that one? Women had nothing to say. Women were looked down upon, they were disempowered, disadvantaged. And Jesus would have women among those who financially supported Him. And in fact, when He rose from the dead, the first person He spoke to was a woman, the first one He said to go and tell the others that He must ascend to His Father.
Dear brothers and sisters, and if this was true that this Man actually rose from the dead, then it also means that He is exposing our prejudice. He is exposing the inequality in our society that stems from the evil of sin, from the evil of separation from God. And so, brothers and sisters, again a reminder to us who believes in the gospel, will not only believe in the resurrection of Jesus. We believe in what He stands for. We believe in what He teaches. So, He is the way to eternal life, for us, but because we believe in what He teaches us. We serve one another in humility, we buy into that, that I cannot serve with arrogance, I cannot serve with double standards. I serve as Jesus did who set the standard of serving. He set that standard of serving. And if Jesus says prejudice is evil, that you don't regard yourself as superior because you belong to a certain race, or to a certain gender, or to a certain class, or to a certain nation, to a certain portion of society. If Jesus stood for that, then brothers and sisters, we stand for that. We stand for what Jesus stood for. We stand for what Jesus stands for. That is following Christ.
And also, today, like in that time, it was not in their interest to have the resurrection of Jesus to be proven correct and true. So it is that the power of evil stands in opposition to the work of God, the power of evil that stands in opposition to the work of salvation. It's not in their interest that we should believe in the resurrection. It's not in their interest that we as Christians, children of God should believe that Jesus was not just a Man. And so today, the authorities of our time, and now I'm referring, spiritually speaking, I'm not speaking of a government, a human institution but the authorities that govern the thinking of humankind, the authorities that govern the intellectual discourse, the authorities that govern intellectual inquiry. They say but can it be that Jesus rose from the dead. Can it be? It's impossible. But that has implications because if that's not possible, then it's not possible that He's going to return and take His bride from the earth, that people will be transformed and go into the sky, and then go into the kingdom of God, then that's not possible either. But we must ask the question, if I struggle to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then do I believe that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit? Do I believe that He came from heaven, from His Father in the first place? And so, dear brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit says to us, the authority that tells us about God is the Holy Spirit. There are many authorities in this world, and in this time, again, if I can refer to the pandemic, we see the most wonderful work that comes out of human intellectual and scientific endeavour, beautiful work, wonderful work. We would not be able to survive without the result of the research and the work and the efforts of the medical fraternity, the scientific community. It is indispensable for our living here, dear brothers and sisters, they are authorities in their field. When it comes to my soul salvation, I must know which authority I hand over my future to, in which authority do I place my eternal future? In whose hands do I place the future of my soul? Dear brothers and sisters, then I must go to the right authority. Each authority is the right authority for their field. But when it comes to salvation, the authority is the Holy Spirit. No other authority. Only the Holy Spirit tells us about the future, and the Holy Spirit says to us today, Christ is risen, Christ is alive. And if the Holy Spirit says so, then our souls know, this is the Lord speaking. When the Holy Spirit says the Lord comes soon, we know in our souls, the Lord is coming soon, because the Holy Spirit is God.
So, dear brothers and sisters, that is the wonder, the beauty, it is our living hope. We know that we choose not the hollow victory, we choose the way of the resurrection life. And we know that the authority that tells us the truth, the authority who speaks the truth that we accept, is the Holy Spirit who says, Christ is risen, and Christ will return. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Peter Lambert