As we continue through the Easter season, a week of Sundays, we have been journeying together through the resurrection of Jesus in the Story of God. Luke tells us a story of surprises, remembrance, and the Table that changes the world.
Jesus could have revealed His resurrection to whomever He chose. The fact that the first witnesses of the resurrection were women tells us something powerful about the Story of God and the Gospel. The culture of the time did not validate the testimony of women in court — and yet God gives them this Story to steward (and, as rings all too familiar today, the male disciples refused to believe them at first). From the outset, Jesus affirms the dignity and worth of all people, He raises up the oppressed, and reveals the upside-down power structure of the Kingdom of God. It was a tremendous act of “faith” on Jesus’ part: He believes in these women and their ability to carry out His mission.
As we consider what it means to be witnesses of the resurrection in our broken world, we’re called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as people who listen, believe, and stand alongside those who suffer. Instead of immediately trying to explain things away or “wait to hear both sides,” how powerful would our witness be if we offered gifts of trust, friendship, and a willingness to stand by the side of those who are oppressed?
Luke’s story of the resurrection is filled with surprises (plus the humor of the reader knowing Jesus is walking with the disciples along the path to Emmaus, but the disciples not realizing it at first). Some surprises change our lives forever. In fact, the surprise revealed at the table — as Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to these disciples — would change the course of these disciples’ lives (and the world).
The story of Gustavo Alvarez is powerfully told in the episode titled “Prison Ramen Saved My Life” on the Sporkful podcast. In prison, two tables changed the course of his life.
The first table is described this way:
When Gustavo Alvarez was 18, he was sent to prison for the first time. When he arrived, a group of guys from Gustavo’s old LA neighborhood took him to a common area and sat him down at a table.
“My heart was pounding through my chest,” he recalls. “I was just a kid and these guys were grown men — killers.”
They offered Gustavo (above left, in 2009) a plate of cheesy tacos — made by another prisoner. They wanted to get to know him — to figure out if they could trust him or not. And that shared meal was the way they did it.
How much more does the Table of Jesus offer hope and healing, as well as clear insight into who we are and what we’re called to do?
This week, consider the following questions:
This encounter with Jesus on the Emmaus road not only turned these disciples’ lives upside-down, but it sets their hearts on fire with passion for God.
As described in the book Amazing Faith: The Authorized Biography of Bill Bright, Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Bill Bright’s life was changed when he committed to becoming part of the Fellowship of the Burning Heart.
Becky Tirabassi writes about this Fellowship:
(This developed) during a weekend teacher training conference led by Henrietta Mears, Sunday school teacher and mentor to hundreds of students at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood.
One night during the retreat, Mears delivered a powerful message on being fully committed and “expendable” for Christ. Later in the evening, Bill felt compelled to go to Henrietta’s study room to talk and pray. Two other men, Richard C. Halverson and Louis H. Evans, Jr. felt similarly compelled, each on his own accord.
Without a plan or agenda, the informally assembled group of four was driven to their knees in prayer. They were overcome by God’s presence calling them to reach the world, especially college students, with the love of God.
Anointed through a vibrant encounter with the Holy Spirit, their prayer time produced untamed enthusiasm for the gospel and a plan for reaching students for Christ. Before they went their separate ways that night, they initiated the Fellowship of the Burning Heart. And they recorded on paper the lifetime commitments they made for the purpose of giving themselves entirely over to the God they loved.
The significance of the signed contract represented a powerful turning point in each of their lives, yet oddly, it has received little public attention beyond the pages of Bright’s biography.
The written contract read:
I am committed to the principle that Christian discipleship is sustained solely by God alone through His Spirit; that the abiding life of John 15 is His way of sustaining me. Therefore, I pledge myself to a disciplined devotional life in which I promise through prayer, Bible study, and devotional reading to give God not less that one continuous hour per day (Psalm 1).
I am committed to the principle that Christian Discipleship begins with Christian character. Therefore, I pledge myself to holy living that by a life of self-denial and self-discipline, I may emulate those Christ-like qualities of chastity and virtue which will magnify the Lord (Phil. 1:20-21).
I am committed to the principle that Discipleship exercises itself principally in the winning for the lost to Christ. Therefore, I pledge myself to seek every possible opportunity to witness, and to witness at every possible opportunity, to the end that I may be responsible for bringing at least one to Christ every 12 months (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8).
I am committed to the principle that Christian Discipleship demands nothing less than absolute consecration to Christ. Therefore, I present my body a living sacrifice, utterly abandoned to God. By this commitment, I will that God’s perfect will shall find complete expression in my life; and I offer myself in all sobriety to be expendable for Christ (Rom. 12:1-2; Phil 3:7-14)…
Consider how God was able to use the expendable lives of those who put their commitment to Him in writing that night:
Bill Bright went on to found Campus Crusade for Christ, which is estimated to have led well over fifty million people to Christ around the world.
Richard C. Halverson wrote twenty-six books and eventually became the chaplain of the United States Senate.
Louis H. Evans, Jr. authored a number of books and pastored churches around the country, including Bel Air Presbyterian Church and National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C.
Henrietta Mears was the director of Christian education at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood for thirty-five years, founder of Gospel Light Publishers and Forest Home Conference Center, and co-founder of Gospel Literature International.
While these were certainly extraordinary people, Scripture tells us that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in us as well (Ephesians 1:19-20). Amazing Faith described their lives in this way: “In the Fellowship of the Burning Heart they recognized their calling to a life of expendability — saying no to self and yes to Christ, wherever that might lead.” What can God do with our open-ended “yes” to Jesus?
Bonus! If you’re amazed or surprised by such things, enjoy these GIFs of skateboarding innovator Daewon Song: