As we journey along into another wonderful Easter season with trees budding and flowers popping up to meet the beautiful weather that lies ahead… “I’m believing that by faith!” The climate of our culture however is another thing all together. In fact, as I survey the landscape politically, socially, and spiritually I’m reminded of the day in which Jesus walked on this earth in sandals and a tunic. There was political unrest along with the less-that-moral influence of Rome, and a full menu of spiritual paths to choose from. False teachers, messiah’s, and a religious hierarchy that was more interested in appearing godly than actually knowing God were prevalent. Today it appears that there are many to whom Easter means nothing more that a few colored eggs and long eared stuffed animals in pretty pastels. Tragically, they miss the life changing message of Easter!
In Israel last week I was incredibly blessed to celebrate the Feast of Purim which brings to remembrance an amazing story from the Old Testament book of Esther. The account of Esther begins in 483 B.C. some 37 years before Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls. During a celebration the Persian King Xerxes commanded his queen to remove her veil so that he might boast of her great beauty and show all of the people present… she refused to do it. The King was embarrassed and sent her away at the advice of his counselors. At this point Esther comes on the scene along with her cousin Mordecai who raised her from birth because of the death of her parents. The King, at the advice of his advisors, formed a Harem of beautiful young women as potential replacements. Mordecai instructs his cousin to keep her Jewish ancestry a secret; no doubt to avoid possible anti-Semitic treatment.
The King meets Esther after a year’s worth of beauty preparation and says that she found great favor with the King. She was more beautiful than all of the other girls in the harem and he made her his Queen. Now the plot thickens: it turns out that there is a plot to assassinate the King and Mordecai discovers the plot, tells Esther, who tells the king and the conspirators are hanged at the order of the King. Enter stage left… Haman. He is a man of great power and influence in the King’s court, second only the king in all of the land. Whenever anyone saw Haman they were to, “Bow down and pay honor” to him. When Haman realizes that Esther’s cousin, Mordecai will not pay homage to him because of his Jewish faith, he develops a plan. He goes to the King and tricks him into giving him permission to eradicate the Jews. The king agrees, not knowing that his new queen is a Jew or that the people whom Haman seeks to destroy are the Israelites.
Late one night the king, troubled in his sleep awakes and has the men of his court read the annals of his victories and glories. They recount the story of Mordecai destroying the plot on the king’s life. The king realizes that he had never properly honored Mordecai. Later the unwitting Haman, comes into the court as the King asks him what should be done for a man who has brought honor to the king. Haman’s pride speaks for him and he tells the king that man should be paraded in the king’s robe through town. The King then tells him to do this for Mordecai who saved his life and Haman does as he is told. Mordecia in the meantime, knowing the demise of the Jews was at hand and the Esther was the only one that could intercede for them gave her, and us these timeless words… “and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Haman heads back to the palace only to be present as Esther begs the king to save her life and the life of her people. The king asks what she’s talking about. When she shares Haman’s plot the king becomes so angry that he orders Haman hanged on the very gallows that Haman had ordered built for the destruction of Mordecai. The Feast of Purim, is the celebration of the dramatic upheaval of the plans of one particular man to destroy the people of Israel. It’s the celebration of God’s protection and promise to deliver His covenant people.
The similarities to the message of the Empty Tomb is incredible! First, God was at work! Long before Jesus went to the cross, God had a plan to redeem his creation. Secondly, Satan was at work trying to destroy God’s plan and God’s people. He’s still at it! Lastly, an incredible difference was made because of a decision. Because of Jesus’ willingness to say yes to His father’s plan of redemption! Paul summed it all up this way… “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” Now that’s a reason to Celebrate!
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.ReachReach