This month we are looking into the theme of Good Vs evil. And this month is probably the most appropriate month to look at the theme in India. These couple of months are the months of Puja around us, The Dusserah, the Duga Puaja and then the Diwali. If you have looked into the causes of these festivals, you will realise that all of them originate from the Good Vs Evil concept. The victory of Good Vs Evil. So the concept of Good Vs Evil itself is not new nor is it specific to us Christians. I guess ever since the fall, the concept of Good Vs Evil has attracted attention, and the fallen world continues to look for ways to keep this topic alive.
So what makes this topic special to us? How are we different, how can we celebrate our victory over evil in a different manner?
Let us look at the reading for today. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (NKJV) “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
The victory of Good over evil that we celebrate is brought about by no ordinary act. It is not just through the physical slaying and defeat of one evil being. It is not by any ordinary sacrifice. The victory of good over evil that we are called to celebrate is brought about by the death and the resurrection of God’s own son Jesus Christ. If through Adam, death came to mankind, through Jesus Christ came the resurrection. So our victory comes with an eternal hope. Hope and assurance of an eternal life with Jesus. The reading says “all shall be made alive” . That is the glorious promise of the victory that Jesus won on the cross and the empty tomb.
However, I am sure some of us might have asked, and it is a genuine question, if we have won the battle, why do we still have pain and suffering? Why do we have unbelief? Why do we have rape and murder and riots and accidents and illnesses and natural calamities etc etc?
Here is where our reading from today comes to our rescue. True, God has given us victory already. 1Corinthians 15:57-58 (NKJV) says “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” And the beauty is that there is more to come. Much more to come. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 (NKJV) says “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” He will put an end to all authority and power the word says. He will put all enemies under his feet, says the word, death has been defeated on the cross, and this verse here says it will be destroyed finally. So, that is the hope that we have in Christ. So, while we shake our heads at the things happening in the world today, while we mourn sickness and suffering and death in this current world, we are called to stand firm in this promise that all evil will come to an end and the whole creation will be delivered to God the Father.
Now, let us remember that this victory is given to us through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). Hence it is important to examine how Jesus brings the victory. He does not bring victory by the worldly standards. He has his own methods of bringing in the victory
Firstly, he does not act like the non-playing captains, he does not use the corporate jargon of delegation. He is not a leader who stands behind and drives people to victory through pep talk. He is right in the midst of action. He becomes victorious by being the firstfruits (1 Cor 15:20) . He becomes the offering himself, he becomes the sacrifice himself, and that is how he becomes victorious. This was no accident. He knew that we are a fallen generation. He knew that we were sinners, and He very well know that the only way to cleanse us is through he himself becoming the offering. For Romans 11:16 (NKJV) tells us “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” He became the “holy” firstfruit, so that we, the “lump” might become holy too. He became to root, so that we the branches might become holy too.
Today is being celebrated as Thanksgiving. You saw the video that was presented. I am happy that the video was showed. Many children do not understand the meaning of Thanksgiving. One teacher asked a student “ Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?” and the student promptly replied, “ So that we can start Christmas shopping”. The modern festival of Thanksgiving originated in the US, from the custom started by the pilgrims of the ship Mayflower. The pilgrims of Mayflower celebrated Thanksgiving once they reached the land where they would be free of oppression. Of course, they were just following the guidelines given in the Bible for Thanksgiving. In the Bible Thanksgiving is celebrated by offering the firstfruits of everything, from their harvest (Exodus 23:19), from their meal, wine , oil dough etc (Numbers 15:21), and their animals (Deut 18:4). So you see here, that Jesus became the firstfruits for all of us. How about us? This Thanksgiving day, are we willing to be an offering for some one? Are we willing to be the firstfruits offered to God?
Secondly, Jesus becomes victorious by giving up what has been given to him. 1 Corinthians 15:24 (NKJV) tells us “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” This has two aspects . He will complete the victory by delivering the Kingdom to the Father. He gives up what he has been given. Matthew 28:18 (NKJV) And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth”. This is what He will gladly give up when he delivers the Kingdom to the Father. How about us? Do we give up or hold on to get victory?
Thirdly he brings in victory by ending the rule using “power and authority”, by putting an end to all power and authority. So when he ends all power and authority, what does he institute? This means that He institutes the rule of servanthood. This is exactly what he told his disciples in Matthew 20:25-28 (NKJV) “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” How about us? Are we willing to serve some one today, to be victorious? Or do we believe that serving is below our dignity and position and status?
So let us celebrate the victory. Let us celebrate the victory of Good over evil. Let us celebrate the victory that can come only through Jesus. Le us give thanks to the Lord for having given us His son Jesus Christ, through whom we can have the victory.
This Thanksgiving Sunday, while we give our thanks to the Lord, by offering the firstfruits, let us remember this. God expects us to be the offerings. Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1 (NKJV) “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Paul Praises the Christians in Macedonia because “they first gave themselves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5 (NKJV)). God is not pleased with the offerings we bring, unless we are part of it. David admits in Psalm 51:16-17 (NKJV) “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart– These, O God, You will not despise.” Micah 6:6-8 (NKJV) says “With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”
This morning, that is the question before us. As we celebrate the victory of Good Vs Evil, the victory that comes only from God and only through Jesus Christ, what are we offering God today in Thanksgiving? Are we stopping with the firstfruits, we have brought to the table, or are we increasing our stakes by including ourselves in the offering?