Matt. 1:20-21 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.”
What were the disciples looking for on the first Easter Sunday Morning?
On that first Easter morning, there was a band of women and a group of disciples who were hunting. But they weren’t hunting for Easter Eggs, they were hunting for their best friend, Jesus the Christ, the Promised One…
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”
The gospel accounts testify to the physical, literal, bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because the Resurrection of Christ is so crucial to the Christian faith, gospel writers Matthew, Mark and John are very careful to record the details of what they saw with their own eyes. Luke, another gospel writer, includes eyewitness testimony from as many as 500 people who saw the Risen Christ in order to assure us that Christ is risen from the dead. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
He was a chameleon who lived under the pretense of virtue and faith. Publicly, he was one of the Twelve, faithful and devout following the King, but privately his only love was money. And nobody saw it coming, nobody except the One who sees everything. Jesus knew from the beginning that His betrayer would come from among His inner circle. Should we be surprised that one from among the inner circle was a hypocrite? This is likely the most popularly stated reason of unbelief given by those who reject the Christian faith, “The Church is full of Hypocrites!”
Augustine referred to the church as a “mixed body” consisting of both the righteous and the unrighteous. His interpretation of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30) saw the church like a field where good seeds of wheat along with the bad seeds of weeds are sown and grow side by side. They would ultimately be separated from each other at the time of harvest (judgment) but until then, the weeds and wheat would coexist together in the same field (the church).
There is no such thing as a perfect church, one only with righteous good seed. There will always be people in the church with bad motives, those associating for wrong reasons and those whose relationship with God is only outward. There will always be people who claim to love Christ but whose heart is far from Him. Some are in church for show, some to be seen by others as spiritual, others are there for a social outlet or a business network. Many, Jesus says, will say on that day, did we not do this or that in your name? Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” Those of whom Jesus speaks are people who sat in local churches, many of whom are baptized, have made professions of faith and have personal testimonies. But the mere existence of such hypocrites in the church is neither an excuse for disbelief in Christ nor rejecting His Church.
To those who like to base their claim of unbelief on the existence of hypocrites in the Church, I would say, “You wouldn’t deny the existence of lettuce just because there are weeds in the garden, would you?” Or perhaps I would ask a person with such reasons for unbelief, “Do you carry money in your wallet? Don’t you know that there are people who create counterfeit money yet you still accept that genuine dollars still exist? We need not deny the existence of the authentic based on the evidence of some counterfeits. In fact, the presence of a counterfeit is, in some ways, evidence of the existence of the genuine article because no one counterfeits the invaluable or inherently false. The entire concept of counterfeiting is based on the reproduction of a reasonable facsimile of something that is both genuine and valuable.
Last night I asked a large group of friends to describe the best party they had ever attended. Eyes lit up as men told stories of great wedding receptions and even a yacht party on the open sea that lasted five days with all expenses paid. Well surprisingly, the best party Jesus ever attended on the earth was at a Tax Collector’s house. Soon after Jesus unshackled Matthew’s heart with the words, “Follow Me,” he made a great feast for Jesus in his house and invited a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. Nothing kept Matthew from following Christ and freely using his house and property to serve Christ seamlessly. As a brand new convert, Matthew’s first experience with evangelism was in the context of a great banquet reception with a huge spread of food and drink where he spared no expense to celebrate his Savior and introduce Christ to his friends.
Matthew’s guest list included his infamously disreputable co-workers, other non-categorized sinners, Jesus and the Apostles. (The Religiously Serious folks weren’t invited but loitered outside of the door to the house grumbling and criticizing.) Having experienced the irresistible, unparalleled, conquering love and acceptance of Jesus Matthew celebrates by hosting a party to introduce his co-workers and social friends to this Love. When your eyes were blind and you’re given sight; when you’ve been in shackles and you’ve been set free; when you’ve experienced the undeserved love, overwhelming compassion and tender mercy of Jesus, you can’t help but overflow to those around you. A life that welcomes sinners overflows into the desire to invite your non-religious friends to party with Jesus.