Today my devotional time took me to the story of Jesus’ resurrection in Matthew 28. The second verse startled me with, “Behold, there was a great earthquake for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.” (ESV)
My astonishment came because just a day earlier I was teaching through Acts 16, in which Paul and Silas are put into prison for delivering people from evil forces. Acts 16:26 records what happened next: “There was a great earthquake so the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately, all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” (ESV)
Don’t you think that when Paul & Silas were liberated by a great earthquake that they remembered the great earthquake that accompanied Jesus’ resurrection? These two “great earthquakes” have several dynamics in common.
First, both great earthquakes released God’s servants. The first earthquake announced the release of Jesus from bondage to death. The second earthquake liberated Paul and Silas from their bonds in a Roman jail.
Second, both great earthquakes overcame the power of the Roman Empire. Rome (as prompted by fearful religions leaders) humiliated Jesus and executed him. Rome (as prompted by commercial interests) humiliated Paul and Silas and imprisoned them.
Third, both earthquakes opened the door to salvation. Jesus’ resurrection opened the door of salvation for all people. Paul and Silas’ release opened the door for the salvation of the jailer’s household.
Today, a great earthquake is shaking the traditional church. Young people are asking questions at a more profound level than the church has faced in 500 years. They question the traditional approaches to the bible, to theology, and to church organization.
Nationwide, church attendance is declining. Giving is flagging. National polls indicate that the answers the church offers do not match up with the questions people today are asking. Society and government have dramatically shifted their ethics, and put relentless pressure on the church to change its ethics as well.
But God loves to use great earthquakes! Earthquakes free us from what have become bonds of traditional thinking and automatic acting.
When our values are put down by society, Christ-followers can raise up enduring values. When foundational knowledge is challenged, God’s knowledge can be mined. As society’s ethics evolve, the church can refine the presentation of a great biblical ethic. And when church structure is examined, God’s plan for a missional family can flourish.
PRAYER God, change scares me, and tectonic change terrifies me. And yet I know that you remain untouched by all of earth’s quakes. In fact, you love to use disruptive change to shine a fresh light on your son Jesus.
Give me the courage and creativity to shine a fresh light on Jesus as well. I don’t mind leaving behind my traditions if my path leads to kingdom additions. In Jesus’ enduring name I pray, Amen.