Track 1: Splender Greater than the First
A reading from today’s Old Testament passage:
In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? Yet now take courage, Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. (Haggai 2:1-5)
The remnant of Judah was returning from exile. They were facing a monumental task, one that they could not accomplish alone. They were tasked to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Because of the great obstacles they were experiencing against the work, they began to rationalize and decided that it wasn’t time to rebuild after all. They thought: “If it’s so hard, evidently, God doesn’t want us to do it – at least not anytime soon.”
What God asked them to do they could not do alone. But God reminded them that he was with them:
My spirit abides among you; do not fear. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts. (Haggai 2:6-9)
What a great promise: The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former. Today we have no temple except the Church, the body of Christ. When Jewish leaders asked Jesus for a sign to prove his authority over the tenpel, Jesus replied:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:19=22)
Today, we do not have a temple to destroy. We are the temple of God. We are the body of Christ, the Church. Does the promise God made to the returning exiles apply to us? We read in Ephesians:
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind, so that she may be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Just as Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem at the close of his earthly ministry, he promises to cleanse his Church. The Early Church in Jerusalem was not without blemish. We remember Ananias and his wife Sapphira, who lied to the Holy Spirit. They both died for their sin. That is something we do not wish to happen, nor does God. But, as the Chruch, we have a monumental task ahead. The Church needs to be purified. Only then can it be the temple without blemish, and outshine the Early Church.
How does this happen? We cannot do this alone. Only God can make this happen. But we must submit ourselves to him. We have a role to play as did the returning remnant of Judah. This is not the time to be complacent or lose heart. Let us look to our Lord. Jesus promises to be with us. Are we with him today? Is he the head of our church? Is he the cornerstone? Let us look away from pleasing the secular culture and seek the praises of God.
Track 2: Resurrection of the Dead
As he experienced his terrible suffering, Job found his faith wavering. He asked a question that many of us may have asked at one time or another:
If mortals die, will they live again?
All the days of my service I would wait
until my release should come. (Job 14:14)
The Sadducees posed a trick question to Jesus because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead:
Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” (Luke 20:34-38)
Have we ever had this doubt of the Sadducees? If so, we are in good company. The great man, Job, had this doubt. The Apostle Paul addressed this doubt:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died[c] in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
The belief in the resurrection is vitally important to the Christian faith. Paul goes on;
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human, for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in its own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
If we believe in Jesus, we believe in the resurrection Jesus said:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Jesus is our resurrection. We need to move away from the secular world. As we identify with him our faith increases. Sometimes suffering is needed to help us look entirely to Jesus. As he endured great suffering, Job’s faith grew. In a moment he had a revelation:
“O that my words were written down!
O that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and with lead
they were engraved on a rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:23-27)
The Apostle Paul reminded the Church in Thessalonica:
We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15)
We have been chosen as the fruit of Jesus’ resurrection. Will we join Job and boldly proclaim that resurrection. The world is waiting to hear the good news.