Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter and new life ...........................Parables 107

This is Easter, an occasion to celebrate spring with new clothes and stories about rabbits that lay colored eggs, baskets full of the same, plus chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. The reality of the message of Easter is gradually being lost to the candy industry. Unbelievable! If I did not know that someone rose from the dead nearly 2000 years ago, I would not find any clues in today's baskets full of cellophane grass and oval‑shaped sweets.

Maybe no one believes that story anymore. After all, we are a sophisticated society. People do not walk out of tombs after being dead three days. (Is it easier to believe in a rabbit that lays eggs?) The resurrection is not like spring ‑ which happens year after year. The backyard grass and delphiniums look dead, but no matter how cold the winter or how deep the snow, up they come. We are used to that kind of new life, even though it is a bit of a miracle how those things survive.

Anyone who has seen a body finds it obvious that the person who used to live there is gone. It is not like a tulip bulb that is warmed by the sun and nourished by the rain. Bodies don't sprout and put down roots and send up shoots. Human life is much more fragile.

But there was one... fully human, yes, but not like us. We die because of sin. He didn't sin. But He died just the same. He was put on a cross for claiming to be the Son of God. His crucifiers called Him a blasphemer, scarcely considering that He may have been telling the truth.

Jesus knew their ignorance. He said, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they are doing." More evidence that He was not like us!

Not only were they ignorant of what they were doing, the Jewish Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers didn't really kill Him. He gave up His own life. That is, when He died, He yielded up His Spirit to His Father. No one took it from Him. A unique death? Yes, very much so.

Jesus Christ did not stay in the grave. How do I know that? First there is the external, objective evidence of an empty tomb. No bones, no body. Then there is the recorded statements of eyewitnesses in the Word of God (over 500 saw Him alive). Many of those eyewitnesses were martyred because they refused to deny what they saw. Add to that the changed lives of thousands who believed in Him since then. That is powerful evidence. I believe it.

Secondly, there is the internal, subjective evidence. (Since experience is a personal verification and very subject to personal desires, it is not always reliable. However, because my "experience" is backed up by the objective evidence already stated, it is worth mentioning.) Before Jesus died, He said that He was going to die, rise again, and then ascend to heaven. When that was accomplished, He would send the Holy Spirit whose task would be to "convince the world of sin (because they believe not in me), of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16).

That happened to me ‑ just as it has happened to countless other people. I became convinced that because I did not believe in Jesus Christ, and because I was going my own way and not God's way, I was a sinner, without the righteousness of Christ, and headed towards judgment.

It isn't that I wanted to think this way. Who would? My tendency is to think much more highly of myself. Rather, the Spirit of God made it abundantly clear by confronting me with the reality of the Man who rose from the dead. What was I going to do about Him?

Easter is a celebration of new life. Eggs, tulips, and bright colors may say something, but they do not say it all. The empty cross, the empty tomb are the real celebration. They joyfully declare that the grave could not hold Jesus. There is hope for the rest of us. We do not have to face the winter of our life as its end. There is a resurrection on the other side and, for those who place their faith in the Man of Easter, it will be a resurrection to an eternal spring.

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