Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 11, 2004


Easter people welcome joyfully this happy morning!


          Forgive me, but I must tell you again how much I love the Sunday called Easter! Since my earliest years, Easter has been the most glorious day of the year for me.

          Every Easter Daddy and Mama would waken us very early, get my siblings and me dressed, and drive 12 miles into Montgomery. We would hurry into Crampton Bowl, sit on those cold, concrete seats, and wait for the drama to begin. Whatever the numbers, the crowd seemed huge to me as a boy.

          There on the western hillside was the sealed tomb, with the Roman guards marching back and forth in front of it. Soon we would notice several women walking slowly from the south toward the tomb. Suddenly, there was an explosion, a rumbling sound signifying an earthquake.

          An angel, in dazzling white, appeared out of nowhere and rolled the stone away from the tomb. The frightened guards fell to the ground as though they had fainted.

          The startled women resumed walking toward the tomb but were soon more amazed when the angel began speaking to them. They were not expecting to hear what the angel said.

          “Do not be afraid; I know why you are here,” the angel said. “You are seeking Jesus who was crucified, but he is not here. He is risen, as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he will meet them in Galilee.”

          The women took a quick look inside the empty tomb and left in a hurry. They were afraid but filled with joy to know that Jesus was alive. They were actually running from the tomb when suddenly Jesus appeared! Startled once again, they fell down before him to worship him.

          Jesus apparently wanted the women to be certain that he had been raised from the dead. He repeated the message of the angel, first calming their fear, then sending them on their way to tell the disciples that he would meet them in Galilee.

          This was the message of the Easter drama in Crampton Bowl. To a small boy, it was incredible, though I embraced the resurrection as truth even then. Years later, as an adult studying the Bible, I went through a time of questioning. Perhaps, as some theologians said, it was a myth. No dead man could possibly be raised from the dead. I wondered and doubted.

          Then I began to doubt my doubts. Could a lie about the resurrection be perpetuated for two thousand years? Could the early disciples have stolen his body from the tomb, while the guards were sleeping, and then convinced hundreds of people that Jesus was alive? How could a small group of women and men persuade people that a dead man was alive? Talking about it would not convince anyone.

          However, what if those women and men were willing to die for such a conviction? What if they were as willing to suffer and die for this new faith was Jesus was when he went willingly to the cross? The historical evidence, both outside and inside the Bible, is that they were indeed willing to be martyred for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Most of the apostles and thousands of other Christians were willing to die rather than renounce this conviction.

          This prompted the renewal of my own faith in the resurrection. I began to believe it with all my heart and to share it with others as the great deed of God in the history of the world. If Jesus could conquer fear, death, and hell, then it becomes possible for his followers to have this victory. I claimed it for myself and have never looked back.

          Actually, if one does not believe in the resurrection, there is pitifully little else in Christian faith that makes sense. If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, then Peter’s letters would be a pack of lies. Had Jesus not been resurrected, we would have never heard of the Apostle Paul, who wrote a great portion of the New Testament. We would not even have a New Testament had not the early disciples believed the dead Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God.

          Some people – false teachers, I believe – tell us that it does not matter whether Jesus was resurrected or not. His great moral teachings are what matters; his spirit lives on, like that of Abraham Lincoln. Such thinking is hogwash. Jesus believed that by dying on the cross as the Passover Lamb of God, all people could receive the gift of eternal life through his shed blood and resurrection. Can one value anything else he taught if this teaching was a grand hoax? I think not.

          If you do not read this until Sunday afternoon, I will probably be asleep in my recliner by then. I will be tired but glad, for I plan to get up at 5 a.m. and hear my son Tim preach in a sunrise service in his church, Mulder Memorial United Methodist near Wetumpka. Then I will hurry to St. James Methodist in Montgomery where I will share in three powerful Easter services.

          Every Christian preacher worth his salt wants to preach on Easter Sunday. I do not have that honor this year, but that will not rob me of my joy in celebrating this glad, happy morning. I will have the privilege of praying the “sending forth” prayer at the end of the three St. James services. I am thankful for that.

          Squeezed in between the three services will be the honor for me of teaching the Frazer Sunday School Class. When I am finished, I will be surprised if these adults do not accuse me of preaching. After all, it will be Easter! Who could resist preaching the Word on Easter?

          Hallelujah, Easter People! Let’s tell the world: He lives! + + + +