Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 4, 2010


Why Easter is the most glorious day of the year


Easter! I can hardly wait! Since my earliest years Easter has been for me the most glorious day of the year. Christmas is great but no day compares to Easter.

          Looking back I can hardly believe what my parents did every Easter morning. Very early Daddy and Mama got us out of bed, dressed all five of us, and drove 12 miles into Montgomery. We would hurry into Crampton Bowl, sit on those cold, concrete seats, and wait for the drama to begin.  I have no idea how many people were in the stadium but the crowd seemed huge to me as a boy.

          Across the field, on the western hillside, there was a replica of the sealed tomb, with men dressed as Roman guards marching back and forth in front of it. Soon we noticed three women walking slowly from the south toward the tomb. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

Suddenly, there was an explosion. It startled everyone. Smoke filled the air. You could hear a rumbling sound, perhaps the beating of hidden drums, designed to simulate an earthquake.

          As the smoke drifted away an angel, in dazzling white, appeared. With one hand the angel easily rolled the stone away from the tomb. The frightened guards fell to the ground as though they had died.

          The women resumed walking toward the tomb but were soon amazed when the angel began speaking to them. They could hardly believe 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! Shocked once again, they fell down before him and began to worship him.

          Evidently Jesus 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, the resurrection seemed incredible, but I believed it. I had no reason to doubt it. Years later I went through a time of questioning. Perhaps, as some have said, the resurrection story is a myth. No dead man could come back to life. I wondered.  

          I concluded that it is impossible to explain the Christian movement unless Jesus really was raised from the dead. 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? Saying that it was so surely would not convince anyone.

          Yet the apostles were not only convinced that Jesus was alive; they were willing to suffer and die for this new faith.  The evidence is overwhelming that most early Christians were also willing to be martyred rather than renounce their belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Would anyone be willing to die in defense of a lie?

The more I pondered the matter, the more clearly I saw that I had no faith to proclaim unless the resurrection was true. That Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God is the lynchpin of Christianity.  So I chose to believe the resurrection with all my heart. I am convinced that the resurrection is the great deed of God in history. If Jesus could conquer fear, death, and hell, then his followers can have this victory. I claimed it for myself and have never looked back.

          Truth is, 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 Jesus was raised from the dead.  

          Some people say 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 forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Can one value anything else he taught if this teaching is a grand hoax? I think not.

          Today, the good Lord willing, I will get up at 5 a.m. and go with my wife to hear our son Tim preach in a sunrise service in his church, Mulder Memorial United Methodist near Wetumpka. Then I will hurry to St. James United Methodist in Montgomery where I will preach in two powerful Easter services. I will tremble as we sing “Up from the grave He arose.”

          Glory! Hallelujah! Easter! What a great day for the people of God! + + +