Call – Opelika-Auburn News
No other day
can match the excitement of Easter Sunday
The Lord willing, my wife and I will arise today and participate
in three worship services before lunch. Like millions of Christians around the
world we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Today the Church will declare on every continent the greatest of
all good news: Christ is risen! Those three words are the most important declaration
ever uttered because it gives us hope that the grave is not the end of life. No
event in history has impacted the world more than the resurrection of Jesus
Since I was a child Easter has been the greatest day of the year
for me. Even Christmas is no match for Easter. I owe my love of Easter to my
parents. Every Easter morning they got the family up at 4 o’clock and drove
from Elmore County to Cramton Bowl in Montgomery. Never one to be late for
anything, Dad got us to the stadium early. Spreading blankets on those cold
concrete seats we waited for the excitement to begin.
As I recall we sat on the eastern side and on
the other side of the football field there was a replica of the sealed
tomb. Men dressed as Roman guards marched back and forth in front of it. Soon
we watched as three women walked slowly from the south toward the tomb. There
was an eerie quietness about the scene before us. There was no music being
played. It was like watching one of those old silent movies.
Suddenly the silence was erupted by an explosion. We were all startled
as smoke covered the tomb. We could hear a rumbling sound, like the beating of
drums, designed evidently to simulate an earthquake. Slowly the smoke drifted
away to reveal an angel, in dazzling white, standing at the tomb. The stone
sealing the tomb had been rolled away. The frightened guards had fallen to the
ground as though they were dead.
The three women had been startled
also. Now they resumed walking toward the tomb and as they arrived the angel began
speaking to them. Over the speaker system we heard the shocking words of the
“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.”
We watched the women look quickly
inside the empty tomb and leave in a hurry. The women, according to the Bible, were
afraid but filled with joy to know that Jesus was alive. As they walked away
from the tomb suddenly a man in a robe appeared before them. We realized it was
none other than Jesus; he had been raised from the dead. Shocked once again,
the women, awestruck, fell down before him.
The angel had told the women that Jesus was
alive. Now they knew it was true. He was standing before them, alive! Repeating
the message of the angel, Jesus calmed their fear. Then he sent them on their
way to share the news with the disciples and tell them that he would meet them
This was the drama I witnessed several
times as a child in Cramton Bowl. Though the resurrection seemed incredible I
saw no reason to doubt it. It never occurred to me that it might be a myth as
some believe today. I believed it. Years later I would begin to wonder. Is it
really true? I struggled with that
question for several years.
Finally I decided the story could not
be a myth for this reason: It is impossible to explain the Christian movement
unless Jesus was actually raised from the dead.
Could Jesus’ disciples have stolen his body from the tomb while
the guards were sleeping and then convinced people that Jesus was alive? Saying
that it was so surely would not convince anyone. Could a lie be perpetuated for
two thousand years? Surely not!
If Jesus had not been resurrected we
would have never heard of his apostles. But we did hear about them; they were
so convinced that Jesus was alive they were willing to suffer and even die for
this new faith. The
evidence is overwhelming. The early Christians were willing to be martyred rather
than renounce their faith in the resurrection of Jesus. I am persuaded that few
people would be willing to die in defense of a lie.
Christians have no faith to proclaim if the resurrection is not
true. Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God; that is the lynchpin
of Christianity. The resurrection is the great deed of God in history, the most
important event in the history of the world.
If the resurrection is believed to be
a myth there is little else in Christian faith that makes sense. If Jesus was
not raised from the dead then Peter’s letters are 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. The New Testament would not even exist had
not the early disciples believed God had raised Jesus from the dead.
Some say there is no need to believe
in the resurrection of Jesus. His great moral teachings are what matter; his
spirit lives on like that of Socrates or Lincoln. But to believe this one must
ignore what Jesus taught about himself. He believed that his death on the cross
was God’s plan and that the shedding of his blood was necessary for people to receive
forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Can anything else he taught
be true if this teaching is a hoax? Absolutely not!
This morning I will listen as my
friend Nathan Hamilton sings “He’s Alive!” My heart will say, “Yes He is!” I
will listen as our choir declares that the tomb is empty! My heart will say,
“Yes it is!” I will ask the congregation to sing with me “Up from the grave He
arose” because He did! Then I will proclaim “Christ is Risen!” And the people
will reply, “He is Risen Indeed!”
That’s why I believe no other day on the
calendar can match the excitement of Easter Sunday! Glory! + + +