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THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST: THREE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS

Easter 2Pretend with me that we are a forensic investigators, and we’ve been given the call to respond to a just-happened crime scene. We drop everything and rush to the location. From there, what do we do? If you’ve ever watched crime drama TV shows or real-life documentaries, you know that one of the first things we would do is carefully examine the scene.  We would not just scan the area but carefully inspect how it was arranged. We’d consider the rules of time and space and science. From there, we would use our sense of logic to rule out different scenarios to reasonably, and many times without question come up with a conclusion of what happened. The evidence would speak for itself.

We are bound by this physical world we live in, so much so that there are many who believe that’s all there is. How then, do we explain one of the most hotly debated events of history, the resurrection of Christ?

I was reading about the resurrection the other day and I came upon the first investigation of exactly how His tomb appeared that morning. It is written by the disciple John, an eyewitness and one of the first sleuths on the scene, together with another one of Christ’s disciples, Peter.

John writes of himself, reporting in the third person:  “He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there, but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’s head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen”.  (John 20:5-7).

To understand the scene, we need to understand the mode of Jewish burial at the time. As was the custom, the deceased would be wrapped in linen bands and spices. A mixture of aloe, (a powdered wood like fine sawdust), and a gummy myrhh would be inserted between the folds of the linen to preserve the body.

Yet the body was missing. There were only three possibilities of how and why Jesus was no longer there:

1) The body was stolen,

2) Jesus got up on his own, resuscitated, having only swooned not really died), or

3) He rose from the dead.

First of all, it is significant that the burial cloth was there at all. If the body was stolen, the linen cloths that it was wrapped in would have been taken with the body. Not only were they still there, but they were undisturbed. The word that John uses for the word “lying” is “keimena”,* which refers to things that have been carefully placed in order.  John noticed that there had been no disturbance in the tomb. Criminals (or the disciples themselves, as unbelievers would speculate), would not have had any time, to take the body apart from the graveclothes, and certainly not to fold the cloth that had been around his head.

Did Jesus merely wake up from a very bad beating? In that case, he would still be in a physical body and would have left behind evidence of a physical body freeing itself from the strips of linen. If so, they would have been displaced. Even if we can imagine that he got up and put everything back as if to appear that he rose from the grave, the spices used to preserve the body would have scattered and stained the floor.

The disciples saw none of these things. Jesus had risen, and in a resurrected body.

The Bible tells us that we who trust and believe in Him will be as He is:

“Buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:5-6)

Our tired bodies that hurt and die will no longer give us grief and pain. Having taken the punishment for our sin, He gave us His righteousness in exchange. Because of that first Easter morning, because Christ has paved the way, we can know that physical death is not the end, and we’ve been given a glimpse of our eternal hope.

He is risen, He is risen indeed.

*The Gospel of John: Volume 5- Triumph through Tragedy, John 18-21, James Montgomery Boice, P. 1567

HOW WE’RE BURNING OUT

Dear Friends,

Birthday candles

 

I’m prompted to write this post because I’m coming up on a milestone birthday that seems to have arrived way too soon. According to a measure of the average lifespan, most of my life is now officially behind me. (*gasp*)

I remember the day I first realized that I would not live forever.  Ironically, it was on my birthday many years ago, (Yes, God’s timing is uncanny). I must have been about nine or ten. Our church class had just studied James 4:14 the previous week.

“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

The moment was surreal. I blew out the candles on the cake and opened my eyes to see perfect little swirls of smoke rising from each candle. The teacher’s words echoed in my mind. “Life is a vapor”, I thought, as I watched each puff glide upwards and begin to taper off. Then, with the wave of my mother’s arm, the swirls became a haze, the smell of smoke dissipated, and (poof), they were gone. Suddenly the thought of going back in time was as impossible as unblowing the candles. The seed of that lesson was planted in the only way it could at that age…by seeing it illustrated before my eyes. The picture stuck, but I didn’t completely “get it”. I was aware of my own humanity, but when you’re ten years old, you’re still invincible. It’s hard to convince a kid that life is that short when it takes forever just to wait for Christmas.

Now, almost 40 birthdays later, I see that life itself is as fragile as all the candle flames I’ve blown out. I see it with every disappointment and every fear. I see it in every tragic headline. I’m reminded of it with every ache and pain in my body. I’m even reminded of it in the good times, when I wish I could push “replay” and do it over again. Most of all, life as a vapor has meant having to see the passing of several friends and family members (four to be exact) in just the last couple of years.

Our time is limited. So is our energy and resources to use the time we have left. Every year, we may make a wish and blow out the candles. What do we wish for? Do we wish for money, status, glory, or all of the above? The scattering of a candle’s vapor may remind us of how long those wishes will last. On the other hand, do we wish (and resolve) for God’s will in our lives more than things that are just temporary?

Scripture addresses the dilemma in one sentence:

The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17).

This world has such a magnetic pull on us, doesn’t it? Such is the struggle and reality of the Christian life. We are pulled into the world and all its distractions and yet reminded to hold on loosely. Still, nothing that it can offer the believer will even hold a candle (no pun intended) to eternity. It won’t even compare…and those who seek God have the comfort in knowing that one day there will be no such thing as borrowed time.

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Do you recall a teachable, “ah-ha” moment in your past?

Can you recall a moment when you came to be more aware of how short life can be?

How do you think we can learn to value our time?

 

THOUGHTS ON MY MOTHER’S PASSING AT EASTER

Picture of Mom (2)

It isn’t Easter anymore, so I’m sure this doesn’t make the most “on time” post entry, but it is one that I simply have to share.  I spent last week making service arrangements for my mother, who passed from this world just in time to meet the Lord on Resurrection Sunday. She was in the same home she lived in for the past 20+ years when she took her last breath, surrounded by her family. I remember at the time that my dad asked if we would like to sing. So we began to sing…and somewhere in the middle of our rendition of “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, she slipped away from this world and into the arms of Jesus.

My mother was a woman who lived a life of sacrificial love, wanting nothing more than to honor God and see her family happy and healthy. She had a humility that always acknowledged God’s will and loved the old hymns of the faith. I think I will always remember her anytime I hear the Halleujah chorus from Handel’s “Messiah”. (My dad made a scratchy recording of it on, yes – a cassette tape that she played literally dozens of times. 🙂 ) She was God’s constant blessing in my life growing up, not to mention the many years she stood by me through illnesses, apartment moves, and getting ready for any big occasion. She taught me how to be kind, how to be hospitable and to always finish any job I start. I didn’t inherit her artistic talent, but people tell me I’m a spittin’ image of her, and that is good. She was always ready with a meal, lived to care for my dad, and was never happier than when we were all together at the dinner table.  She had a simple yet strong faith that loved and held on to God.

I can’t begin to imagine what she sees and knows right now. I do know one thing, though. She is praising God more than the greatest enthrallment in praise we have ever had on Earth…and she sees Christ face to face. She is laughing, greeting her siblings that have gone before, and will never shed a tear in pain again.

The timing could not have been more bittersweet or surreal, because it was on the first “Easter” that Christ took that same journey into the grave and eternity many years ago. He too, died and was buried. But there is a big difference – He is deity and physically rose from the grave.

“But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said…” (Matthew 28:5-6).

No one but deity could have risen from the dead, and no one but deity could have lived a sinless life. Jesus did both. Not only that, but He laid down that life as a perfect sacrifice, so that anyone who trusts in Him can also approach God with no fear of condemnation.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:9-10)

It is because of Christ’s resurrection that we could look at my mother, who was a believer, and know that Jesus paved her way to eternal life. Because He rose from the grave, she too has risen spiritually into eternal life.

Check out Romans 6:5-6:

“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

As we saw her slip away, the meaning of Easter was no longer a reality in an I-believe-and-profess kind of way, but now became a  true-to-life-played-out-before-our-eyes reality.  This is where the rubber meets the road, friends. We couldn’t sing “Morning by morning new mercies I see” without remembering the greatest mercy of His rising that first morning. We are saddened, but not without comfort. While we grieve, we are not in despair. What better way to understand the significance of Easter – the resurrection of Christ, than when we need the grace of His resurrection the most?

Let’s not forget the lyrics of the rest of that song:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

This is the meaning of Easter, folks. So I’ll go ahead and say it…let’s not dilute this holy event with the silliness of Easter eggs and a bunny!

The fact that a holy God would choose to show Himself merciful to save you and I is an unfathomable mystery. Even the angels can’t understand it. (1 Peter 1:12). For that I believe that there is continual praise in heaven, a holiday every day, so to speak. (Rev. 4:8)

So while we formally celebrated Easter a couple of weeks ago, I believe this is cause for continual praise on earth as well…so maybe this message isn’t so “not on time” after all.

I’ll leave you with His own words as the parting question: “… I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)