Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
April 24, 2011
The resurrection of Jesus the greatest event in history
No even in history has had a greater impact upon the world than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every Easter the Church declares on every continent the greatest of all good news: Christ is risen! Those three words constitute the most important declaration ever uttered because it gives us hope that the grave is not the end of life.
Since I was a child Easter has been for me the most significant day of the year. Even Christmas comes in second to Easter. I guess you could say my parents were fanatics. Every Easter morning they got us up at 4 o’clock and drove us from Elmore County to Crampton Bowl in Montgomery. Hurrying into the stadium, we spread blankets on those concrete seats and waited for the excitement to begin.
Across the football field, on the western side, there was a replica of the sealed tomb, with men dressed as Roman guards marching back and forth in front of it. Soon we saw 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 that startled everyone. Smoke filled the air. You could hear a rumbling sound, like the beating of drums, designed to simulate an earthquake. As the smoke drifted away we observed an angel, in dazzling white, at the tomb. With one hand the angel rolled the stone away. The frightened guards fell to the ground as though they had died.
The women resumed walking toward the tomb but appeared amazed when the angel spoke to them. It was obvious they could hardly believe what was happening. Over the speaker system we heard the shocking words of the Bible:
“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 take a quick look inside the empty tomb and leave in a hurry. According to the biblical story, the women were afraid but filled with joy to know that Jesus was alive. But as they ran from the tomb Jesus suddenly appeared! Shocked once again, they fell down before him in wonder and awe.
Now the women had more than the word of the angel that Jesus was alive; there he was in person before them! He repeated the message of the angel, first calming their fear, then sending them on their way to share the news with the disciples and tell them that he would meet them in Galilee.
This was the message of the Easter drama in Crampton Bowl. Though the resurrection seemed incredible to me as a child, I believed it. I had no reason to doubt it. Years later I began to question. Is it really true? Perhaps, as some say, the resurrection story is a myth. I wondered and struggled with the issue for awhile.
Finally I concluded that it is impossible to explain the Christian movement unless Jesus was actually 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.
If Jesus had not been resurrected it is obvious we would never have heard of his apostles. But we did hear about them; they were so convinced that Jesus was alive they were willing to suffer and die for this new faith. The evidence is overwhelming that the early Christians were 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 more clearly I realized 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. The resurrection is the great deed of God in history, the most important even 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.
If one does not believe in the resurrection there is 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 God had raised Jesus from the dead.
Some say it does not matter whether Jesus was resurrected or not. His great moral teachings are what matter; his spirit lives on, like that of Abraham Lincoln. But this is so much 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? Surely not!
This morning, 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 Saint James United Methodist in Montgomery where I will preach in two marvelous Easter services. I will tremble as the service begins with the choir singing Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” I will be blessed as Grace Jenkins sings “Worthy is the Lamb,” and rejoice as Nathan Hamilton sings “He’s Alive!” I will join the congregation in singing, “Up from the grave He arose.” What a day of rejoicing it will be!
Hallelujah! Easter – The greatest celebration of the year! Glory! + + +