On faith: Reflections on Easter
By: Pastor Scott Nelson, First Baptist Church, Lake County News Chronicle
This past week the Christian church (or most branches of it anyway) celebrated Resurrection Sunday, or Easter. I love Easter morning – from the multi-church sunrise service down at Burlington Bay to Easter breakfast with our church family to Sunday School and our worship service. I love Easter. But not just because it is a fun day, though it is certainly fun. I love Easter because of the events of that first Easter day nearly 2000 years ago.
After the darkness of what we know as Good Friday (the day Jesus died), hope was renewed that first Easter morning. Some women who were among Jesus’ followers went to His tomb to perform the usual rituals of that culture in preparing the body for final burial. But when they arrived, the Roman guard posted at the door was lying nearby “like dead men” (Matthew). The large stone covering the entrance had been rolled away, and the body of Jesus was not there! An angel told the women to return to the disciples and tell them Jesus is alive. Mary Magdalene doubled back, for according to John’s account of the resurrection, she saw Jesus, who revealed Himself to her, and she returned to the disciples as well, praising God.
Do I believe that the resurrection of Jesus is an actual historical event? Yes, I do. There are many proofs of the resurrection, including the empty tomb itself, the grave-clothes, and over 500 eyewitnesses who saw the risen Christ. But to me, the most convincing proof is changed lives. The disciples were a scared bunch from the time of Jesus’ arrest until they saw Him alive. But after He appeared to them following His resurrection, they became bold witnesses to what they had seen. If they knew it was not true, why the change? What would convince this fearful group to give up their own lives? If they had perpetrated a hoax, as some believe, why would they be willing to live and to die for their deceit? The only answer that makes any sense to me is that they knew it was all true – Jesus truly did rise from the dead, and He still is alive today. And, by the way, He changed my life as well.
I was privileged to visit Israel twice and tour the country. Each trip was an amazing experience – more of a spiritual journey than a vacation. As you tour, they bring you to two possible sites for the tomb of Jesus: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Garden Tomb. Very different sites, yet both very beautiful in their own way. But the one thing they have in common is this: both tombs are empty! All the other great religious leaders are in their tombs. The resurrection is what proves that Jesus is unique. He is who He claimed to be: the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
Jesus died for your sin and mine. He died that we might be forgiven and have a relationship with the Heavenly Father. He was raised to prove it is all true. He conquered death and paved the way so that His followers need not fear the grave. There is life after death – how do I know? Jesus has been there and is now preparing a place for us who believe. We will be accepted not because of our own goodness, but because of faith in the perfect goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ. God, in His grace, extends this gift to you now. Why not believe, and see if the Lord is true to His word? I guarantee you, He is!