Bruce Larson in his book, Living Beyond Our Fears, tells a great story about a judge in Yugoslavia who had an unfortunate accident.
He was electrocuted when he reached up to turn on the light while standing in the bathtub. His wife found his body sprawled on the bathroom floor. He was pronounced dead and, as was the custom in that particular town, he was placed in a room under a crypt in the town cemetery for 24 hours before burial.
In the middle of the night, the judge came to, realized where he was, and rushed over to alert the guard, who promptly ran off terrified.
Fortunately, he returned with a friend, and they released the newly revived judge, whose first thought was to phone his wife and reassure her.
He got no farther than, “Darling, it’s me …” when she screamed and fainted.
Next he went to the houses of several friends, who were sure he was a ghost. In a last desperate measure, he called a friend in a distant city, who had not heard of his death, and who interceded for him with his family and friends.
Resurrection is hard to believe – no matter what, isn’t it? And at this time of the year, resurrection is a subject on the tip of many tongues.
This past week commemorated the resurrection of the Christ, the climactic event of the Christian faith. Our celebration of the holiest week of the year includes the quiet reflection of Maundy Thursday, the somber grieving of Good Friday, and the joy-filled hope of Resurrection Sunday!
The one distinguishing mark that separates Christianity from all the world’s religions is something called the empty tomb — the one definitive symbol that absolutely proves resurrection. And the most astonishing fact to me is that people still refuse to believe it!
Somehow, most people still think of Jesus as a good moral teacher, or someone who did a lot of good and founded a world famous religion. C.S. Lewis even commented that the only options when it comes to Jesus are that He was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.
When he spoke of Jesus being a liar, Lewis refers to the fact that men do not die for one who claims to be the author of life, then dies right in front of them. If Jesus were a lunatic, Lewis claims that it would be obvious, as obvious as a man who thinks he is a poached egg.
No one seriously follows such a person for very long. But the thought of Jesus as being Lord, and therefore resurrected – nah! Who could think it?
That fact is emphasized by the account of a Mohammedan who wanted to impress a Christian missionary with what he considered to be the superiority of Islam. So he said, “When we go to Mecca, we at least find a coffin, but when you Christians go to Jerusalem, your Mecca, you find nothing but an empty tomb.”
To this the believer replied, “That is just the difference. Mohammed is dead and in his coffin. And all other systems of religion and philosophy are in their coffins. But Christ is risen, and all power in heaven and on earth is given to Him! He is alive forevermore.”
What is true of Islam is also true for every other religion of the world. They all worship at the feet of a dead leader. Their pilgrimage to the birthplaces of their religion, in each case, always leads them to a tomb that contains the remains of the leader. No matter what, their worship is centered around a dead leader.
But Christianity is different! The empty tomb testifies of a risen Savior. It assures us that the work of salvation has been completed, and that there is hope for us beyond the grave.
Billy Graham recounts the story he heard when he was traveling in Russia many years ago. After the Bolshevik revolution, the local Communist leader had been sent to a certain village to tell the people the virtues of Communism and to take their minds away from religion, which Karl Marx called “the opiate of the masses.”
After the Communist had harangued them for a long time, he said to the local Christian pastor rather contemptuously, “I will give you five minutes to reply.”
“I do not need five minutes, only five seconds.” He went up on the platform and gave the traditional Easter greeting: “The Lord is risen!” As one man the villagers thundered back in response: “‘He is risen indeed!’”
The message of Easter is simply that – “The Lord is risen!” And that resurrection gives each of those who follow Him hope for all eternity. The ultimate question for each of us is simply this: “Wouldn’t you rather follow a risen Lord than a dead one?”
He is risen indeed!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC.