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April 2014

EASTER AND THE MEANING OF LIFE

By John Carter

 
During a debate between militant atheist Richard Dawkins and the Christian John Lennox, both professors at the famed Oxford University, Dawkins ridiculed the story of Jesus walking on the water.  Professor Lennox replied, “It’s not so hard to believe that Jesus walked on the water if you understand He made the water!”
 
We believe Jesus is the Creator because of unassailable, verifiable evidence.  We don’t believe because of “blind faith”.  We build and rest our faith upon demonstrable truths.  A young pastor was asked by a skeptic why he believed Jesus was God’s Son.  He quickly responded, “Because I have faith.”  Such an answer may be very misleading.  Faith simply means belief, but it is possible to have faith in falsehoods.  We need to have faith but it must be faith in truth.  Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
 
I believe with Professor Lennox that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead.  I don’t believe this because of blind faith, I believe it because it is true.  I believe it actually happened, and that there is solid evidence that these real events occurred in real places in real time, witnessed by thousands of real people.  This is light years distant from the Pollyanna religion of those who have a foggy faith in something they don’t really care happened or not.  If it didn’t happen, I want no part in it.
 
Even Professor Dawkins believes Jesus lived.  I heard him say it.  He does not, however, believe in Christ’s resurrection, and hence a shroud of pessimism hangs over all his dogmatic assertions.
 
I am convinced Jesus died and rose from the dead.  Here are my reasons:
 
1.     Jesus actually died.  Our Moslem friends tell us that Jesus did not die; that, they say, would have been impossible for God’s chosen prophet.  But, He died because He was cold dead when the Romans came to break His legs.  He died because the spear thrust which brought forth blood and water would have been sufficient to kill Him.  He died because the disciples carried from the cross a corpse.  He died because He was lifeless when they placed Him in the tomb.  He died because the Romans and the Jews witnessed His death and knew He was dead.  We are not talking faith here, we are talking hard cold incontrovertible facts.
 
2.     He bodily rose from the dead.  We run our whole judicial system on the basis of reliable witnesses, and as regards His resurrection, there are witnesses aplenty.  He, after His crucifixion, was seen by people prejudiced against believing.  He was seen by Mary Magdalene who had handled His cold clammy body as she helped carry Him away from the cross.  She saw Him, talked to Him, heard His voice, and had experienced the reality of His “realness” as she clung to His feet.  Ask Mary, “Is He alive?” and she respond, “Yes, yes, yes.”
 
He was seen after that horrendous Friday on many occasions by His disciples and followers.  They ate with Him, conversed with Him, were taught by Him.  One doubter actually felt the nail and spear scars, in hands and side.  These men and women were not shrewd tricksters but were humble, decent, ordinary people.  They had nothing to gain by inventing stories of a resurrected Messiah, except death and persecution.  They proclaimed His resurrection, even when their preaching brought the agony of the lash and brutal imprisonment.  Ask the disciples, “Is He alive?” and they cry out, “Yes, indeed, we have seen and talked to Him.”
 
He, after His death and burial, was literally seen by once skeptical crowds.  He was seen by individuals, and by groups of hundreds.  He even fed some of His fisherman friends after they had failed to do what once they had done best — catch fish.  And this happened after His death.
 
So convinced were these men and women that He was alive that they took on the mighty Roman Empire, and won.  They endured the Circus Maximus, the mines, the galleys, all because they knew that Jesus was alive.  It was this belief that galvanized them into action, and drove them with this “Good News” to the ends of the Earth.  It still does today.
 
What is the message of “Easter?”  Christ is alive, really and actually, and because He lives, we too shall live.

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