We interrupt our regularly scheduled Route 66 journey to bring you an Easter Supplemental episode of the Radio Show.
I’m recording on Monday, March 28, 2016, the day after Easter and some things I read over the weekend disturbed me enough that I felt compelled to address them before moving on in our New Testament Survey.
Over the weekend, I read two articles that came out of Scotland, downplaying the historic value of the actual, physical, literal resurrection of Jesus to the Christian message. The essence of both stories, was that the Resurrection message was about hope overcoming adversity and emotional desolation. It is resurrection power. We used to call that ‘Neo Orthodoxy’.
I remember way back in the 70s hearing a guy on the radio respond to a caller by saying that what really happened was Jesus disciples realized on Sunday morning that although Jesus had been murdered, the love he showed and his core teachings of loving one another did not die with him. His teachings lived on through His followers so, in a sense, Jesus was still alive within them.
It’s a sappy, touchy feely sort of message that sounds good in some sort of milquetoast sort of way, but falls way short of mattering in the real world of disease, terrorism and discord. It’s no wonder that a 20 pound weakling kind of message has been rejected by rough and tumble, pragmatic Scottish population. It also explains part of why Christianity is slowly fading here in the USA.
Interestingly, the Bible itself has a completely different take on the Resurrection of Jesus. In the Bible, Jesus death and resurrection are the principal message of all four Gospels AND the Book of Acts. Each of them recount the Death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as space, time event, that are verifiable. They are not purely spiritual in their meaning, but historic events that change the future of humanity.
You can read about it in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20 and Acts 1. Acts 1, in fact, has Luke saying Jesus demonstrated the reality of his physical resurrection by ‘many infallible’ proofs. Luke is throwing down, and says, check it out. Paul repeats that dare later on in Acts 26, when Governor Festus questions Paul’s sanity over his declaration of the Resurrection, the Apostle appeals to his reason by saying, “I’m sure Agrippa knows all about this, as none of these things were done in a corner.’
Paul goes even further in 1 Corinthians when he stakes everything about the Gospel and Christianity’s right to exist, on the verifiable, literal event of the Passion and Resurrection of the Christ.
The in your face, hair on your chest, nature of the Biblical doctrine of the resurrection stands in stark contrast to the weak kneed, Mealy mouthed, psychobabble that is pedaled in much of mainstream preaching and doctrine.
Let me share an incident from my own past that illustrates the superiority of a muscular Easter message to the squishy, pastel message as delivered in the two articles I read.
26 years ago, while I was at the peak of my career as a Christian Evangelist, serving in Scotland, my entire world collapsed. My life unraveled like a ball of yarn in a room full of felines. I lost everything. I ended up being and outcast in many Christian circles, rejected and literally scorned in many places. And all for things for which I was not guilty. As a result, like Peter, I denied Jesus. Not verbally, But everything about my life, the people I hung out with, the places I went, the things I did, were all in stark contrast to who I’d been and what I did. Sure, I rarely missed Church on Sunday, but that was the extent of my relationship to my old life.
I wanted so badly to, as Job’s wife said, ‘Curse God, and die.’ One thing kept me from doing just that. I could not escape the fact of the empty tomb. No matter how far I ran, or how I tried to ignore it, the empty grave followed and haunted me. In time, I turned to confront the story, and because I could not disprove it, I was faced with the awareness that the Easter message contradicted my deep feelings that my hurt and rejection had come from God and that the Gospel message was a hoax, without value in a real world.
Step by step, day by day I came to understand that the victory of Jesus of Nazareth over the grave, demonstrated that the real lie was the one being whispered in my ear by one who would use whatever deception possible to keep my heart away from the God who loved me without measure.
I knew instinctively that if Jesus was dead and gone, the whole Christian thing was a fraud, but because He really did rise, His message had to be considered. It was the empty grave that started me on the road back to Faith. I couldn’t face my real life problems with some saccharine sweetened Pablum of a religious message, but a muscle bound Victor who wrestled death into submission, now that was a Savior I could trust to take me beyond my pain and help me become, as Paul said, more than a conqueror.
Someday, I’ll tell you the whole story, but for now, I want to encourage you not to reject Jesus because a lot of people are spouting crap in his name, I KNOW, both from my own experience and from the facts of the case, that there is a new life, a live of joy and victory available and accessible, because the grave is empty. Check it out for yourself. Think on these things while you chew on left over chocolate bunnies and creepy marshmallow peeps. Cause it changes everything.