Friday 6 April 2012

The Easter story

The Easter story is an extraordinary one, which although having taken place many years ago in a far off land, has much relevance for the world of to-day. Christians will celebrate the rising from death of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

There are many religions around the world, all clamouring to be followed, but Christianity is unique. Only Jesus Christ died on a Cross, and only through Him can people be forgiven from their sins, so there is no need to seek any further for spiritual satisfaction. Today in the Western world there is a battle between those who wish to marginalise our faith and consign it to either history, or at the most to private premises.

Having died on the Cross, Jesus’ body was buried securely in a tomb, and three days later the tomb was visited by Mary Magdelene who found the place where Jesus had been buried was empty. She broke into tears thinking someone had stolen the body, a common practice at that time. She ran for Peter and he with John ran to the tomb and found the clothes in which Jesus had been buried neatly folded. They realised that if anyone had stolen the body they would not have tidied the clothes. John realised Jesus had risen, as had been foretold in Scripture.

After the two men left the scene, Mary stayed and was rewarded when she became the first person to see the risen Lord. Then Jesus spoke to her and she flung herself at His feet. Jesus told her to go and tell the disciples, so revealing that He had forgiven their betrayal of Him.

This is what Easter is all about; Jesus is alive, and all the commercial hype is just a pure money making exercise. Because of Easter there is hope that when our time here on earth is over we shall live eternally with Christ. The resurrection is at the heart of our faith. The world beyond the Church like to hear that God is love; they like the idea of forgiveness and release from guilt, but are not willing to sacrifice the smallest amount of time to give to God.

There are of course so many people who are unwilling to believe the resurrection story. They will say they do in order to arrange a baptism service, but will not take it seriously. Indeed, to their great shame there are too many within the Church who do not accept the (physical) resurrection. If someone had said a hundred years ago that you could sit in your lounge and see displayed on a box in the corner of the room events that were then happening on the other side of the world, they would have been considered mad.

People say they cannot possibly understand and accept the events of Easter so won’t believe. If you asked them to explain how is it that a small plastic box which they carry around on their person can access another person many miles away, even across the continents, just by pressing a set of numbers and then they can carry on a conversation, and all the while thousands of other people are doing the same thing yet none of the conversations intercept, they would not be able to answer, yet they accept it. So why doubt the work of the Almighty.?

If Jesus had not been raised then we have no faith, for Christianity rises and falls on the resurrection of Jesus. This has been proclaimed right down the ages, and if not true then all the words and belief have been in vain. The Bible writers must have lied, but why would they have done this, what was there to be gained. They risked great persecution by doing so. Paul was the most brilliant man of his time with a fine logical mind, who had been a great opponent of the faith, but God convinced him otherwise and he suffered much for the gospel. If Jesus had not been raised we would have no future, no forgiveness, and our hopes of being re-united with loved ones would be over.

We have testimony from men present at the time that Jesus was real, objective and physical, and it was not just the reanimation of a corpse. The emphasis is on the physicality. The Apostles Creed does not say, ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of Jesus’, it says, ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body’. The Articles of the Anglican Church require this to be accepted.

The Bible wants us to know that this was a tangible, bodily resurrection of Jesus which liberal Christianity denies. After the resurrection the Apostles were empowered to preach openly, whereas previously they had been terrified to do so and even suffered much physically for doing so. It requires great conviction for men to change so drastically.

Through the centuries men and women with some of the greatest minds the world has known have been willing to sacrifice brilliant careers and forgo the opportunities of riches just to proclaim the Christian gospel. The empty tomb tells that life does not stop when physical death comes. Death is the door to eternal life which can be ours by faith. As Jesus dealt so forgivingly with those disciples so will He deal with all those who love and believe in Him.

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