You see, Jesus conquering death is the only reason we have to believe that we can too, if we follow Him. If He merely died and rotted away somewhere, where does that leave us? Sure we can love each other and feed the poor, but we have no real hope, do we, if the resurrection is a myth. It is a good thing that there is plenty of evidence to believe. Maybe this evidence will stir some faith in those who just aren't sure what to believe.
I think it has chilled some recently, but there was a movement in Christian circles to ban the traditional name for this holiday and call it Resurrection Sunday instead. I mock these types of movements usually, but I certainly understand why this particular one came about. To Christians, this holiday isn’t about a big bunny, eggs, and a ton of candy. No, it is about the hope and the delivery of all in the world to overcome death and escape the bounds that we are stuck in and conditioned to from birth. Still, “Easter”, in present name, means that to me. I guess I am fine with it.
I am reminded at this time of the year how miraculous the Christian faith really is. A fairly large group of individuals followed their spiritual leader only to watch him miserably and shamefully die. From all accounts, they and their new belief system took a large blow. This execution also killed the new religion of these men and women. They went back to their old lives with their tails between their legs.
Then, something happened. The new faith surged! There was talk of this man Jesus actually be seen – returning from the dead as He said He would and talking and teaching to His followers. Even though the tomb was empty and there was no sign of the body, that doesn’t mean he resurrected, does it? Many of the skeptics accused Jesus’ followers from bribing the soldiers guarding the tomb and stealing the body. There were all kinds of theories.
Yet, something happened that took these dejected followers from their hopeless lives and brought them back to preaching Jesus resurrected. They, by the hoards, were willingly dying for this new belief system. Non-believing historians such as the Roman Tacitis and the Jewish Josephus recorded the unlikely events of this new Christian group - that they grew from nothing and hopelessness, to zealots in the name of this Jesus who was rumored to have conquered death. The disturbing query was this: why would these people come back to this faith, preaching a resurrected Jesus if they merely stole and hid the body? Why would they willingly die for a cause they knew was a lie? They knew if they really saw Him. They knew if they really hid his body? What would they gain but death?
Today, as we watch the kiddies run and find their eggs – when we are gorging on ham and chocolate, remember the resurrection. It is more than a rumor about one teacher long ago coming back to life. It was that and more. Easter reminds us that life-changing hope was resurrected by a group of people who actually knew whether or not there was hope. The facts they really knew and their lives that had to respond to those facts gives hope to us all.
Robertson McQuilken was president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. His wife, Muriel, was not only a devoted wife and mother, but also a painter, speaker, hostess for the college, fabulous cook, and host of her own radio program. Then Muriel was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Initially, the college board arranged for care, but then McQuilken decided to take early retirement to care for his wife.
In spite of her deterioration, McQuilken stood by her and continued to love her deeply. Eventually she rarely did more than mumble "nonwords." He wondered if he would ever hear her sweet voice again. Then came February 14, 1995. McQuilken writes:
Valentine's Day was always special at our house because that was the day in 1948 that Muriel accepted my marriage proposal. On the eve of Valentine's Day in 1995…I bathed Muriel on her bed, kissed her good night…and whispered a prayer over her, "Dear Jesus, you love sweet Muriel more than I, so please keep my beloved through the night; may she hear the angel choirs…"
The next morning while Muriel slowly emerged from sleep, I dipped into memories of some the happy Lover's Days long gone. Finally she popped awake and, as she often did, smiled at me. Then, for the first time in months, she spoke, calling out to me in a voice clear as a crystal chime, "Love… love… love…" I ran to embrace her. "Honey, you really do love me, don't you?" Holding me with her eyes and patting my back, she responded with the only words she could find to express agreement. "I'm nice," she said.
adapted from The One Year® Book of Christian History by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten, Tyndale House Publishers (2003), pp 90-91
That is where perspective comes in. I am having trouble with finances right now. That makes me upset and angry if I allow it to. The first thing we like to do is blame. I could blame my wife. She had a part in it, by quitting a job, being unemployed for months, and then taking only a part-time job when she did go back to work. On top of that, she spends too much, in my opinion.
I could blame God. He could arrange it so I would get a heavy winfall from someplace.
Or, the most painful, I could blame myself. Blaming the self is the least likely place people target in the blame game. We like to be victims, don't we? If someone else is doing something to us, we don't have near the hit on the ego and we can fantasize that if life was fair, we would be happy.
I would say blaming God is the most prevalent of the targets we have. There SEEMS to be no negative outcome. We don't have to deal with the friction blaming someone in our lives would cause; we wouldn't have to deal with self-worth and all the ugliness and pain that goes with that, either. No, we build a straw man (God) and blame Him. That way we get to blame, but do not suffer the physical consequence of it.
There are spiritual consequences, however. Oh, it isn't that God will punish us for blaming Him. He is bigger than that - and more loving. No, instead we separate ourselves further from the only One that can really help us with the problem, or the peace we need as a result of the problem. More importantly than that, we separate ourselves from a life of grace and communion with our Creator.
So, I let the anger go by putting it into perspective. I try to discover the actual source of the problem, not to blame, but to gain understanding. With understanding, comes peace. I, then, look at how things could be worse. I praise God that I have the blessings that I DO. I pray that I will see, understand, and learn from the trial - that I may be better as a result of it and that I will shine as a result of this "polishing".
"Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: 'Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man over here. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.'
My wife has some problems that hopefully she is working out. In the meantime, she has no job and subjects me to the fallout over her problems. This fallout amounts to torture. My home should be a refuge, but it isn't and that is taking a toll.
As a result of her unemployment and my inability to sell my other house, finances are getting to me also. I have cut out all recreational spending and all purchases that rise above absolute necessity. That is too much pressure, also, because I was subjected to this kind of poverty - wondering if I will have electricity today type stuff when I was a kid after my father died.
I am also checking on my mother at least three times daily. She is disabled after having 34 hours of brain surgery. My time and stress plate is full. Quite ironically, the times I check on my mother are the most peaceful times of my day.
I mentioned all these things just to say this: People who see me and observe my "walk" are probably not seeing in me the God of peace that we all long for. I am not representing well. I know that we all go through valleys and this is normal, but that doesn't excuse those strangers and acquaintenances that do not know my story. I don't feel compelled to tell it anyway.
My faith sustains me. I don't know where I would be without it - or maybe I do and it isn't pretty. Yet, it sure doesn't look that great from the outside observer. I just wish I was stronger.