Easter - the world's most remarkable event
Network Ipswich and Network Norwich columnist James Knight takes a look at the most remarkable event in the history of the world. - the Easter story.
We are told by the masses that many young people (perhaps the majority of young people) do not know what Easter truly represents. They have heard of Jesus but they do not really understand who He is or what He has done for us. Imagine their surprise if they were to hear the question put the right way round; for an even bigger question is not what we think about Christ, it is what He thinks about us.
I doubt there are many people who would disagree that as a moralist Christ was a remarkable man, years ahead of His time. But of course we are asked to believe much more than that - we are asked to believe that He is, in fact, the living God, and that He will return one day to judge the world. This, for many people, takes a little more believing. While Christ was here on earth He certainly spoke with divine authority. He forgave people their sins, He allowed people to worship Him, He claimed authority over the old laws; He claimed to be the only way to the Father. He, in fact, claimed to be equal to the Father.
It is true that Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension from earth happened a long time ago, but if it is true (and all the evidence says it is), it is the most remarkable fact in the history of the world. However much modern men and women have put their hands over their ears every time His word has been pronounced (particularly at Christmas and Easter) - if these words are true they are powerful enough to alter the face of every person’s thinking regarding the meaning of life and, indeed, the meaning of the cosmos.
Some scholars have in the past gone all out to disprove Christianity (Mr McDowell and Mr Greenleaf being two of the most famous); they have carefully examined all the evidence over several years of research and found that the life, death and resurrection of Christ are the three most established facts of the history of that time; that they are more corroborated than the existence and activities of any historical figure of that day, and around the time before and after.
We can see from looking through the whole vast array of historical literature which has been written, that none of it is anything like the gospels. The gospels are not creative enough or artistic enough or detailed enough to be literature, nor do they entail any imagination from the authors whatsoever; they consist of things seen and heard, not of things created to be imaginative.
Even if we do not go to the lengths to which either Mr McDowell or Mr Greenleaf went, perhaps we can elicit (or help others to elicit) some thoughts and feelings as to what Easter really means and what it has to say to each of us personally. If the interpretation will be different in each man, the facts will remain the same. That God created the universe and came into creation - born as a man so that He could die for our sins - and in doing so - elevate us up into His presence by our relying on His grace and accepting His Son as our Lord and Saviour. On the cross, Christ took on all of our sins Himself; He gave Himself for us.
Now it seems to me that we can do only one of two things regarding such stupendous claims - we can either reject Him or we can accept Him into our lives. And if we do the former, we ought to be pretty convinced that we are right to do so - for surely the only logical grounds that one can have for rejecting Him is if we believe His claims to be false. Surely no sane person would believe it to be true and still reject Him. He calls all of us to come forward and make a decision and He tells us that if we reject Him now, He will reject us when He comes in all His glory to judge the world. If we reject Him in His weakness on the cross, He will reject us in His glory as Creator of the universe.
Christ told us that He has overcome the world - and that we should even (hyperbolically speaking) cut off our hand and gouge out our eye if they stop us from following Him. We can see here from this hard language that Christ knew the seriousness of following Him; He knew better than us that our eternal future is at stake.
For those who do not know God, and for those who have friends and loved ones who do not know God (which is most of us), it is certainly worth considering for a moment how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ affects each of us. The resurrection spells out grace and hope, the chance of a new life for all of us. The line between temporality and eternity vanishes, so that all who accept His dying for us can count themselves immortal. Christ rose so that we could rise - life becomes eternal. With this in mind, it is easy to see that the death and resurrection of Christ gives all of us hope and meaning - for the event that is central to the whole story; the life of Christ is the event which gives our lives meaning and hope that a new beginning can be ours, irrespective of our personal circumstances when we anticipate it.
The good news of Christ can lift each of us out of the travails of everyday life, into strength, beauty and happiness. Where we see darkness, Christ sees light, for when He rose up to Heaven He made Himself available to return into our presence, stimulating the heart, mind and soul into an eternal significance. The joy of Christ does not appear at Easter and Christmas alone, it appears in every moment of universal history; for there is no point in the space-time continuum that is detached from the hope He offers us.
Many people ask, particularly at this time of year, where is God in my life? But the truth is, He is right there on the cross, as the abounding manifestation of love, grace and mercy; so awesome in nature that in one act, He answered every question of human suffering, human pain, human anxiety, and human loneliness that has ever been asked. He tells us on the cross not just what He has done for us, but what we can do for ourselves by accepting His dying. It really is the truest blessing.
It is true that Christ suffered like no other has suffered - but this suffering brings with it the utmost hope for all who have ever wished for hope and for all who have ever felt lost, alone and afraid. But it does not, of course, just speak to those who are troubled, it speaks to those who delight in life; it speaks, in fact, to everyone whose soul can find peace on the very spot where His misery of becoming sin for us reached its climax.
If it seems that the message of Christ has not always been written legibly for you to see on the face of earthly existence, do not be too surprised, for it will not be found while we are thinking of nature as we do; it will be found when we realise that nature is only a conveyor of the eternal things - and not always a very lucid conveyor. That is to say, the eternal blessings which can be ours will quite easily be corrupted into a hazy cloud of indifference if the Bad One has his way. But Christianity begins where all those false and unhelpful doctrines end.
Christ had each and every one of us in mind when He was on the cross; our hearts were His from the moment the pain began; it was pain endured so that He could rise to prepare a place for us. That the world was created for the cross, I have no doubt; for His dying shows us that God’s love goes deeper than creation itself. To overlook this point is to overlook something deep within our own souls - that we owe Him everything; for everything that we find joyous, everything that we find comforting - in fact, all the things that are very likely stopping a man from thinking he needs Christ are, in truth, the things which He has given to us out of love and grace.
And that is the incredible paradox of rejecting Him. Whatever you think you have to give to Him, you are not giving Him anything that is not His already. He has spoken to us by giving us life but also by His death. And if any of us can spend a little time this Easter anticipating what all this means and how it affects our own life, we shall find, if we are open to receive His grace, that the great truth of Easter is that we are to live for Him now so that we can live for Him forever. In doing this we get to see the real truth behind creation.
If the message of Christ says one thing to us over this Easter period, it says this; we can only suppress the truth for so long - it will come back. You can reject it, but it won’t pass; you can nail it the cross; but it will not die. Our real knowledge of eternity is not just the Spirit inside us telling us of Heavenly things, changing our perception so that we become spiritually wise - it is so very much more. It is everything outside of wisdom, in fact, it is everything outside of creation - the only glimpse of Heaven we shall have on earth; it is a renewal of our minds - a renewal with which we can receive God directly into our own hearts.
Christ, in triumphing on the cross, gave hope to everybody who has lived and everybody who will live. The life, death and resurrection of Christ are not mythologies, they are facts. And those who are one with Christ, those who have the Spirit inside them, shall see the Heavenly glory promised to all those who accept His love and grace. This is why it affects every one of us. Christianity is not something that suits the fancy of some - it is the whole story told in one moment of grace on the cross and it is told in the eternal realm to which we can belong.
All those who wish to explore further the claims of Christ can do so with one step into the new dimension of faith; for once faith has occurred in your heart it will be no more hope or expectation it will be revelation - you will have ‘certainty’ written on your heart. You will be transformed into the gradual likeness of Christ, forever rejoicing in His presence.
And if we dwell on this or put it aside for later, we might rob ourselves of real hope. The future is oblique; we must never rely on it outside of what Christ will do in it. We shall only have a full life when we fix our eyes on eternity, for only then does this life become a little bit like Heaven.
Whoever goes on to believe, shall have new hope through the certainty of salvation. Whoever shares in Christ’s dying shall share in His eternal living. This is the true hope of Easter - it offers a chance to rejoice in the promise of salvation. The resonant wave of glory can lift us up into the arms of the divine. We can touch the hand of our eternal saviour, in whom there is hope in every situation - for we are His; whatever we do and however we feel, the risen Christ is right beside us; He is the truth on which all other truths depend, and the love, joy and pleasure to which all other loves, joys and pleasures belong.
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. John 11:25-26
I hope Easter brings special things for you. A time when we can give thanks and praise to God for our blessings, for our opportunities, for our life, and for creation itself.
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