By: Rev. Ed Schneider
I wonder why far too many “Christian” folks only focus on the foundation of our faith – the resurrection event – around the time of Easter? I think it is perfectly logical to realize that if Jesus had not changed the world through what we believe is the resurrection event; then Christianity would be nothing more than just another philosophical means to deal with the journey of life and the emotional realities of death.
If the first resurrection event is so foundational to who we are and what we do, why does it seem to be such a non-event in the practical lives of Christians? Given that unfortunate reality, I thought it might be an appropriate time to reflect on why “professed Christians” celebrate the first resurrection event not just during the Easter season, but rather each and every day of our lives.
Our religious faith tradition proclaims that Jesus, whom his friends, his family and indeed all of Jerusalem thought dead, was not merely raised “from the dead.” Instead, He was brought “back to life” approximately 2,000 years ago. It must have been an incredible day, one that started with disbelief, fear, trembling and bewilderment beside the empty tomb, and yet ended with astonishment, excitement and thanksgiving. Not only are we told that Jesus was raised “back to life” but He was said to appear to real “flesh and blood” people. He presented Himself to Peter who denied Him, to Thomas who doubted Him, and to Mary who wept for Him. He visited with His friends, He ate with His disciples, and He even talked with His followers.
What strikes me as so sad about that first resurrection day? It is that despite all the disciples had purportedly seen Jesus do – from healing the sick to calming the storms – and despite all the disciples had heard Jesus say about how He would be killed and on the third day be raised “back to life,” not one of them expected nor hoped ever to see Jesus again – especially after his gruesome death and unceremonious burial.
When Jesus died their hopes died, their convictions died, and even their faith died. While they huddled in the famous Upper Room, where they had just a few hours before celebrated The Passover, they found themselves hiding in fear. They were afraid of how they would be treated. They were afraid that they could very easily succumb to the same fate as Jesus.
Oh, yes! They were terrified.
Beloved verily, verily I say unto you what you believe affects you to the very core of your being. It shapes you and makes you what you are.
There is an old fable that may be familiar to some of you that should easily illustrate this understanding:
Once upon a time a man found the egg of an eagle. It had been abandoned for some reason by its mother, but as it was still warm, the man took it and put it in the nest of one of his backyard chickens along with the other eggs that were there being brooded.
After a period of time the eaglet was hatched, and along with the other chicks from his nest began to go about the backyard doing what the other chicks did. He scratched the earth for worms and insects, he looked for the corn that the man would throw into the yard, he clucked as best as he could and, as he grew, he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet in the air like the other “chickens.”
Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird far above him in the cloudless sky; it glided majestically among the powerful wind currents, soaring and swooping, scarcely beating its long golden wings. The old eagle looked at it in awe and asked, “What is that?
“That is the eagle – the king of the birds,” said one of his neighbors. “He belongs to the sky and to the high places. We belong to the earth; we are chickens.”
The old eagle knew this was true and so it was he lived and died as a chicken, for that is what he believed he was.
Beloved, I want you to think of what happened to the disciples after that first resurrection day. After they finally accepted and believed in the resurrection that Christ had told them about, they came out of The Upper Room where they had huddled in fear, and they went to the ends of the earth creating a mighty church. They accomplished this demonstration of faith, power and determination despite the efforts of emperors and local authorities to stamp both them and their religious beliefs out of existence.
They went from being people afraid of dying, to being people who offered their very lives to help others come to the same saving faith, hope and joy that they had. Somehow, that first resurrection event began a paradigm shift, an immediate transformation, and they were foundationally changed. There can be no other logical explanation why cowards and deserters would so remarkably alter who they had been.
Because of the resurrection and their conviction that it was for them the depths of real intimacy and authentic unexplainable empowerment, the disciples were changed by their faith in the resurrection and in the God who brought it about. They were given power to heal and to help others. They were given power to conquer their own fear and their own despair. They were given the undeniable power to defeat the fear and despair that afflicts others.
As Christians, we are promised when we trust and believe in this way; when we believe in the power and love of God, a power and love that can raise the dead to life, our lives will be blessed and we will be a blessing to others.
We are promised that what we believe will make a difference to not only us, but to others as well. As we grow in our belief, we come to understand that God can bring back to life that which has died; that God can bring good out of evil; and that God can bring love out of hate and hope out of despair. This is what we believe and what we believe does make a difference.
However He got up and whenever He got up, just the belief that He did rise up from the depths of earthly separation provides all of us with the knowledge that nothing can be kept from the love of God. Nothing is kept from the power, mercy and grace of God.
And that means that you and I can get up with Him. It means that you and I can have faith that whatever is holding us down, holding us back or tearing us apart is not strong enough to prevent God from showing His love, power and mercy.