A lot can happen in a week.
Last week during the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday, the world joyfully said hello to Jesus. They laid their robes and palm branches in front of the colt He rode, paving the way for Him with sincere hopes that a coronation was coming. They had no clue that seven mornings later he’d be lying breathless in a grave. If they knew He was going to be voluntarily slaughtered, I think they may have opted to keep their robes un-dusty.
Him becoming King didn’t work out quite like they thought.
For His part, on Palm Sunday Jesus started the day in a little house in Bethany somewhere, staring the most important week of human history in the eye. He knew exactly what was coming. Betrayal. Physical torment. Fatigue. Abandonment. Loneliness. It would be quite a week.
He still left the house.
A week later, Jesus was dead. Like, lungs deflated, skin cold, heartbeat absent kind of dead. And then he wasn’t any more.
Anyone, a person of belief or disbelief, has to grant that this is a hard teaching. Dead guys don’t just get up and start walking around again. I mean, it happened a few times in the Bible (see Lazarus, John 11), but Lazarus died again. And there are lots of “I saw the light/I talked to God/the doctors called it/etc.” kind of stories floating around in contemporary times, too. We can’t be sure if all of them are true or if some folks are just trying to get a book deal, but we can be sure of one thing: eventually all those folks experience rigamortis once and for all. There is a difference between resuscitation and resurrection.
We can be snatched back from death once, but our bodies will go to the ground again, come old age or accident. Not so with Jesus. The Biblical claim is that He is alive still.
Jesus died. The professional Roman executioners saw to it. They shoved a spear in his side. Then he was wrapped in 75 pounds of burial cloth and laid in a sealed tomb. And then, after a silent Saturday that left the world wondering what would be next, all of a sudden He wasn’t in the tomb any more.
What are we supposed to do with that? If you are intellectually honest at all, believer or not, you’ll grant it’s quite a claim. So what you do with it is up to you. I’d like to tell you what I’m doing:
I am betting everything I have — my existence, my eternity, my family, my profession, how I spend nearly every waking moment of my life, everything — on the truth of the claim that Jesus Christ of Nazareth rose from the dead.
I’m risking everything on that one thing. That’s a big, bold, borderline crazy way to live. But I’m doing it, along with billions of other people all around the world–contemporary and ancient. Billions more will do so in the future.
These people are a unique breed. Some folks think they are naive and ignorant of reality. Others are more hostile, considering such a risk foolish and stupid. Going through life as one of those risking everything on one thing, I get the misunderstanding. Most people don’t live life this way. We hedge our bets, diversify our assets, and avoid putting all our eggs in one basket. We are cautious in our relationships, investments, and interests.
But don’t mistake it for an uninformed bet. I’ve studied the Bible and I find that it’s reliable. I’ve studied the opposing views and I don’t find that they hold up. I admit that my upbringing makes me somewhat biased, but I really have tried to think about it as objectively I can. In the end, the conclusion I come to is that Jesus really was God, He really did become a man–on purpose–to rescue humanity from themselves. That rescue mission sent Him to a cross where He died and it also brought Him out of a tomb to live again.
I really do believe all that, and I’m betting everything on it.
It’s the reason that I’m not scared to die. It’s the reason that I’m not afraid to preach. It’s the reason I believe we can all be rescued from our own graves, too.
I mean that figuratively — that the dark caverns of addiction, hatred, selfishness, greed, cynicism, lust, and pride can be pierced with the light of the resurrection of Jesus. I also mean it literally — that one day those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ will be physically raised from death and live forever with Jesus in heaven.
All of this is possible because Jesus annihilated death by taking in a victorious breath of air after three days in a tomb, and He’s been giving dead lives fresh breath ever since. I believe the ground shook, the stone rolled back away from the mouth of the tomb, and Jesus walked out of it, and I believe He’s been helping the dead to rise and walk again ever since.
A week ago, people laid their robes in front of Jesus and screamed “Hosanna!” because they thought He was their conquering King. They thought He would rule in righteousness over Roman oppression. They weren’t wrong, their thinking was just too small.
Though He died voluntarily, death is meaningless to the author of life. So the war on death was a short one. Jesus rose defeating the grave, and not just His. All of ours. And He now reigns as the King of Heaven. He rules not only over the oppression of worldly empires, but also over every corner of the dark empire of our hearts.
Surrender to Jesus, and allow His resurrection to forever define your life.
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