Tag Archives: Easter

Why People Hate the Empty Tomb

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https://i1.wp.com/slcbc.org/media/images/articles/Easter.jpgTomorrow is Easter Sunday when Christians in non-Eastern Orthodox traditions celebrate the single most important event in the history of the universe . . . a man, dead and buried since the previous Friday . . . walked out of a borrowed tomb alive. This event, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stands alone in the annals of time. It is a unique event that now serves as the fulcrum of how we measure time worldwide — even in officially non-Christian countries. Jews, Muslims, and other religions may have calendars they follow to schedule religious ceremonies, but all business gets conducted on the Gregorian — the Christian — calendar. Christ’s return from the dead is so powerful, it changed our calendar from BC, “Before Christ” to AD, “Anno Domini” or “In the year of Our Lord.”

As powerful as the event, as essential as the sacrifice leading up to it, and as all-important as the Man involved, to many people the empty tomb of Easter is not an object of reverence, a touchstone of faith, and a symbol of life everlasting, it is an object of derision, a touchstone of folly, and a symbol of a corpse of a rotting religion whose time has passed. Many people hate the empty tomb and everything it stands for and while some disparage the Resurrection out of ignorance of or antagonism towards the Person and message of Christ, some have much more specific reasons for their antipathy towards that bare cave in the cliffs outside Jerusalem.

One reason many hate the empty tomb is they mistake what Christians have done in the world for what Christ did on the Cross. I will not sully the memory of those who suffered under the heel of the Christian boot during the Crusades, the Inquisition, the forced conversion of Native American children and many other atrocities committed in the name of the Lamb of God. However, it is unjust of anyone to judge the Gospel based on the actions of sinners . . . and we are all sinners. Crusaders were sinners, Inquisitors were sinners, abortion clinic bombers are sinners, and, what’s more, every single person sitting on a chair or in a pew in any church in the world today is a sinner. The only One who has ever lived who was NOT a sinner died so all the sinners who came before and all who would come after could have hope their sins would not be held against them, and the people of His time killed Him for His troubles. You cannot measure the value of the Gospel using the scales of a sinner.

Another reason people hate the empty tomb is the feeling of guilt and shame acknowledging the sacrifice of the Cross and victory of the Tomb creates. People will rail at the Heavens about how they did not ask for anyone to come die for them. They feel angry at the idea of not being “good enough” for anything they may want. No one wants to feel ashamed or guilty and in our modern culture “guilt” is today reserved almost exclusively for legal proceedings while “shame” is just the product of a backward mind unwelcome in this brave new world. After all, we’re all okay. If we just tolerate and celebrate each other and embrace the diversity of sins around us, everything will be fine. We just have to get passed the false guilt Christianity via the church has bound our freedom with for centuries. We aren’t shameful or guilty as long as it is politically incorrect to equate ANY behavior with shame or guilt. We would follow a truth to avoid The Truth.

That brings up the strongest reason people hate the empty tomb. As long as “open-minded moderns” can believe Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett are correct and God truly does not exist so no tomb ever really was empty, we can go about our merry way and do what we want, when we want, as long as we want, with whomever we want and no consequences will ever weigh us down. As the Wiccan Rede says, “Do whatever you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone.” We can die peacefully with Bertrand Russell’s thin, reedy voice intoning in our fading hearing, “”Death is nothing to us; for that which is dissolved, is without sensation, and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us.” As long as God is dead and the Tomb either full or fairy tale, we are the “Master of our fate; the captain of our soul.”

However, if the opposite is true and Jesus rose from the dead, they are not only guilty, but they are also in debt and facing judgement. The presence of a just and holy God who provided a way to escape eternal capital punishment through the deliberate sacrifice of Himself in the form of His Son absolutely plays havoc with their lives — inner and outer. If that God is real; if that Christ is real, then I don’t get to live any way I want. I don’t get to rob and thieve and steal whatever from whomever I please. I can’t have sex like some randy alley cat willy-nilly. Most of all, though; my life doesn’t belong to me. I owe my life, my existence to Someone else and one day, I will stand before Him to give an account of my actions.

That possibility at once terrifies and enrages every atheist I’ve ever known. The very possibility they are not in control of their precious little existences rankles at them like a rock in their shoe. Man likes to think he is top of the food chain and the pinnacle of all in the Universe for that is what the Enlightenment has taught him, but no . . . There is One; the Three in One to whom everyone from the most devout Muslim to the most strident atheist will one day bend a knee and proclaim thrice holy . . . and each of them despises the fact and by extension the Empty Tomb which gives them a way of escape from that day of wrath.

An interviewer asked the aforementioned Bertrand Russell what he would do if, after his death, he found himself standing before God. Mr. Russell replied, again in that wispy whisper of his, “Well, I’d simply say, ‘You didn’t provide me enough evidence!'” So what you are saying, Mr. Russell, is if confronted with the King and Creator of the Universe in all His power and glory, you — a mere human — would lead your defense of your miserable unbelief with “Not enough evidence?”

No, sir, I don’t believe you would. He has given us enough evidence and chief among it all is that stark, empty tomb which so many in the world hate . . . to their own peril.

Love y’all, Happy Easter, and keep those feet clean! He is risen indeed!

On This Rock

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la-jument-3I grew up in a Christian home and for the first 35 years of my life, give or take a year, I didn’t question my beliefs, what I’d been taught, or the basis of Christianity in general. I probably didn’t spend the total of a single day reflecting on whether or not this was true and that false or what the true purpose of life was. The weightiest discussions I had were on the relative merits of different “flavors” of Christianity like Mama’s Fundamentalist Pentecostalism versus Granny’s Southern Baptist Sunday School lessons. Even when I was a rank heathen and behaved as such, I still had a good handle on how the world worked, Who was in charge, and what the end of all things was going to be. In due time, I made a profession of faith in Christ, and figured I’d punched my ticket to Heaven when I died. Budge and I went to the church where we’d been married and worked diligently and tirelessly to further the kingdom of God on Earth.

That all changed when my Papa John died in 2007.

When Papa died, I went into a night of the soul which left me an agnostic a breath away from hard atheism. I turned on my faith. Like a company in a hostile takeover, I fired everything and everyone I ever believed in. All my ideas had to “reapply.” It was hideous having the most basic of life’s foundations essentially blown up. EVERYTHING I had been taught, everything I held as truth, and everything  I had taken for granted evaporated immediately. It’s not over, either. Ideas I held as dogma I’ve discarded and have no intention of ever picking up again. I walked away from Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism and frost will form on the hinges of Hell before I turn back.

But, I believe in Easter.

Was the Earth created in six literal days? Don’t know; don’t care. Moses part the Red Sea? Noah’s Flood was world wide? Not the faintest idea. Were Adam and Eve real people or is the Garden story an allegory? Not a clue and it makes no difference to me either way. Is there going to be a Rapture? How about a Millennial Kingdom? Pre-Trib? Mid-Trib? Post-Trib? No Trib? I. Don’t. Care. Richard Dawkins, I don’t think you’re right, but knock yourself out.

I believe in Easter.

What I KNOW and what no one in 2000+ years has been able to disprove is the Easter story. I believe in Easter because I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe no matter how messed up I am, no matter what encyclopaedic compendium of stupid things I’ve done, no matter the “good” life I miserably failed to live . . . Jesus Christ died for me . . . THE HARD WAY. I refuse to turn my back on anyone who loves me enough to endure hematodrosis, scourging, being crowned with thorns, and finally get NAILED TO A BOARD ON A POST. My Mama loved me. My Budge still loves me. I was the apple of all my grandparents’ eyes, but I know none of them loved me that much. I don’t have a friend that close. Sure, you might have someone who SAYS he or she would take a bullet for you . . . but see where they are when the shooting starts.

For three years, Jesus Christ went around tending the sick and poor and they KILLED HIM FOR IT. He actually WAS a good man and they stuck a spear in His side. NO. I won’t turn my back on that. I don’t know about all the details and doctrines anymore, if I ever did. All I know is my life is ROYALLY screwed up thanks to choices I made and choices others made for me, but Jesus didn’t care. He let them kill Him anyway just to cover all my screw ups. There was just one catch . . . He didn’t STAY dead.

If you want to make me an atheist, just show me Jesus’ body. That’s all Pilate and the Sanhedrin needed to do. When people started screaming about “He is risen!!” They could have just trundled the body out into the streets of Jerusalem and said, “Nope. Here he is and he’s still DEAD.” But they didn’t, because they couldn’t because after he died, HE GOT BACK UP.

Mohammed didn’t do that. He said if you do enough good and avoid enough evil, you get to go to Paradise. Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha didn’t do that. He said if you get your mind right, you’ll become one with the Universe and go to Nirvana. No atheist did that. They just say we’re here by chance — dumb luck — in which case I’ve got a list of people who need their luck to run out.

But Jesus said, “I’ll fix YOUR mess. I’ll take care of what YOU screwed up. I’ll let you KILL ME so YOU can live.”

I’m not turning my back on that. I may suck at being a Christian, but it’s what I am and not because Papa and Mama said so anymore. Not because I live in the South and supposedly “all y’all” are Christians. Not because “the preacher said so” or even because “the Bible said so.” I’m a Christian because He didn’t turn His back on me and I’m not going to turn my back on Him. I still believe in Easter and some days, it’s ALL I believe in, but it’s enough to get me out of bed and keep me from putting a bullet in my brain.

Love y’all, keep those feet clean, and Happy Easter.

 

 

Easter Means Even More This Year

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12097112-jesus-resurrectionOne of the last things I told Mama before she lapsed into unconsciousness from which she would not awaken in this world was, “Mama, I’m not sure Heaven has special holidays, but if they do, I bet Easter is a huge one and you are going to be home in time for Easter, Mama.” At her funeral, I shared with everyone the hope of Easter and as Christians, Easter is our hope. Baby Jesus lying in a manger may be sentimental and precious to everyone, but the power and glory of the Gospel is not in Christmas, but in Easter.

Christmas doesn’t bother people all that much either. After all, thousands of people are born every second. The earth has over seven billion people on it and they were all born. Atheists and agnostics find it humorous that Christians believe a Child could be born of a virgin, but since they like to get gifts as well, Christmas gets a pass. Over time, it’s even become increasingly secularized.

Whereas a birth doesn’t cause much consternation, a death — now that’s a problem, but not an insurmountable one. People die in droves each moment; it’s not that hard to wrap a brain around. So Good Friday brings more good-natured ribbing from unbelievers who can’t fathom anyone willing to die as hideous a death as crucifixion in order to save the world from something as banal as “sin.” It doesn’t bother the scientific types that someone deluded enough to call Himself the Son of God died on a cross twenty centuries ago.

Easter doesn’t let anyone off the hook that easily. Now the unbelievers begin to rage and howl and use what Granny Wham would call “ugly language” if she were still with us. Easter takes that virgin born Child from Christmas who was killed on the Cross around 33 Good Fridays later and puts Him in a borrowed tomb THEN we Christians have the unmitigated gall to claim that three days later, that Good Friday Crucified, Virgin Born Christmas Child actually ROSE FROM THE DEAD.

I cannot and will not repeat the crudities I’ve seen written in comment threads all over the internet if someone made the audacious mistake of claiming Jesus was Resurrected and now lives and will return and reign. A favorite among lower class trolls is to refer to Him as “Zombie Jesus” and accompany the words with all sorts of offal remarks.

I try to stay calm and turn the other keyboard because I know something they won’t admit — Jesus did rise from the dead on that first Easter morning and I’m dead level certain of it because Christianity survived 2000 years for me to become a convert. Lies and mythmaking could possibly have kept a fake Messiah’s message going for a few years, maybe even some decades. Some false religions, as long as they are tolerant, can survive centuries.

But a religion that demands you base the safety of your immortal soul on the absolute fact a dead man rose from the dead? If that’s a lie, that movement is going to die off as soon as all the gullible people in Jerusalem who didn’t take the time to stop by an empty tomb die themselves. If Christianity is false, it is the greatest, most consistent, and most elaborately testified to hoax in history and from what I’ve seen of humanity, it is much easier for me to believe Jesus rose from the dead than to believe a bunch of humans, no matter how intelligent, could ever come up with something remotely resembling Christianity.

My Mama is dead to this world, but because He lives, so does she and because of that reality, I am not in the fetal position sobbing and thrashing about. I am looking forward to seeing her again one day . . . maybe soon.

Maranatha!

Love y’all!

Easter 2012

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He said to them, "I am the Resurrection and the Life and whoever believes on Me, even if he dies, he shall live."

This is one of my posts that my atheist friends would probably just as soon skip. Having issued that caveat, Happy Easter everyone! I realize most of you are probably reading this after an Easter lunch that may or may not have included a follow-up Easter Egg Hunt because Easter Sunday means one thing all over — you are going to church!

Easter draws us to church like the Moon draws the oceans to make the tides. It’s the one Sunday of the year when anyone who has ever professed some sort of attachment to Christianity at some point in their lives knows that this Sunday he cannot get up and play golf (unless he is in the final round of The Masters) and she cannot lay in late to get extra beauty sleep.

Easter is the Sunday of beautiful new dresses, patent leather shoes, and really big, ornate hats. It is the Sunday of shirts with collars too tight and suits smelling of mothballs. Easter is the one Sunday out of the year when pastors, priests, and parishioners alike know and have known for years what the sermon or homily will be this morning. Some will sit in the pew or upon the folding chairs and wonder to themselves as they do each year, “Is any of what this person is saying real?”

My answer to that question is simple; “If — somewhere deep within you — you don’t believe any of this, then why are you here on this beautiful spring morning and not at the lake?” Christmas may have been overwhelmed by the culture to the point that only the most devout hold on to its true meaning, but not Easter. All the cute little bunnies and brightly colored eggs in the world can’t erase the real meaning of this day. People like Richard “The God Delusion” Dawkins may mock it, David Letterman may laugh at it, and many in the pews may question it, but EVERYONE knows that behind Easter is one simple, incomprehensible fact . . .

Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

For over 2000 years, skeptics have tried to tear down the Resurrection. They have advanced theory after theory about how Jesus didn’t really die on the cross or Jesus didn’t really exist at all or the Apostle Paul made the whole thing up. So far, they haven’t done a very good job because the Resurrection continues to resurrect lost lives.

I will be plainly honest with everyone. For the last several years, I’ve been plagued by doubts about nearly every aspect of my own personal faith. I’ve tossed out all my beliefs and rebuilt them. I’ve teetered on the edge of the chasm of atheism myself all because of several personal struggles that I’ve endured in recent years. Many times I’ve wondered if there’s really anything to any of it. Every time though, when my belief has reached its lowest ebb and my faith is in tatters and I wonder who really is right, one thing and only one thing burns in my mind as the one “doubt” that keeps me going. What is it?

Where’s the body?

Romans and Jews in the ancient world and a slew of modern cults and scientists have EVERYTHING to gain if Jesus really stayed dead. Think about it, Christianity destroyed the Roman Empire. You thought the barbarians did that, didn’t you? Well, guess what? The barbarians that sacked Rome were Christians. They were Arianist and had a few things off in their Christology, but they were Christians.

Where’s the body?

When the disciples started running around screaming about “He is risen, etc, etc”, Pilate and Caiaphas could have simply gone to the tomb with their escorts of guards, opened the tomb, put Jesus’ still dead body on a cart and wheeled it through the streets of Jerusalem. It would have been game, set, and match for this infant religion. When Peter caused such an uproar with his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the authorities just had to go to the tomb and drag out the body. You put Jesus’ body on display in or around 33 AD and the last 2000 years look a whole lot different.

But they’ve never been able to do it.

People have asked me before how someone so intelligent as I supposedly am in so many other facets of knowledge can be so terribly  backward and ignorant about “Zombie Jesus?” I always say the same thing, “Habeas Corpus” which is Latin for “bring forth the body.” I don’t have the certainty I had as a child about how God works. I’m not clear on a lot of theological issues anymore. Still, at the end of the day, there’s the Resurrection and that means there is hope.

Hope that all the suffering that’s gone on down here isn’t for nothing. Hope that I’ll get to see my Papas and Grannies again. Hope that putting Mama in the grave won’t be the end of it all. Hope for something I’ve always felt around the edges but never have been able to put my finger on.

I’ve been called a fool for believing in Zombie Jesus, but considering all the foolish things I’ve done in my life, that’s the least of my worries. 2000 years ago, a bunch of scared women ran into a gathering of scared men and said angels had told them Jesus was risen. A little while later, The Man Himself appeared to them all and said, more or less, “I told you I would only be gone a little while.”

In the 20 centuries since then, a lot of people have given up a lot of things, including their own lives just to hold on to that hope. If it was good enough for all of them, I see no reason to let go of all my hope now. When all else is a big ball of confusion, the Empty Tomb still echos with the words, “He is not here; He is risen, just as He said.”

That’s good enough for me.

Love y’all and have a blessed Easter.

 

Habeas Corpus

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Today is Easter Sunday.

Today, Christians the world over celebrate the most important event in the history of the world — Jesus Christ’s rising from the dead. The Resurrection is not only the most important event in history, but also the most ridiculed event in history as well. To adherents of other religions, including atheism and its current priestly triumvirate of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens, the idea that a man can — and did — rise from the dead is mythology akin to Prometheus being bound in the Caucasus Mountains or Odin and his offspring riding down the Rainbow Bridge from Asgard to fight Ragnarok.

From time to time I have wrestled with doubts over the veracity of the Resurrection accounts, but one compelling and unanswerable detail has nailed me to my faith in Christ as surely as He was nailed to a Roman cross. If Jesus of Nazareth did not raise from the dead, where is His body?

The founders of other religions of the world are accounted for. Gautama the Buddha was cremated and containers of his ashes given as relics to shrines. Confucius is interred in Qufu, China, his hometown. The Mohammad lies beneath  the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.

But wither the Carpenter of Nazareth? Where are the remains of He whom Pilate, a Roman provincial governor not prone to flights of superstition, named “REX IVDAEORVM” ? Where is the body of The Christ, the Holy One of God?

First, Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who died on a real cross at a real point in time in the very real and verifiable Roman province of Judea in or about 33 AD. Forget about “the search for Jesus” or “the historical Jesus”. We have the Gospels and they say He lived. We have Josephus and Philo and they say He lived. Still people want to dispute Jesus’ existence. To them I say, was Julius Caesar real? Prove it. Less contemporary material exists mentioning the would-be Roman emperor than mentions Christ by a magnitude of ten yet no one doubts Caesar’s life and deeds. Why must Christ’s life be called a myth? If we are going to play these reindeer games, let’s all play by the same rules for all historical persons.

So, where is His body?

The Resurrection DESTROYED the Roman Empire. It made Jews, sadly, a cast out and hunted people. Logic dictates that if either the Romans or the Jews had knowledge or possession of Jesus’ body, as soon as Christians like Peter started preaching in the streets, these men would have gone to a tomb, carted out Jesus’ body, unwrapped it and said, “Here is your ‘Savior'”.

Christianity would have come to a swift end.

But it didn’t.

Through reading I have settled on two unassailable facets of Roman life. First, the Romans were excellent record keepers. Second, the Romans were excellent killers. The Romans in Palestine who crucified Jesus didn’t “misplace” the body and they didn’t take Jesus down “alive” from the cross so that He “got better” then showed up later on. I don’t have the time or space to shoot those two arguments against the Resurrection as full of holes as they deserve to be, but luckily others have done that yeoman’s work in my place. My suggestion is to start with the thin book by Josh McDowell titled More than a Carpenter if you want to start exploring the arguments over the centuries around Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I must warn you, though, before you undertake such a journey. Many extremely passionate and intelligent men have set out to debunk Christianity’s claim that Jesus rose from the dead. None have succeeded and many have become believers and followers of Christ in the process.

Will you?

Love y’all and Happy Easter.

Why are you seeking the living among the dead? He is Risen, just as He said He would.