Monday, June 22, 2015
Dead Or Alive? It Matters!
When Cathy and I recently watched “Move Over, Darling,” starring Doris Day and James Garner, we pretty much knew we were in for a treat. We have long admired the stars and figured that the film would be captivating. We enjoyed the expected humor, but the story resonated on a number of levels. The gist of it is this: how much would change if a spouse, thought to be long dead, turned up alive? The answer, of course, is EVERYTHING!
Everything would change. It doesn’t matter that a court had announced the death as legally viable and the life insurance had paid off. It would make all the difference in the world if the person wasn't really dead.
I won’t give away the plot line of the movie. It’s worth the watch, even without dinosaurs. (Nor does the city of Los Angeles get destroyed by an earthquake.) Even without digitally-enhanced action, this film has twists and turns and some life-changing decisions that MUST be made. It’s scarred with human failures as well as the lack of communication among the main characters.
I mention the “dead or alive” question here because the entire faith of Christianity hinges on it. Most of us would say that Confucius said some pretty wise things. The same would be true of Buddha. No one can question that Mohammed founded a religion that has influenced the far corners of the earth. The single feature that sets Christianity apart is the faith that Jesus Christ died on a Roman cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, then rose from the grave, never to die again.
Only Christians will tell you, “The One we follow is alive!” We don’t mean that He is alive in our hearts and minds. We are not saying that He is alive because His teachings are life-changing. We are saying that He is fully alive and has conquered the power of death.
Saul of Tarsus dedicated his life to stamp out the teaching that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah who had risen from the dead. With great violence, Saul came against the followers who had dedicated their very lives to spread the news about Jesus. They wouldn’t back down, so he grew even more forceful. One day he was on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus. His purpose was to shut down the followers of Jesus in Syria. Later, Paul described what happened to him on that road:
6 “As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me.
7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
8 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. “And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.’
9 The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me.
10 “I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ “And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’
11 “I was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by my companions.
Acts 22:6-11 (New Living Translation)
Saul’s physical blindness was a reminder of his long-held spiritual blindness. Was it because Saul hadn’t heard of a resurrected Christ that he didn’t believe? Obviously not. He had heard and had seen formerly timid people who were now willing to die a martyr’s death because of their faith. It didn’t convince him, just as many of us aren’t convinced of the veracity of Islam just because some are willing to die. What DID convince the scholar/religious zealot? He said that he SAW Jesus…alive! He heard Jesus speak. For Saul, an alive Jesus changed everything!
It matters whether or not Jesus is alive. If He isn’t, skeptics can doubt without danger. If He is, everything He said must be true. One verse alone, John 14:6 (I encourage you to look it up), is enough to rattle many cages!
We will pick up the subject of a living Jesus this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. It’s the next installment of “Why Bother?” You don’t want to miss it! Can’t be there? Catch the podcast!