By Pastor Michael Cofer
April 16, 2017
One of my all-time favorite movies is the 1987 classic, “The Princess Bride.” In the movie, Peter Falk plays the grandfather of a boy who has stayed home from school sick (presumably to play videogames). So, grandpa swoops in to make the boy feel better by reading one of his favorite books. At first, the boy is skeptical and critical… but before long, he is fully engrossed in the story. And then this happens… [Video Clip]
How can that boy be so sure that the hero will win in the end? Because that’s how it’s meant to be. That’s what’s right. Maybe life isn’t always like that, but it should be. We just know the hero can’t really lose… not really. But even though you know he can’t lose, you still get the goosebumps and the chill up your spine when he swoops in and to the rescue.
This is the beauty of Jesus’ life… it unfolds the way our hearts know it should, because He is the hero that we long for. Every other hero that has come before and every one that will follow after ultimately loses to something – even if only to their own mortality. But Jesus is victorious over everything – even death can’t stop him.
I want to tell you something – and it’ll offend some people, but I just don’t care because I have to speak truth. The Christian faith is the only one that is vindicated. It is the only faith that has a victorious hero at the end of the story. “Wait a minute!” you think. “What about Islam? Muhammad rides off into heaven! And then there’s the Buddha! He becomes so enlightened that he just… I dunno. Whatever he does. And I could go on.”
Sure, you could. But before you do, let me ask you this question: where are the witnesses? Who was there when Muhammad rode off in to heaven? Nobody. There are no witnesses in the story because there were no witnesses to the event because it didn’t happen. Who was there when Buddha reached enlightenment and transcended his body? Nobody. It had to happen in secret and all alone, because there were no witnesses. But if there were no witnesses, how do we know what happened? We DON’T because it is just a made-up story.
But what about Jesus? His is not a story of a man doing miraculous things is secret. He is in the streets. He’s in the synagogue. He is nailed to a cross for all the world to look upon. He was killed by trained killers – people who had executed dozens or maybe hundreds of people in the same way. He was dead as dead can be. He was sealed in a tomb – literally sealed to prevent anyone from sneaking in. Guards were paid to keep all of Jesus’ followers away so that no one could fake his resurrection.
But He went and rose anyway! In glory, he rolled away the stone and stepped out and the guards ran panicked back to the priests who hired them. And He stayed there, outside the tomb so Mary could meet Him. And then He walked with people on the road. Then He appeared in the upper room. Then He walked on a lake in broad daylight. And by the time He ascended into heaven, there were more than 100 witnesses there to confirm the fact. Saint Paul reports that Jesus showed himself to more than 500 people after the resurrection. FIVE. HUNDRED. Most of whom were still alive when He made that claim.
And that doesn’t even mention the dead he raised with him who went home to their families to bear witnesses to what Jesus had done. Jesus stuck around for over a month, eating and talking and showing that He was very, very much alive!
We talk a lot about the cross, and we talk fairly often about the empty tomb. But the truth is, the empty tomb is not proof enough. My hope is not in the empty tomb – an “Argument from silence.” My hope is in the risen Christ… Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh. That’s the real proof.
I’m making a big deal about this because if you think that Jesus’ resurrection is just another religious myth to help us feel better about our own mortality or something, you have completely missed the point. The story of Easter is not a metaphor or a fiction or some sort of spiritualized account. JESUS DIED. JESUS ROSE. AND HE IS ALIVE TO THIS DAY. Not just in our hearts or memories. He is ALIVE.
You want to know how I know my faith is founded on the truth – how in the midst of countless belief systems, I can be absolutely sure that Jesus is what he claimed to be? Because He did it all out in the open, for all the world to see. JESUS DIED. JESUS ROSE. AND HE IS ALIVE TO THIS DAY.
Which is great for Him… but that is far from the end of the story. His resurrection is also the proof of the promise that we will rise with Him. In 1 Corinthians it says, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
See, the story of Easter isn’t just a cool story about something that happened to somebody else ages ago, halfway around the world. His victory over death is for you. He’s showing you a preview of what’s ahead. When you pray to Christ, you’re praying to a flesh-and-blood, living-and-breathing person who literally loved you to death, and overcame it. Jesus paid it all on the cross, it’s true, but what good is that if we still end up dead? But this is the goal. This is the victory. This is what He’s about. And if He was so public about His resurrection, how could we not be? He doesn’t want us to keep this message a secret, held in these four walls or in the quiet of your own heart. He wants us in the streets! He wants us out there and over-the-moon excited. Bold. Joyful. Fearless, because…
CHRIST IS RISEN!