He is risen, indeed! Happy Easter everyone!
Easter is one of my favorite holidays, but I've always felt that it didn't quite get the credit that it deserved. Throughout history, Christianity has had a constant, recognizable symbol: the cross. (Google will bring up 935,000 cross images) And this is understandable. The cross symbolizes that God was willing to sacrifice his own son to achieve reconciliation with humanity.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 NIV)
This is, of course, of vital importance. Not only as a sign of God's love but against the backdrop of Jewish law and history – it demonstrates the end of sacrifices through the one perfect sacrifice.
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins… And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:1-4,10 NIV)
So now that I have made quite the case for the cross as a symbol for Christianity – what am I whining about? I never felt that symbolism of the cross should be replaced, but supplemented. Supplemented with the imagery of the empty tomb.
While the cross shows the sacrifice of Jesus, the empty tomb shows that he was the Son of God. The empty tomb shows that in this world of religious and moral fanaticism, Jesus was more than a martyr.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. (Romans 5:7 NIV)
…Or a good cause. Today when we use the term "sacrificial lamb" we typically are talking about a senseless and often trivial death. Jesus was different. He came back. By conquering death, he proved he was God.
So what proof do we have today of this quite crucial event? Simple. Where is the body? The religious leadership at the time had Jesus killed for heretical teachings. The last thing they would want would be for him to become a martyr (though we have shown he was more than this) for his cause. All it would have taken to squash Christianity and send that band of fishermen scurrying back to hiding (as they did after the Crucifixion) was to bring out Jesus' dead body. Jesus was a public figure. Everyone knew what he looked like. The movement could have been stopped and the Jewish religious leaders would regained control. Instead, these fearful unschooled men became uncharacteristically courageous and outspoken. Something happened to change them so dramatically:
When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead…But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: " These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here " (Acts 17:1-3,5-6)
So THAT is why I felt that the empty tomb and Easter never quite got respect they deserved. Though I will concede that the symbol of an empty tomb is not as simple as the cross and that it might be more difficult to suspend above a church or hang from a chain.