(Pastor Steve McCracken is the senior pastor at Tigard First Baptist Church, 11075 S.W. Gaarde, Tigard. For more information, call 503-639-3913).
Easter comes every year. It's the day that marks our calendar when Christians gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from a diabolical death on a cross. It's an event foretold by Jesus throughout His ministry and captured by the four gospel writers. He said plainly, 'I must suffer many things . . . be rejected and killed and on the third day be raised to life' (Gospel of Luke 9:22).
His suffering was well-attested. His death depicted in vivid imagery by Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ.' Few dispute these facts.
But that's not where the story ends. He said, 'On the third day I will be raised to life.' Ah, now that stands alone. The stuff of suffering - rejection - and killing are part of the human experience. In every culture throughout the centuries, barbaric behavior has claimed innocent lives. It's that last line, 'raised to life on the third day,' where Christ's claim flips the incredulous switch on for many. Some, refusing to buy it, have tagged his crucifixion as the 'cruci-fiction.'
Still, these words announced by an angel to mourners at His tomb on that first Easter morning, 'He is not here, for He has risen just as He said' (Gospel of Matthew 23:6), remain the subject of the suspicious to the present.
One of my children, a freshman at a local high school, was asked by a teacher about the supposed recent discovery of the tomb and remains of Jesus. The claim, presented in a documentary for the Discovery Channel, alleges that a 2000-year-old cave containing 10 coffins includes one with the remains of Jesus Christ. This prompted the teacher to ask, 'What if you found out, with scientific certainty, that Jesus' remains have been found? Would it unsettle your faith?'
He was essentially asking, 'What if you've gotten it wrong about Jesus?' What if? Here's how I answered my daughter: 'I'd rather believe in Jesus as an icon of virtue and follow His teachings while seeking to emulate His life and find out at the end of my life He was a fake, a fable or myth than to ignore Him and His claims, only to come to the end of my life and find out He was real and true.'
St. Paul, following his dramatic conversion to Christ, reasoned with these words about His resurrection, 'But tell me this - since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless . . . And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins' (1 Corinthians 15:12-17 - New Living Translation).
My personal bottom line: I am a better man, husband, dad and pastor because of Jesus Christ. So the One who Easter affirms as rising from the dead, who's changed my life, hears me pray daily: 'Lord, make me more like You and less like me.'
I've decided He deserves my allegiance. From the evidence I see, it was a good decision!