He Is Alive
There was a Muslim in Nigeria who converted to Christianity. When some of his friends asked him, “Why did you become a Christian?” he answered, “Well, it’s like this. Suppose you were going down a road and suddenly the road forked in two directions. You didn't know which way to go. At the fork in the road, however, there were two men, one dead (i.e. Mohammed) and the other alive (i.e. Jesus Christ). Which one would you ask for directions on which way to go?'"
Jesus is alive!!! No Muslim will claim that Mohammed is still alive. We Christians, though, celebrate today that Jesus is alive!!! This is the central teaching upon which our entire Christian faith hinges. In fact, the only reason why a small group of Jewish disciples risked their lives preaching this Good News to the world was precisely because they met the Risen Christ! The only reason why this tiny Jewish sect became the largest world religion is exactly because Jesus is alive! No other world religion claims that their main character is alive today. You won’t hear any Jew say that any of their great prophets – neither Abraham nor Moses nor King David – is alive today. Muslims don’t teach that Mohammed survived his death. Buddhists say that the Buddha was enlightened, but he died and was buried and only his teachings remain.
The resurrection of Christ, and Jesus presenting himself alive to his followers after his crucifixion and burial in the tomb, is the crux of our Christian faith! Christianity isn’t based on a great teacher who simply taught his people how to live. Of course, he left eternal teachings of wisdom, yet He did something much greater. He experienced death, and then conquered it! He confronted the greatest evil dilemma in human history, and proved greater than death itself!
Yet, skeptics will question whether the resurrection of Christ is only a myth. The followers of Christ in the first century faced similar skeptics. In fact, they not only ridiculed Christians for supposedly creating such fabrications, but threatened them and even killed them for this belief.
In response to such questions and threats, St. Paul wrote, “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received, that Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day.” And as proof he continued, “Jesus appeared to Peter, then the twelve disciples, then to more than 500 believers, of whom the majority were still alive, then to James, and to all the apostles. And He finally appeared to me.” In other words, Jesus did not appear to only a handful of people after his death, but he revealed himself to hundreds. More than 500 saw the Risen Jesus at one time. And they didn’t just see him once, but over 40 days Jesus appeared to his followers after his death.
If the enemies of Christ wanted to disprove his resurrection, they could have asked these hundreds of people. In fact, they did threaten Jesus’ followers with torture, suffering and death, demanding that they deny this fact, and yet these courageous men and women didn’t deny the resurrection! Why would people be willing to die for a lie? If it was a deceitful conspiracy, would the followers of Christ held onto this belief even to the point of death? No, they continued to believe because they couldn’t deny the incredible, life-changing reality they experienced. Jesus was alive and is still alive today!
St. Paul proclaims THE RESURRECTION IS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE in our life as followers of Christ. “If Christ was not risen, then our faith is meaningless, and we Christians are to be pitied more than all others!” In other words, Christians are naïve fools if we believe in a lie. And yet, Paul was no fool. He and the early Christians were sure that Jesus was alive because they had met him, and through this victory over death they no longer needed to fear death itself. Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and through this resurrection, He destroyed the power of death for us all!
Think for a moment. Death represents the greatest fear for countless people. Death epitomizes darkness and evil. We live in a world that often tries to deny death, or at best ignore it as if it will never come to us. We Christians view life and death from a completely different perspective. We live in the light and hope of the resurrection! Death and all evil are a reality we readily accept as a fact of life, but we know that they do not need to have the final say in our lives.
Christ is Risen! and death is defeated!
Christ is Risen! and fear is vanquished!
Christ is Risen! and suffering takes on new meaning!
Christ is Risen! and the doors of paradise are opened for all who believe!
Christ is Risen! and the devil and sin itself will not have the last say!
Christ is Risen! and we become conquerors together with Jesus over all that is dark and evil
Back in the 2nd century, the Roman historian Aristides wrote to one of his friends about this new religion, Christianity, and specifically about their strange attitude toward death. He marveled, “If any righteous person among the Christians dies, THEY REJOICE AND OFFER THANKS TO GOD, and they escort the body with songs and thanksgiving as if the dead person was setting out from one place to a better place.”
The early Christians lived with faith in the resurrection and therefore rejoiced and gave thanks in the face of death. St. John Chrysostom compared the non-Christian with the Christian by saying, “When a loved one dies, the unbeliever sees a dead body, but the Christian sees a body asleep. The unbeliever says the body has gone. We Christians agree, but we remember where he has gone - to the same place that St. Peter and Paul and all the saints abide. We remember that he will rise, not with tears of dismay, but with splendor and glory in paradise!”
So today, on this glorious feast of Pascha, let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad that no darkness or evil need to create fear in us. Christ is alive and He is the victor over death. Christ is Risen and He is the hope of all the world! There is nothing we ever need to fear, because Jesus is alive.
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!
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