He Lives

Sometimes, words can sting. Like when I was having lunch with a group of friends, most of whom are ostensibly atheist. At times, I feel like I’m the token Christian in the group. I hear lots about the excesses of many who claim to be followers of Jesus. I often find myself telling them that not all of us are like that. I try to be at least a small beacon of rational faith in a sea of suspected superstition and perceived hypocrisy.

But sometimes words still sting, like today, when a casual remark was made about the upcoming “Zombie Day.” Maybe I’m not the sharpest knife in the block, but I saw the intention quickly enough. That comment was in response to having been wished a “Happy Easter.”

The emphasis of this friend was on what he considered the impossible, a man rising from a tomb after having been dead for two days. He looked only at the surface, and didn’t consider the symbolism and significance to life.

And that was indeed a life of significance.

Jesus’ life was teaching. Jesus’ death was a continuation of that. His resurrection completed the lesson. He taught love, peace, meekness, forgiveness. The payoff of such a life would be eternal life. Yes, it sounds incredible.

But life itself sounds incredible, too. And yet, against steep odds, it continues in myriad forms and places. If physical life exists against probability, why is life on a different plane, in a different dimension of being that hard to accept? Because no one has seen it and come back to report. At least not in 2,000 years.

I wish that these guys knew the Jesus I know. Not the one that looks like the pasty milk-toast in the Renaissance paintings. Not the one who seems to be sad all the time. Not the one who judges first and shows compassion later—if at all.

The Jesus I know is bigger and smarter and deeper and more compassionate than that. Here is a man who had the strength to forgive the men who crucified him. Here is the man who asked that his burden be taken away from him, but shouldered it and soldiered on to meet his destiny. The Jesus I know had friends that he loved, not just followers that he commanded. He went to parties. He used humorous images. He delighted in the company of children. He respected faith. He demanded a change of heart. He was really compassionate. He cared. He cares.

The idea of equating a risen Savior with a zombie is not only monstrous, it is sad beyond measure. It says the speaker doesn’t know the peace that accompanies real faith. It says that somewhere, that person likely had a very bad experience with religion. And that—religion—may be a common root of such problems.

Religion for some people is more form than family, more rules than refuge. The accretion of 2,000 years of human tinkering has produced a fragmented farce of what Jesus wants: changed people who live their faith, not chained people who are imprisoned by what they call “the” faith.

Jesus did not come to establish an earthly kingdom. He was not power hungry, even though it was said that all power was given to him. He did not come to establish an institution called “church.” He came to call people to action and service, to call them out from the order of the entropy of human experience to something more.

Some would say that we can do that by ourselves, that our self-initiated humanitarian drive will do the same thing. But the result is constantly dissipating. Like the universe, our resolve is constantly losing energy, losing focus, and we spiral into a morass of moral degradation, of decay into disparate aliquots of selfishness rather than the synergistic state of unity of purpose.

We need a model. We need a rallying point. We need a savior to save us from ourselves.

And that focus, indeed that of all of the Bible and by faith I believe all of human history is Jesus. It is through him that God accomplishes his purpose of bringing humankind back from the corruption of the fall. His very name says it all, “God saves.”

My Jesus is not “undead.” He is very much alive. He is more alive than his time on earth would ever reflect. He is alive beyond the scope and reach of our feeble comprehension. And through his example of selflessness, we can live and experience greatness; not fame or fortune, but being like him in character and action, partake of that divine nature. We transcend the corruption of the physical and touch the perfection of spirit.

As I think about that lunchtime exchange, I still feel that words can sting. But in my heart, I know the truth. And like he promised, that truth—Jesus himself—has set me free from such trivial concerns. I know that he lives.

And while some choose one day to celebrate the miracle of the life of Jesus and his sacrifice and renewed life, he brings hope and better life to his friends each and every day. One man who walked the earth some two millennia ago has changed everything. The seemingly incredible events of that long ago day still ring in hearts that catch the sound and amplify it.

He lives.

And Happy Easter.

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