Today, we think once more of the event to remember which we described in this post from five years ago.
Early on the first day of the week, some women came to the tomb where the lifeless body of Jesus had been placed. It was empty. It had been opened–not by any human hands but by an angel. It wasn’t opened to let Jesus out. The tomb was opened so that people might see that it was empty. The followers of Jesus were not expecting him to be alive again. At first, they couldn’t believe it. Powerful people tried to find the body or to convince the public that it had been stolen. But they could not.
Now, over 2000 years later, there are still those who try to deny the resurrection. The evidence is there. The friends of Jesus were not expecting the resurrection, but after they had seen him alive, they spent the rest of their lives telling others about it. Even when they were tortured and killed for preaching the resurrection, not one of them ever recanted. Without a body, the powerful enemies of Jesus could not disprove the resurrection.
Plants disperse their seeds in various ways. Many of them allow their seeds to be carried away by the wind. A method used by other plant species involves allowing the entire plant to go drifting along with the breeze. We call them tumbleweeds.
Tumbleweeds have often been associated with the American southwest, but they exist in primarily arid or desert areas in many countries of the world. A tumbleweed is simply a plant that breaks off from its roots and rolls along in the wind. Sometimes only part of the plant carrying the seeds breaks off. Also, some plants that produce spores rather than seeds become tumbleweeds.
As the plant is drifting along with the breeze, it scatters the seeds or spores over a wide area. This seed dispersal system works well in dry, open, windy areas. Unfortunately, sometimes it works too well. Humans have accidentally transported tumbleweeds from their native environments into new areas where they become invasive species. Sometimes they get caught in fences or get tangled with each other. These tumbleweed clusters can even grow large enough to block roads or houses. On the other hand, tumbleweeds can be beneficial by serving as food for animals or livestock in the dry rangelands. What could be better than for your food to come drifting along with the breeze right to you?
For the tumbleweeds to disperse their seeds and bring new life, they have to die first. As the dead plant degrades, the seeds are released, and new life begins in the desert. Jesus Christ said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). Jesus spoke those words knowing that He would soon give His life. However, from His death would come new life for all who will accept it because He rose to conquer death. Jesus was not just drifting along. He knew exactly what he was about to do, and He did it for you and me.
Each week as Christians meet, we remember Christ’s resurrection and victory over death. Annually we must not forget that at the time of Passover, Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) But without the resurrection, the sacrifice would be meaningless. As Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Our faith is not worthless because Christ’s resurrection conquered sin and death.
How do we know that is true? Some unbelievers argue that the resurrection is just a myth that arose many years later. The evidence against that idea is numerous and strong. The apostles carried the message of Christ’s resurrection to the ends of the Roman Empire for the rest of their lives. That was even though they had nothing to gain except a life of persecution ending in execution. If they had not seen the resurrected Christ, they would not have spent their lives proclaiming the message that Christ’s resurrection conquered sin and death.
Skeptics have often used the argument that the gospels were written years later to “prove” that the resurrection was a myth that developed during those years. However, before any of the four gospels were written, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in A.D. 57. In it, he included an oral tradition that gives a summary of the gospel message.
Today we have access to writing materials, books, and computers. We are accustomed to writing things down. In the first century, there were no computers, printed books, or pamphlets. Even simple writing materials were scarce and precious. People memorized important things by summarizing them efficiently and then passing them on as oral traditions. The early Christians used that method. Here is the first part of an oral tradition that Paul wrote down in that first letter to the church in Corinth:
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to…”
The oral tradition then goes on to list some resurrection appearances of Christ. Then Paul adds himself to the list of those who saw the resurrected Christ. (You can read it for yourself in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.) Of course, the “Scriptures” that Paul refers to are the Old Testament prophecies of Christ since the New Testament was not yet written.
When did Paul receive this tradition? He probably received it no later than A.D. 36 when he first visited Jerusalem. (See Galatians 1:15-18.) He possibly received it earlier than that in Damascus when, as Saul the persecutor, he encountered Ananias and received his sight. Ananias preached the gospel to him, and “Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.” Whether in Jerusalem or Damascus, Paul received the oral tradition of Christ’s resurrection no more than five years after the event. That tradition was not a myth that developed years later after the eyewitnesses had died.
Each week, as we celebrate the fact that Christ’s resurrection conquered sin and death, we can trust the story is true. We have that oral tradition written down, but we would do well to memorize it as the early Christians did.
There are many similarities between the events of January 6 in Washington D.C. and the biblical account of what happened to Jesus Christ. We can learn some lessons from Holy Week and January 6, 2021.
People of both political parties came to Washington D.C. on that Wednesday morning with a feeling of optimism and renewal. As Zechariah 9:9 had prophesied, Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, an animal of peace, not a horse which was an animal of war. The people’s response was to spread palm branches, a symbol of triumph and victory, in front of Him.
Jesus began his tenure in Jerusalem by throwing the religious crooks out of the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13). He initiated good things by healing the blind and lame (verses 14-15). Some good leaders came to Washington D.C. on January 6 to allegedly do some good things.
The people’s actions in Jerusalem brought jealousy to the establishment, who thought they were losing control. They challenged Jesus’ authority and tried to put him at odds with the Roman courts (Matthew 21:23-27). When that failed, they secured an extremist’s support to advance their cause (Matthew 26:14-16).
On January 6, extremists were motivated to attack the authorities in power resulting in violence. Not only was there damage to the physical structures of Washington, but several people died. The people of Jerusalem were motivated to accept and even promote the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. At the same time, the politicians washed their hands and turned their backs on the violence that was being carried out.
There are many lessons from Holy Week and January 6 in Washington that are hard to miss. No matter what your political beliefs or religious convictions, or lack of them, the comparisons are strong.
People are crazy. Humans can be led, and their price is cheap. Judas sold out Christ for what in our money would be about $120.
Whether they are secular or religious, most politicians will stop at nothing to advance their own standing. Breaking religious law (read Leviticus and Deuteronomy) or violating the U.S. Constitution is easy when it involves greed, jealousy, and power struggles.
Journalists are biased and interpret the news rather than reporting it. As you read Matthew 26:59-60, you find two false witnesses saying that Jesus said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God.” That was a half-truth. The witnesses and the religious leaders interpreted that to mean the Temple made of stone when Jesus had made it clear it was His body. The news media on all sides of the January 6 event interpreted the news.
The similarities between Holy Week and January 6 end withthe resurrection of Christ. Even today, many people deny the evidence and maintain their conviction that Jesus was a fraud. Some people will not change their political agenda no matter what the evidence. Indeed, the importance of “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21) cannot be over-emphasized.
Today is a historic Resurrection Sunday when church congregations in the United States and much of the world are unable to assemble in one place. We pray that we will be able to get back together soon and that this will never happen again. However, there may be some positive results from a quarantined Easter.
In some countries, Christians meet in fear for their lives and physical well-being, not because of a virus, but because of the government. In the United States, we have never experienced that kind of persecution. Perhaps the present experience will give us a little more appreciation for the freedom we have. In the early days of the Church, persecution was common. Despite that, the Church grew.
Perhaps one of the positive results from a quarantined Easter is that we will think less about the commercialism of the day and concentrate on the real meaning. Instead of Easter trappings, we can spend more time contemplating Christ’s resurrection and what it means. Instead of Easter Sunday, we can think of it as Resurrection Sunday.
We can be thankful for modern electronic communication that allows us to stay in contact with fellow Christians as well as family and friends. Thanks to the internet, many churches are continuing their services while “social distancing.” In doing so, they are reaching and sharing the gospel with people who would never come to their building. Perhaps this will encourage us to use the internet to spread the gospel in more effective ways than ever. That could be another one of the positive results from a quarantined Easter.
Another positive result might be that it will help us appreciate the value of fellowship with other Christians. The Church not being able to meet in person can help us realize what a blessing it is to worship with our brothers and sisters. I hope that when we can get back together, we will appreciate the fellowship of other Christians as never before. Perhaps when this problem is over, we will find a new enthusiasm for “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
The Bible refers to ants as models that humans would do well to imitate. In Proverbs 6:6-8 and 30:25, we read, “Go to the ant, consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander. No overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest… Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer.”
We have mentioned before that various kinds of ants are programmed genetically to do things that they don’t think out but which show thinking and care. The species Stenamma alas is another example of a behavior that speaks of God’s design. These doormaker ants and sealed doorways show wisdom of design.
These ants build their colony so that the entrance is surrounded by hard material. The entrance is circular, and one ant is posted there with a nearby pebble that has been carefully chosen to fit the entrance exactly. The pebble is the same color and texture as the surroundings. When an enemy approaches, the guard ant rolls the pebble into the opening. The fit is so tight that enemies cannot dislodge it even if they find the opening. You can see why the scientists who study these ants call them doormaker ants.
This reminds us of the tombs of the Egyptian kings and people of Jesus day who made or selected large stones to carefully fit the entrance to their places of burial. Jesus was buried in such a tomb. Rolling away the stone from the entrance to the tomb of Jesus was not a simple task. (See Matthew 28:2.) It involved a violent earthquake and an angel. Most importantly, it involved the power of God over death. Unlike doormaker ants and sealed doorways, the stone was not moved to let Jesus out but to let others in to see that his body was gone.