The story of Easter is summed up in a story that my pastor in Greenville told this Sunday.
Donald Gray Barnhouse was a minister whose wife died. He was driving his children to the funeral, trying to think of something to say, when a large semi-truck passed his car. The truck cast a long shadow over his car and then onto the road running along ahead of him. He said to his daughter, “Do you see that truck?” She replied, “Yes.” ” Do you see its shadow?” “Yes, ” she said again. “Would you rather get hit by the truck or the shadow?” “The shadow,” she answered. “Jesus was hit by death so that we would only have to endure its shadow.”
This pretty much capsulate the work Jesus did by taking on the wrath that we deserved. But since Charlie said much more, allow me to continue.
He spoke from I Corinthians 15. In this passage Paul, who I embarrassingly find wordy and hard to follow, talks about how Christianity can only stand if the tomb was, in fact, empty. If Christ, a historical figure who was crucified by the Romans, didn’t actually rise from the grave, then our faith is worthless, and we are to be pitied over all men. He gave evidence that the resurrection was a historical event. Jesus appeared to hundreds of people in the 40 days He spend walking the earth between His resurrection and His ascension. He appeared to hundreds of people at the same time. One person might hallucinate, but not hundreds. And if a group of people said that they saw Him, but He was still in the grave, it would have been too easy to dispel that lie. Christianity would never have gotten off the ground, much less become something that would turn the world up side down.
Jesus did not meet any of the expectations that the Jewish people had for their Messiah. They longed for political freedom. Jesus came to bring spiritual freedom. If He were still in the grave, buried along with Him would be the dreams of Jesus as the political Messiah for whom they had waited. Instead, His resurrection turned them into believers willing to suffer and die in His name. Who would die for something they knew was a lie?
The expectations of the Jewish people were not the only ones Jesus obliterated. W. H. Auden was a poet who was part of the church in his younger years, but became an atheist. Later in life, he was pursued back to his faith in Jesus. He had this to say.
I believe in Jesus because He fulfills none of my dreams. He is in every respect the opposite of what He would be if I could have made Him in my own image.
Our deepest need is for a Saviour that is not the product of our own needs. How can a god we created contradict us when we are laboring under unforgiving self-hatred and guilt. A god that suits us will never rebuke us. Humans are far too determined to be worshipped to create a God that is the only One worthy of worship. We are more sinful that we ever dare to believe. But we are also more accepted that we dare hope. He will lift you up when you are suffocating under the weight of self-hatred, and He will burst your bubble when you are full of self. Jesus is the antithesis of what humans would create. We have a proclivity to make gods in our own image that stroke our egos, not confront the depth of our sin. We seek self-sufficiency and self-worship, not the dependency, trust and a sacrificial life that Jesus calls us to.
Jesus should not be believed in because He fulfills our desires for something to believe in. He should be believed, loved, adored, and worshipped because He is True. The grave is empty! We only face the shadow of death because He gave Himself to it and then defeated it. My life is changed because of it. It is, in fact, finished!