Summary: We must join Christ in his resurrection if we are to claim we believe in the resurrection event. A message for Easter Sunday

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Easter Sunday

March 30, 1997



This past week, America has been shocked and puzzled by the mass suicide of 39 people near San Diego, CA. The group, as you well know, was called Heaven’s Gate and its members, led by the charismatic Marshall Applewhite, believed that by ridding themselves of the shell of their human bodies they might rise to a brighter reality with God in the eternity of space. They claimed that a UFO hiding behind the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet was waiting for them.

It was a resurrection of sorts that they were in search of. The video tapes I saw on the news showed a smiling, giddy group of individuals ready to end their lives to begin another. And so by eating the drugged pudding and applesauce and downing some vodka, they each lay down ready to pass from this life to the next. The union they envisioned could not be entered until they died. But I’m pretty sure that every one of us here today is quite confident that what they found on the other side of life was not what they hoped.

What if the news this past week had been something like this:

Dateline Jerusalem – On the eve of the annual celebration of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the 1 million inhabitants of this city were shocked by the announcement that a body, identified as that of Jesus, was found in a long-neglected tomb just outside the boundary of the city.

Rumors had been circulating the last week that a very important discovery was about to be announced. The news, however, far outstrips all of our wildest guesses. The initial reaction of Christians here and around the world has been one of astonishment, bewilderment, and defensive disbelief. We will have to wait and see just what effect this discovery will have on the 2000-year-old religion. It appears at this point that Christianity will have to reckon with itself and finally be content to take its place on the same level with the world’s other major religions. No longer can its followers claim that, unlike other religions, the tomb of its founder is empty. Evidently a 2000 year-old lie has come to an end.

The women who went to the tomb of Jesus on the Sunday after his death discovered that the stone had been rolled away and that the tomb was empty. Not only do the Scriptures verify this, they don’t over-dramatize. Not there to prove it – just there to let us believe.

Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand what had just happened

Only later did they begin to see and understand.

What had just happened would forever change the spiritual possibilities for humanity. Jesus had just displayed what could happen to us. We can join with him in his resurrection.

Are we as naïve as the people of Heaven’s Gate to believe that such an event is possible? For one thing, it doesn’t take suicide for it to happen. The Bible tells us that the resurrection of Jesus Christ holds within it the hope of all ages of mankind. That is, a life beyond this one – not through a bizarre cultic ritual, but through a unique and special union.

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