We all hear amazing and interesting stories nearly every day.
For example, I read a remarkable story last week about Rachel Veitch, a 93-year-old lady who just retired from driving because of her vision.
Johnson administration) for $3,289 and she drove it more than 576,000 miles!
Amazing story, interesting story and maybe a few lessons can be learned from Veitch's example, but it is equally amazing that in a few days stories like this and others are quickly forgotten.
What about the compelling story of the "empty tomb?"
Jesus, a man who by any measuring device, was great: An inspiring leader (remember, he got his first followers to leave their biggest catch and follow him to become fishers of men); an incredible teacher (he talked so plainly and with such wisdom people couldn't get enough and finally he would have to send them away); and a compassionate humanitarian (he fed the hungry, healed the sick, and came to address "humanity's biggest problem").
This man, although great, was brutally killed, suffering through the most inhumane type of capital punishment the world has ever known -- crucifixion.
What was the reason? Jesus claimed that he was "the Son of God." Many think it was the jealousy of the religious leaders and the corruption of the political establishment.
Whatever the reason, Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was then buried in a tomb. After his burial, a giant rock was rolled in front of the grave and then soldiers set a Roman seal on the tomb to keep it from being tampered with. It is hard to imagine the anguish that filled the hearts of Jesus' followers. But then something simply amazing came to pass, something heart touching, something you might call insanely interesting -- that dead man was found to be alive! Jesus rose from the dead!
Amazing story! But why has this story, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, had such staying power for nearly 2,000 years?
OK, yes, I know the tired argument that the ongoing influence of Christianity in the world is because of Constantine's conversion to Christianity and his proclamation called the "Edict of Milan." The Edict on Milan proclaimed religious tolerance in the Roman Empire, and therefore legalized Christianity. But this political move of tolerance of Christianity occurred nearly 300 years after the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Empire was only to last a couple more hundred years.
So why has this story stuck? The story of the empty tomb is still a deeply meaningful story because its effects are far reaching. The impact of the resurrection goes way beyond the particular moment in history when Jesus rose from the dead. There are universal implications that come with the empty tomb that have everlasting ramifications.
John 20:30-31 helps us put the empty tomb story into a universal framework: "Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." Life comes from belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The empty tomb brings life.
Jesus came offering life. He was certainly not the first to make a suggestion about life, nor has he been the last. There is something within each of us that screams for meaning, significance and purpose in life. It was the famous playwright and flamboyant personality, Oscar Wilde, who said, "To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." For Wilde, self-autonomy and indulging in sexual pleasure was "living," but the tragedy of his life reveals the flaw of his credo. But what kind of life was Jesus referring to?
For Jesus, "living" is rooted in the resurrection and what it validated. The resurrection verified that God the Father accepted Jesus' death on the cross as legitimate payment for the sins of humanity. Forgiveness and acceptance by God is possible for those who believe! But in living there is far more -- forgiveness is only the starting point.
Jesus has something to offer way beyond just forgiveness and that is a quality life. In John 10:10, Jesus said that he had come to give life -- life to the fullest. When we are forgiven, this starts a whole new life of transformation. The process of transformation is becoming more and more like Jesus as we surrender more and more of our lives. This is not merely behavior modification, but something internal takes root that brings fulfillment.
Also, "bringing life to others" typifies a life of one who is "living." When one receives new life from Jesus and begins to grow in Jesus, the natural outcome is giving life to others.
What about you? Are you ready to make the amazing story of Jesus' resurrection your story?
Imagine if you decided to make the Jesus story your story. You would find forgiveness from your sins and would enlist an awesome leader to guide and direct you. And this would be an amazing and interesting story that would stick!
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, which meets 9:30 a.m. Sundays at the Petoskey Cinema and 11 a.m. Sundays at Boyne City elementary. For more information, visit www.genesiswired.com. Comments and insights are welcomed on Twitter @NormByers.