Easter is without a doubt the pivotal affirmation of the Christian faith. It affirms the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul puts it succinctly. “If Christ be not risen, then is our faith in vain.”
This truth transformed the small Christian sect into the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. It outstripped Mithraism, Judaism and the popular Emperor worship.
The hope of eternal life for believers was belief in the resurrection of Jesus. He was declared to be the Son of God.
At that time pessimism about life was the key belief of the Romans. On the catacombs-underground tombs-were often found the letters NFFSNC. This translated into the proverb and most prominent philosophy of the times, “I was not, I was, I am not, I do not care.”
The Christian message of hope completely destroyed the best of Stoic philosophy.
The Apostle Paul also gave inspiration to his fellow Christians by writing these words, “O, death where is your sting; O, grave where is your victory.”
Eugene O’Neal catches the same thought in his religious drama, “Lazarus Laughed.” Caligula, the Roman Emperor to be, is parading in Athens. In his arrogance he demands that everyone bow when he comes riding by.
In the audience is Lazarus, the man raised from the dead by Jesus. He refuses to bow and Caligula is furious. He demands who that independent man is and says Lazarus will die.
Lazarus laughs and says, “O, Caligula, don’t you know death is dead.” In other words, he’s been there and has no fear of death.
A friend recently sent me an article that has great Easter significance. It is based on a verse of Scripture found in the Gospel of John, chapter 20 verse 7. The writer takes an entire verse to tell about the napkin that was placed over the face of Jesus. IT IS FOLDED, after his resurrection.
To paraphrase my friend’s account, we go back to Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin is about the master and servant. If the master had finished eating, he would toss the napkin on the table.
BUT, if the master got up and folded the napkin, he was not finished. The folded napkin meant, “I’m not finished. I’m coming back.” The napkin in the empty tomb was folded. It is a vivid testimony to this essential affirmation in the Christian faith.
John Edward Masefield was born on June 1, 1878 and died on May 12, 1967. In 1930 he was appointed Poet Laureate of England. The breadth of his writing is amazing. He particularly wrote narrative poems.
One of his better known is “The Trial of Jesus.” A particular scene deals with Procula (the wife of Pilate) and Longiness (a Roman centurion).
Procula is sympathetic to Jesus and wants her husband to free Him. After His death she hears that He is alive. She sends Longiness to see if it is true.
On his return she questions him about the details. When told that stories abound that Jesus is alive, she presses Longiness whether he believes it.
At his affirmation, she asks him, “Then, where is He?” Longiness answers, “He’s been set free, where neither Jew nor Roman can confine him.”
Orozco, along with Tomayo, Rivera and Siqcrous are considered the greatest of all Mexican muralists.
My favorite is Orozco. One of his greatest murals is at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
It is of the Christ, our risen Lord. It is expressive as was his style. Jesus is not thin, emaciated and forlorn. He is huge, muscular with eyes ablaze. His stance is wide as if He had just won a great battle.
In His right hand is a handle with an ax blade at the end. To His left is a stump. Lying in back of it is a huge cross.
It’s as if Orozco is saying the symbol of our faith is not a dead Christ on a cross. He was victorious over it. THE TRUTH OF EASTER.
The footprints of a living Jesus continue with a remarkable statement by Teilhard Chardin, the great Catholic philosopher and theologian. “It is utterly absurd to believe that the human spirit is so poorly devised that it would contradict its highest aspiration.”
Amen. Selah. So be it.