By David Hegg
For nearly 2,000 years Christians have celebrated the emptiness of a tomb outside the old city of Jerusalem. Whether it is known as Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, today around the world churches are full, restaurants are humming, children are gobbling down sugar, and the fashion world declares we can finally wear pastels.
Sadly, few understand the significance of that emptiness. Come tomorrow, most will find themselves once again mired in the same way of thinking and living, even those who may have dressed up and made the trek to church.
So, at the risk of setting off a firestorm of mocking comments, let me give you a theologian’s perspective on the whole empty tomb story. And, in full transparency, please note I consider the biblical record to be historically true.
First, the resurrection story is supernatural. That is, it is a miracle story. Yes, Virginia, God is in the miracle business, and Jesus actually was — and is —- the only true superhero. By the time the Gospel writers — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — get to the end of their biographies, they have described miracle after miracle without needing to give any other explanation than Jesus did — and does — what only Almighty God can do.
And, if the grave was empty for any other reason than a miraculous coming back to life of a dead man, surely the Roman government would have used its massive resources and power to produce the body, or at least find scores of witnesses to set the record straight that some massive deception had taken place.
Second, the resurrection story is re-generational. Yep, that’s a big theological word but all it means is that the actual resurrection of Jesus was a symbolic picture of what happens spiritually when you and I choose to align our lives and eternal future with the commands and promises of God, extended to us in Jesus. The Bible tells us we move from death to life, from darkness to light, and from judgment to unconditional love as children of God.
Lastly — big finish here! — the resurrection story is eschatological. This Greek-based theological term simply means “what happens in the future.” The New Testament writers take turns exhorting us not to place our hope in the things of this broken world but to fix our hope completely on the promise of eternal life extended to us in Jesus. And that’s where Jesus’ resurrection comes in. When he conquered death, he made the down payment on the promise that physical death would not — could not — derail the eternal life promised to all who entrust themselves to him.
OK, so now I’ve gone and done it. I’ve dared to give my opinion on what is arguably the most essential plank in the Christian platform. And, in so doing, I’ve splintered my reading audience into at least three groups. Some of you are thankful that, on Easter Sunday, someone has published a defense of historical orthodoxy. Others of you are spitting mad that someone has been allowed to publish a defense of historical orthodoxy simply because you find it not only radical but also dangerous. Still others of you are in the middle and are thinking of humorous ways to drop “re-generational” and “eschatological” into the conversation around the Easter dinner table.
And so, think about it. We live in a pluralistic country where religious ideas and ideals are meant to be published, read, examined, and allowed even when there is disagreement. That’s what tolerance means, and also what being good neighbors looks like.
Whatever your religious or philosophical viewpoint, let’s at least agree to disagree in a way that builds up our mutual respect and plays out the best form of tolerance. After all, we’re in this together, and if you want to talk, I’ll buy the coffee as long as you put up with me saying, “He is risen … He is risen indeed!”
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.