It is the week after Easter, festivities are over and life is returning to normal for those who were busy.
In history, the week after the first Easter was anything but quiet or calm. Rumors went all around the cities of empty graves. The rumor that Jesus' body had disappeared and the Roman guard had run off was further complicated by the stories that people had seen Jesus; at first just a handful, but after awhile, many people saw him.
The apostle Paul wrote: "I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the 12 apostles. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died by now. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, I saw him, too, long after the others, as though I had been born at the wrong time. For I am the least of all the apostles, and I am not worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted the church of God," 1 Corinthians 15:3-9.
I think today, many have lumped Christianity in with philosophy or with theory. Many of us had it presented that way in college.
What set Christianity apart in its day, however, was that its leader, founders and followers all professed one thing. They had encountered God through Jesus.
It wasn't their training, the language, their time in contemplation or some form of attainment. It was an encounter. They had experienced God. One minute he was a concept and the next they were meeting him.
That week, the disciples were behind closed doors debating the rumor and suddenly Jesus was right there. He appeared in the room. He told Thomas to check it out; see the holes.
He was walking to Emmaus with a couple of guys who were "getting out of town," and when they got to where they were staying he broke the bread and they were amazed it was him! He disappeared.
Jesus wasn't playing hide and seek. He was getting the main point to them: "I am here. Death and the grave were unable to hold me." He was alive and well and nothing could keep him down.
That is what sets Jesus apart. He is not a theory, not a memory and not a religion. He is a living person who ascended into heaven to prepare a place for his followers with whom he still interacts.
He is alive and therefore, knowable and reachable. He can be encountered and experienced. He will still meet us on the road of trouble and bring us truth.
I have met so many who didn't believe in him, but then they met him.
One such person was a Russian soldier in southern Siberia. I led a group in a simple prayer. "Jesus, would you tell me your feelings for me?"
That was the whole prayer. This tough chiseled young man stood a short time later with tears running down his face.
He said, "I heard Jesus say he loves me in my heart."
That's the message of the week after Easter: people can still meet Jesus.
Robert Reasner is senior pastor at Abundant Life at Mile 81.5 of the Sterling Highway. For more information, call 262-7266, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.abundantlifealaska.org.
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