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What Are You Living For?

“To live is Christ; to die is gain.”  This has been the most bizarre and tragic Easter we’ve ever experienced.  More than any other Holy Week, it’s pressed the question: What are we living for?

“Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)  This is the Shema Israel.  More than anything else, it captures the core belief of Judaism: There is only ONE God, Yahweh, and He is as far above us as East is from West. 

The theological term for this is monotheism, and in Jesus’ day, to say or do even the slightest thing that would call this belief in the absolute oneness and transcendence of Yahweh into question could get you killed.  The theological term for this is blasphemy, and, by boldly proclaiming Jesus’ divinity, the Early Church was unapologetically committing outright blasphemy. 

But how could this be?  How could the Early Church, a group of First-Century Jews who were willing to die for their belief that God is ONE, ever start proclaiming—many to their actual deaths—that God is more than one, the Father and the Son?   And this isn’t even the most stunning thing.  The most stunning thing is that the very idea of God becoming human, of God being more than one, would have been utterly inconceivable to them!  They couldn’t even begin to imagine it was possible in the first place, let alone die for it.  This is a huge point most people miss. 

A few years ago, I had a memorable conversation with an orthodox Jew.  She was adamant that Jesus couldn’t be God.  That’s not the memorable part.  The memorable part was how sincerely perplexed she was that I could believe this.  She genuinely couldn’t wrap her mind around the idea of God becoming a human being.  And so, she couldn’t comprehend how any sane person could believe this either.

For scholars who study the Early Church, this is greatest mystery of all: How is it that a group of First-Century Jews—who were far more intensely steeped in Jewish monotheism than this woman—could ever come to believe Jesus was Yahweh in the flesh?  The only thing that can explain such an unthinkable change at the core of their worldview is—quite literally—a mind-blowing event of cosmic proportion. 

In itself, the Resurrection of an actual flesh and blood body from the dead would blow their minds.  But—and this is another huge point that is usually missed—what would have been most mind-blowing of all to them is the way Jesus appeared.  As the Gospels depict, He doesn’t appear with the kind of resurrected body people expected.  Instead, He appears with what scholars call a “glorified body”, one that has been transformed to the transcendent sphere.  

Jesus can make His physical body appear and disappear, and pass through walls.  He has the power to transcend space and time.  And this is key: the most mind-blowing thing is that only as God ALONE does, He possesses these transcendent qualities in Himself.  (Other heavenly beings don’t possess this power in themselves but only receive it from God, e.g., the angels)  Seeing Him appear this way, the witnesses to His resurrection couldn’t help but make the quantum leap to belief in His divinity.

And here’s the critical point: Their belief in Jesus’ divinity is nearly impossible to explain if He didn’t rise from the dead and rise in this completely unexpected way.

“To live is Christ; to die is gain.”

COVID-19 has shaken our sense of security.  Many of the things we counted on most, many of the things that we were living for—our careers and financial security, our health and the well-being of our loved ones, our freedom and past-times—have been shaken to the core.  But the truth is, none of them were that solid or secure in the first place.  We’ve been living under the illusion they were.  But they really weren’t.  As this crisis has made us so painfully aware, none of them are permanent.  They will all pass away.

There is only one thing that won’t pass away.  There is only one thing that we can count on.  There is only one thing that gives us true security—Jesus Christ and His unfailing love for us.  This is what His Resurrection reveals. 

As we emerge from the most painful Holy Week any of us have ever experienced, we can find true peace, true hope, true security in His life, death and resurrection.  Knowing that the love which propelled Him to die on the Cross for us has also conquered death; knowing that He is Lord of all and has prepared an eternal home for all those who long to know His perfect love, enables us to say with Paul: “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

If we are living for Him, what do we have to lose?  If we lose our lives, we gain paradise. 

If we are living for Him, the worst thing that could have ever happened to us has become the best thing that can happen for us.  

If we are living for Him, we can’t lose!    

How was your Easter different this year?  Was it more painful, or did it have added meaning?  I’d love to hear from you!  You can go to the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website and leave your comments there.  Living for the Risen Lord, may you know His mind-blowing peace, hope, and joy!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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