This past Sunday, Christians around the world celebrated Easter as a memorial of Christ's resurrection. If Christians are correct about what happened on the first Easter morning, then the resurrection is the single most important event in human history. Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth to sacrifice himself for our sins, and those who accept him by grace through faith will have life for eternity in the presence of God.
Eternity is hard to fathom, hard to wrap our minds around. It's hard to conceptualize temporally or spatially. We are told that the universe is infinite in size, but can't really imagine it. Similarly, it is nearly impossible to truly comprehend life everlasting. You can't stop putting zeroes behind the number of years we'll rejoice in God's presence. It's incredible.
This promise of eternal joy should impact life in the present, or as the reformers said, it should cause us to live life coram deo, "in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God." In other words, believing in the resurrection should directly impact how we live our lives, how we relate to our neighbors, how we transact or business and personal affairs. As followers of Christ we are mere pilgrims passing through this present life, seeking not the things of this world but committed to storing up treasures in heaven.
Of course this view is mocked and ridiculed by secularists who believe in nothing but the here and now. Their material worldview ultimately results in a life without transcendent meaning, without purpose, and without hope for redemption. For the secularist, carpe deim ("sieze the day"), not coram deo, is the watchword, and only a fool would fail to grab all the gusto he can get. Unwilling to wrestle with the bold truth claims of Jesus Christ –"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) – secularists try to obscure or avoid Christ's divinity by saying they simply regard him as a great moral teacher and nothing more.
Compare this mentality to that of the Apostle Paul, who tells the church at Corinth that "…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men…" (1 Cor. 15:17-19) Paul understood the centrality of the resurrection to the Christian faith. He avowed, "…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." (1 Cor. 14:15) If all we have is this earthly existence, the Apostle affirms, "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." (1 Cor. 15:32)
Paul understood clearly that ideas have consequences and that what we believe determines how we behave. If we believe that Christ is who he claimed to be and that he defeated death and the grave, we should live for him – in his presence, under his authority, and for his glory. But if all we have is this earthly existence, we might as well just live for ourselves because the grave is truly our final resting place.
In this age of relativism, tolerance, and inclusion, Christ's claims of absolutism and exclusivity make many uncomfortable. It is deemed to be grossly offensive, even hateful, to assert that there is only one way to God. Acknowledging Jesus as a sage, even a martyr, is a convenient way of co-opting Christian moral philosophy while skirting the pesky "way, truth, and life" issue. But Jesus won't allow us to have it both ways. Christ did not come to earth merely to usher in a new morality. C. S. Lewis explains, "…Christianity is not the promulgation of a moral discovery. It is addressed only to penitents, only to those who admit their disobedience to the known moral law." In other words, Christ did not come to teach morality to those who are ignorant of it. He did not come to offer a new moral law. He came to save those who had fallen short of the existing one. Ultimately, Christ came to save sinners. (1 Tim. 1:15)
For Christians, there is eternal hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus. With Christ we die to our sins, and in Christ we rise to new life. Christ has promised to restore all things, to make all things new. In a world that seems so full of darkness, injustice, and sorrow, we can take solace in the fact that evil doesn't get the last word. There's not a period at the end of the sentence for those who place their hope in the Cross. The reality of the resurrection is what prompted St. Augustine to declare, "We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song."
As the Church enters the season of Pentecost, all would do well to confront the claims of Jesus Christ and meditate on the challenge posed by mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal:
"Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists."
There can be no surer bet.