By Foothills DS Dennis Miller
At the end of the month of April, I will be part of the Foothills District Mission Team to Vietnam. This will be my sixth visit to Southeast Asia. Our plan this time is to fly to into Hanoi, the center of the communist government in Vietnam, then ride motorbikes north to visit mountain villages near the Chinese border. Several years ago while in Hanoi, I visited the most revered place in the entire country: The mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. The communist leader’s embalmed body is perfectly preserved in the cooled, central hall, protected by a military honor guard. The body lies in a glass case with dim lights. Each day, thousands of visitors line past his body in silence. As I stood before the lifeless body of Ho Chi Minh in the most sacred place in the entire country, all I could think about was another “mausoleum” located in another city known as the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8). For the famous tomb in the holy city of Jerusalem is empty!
Jesus is alive today. This is the crowning proof of Christianity. What the world’s great religions, ideologies and political systems could not do over thousands of years, God did in a split-second moment in time. If Christ is not raised, then Christianity is a false religion. The apostle Paul put it this way, “If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then we have nothing to believe” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Strange words from a man who once cursed the very mention of this schismatic “silly folk tale.” Nevertheless, Paul, after meeting the Risen Lord face to face, became one of the greatest witnesses of the empty tomb! (See Acts 9:1-9).
Paul later wrote to Christians in Corinth, “Hey, don’t simply take my word for it, go ask the hundreds of others who could be identified as ‘Empty Tomb People’ (for many were still alive at the time of his writing.) They saw Jesus alive, too! Go talk with them! They’ll tell you the same story” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). The apostle Peter, writing after the resurrection, declared: “We have not depended on made up stories in making known to you the mighty coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. With our own eyes we saw his greatness” (2 Peter 1:16).
Moreover, remember what happened ten days after Christ’s ascension into heaven? It was Pentecost Sunday and Peter began preaching in the Temple that the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was empty (Acts 2:14-41). Since it was only a ten-minute walk through the old city to the marked grave of the Galilean, as Peter proclaimed Christ’s resurrection, any skeptic could have personally checked His claim out. If one person had produced a single bone of Jesus, the final nail would have been driven into Christianity’s coffin. Peter, however, was preaching the truth! As a result, Luke records that on that day, 3000 people became followers of the Way!
“He is not here, He is risen” proclaimed the angel of the Lord on that glorious Easter morning (Matthew 28:6). Those words have echoed down through the centuries and continue to touch the hearts of all who profess the wonderful name of Jesus Christ. In my years of pastoral ministry, I have found that people often die many years before they are buried. I’m not speaking of physical death. Our process toward physical death began the day we were born. I’m speaking of something much more profound. The death I am referring occurs at the loss of a loved one, a lifetime dream, a loving relationship or a career. From Hanoi, Vietnam to Athens, Ohio, there are millions of “walking zombies” - hopeless individuals that are enslaved by the chains of painful memories, haunting guilt, and separation from God.
The great Methodist hymnwriter Charles Wesley once asked, “Are we yet still alive?” Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.” When Jesus enters, dry bones are given new life, hope is restored, and spiritual emptiness is filled! This is the message of the empty tomb! For amazingly, we are eternally changed by what we cannot see on a tour of Jerusalem’s cemetery.
Happy Easter, Everyone!