Having just returned from Israel last week, it has made me pause in my reflections on the Easter event.
Viewing the empty tomb where Jesus had been placed after his crucifixion, I couldn’t help but think that man’s need for salvation is indeed universal. I say this because of the three major theistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam; each is looking for a Savior to appear on the scene to make the world right.
According to the Jewish faith today, they are yet waiting for Messiah to appear. Our Jewish tour guide, Nola, mentioned that many Jews chose to be buried on the slopes of the Kidron Valley facing the Temple Mount because when the Christ arrives, that is where he will set foot. The hillside is filled to overflowing with the hopeful who want to be raised up when Messiah descends.
Now take the Muslims. In their belief, the Mahdi (also known as the 12th Imam) will return to rule the world, placing all nations under Islamic law. This Savior character, according to their teaching, disappeared down a well a little over a thousand years ago. Muslims now work toward preparing for his return.
Those of us that are Christians believe Christ has already come in the person of Jesus Christ. Instead, we now look for his Second Coming when he will return to earth to establish his earthly kingdom. This will be a theocratic rule for a thousand years.
It is obvious to see the similarities between these three faiths. Each has a firm belief that a Savior/Messiah will come to set everything in order – a spiritual Camelot, if you will.
I was not raised to believe in any one particular belief system or faith. My brother, sister and I were taught to say our prayers every night before crawling into bed. It was the same prayer that many of you were taught, no doubt: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless mommy, etc., etc., etc.”
So why did I embrace the Christian faith? Truth be told, I wasn’t looking to embrace any faith. By the time I was twenty I had pretty much adopted a philosophy of life that was epitomized in the Schlitz beer slogan at that time: “You only go around once in life, so grab for all the gusto you can!” I did my share of that, but it wasn’t satisfying. In particular, it did not satisfy the questions of the soul. I had no problem believing in God, I just didn’t know you could actually have a relationship with him. That seemed a bit far-fetched to me.
In 1972 I was a sergeant in the Marine Corps. One evening I walked into a Christian Servicemen’s Center in Yokosuka, Japan. I heard the taped testimony of an evangelist, explaining how he had come to faith in Jesus Christ. He explained how Jesus had come to this world to take care of two things that no person can fix: Sin and Death. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s demand for the problem of sin was satisfied. I couldn’t do anything about my own sinfulness and God knew that. So he took care of it for me. As for death, I can’t do anything about that either. But because Jesus rose from the dead, he defeated the threat of death that has hung over the human race since the Fall. So if I place my faith and trust in him, my physical body will die, but I will live forever with him in heaven, complete with a new body that will no longer suffer the ravages of this sinful, fallen world.
The evidence to support the person and work of Jesus was so overwhelming to me that I simply could not deny it. That is why I became a Christian, and why every Easter is special. The tomb is empty. The angel declared, “He is not here, for he is risen!”
Two things that were completely beyond my control – sin and death – and Jesus took care of them. What a Savior! How could I not love him?
And that’s my Easter story. Happy Easter!