Although he was God, Jesus did not come to use his power to dominate or exploit men or to oblige men to recognise him and serve him. He, the Lord of all, came to serve man. The God who created man has come to serve him and set him free so that he could enjoy real Life and not that life-in-death existence that many have. You ransom someone who is in captivity, someone who is not free. Jesus Christ came to die in order to give each person Life and Freedom, to ransom all. From the love of Christ comes Life, Love and Freedom for you, just for the asking:
For the Son of man himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10: 45).
Jesus knew he had to die to give new life to those who want it, to give them his own Life. Several times he predicted his death. For example in Mark 8: 31, 32:
Then he began to teach them that the Son of man was destined to suffer grievously, and to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. (See also Matthew 12: 38-40)
He had to die because that was the only way to give to man what he needed most: Life, Love and Freedom. Jesus said it was the Father's plan that:
the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. (John 3:14, 15).
The new Life that Christ brings does not depend on material things but transcends them because it belongs to a different order. It is his own divine Life that he offers and no one is excluded from this Life. All you need to do is allow yourself to be drawn to the only Person able to give this: Jesus Christ himself.
Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me; I will certainly not reject anyone who comes to me, because I have come from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me. Now the will of him who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me, but that I should raise it up on the last day. It is my Father's will that whoever sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and that I should raise that person up on the last day. (John 6: 37-40).
The reason why Jesus came to earth was to die and to give to those who accept him and follow him a different quality of life, a life that can be enjoyed right now and that will never end; this life is called "eternal life". This is the only life that fully satisfies man. It is the Life of God himself.
Jesus said: "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst." (John 6: 35). If you who are making this journey towards Life, Love and Freedom and feel an emptiness inside, a lack of direction in your life or you are no longer satisfied with your normal everyday life and you feel that hunger and thirst of which Christ spoke it is probably because you lack this "bread of life" which is none other than Christ himself. If this is the case then you are heading in the right direction so keep going.
To fill this emptiness you have probably tried various things. Perhaps you have tried to fill this void with various activities and interests in order to forget that that hunger and thirst are there. Perhaps you have sought help from many sources from spiritualism, transcendental meditation, Yoga and many other movements that promise you self fulfillment. Perhaps you have even taken drugs or have developed other forms of addiction or simply sought to appease that hunger by accumulating possessions, by putting your trust in material wealth. But you notice that that feeling of emptiness returns and gives you no rest. This dissatisfaction spares no one neither rich nor poor in material things. This feeling leads to a profound sadness, a sense of insecurity, a sense of disorientation, and a conviction that life is meaningless and that, all things considered, life is useless, that it has no purpose. Whoever feels this does not know where he is heading and is in the dark. Why starve yourself? Just hold out your hands and accept the gift that is offered you. The true Christian is happy because he knows who he is, he knows where he is going and he knows how to get there: he possesses and is possessed by the "bread of life."
This dissatisfaction, which stems from the separation of man from God, will always be there until you accept Christ as the one who frees you and brings you back to union with the Father. This separation and all its negative consequences is the state of "eternal death". The only life, love and freedom man can enjoy without God is pure illusion and totally dependent on persons and circumstances. Today it is there, tomorrow it is gone. However, this illusion is often enough to induce man to feel that he needs nothing more. The Life that Christ offers is absent, long lasting joy is absent, long lasting peace is absent, happiness is absent. Just as the "eternal life" that Christ brings will never end, neither will the "eternal death" that you are experiencing if far from God. At the moment in what state do you find yourself: in a state of eternal Life or in a state of eternal Death? There is no other state possible. You are either in union with God or separated from him, you are either in a state of salvation in Christ and enjoying true Life or you are in a state of separation from God, in a state of self-condemnation and Death condemned to living in the culture of death and self destruction.
The choice that you make now will continue and develop. Your choice will reach its final stage and have its full realisation after death. After death you will have the continuation of what you choose in this life: either eternal Life or eternal Death.
Man and the general direction of his life is separated from God and will always be so until he accepts Jesus Christ and is baptised into the new Life that is offered, his own divine Life, the Life of the Risen Lord. This is nothing less than a rebirth. "In all truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." (John 3:3). There is only one way to be born again and that is through Jesus Christ, the only bridge that can unite man to God. He alone is the way. Christ said "I am the Way; I am Truth and Life." (John 14: 6) and to others he said: "and yet you refuse to come to me to receive life! " (John 5: 40). As we can see, believing is an act of will made possible by the power of God that is drawing us and waiting to welcome us home.
Everyone has to choose between "eternal life" and "eternal death": to accept or not accept Christ. Nothing in our past lives is an obstacle to this choice. Nothing is too big to be forgiven by God as long as we are willing to give it up and be gradually transformed by him, transformed by the power of the risen Lord within.
The predictions of Jesus and the plan of God were fulfilled: Jesus was put to death and rose from the dead. On the third day there was no body in the tomb of Jesus. Death and the odour of death had left that tomb, death had been defeated. That death that lies in the tomb of your inner self will also be conquered. You can rise from that eternal death in which you now lie. The result of Jesus' resurrection could be seen immediately in the lives of his followers as it will also be seen in you, if you allow it. The resurrection of Christ brought with it the fulfillment of the promise of Christ, to bring new Life to those who accept him and follow him.
Looking at the situation objectively the absence of the body of Jesus on the third day can be explained in only one of two ways: either Jesus was risen as he had said he would or the body was stolen.
The tomb guarded
Read Matthew 27: 62-66 and Matthew 28: 11-15.
It was impossible to take the body away. First of all the rock was huge and would have required the strength of several men to move and it was made precisely to prevent the removal of the body, "give the order to have the sepulcher kept secure until the third day" (Matthew 27: 64). It was especially guarded because lack of attention and precision would have been socially, politically and religiously disastrous both for the Jews and for the Romans.The stone was sealed and a guard was placed outside and Pilate said to the Jews, "You may have your guard; go and make all as secure as you know how" (Matthew 27: 65). After the death of Christ the disciples did not have the courage or the state of mind necessary to steal the body of Jesus.
The state of mind of the friends of Jesus
The psychological state of the friends of Jesus was certainly not conducive to carrying out the task of stealing the body.
What was their state of mind?
Peter, for example, was a person full of self-confidence, he placed great trusted in his own strength and ability; he was a man that was sure of himself, but did not want to risk being associated with Jesus after his arrest. Here's the reaction of Peter when he was recognized as a friend and follower of Jesus:
Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came up to him saying, 'You, too, were with Jesus the Galilean.' But he denied it in front of them all. 'I do not know what you are talking about,' he said. When he went out to the gateway another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, 'This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.' And again, with an oath, he denied it, 'I do not know the man. ' A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, 'You are certainly one of them too! Why, your accent gives you away.' Then he started cursing and swearing, 'I do not know the man.' And at once the cock crowed, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, 'Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.' And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26: 69-75).
We see the image of a man completely defeated and having to come to terms with his weakness and incoherence. He now felt that those years spent with Jesus were a complete failure and he did not want to risk his life for a lost cause. The day of the resurrection, which was a Sunday, the friends and followers of Jesus were gathered in a room because they were afraid of their enemies:
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, 'Peace be with you' (John 20: 19).
They had hidden in a room behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. They were in no state to organise the theft of a dead body. Furthermore, of what use would a dead body have been to them? A dead body could not turn these fearful men into the audacious and fearless men they became after their encounter with the risen Jesus.
In any case where would they have hidden a body? They already had to bury Jesus in a borrowed grave: that of Joseph of Aramathea (Matthew 27: 57-60). Another important detail is that no one would have stolen the body and left the shroud and linen cloths in which it was wrapped! Not only would they have had to have the nerve and the time to unwrap the body, but also fold the shroud that covered the head and put everything neatly in a corner apart! (John 20: 7). The shroud and the linen bandages were still there for the simple reason that they did not participate in the resurrection of the body of Jesus!
It was not just the absence of a body that convinced the first eyewitnesses but also the presence of everything in which that body was wrapped. Whoever reads the report of this discovery easily notes the sense of joyful surprise of the witnesses (read: Matthew 28: 1-15, Mark 16: 1-8), Luke 24: 1-12, John 20: 1-10).
Jesus appeared to many people
The faith of the first disciples or followers of Jesus was not based only on the empty tomb. Jesus had appeared with his risen and glorified body. He not only appeared to one or two of his disciples, but to more than 500 people. This is what Paul, the fiercest persecutor of the early Christians, wrote:
The tradition I handed on to you in the first place, a tradition which I had myself received, was that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried; and that on the third day, he was raised to life, in accordance with the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; and later to the Twelve; and next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still with us, though some have fallen asleep; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles. Last of all he appeared to me too, as though I was a child born abnormally. (1 Corinthians 15: 3-6).
There was one of the disciples of Jesus who was not satisfied with the evidence of the empty tomb. His name was Thomas. He said:
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, 'We have seen the Lord,' but he answered, 'Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.' (John 20: 24-25)
A week later his disciples were again behind locked doors but this time Thomas was also with them when Jesus appeared:
Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. 'Peace be with you,' he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.' Thomas replied, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him: You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. (John 20: 26-28)
The best evidence of his resurrection
The definitive proof of Christ's resurrection is the transformation that occurred in the early disciples. Peter was transformed from a fearful person to one who fearlessly proclaimed the good news. He became the central figure, the leader of the Christian community. Thomas was transformed from a skeptic to believer. The first group of friends of Jesus was transformed from a group of people who hid in a closed room into a group of activists that no one could stop. This transformation is not at all limited to those who lived in that distant past but extends to all those who choose to follow Jesus for the simple reason that he is still alive today to sustain, encourage and empower his church and each follower in it. Certainly this transformation will be completed only after death and Christians are not always what they should be but neither are they what they had been before meeting the living Christ. They are journeying towards the goal and their companion and their strength is the risen Jesus. You too can start a living relationship with him. You too can live in the power of the risen Jesus. It is just a matter of your personal choice as the Lord is already drawing you to himself and will enable you to make that decision.
What does it mean to "believe"?
There is a final proof that can convince you that a particular person exists: meet him. Paul said: "he appeared to me" (1 Corinthians 15: 8) and said elsewhere: " I know in whom I have put my trust and I have no doubt at all that he is able to safeguard until that Day what I have entrusted to him." (2 Tim. 1: 12).
Do you know in whom you have placed your trust? In yourself? In some friend or companion? In some famous philosopher, or in Jesus Christ, true God and true man?
Has the time come for you meet him? Is it now the time to experience his transforming power in your life? Your journey with Christ cannot start with this information that you have received, these words do not empower or transform anyone. These are the poor words of a person like you.
Change begins with a living encounter which is very different from arid intellectual knowledge. You will make that crucial transition from one that seeks to one who finds only when this essential meeting takes place. Are you willing to move from this objective knowledge to a personal knowledge of the risen Christ?
Christ is there on the cross with open arms ready to welcome you whenever you want. The word "blessed" in the moving text below means "happy":
Do you also want to be among those blessed and happy people transformed by the new life that is being offered you? Christ is drawing you to himself. Let yourself be drawn.
If you are undertaking this journey with us please let us know and we can be with you spiritually and sustain you with our thoughts and prayers. Our email: email@example.com.
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