Vail Daily columnist Jack Van Ens: Who is this mysterious man who believes in Easter?
What inspires Christian communities? Is this spark different than the frenzy for a blockbuster movie or the esprit de corps athletes and fans share?
For example, “Tebowmania” was a word added to our lexicon this past NFL season. Quarterback Tim Tebow drew sensational fan loyalty.
Denver Post columnist Woody Paige compared his universal appeal to that of God.
“He is ubiquitous, given the Tebowing, the multitudes who have followed him and been thrilled by him,” gushed Page, “the Jack Armstrong All-American boy qualities and his appearances at Hollywood award shows, Wal-Marts for signings of his best-selling autobiography and Disney World with Make-A-Wish teenagers” (Denver Post “We Will Never See the Likes of Tebow Again,” March 22, p. C-1).
The Christian Church, however, claims its spirit of another order from that of ardent movie-goers or football fans. The resurrected Christ inspires, prods and implants God’s life within believers.
This makes Jesus more than a haunting memory of a good guy who died young, say Christians. He’s alive. The Christian Church is a credible witness to this fact.
The most convincing proof of Christ’s resurrection surfaces when we trace what happened to believers who witnessed his crucifixion. After he died, their hopes were dashed. Then a remarkable turnabout occurred. After Easter, Christians witnessed to the fact that Christ was “alive after his suffering” (Acts 1:3).
Biblical commentator F.F. Bruce describes how Christ’s physical resurrection surprised believers: Rising from the dead “transformed them … from a crowd of demoralized and frightened people into a band with a mission and purpose in life which … they proceeded to translate into action.”
Ponder what a serious believer in Christ’s resurrection declared at an Easter Prayer Breakfast on April 19, 2011: “I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason — because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection, something about the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else into perspective.
“We live in the hustle and bustle of our work. And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways. And I admit that my plate has been full as well. The inbox keeps on accumulating.
“But then comes Holy Week. The triumph of Palm Sunday. The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross. And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.”
Who has expressed so convincingly Christianity’s heart and center, Christ’s resurrection?
This same speaker frequently testifies to the risen Christ animating his spirit and enlightening his mind.
On another Easter prayer breakfast held on April 6, 2010, he spoke of a deep faith rooted in Christ’s resurrection: “For even after the passage of 2000 years, we can still picture the moment in our mind’s eye. The young man from Nazareth marched through Jerusalem, object of scorn and derision and abuse and torture by an empire. The agony of crucifixion and cries of thieves. The discovery, just three days later, that would forever alter our world — that Son of Man was not to be found in the tomb and that Jesus Christ had risen.
“We are awed by the grace he showed even to those who would have killed him. We are thankful for the sacrifice he gave for the sins of humanity. And we glory in the promise of redemption in the resurrection.”
Who convincingly uttered these Easter messages? Who witnesses to Christ’s resurrection spirit?
President Barack Obama gave these personal testimonies.
Still, critics reject that he’s a true Christian. These detractors aren’t atheists. Nor are they people who don’t honor Christ. Most are social conservatives whose bible is FOX News. Commentators imply that Obama is a closet Muslim. These detractors reject our president like the disciples who fled from Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. They plant doubts.
It’s suggested that because Obama’s father was a Muslim that “under Islamic law, the Muslin world sees Barack Obama as a Muslim.” Such illogical absurdity would make him a practitioner of Islam. It’s the “guilt by association” game.
During the 1950s, Americans referred to the Soviets as Red Russia. Isn’t it ludicrous to deduce, because fire hydrants and Russians are both red, that fire hydrants are of Soviet design? FOX News’ blather about Obama as a Muslim shares the same zany mentality.
On this Easter, debate the president’s politics fiercely if you choose. But just as fiercely thank the Lord he’s part of a community which the risen Christ inspires, teaches and nurtures.
The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes,” is available in local bookstores for $7.95.