Monday, March 24, 2008

The Jewel in the Middle

Hello friends,

One of my favorite places to visit is Washington D.C. It is an amazing place. History is all around you. Everywhere you look there are interesting things to see. All of the federal buildings have free tours—the White House, the Pentagon, the FBI Building, the Capitol, etc. Then of course there are the various memorials—the Jefferson, the Lincoln, the WWII, the Vietnam Memorial—all of which are educational and very impressive. But best of all, the Smithsonian Institution complex is there, and all of their museums have free admission. A person could easily spend two weeks in Washington and still not even begin to take in all there is to see and enjoy. I’ve been there three times and hope to go back again someday.

One of my favorite exhibits is located in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It’s their mineralogy and gem collection. They have an incredible collection of stones and minerals, many displayed under “black light” to show their fascinating phosphorescent qualities. But they also have a breathtaking exhibit of jewelry, some of the world’s most famous and beautiful pieces, including the 44.5 carat “Hope Blue Diamond”. They are all displayed in high-security cases, behind shatterproof glass. And there are guards and cameras all around. But they let you get right up close to examine the jewelry.

One thing I have learned—it’s not about the setting but about the stone in the middle. The gold or silver setting is there to draw the eye to the masterpiece in the middle. It is there to enhance the central gem and make it more noticeable. In each case the setting is gorgeous, but it is the jewel in the middle that takes the breath away.

In the same way, the Christian message has a central focus, a precious core, a jewel in the middle. That jewel is the literal, physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the heart of the Gospel. It is the keystone of the arch of our faith. It is the central pillar that supports the whole weight of Christian theology. Without the resurrection we would have no hope of Heaven, no Christianity, and certainly no reason to celebrate on Easter. For this reason, critics, atheists, scoffers, and the devil himself have long understood the importance of the resurrection and have done everything possible to attack it, but to no avail. The resurrection of Jesus is an historic fact, witnessed by hundreds of people and described in writing by many. So certain of the veracity of the resurrection were the early Christians that thousands of them chose death rather than recant their faith in the Risen Christ.

The life and teachings of Jesus are amazing. His sinless life of kindness and selfless serving provide us with a beautiful example of how we should live with one another. His teachings inspire us and thrill our souls. The miracles He performed served as signposts to prove that He was exactly who He claimed to be—the Son of God who came to take away the sin of the world. But without the resurrection, all His claims and promises would fall to the ground. He stated repeatedly, and in clear terms, that after being crucified He would rise from the grave on the third day. The disciples heard Him say that. The Jewish religious leaders heard Him say that. The multitudes heard Him say that. If he had failed to rise from the grave, everything else He said could be discounted. It was all on the line on that Easter Sunday morning.

When you stop to think about it, to foretell His own death would not have been that hard, because everyone knew that the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Him. To guess that going to Jerusalem could likely get Him killed didn’t require the services of a fortuneteller. Jesus knew exactly which buttons to push to get Himself killed. However, to predict the exact method of His death and all of the details surrounding it would be statistically impossible. Yet He got every detail 100% correct. It all played out exactly as He said it would.

The physical resurrection of Jesus from the tomb is what makes Christianity unique among all the world’s religions. No other religion makes the unashamed claim that it’s leader rose from the grave—that he was dead, and is now alive again.

Just like with the dunk-tank at the fair, scoffers fling fast-ball potshots at the resurrection of Jesus, hoping to sink the whole body of Christian theology and silence the messengers as well as the message. But praise God, Jesus rose from the tomb on the third day, just as He said. He rose victorious over sin, death, and the grave. The resurrection did happen! Jesus is alive! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Celebrating His Resurrection,

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