There’s nothing scary about bunny rabbits and baskets filled with candy. There’s nothing scary about a celebration of springtime.
But what Christians celebrate at Easter—the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead—is a scary thing to think about whether you’re a Christian or not, and here’s why.
Before his betrayal by one of his followers, before his false arrest, before his unjust trial before religious leaders and politicians, before he was beaten, whipped, and suffered a torturous death and before he was sealed into a tomb, he told his followers that all these things would happen to him, where they would happen, how, and when. And he also told them that on the third day after his death he would rise again.
Just as he told them, one of his friends betrayed him, and the rest of them deserted him. Just as he told them, he was falsely arrested, falsely accused, and unjustly tried and handed over to the governor who gave him the death sentence. He was beaten, whipped, and forced to carry his cross uphill to the place of his crucifixion, where his hands and feet were nailed to that cross. He suffered there for hours until he died, and a soldier plunged a spear into his side to make sure he was dead. His mother watched him die. She and others took his corpse to a tomb and saw a heavy stone rolled over the opening, and then the religious leaders sealed the tomb and set a guard at the entrance to make sure no one would tamper with it.
The women who returned to the tomb on Sunday morning to anoint his dead body found the large stone rolled away, and instead of finding Jesus’s corpse inside, they saw an angel who told them, “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
They had the reaction you and I would have had. They were trembling and bewildered. They were afraid. They fled.
For forty days after his resurrection, he appeared to his followers at various times. At one point, he appeared to more than five hundred people at once. So there were a lot of witnesses to the fact that he rose from the dead. Many of those witnesses suffered awful deaths rather than recant the truth of what they’d seen.
If he knew what would happen to him before it did, down to who would betray him, how, where, and when he would die, and how long it would be before he rose again, if beyond all possibility of coincidence and rational explanation it happened just as he said, this proves that he spoke the truth.
What’s scary about that? If he spoke the truth, we should examine all his words. He said some scary things.
Look at what he said about who he was.
“Before Abraham was, I am.”
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me.”
“You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
These are just a few of the words he spoke about himself. It’s a little scary to think that these are some of the things he says about himself, his power, his authority, and his return.
But here are some of his words about you.
If you aren’t following him:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Read for yourself! Pray for him to help you see what he wants you to, and read what one of his closest friends wrote about his life in the gospel of John. He offers more life, more truth, more joy and hope and fulfillment than can be found anywhere else. He’s said so, and he’s proven that he speaks the truth.
For his followers, here are some of his words that should scare us if we’re not doing what he said. He tells us that we need to keep his commandments if we say we love him, and his new commandment is that we have to love others the way he’s loved us, which means sacrificially and willing to give everything for others when they don’t deserve it like we didn’t when he loved us and died for us. He says we have to forgive others’ sins against us if we want to be forgiven. He warns us against being know-it-alls and condemning other people. And maybe the scariest of all, he tells us that if we don’t help to meet the needs of others, we’re not following him.
So, Christian, we need to stop judging others and instead get to work on fixing ourselves and helping to meet the needs of the hurting. We need to stop condemning people for who they are and stop thinking we’re the gatekeepers of the Kingdom of God, as if we’re worthy of entry, because we aren’t. If we’re saved it’s by grace alone through faith, and even that’s a gift from God.
And speaking of grace, his words aren’t all dreadful warnings, but he’s left us with tremendous promises and hope for the faithful. Maybe my favorite is this one. Take it like he’s speaking it to you now: “..surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He is with you. He will never fail you nor forsake you. He is for you. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, with you right now, and he has an infinite Love for you that’s everlasting and greater and purer and fuller than any other love. Simply humbly follow in his steps. Then there’s no reason to fear.