A belated Happy Easter to all!
Christmas is the Christian holiday that receives the most hype and attention, but the event we celebrate at Easter is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. It’s unfortunate Easter gets such short shrift in our commercially conscious, secular focused society.
For those who’ve never had the privilege of teaching a kid’s Sunday school class, please allow me to share from my third grade class yesterday. We had a lot of ground to cover. The lesson began with Jesus praying sweat drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane and moved to His betrayal at the hands of Judas, His trial, Peter’s denials, Jesus’ beatings, His carrying His own cross to Golgotha, His crucifixion, His death (including being speared in the side and why it was important that water, not blood, gushed out), the earthquake and temple veil rending, His burial, His resurrection, His various post-Resurrection appearances, and His return to heaven. Whew!
When we got to the part about the risen Christ appearing to the apostles, one of the boys said, “Not to Thomas. Thomas wasn’t there.” He was right, so we talked about Thomas. When the other apostles told Thomas that Jesus was alive, Thomas said he wouldn’t believe until he saw Jesus face to face and touched His wounds. Well, as it happened, Jesus returned later, and this time, Thomas was there. He told Thomas to touch His nail-scarred hands and His pierced side. Thomas responded, “My Lord, and my God.” (John 20:28 HCSB) What a response! What an affirmation of belief!
Jesus responded to Thomas’ statement with these words: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.” (John 20:29 HCSB) I asked the kids if they understood what Jesus was saying. They looked a bit uncertain, so I explained. Thomas believed because the evidence was in front of him. It’s hard to deny the truth when you can see it with your own eyes and touch it with your own hands. Jesus was happy with Thomas’ belief, but he expressed how much more blessed are those who believe simply by faith.
Then we discussed what Jesus meant by “faith.” I read to them from Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV) I asked them if they understood what the verse meant. The same little boy who had earlier mentioned Thomas looked at me with earnest eyes and said, “It’s kind of like confidence.” Wow! That a third grader distilled all those words down to the essential truth of faith. (Mr. and Mrs. Purvis, if you’re reading this, you’ve got one heckuva kid there!)
This kid was exactly right. Faith is confidence, even though we haven’t seen it with our own eyes or touched it with our own hands. Confidence that God is there. Confidence that Jesus died and rose for us and defeated Satan in one fell swoop. Confidence that He is always with us, in our hearts, as the Holy Spirit. Confidence that when we die, we will live with Him forever in heaven. And it all goes back to the Cross and Resurrection.
Jesus suffered the most profane, debasing, agonizing torture on that Cross. He could have sloughed his mortality and assumed his divinity at any time during that agony. But he didn’t. He, as both fully god and fully man, suffered on the Cross as a man so that His death would be the ultimate sacrifice and atonement for our sins, and His resurrection defeated death and hell once and for all.
I don’t know about you, but I am so very grateful that my Redeemer lives!