Tuesday, April 30, 2019

You Won’t Find Him in the Ashes

“Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery?” – Luke 24:5

Two weeks ago, millions of people around the world watched in horror as the Notre Dame Cathedral went up in flames. This monument has stood for over 800 years, and it’s the most visited landmark in France. That’s right—the Cathedral draws more tourists than the Eiffel Tower, with over 13 million visitors every year. That comes out to an average of 35,000 visitors every day … more than the population of 99 percent of the cities in France.

Like most of you, my heart sank as I watched the video clips of the flames and the destruction they left behind. But in the days that followed, I found myself wondering if I was making too big a fuss over it. Our hearts tend to drop whenever we see a beloved historical landmark or building being destroyed. But the Notre Dame Cathedral fire affected millions of people at a much deeper level, because, as a Catholic cathedral, it seemed as if a big part of their religion and their faith went up in flames. And that shouldn’t be.

In the days that followed, people sifted through the ashes at Notre Dame, feverishly searching for relics and artifacts that they value as an important part of their faith. But God’s word tells us to stop sifting through the ashes. Why? Because we won’t find Jesus there. Similarly, on the first Easter morning, three women went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body with spices. Instead of a body, they found an empty tomb and an angel who asked them an important question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5) Or, as The Message paraphrases the question: “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery?”

Great question! Jesus wasn’t hanging out in the tomb. Tombs are for dead people. Yet many people today still make the mistake of looking for Jesus among the dead. Those people believe things about Jesus that are true … but fall short of the full truth because they ignore Jesus’ resurrection. Here are a few of those misleading “cemetery thoughts.”

Cemetery Thought #1: Jesus was a great man. Many people believe Jesus was a great man just as Abraham Lincoln was a great man, just as Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man, just as Billy Graham was a great man. But all those “great” men are dead. Jesus was a great man, but that’s just part of the truth. When he walked this earth, Jesus was 100% man, but he was also 100% God. Jesus Christ was the great God-man 2,000 years ago, he is still the great God-man today, and he will continue to be the great God-man throughout all eternity. Because Jesus is alive, he isn’t a “was.” Jesus has always been and always will be an “is.” He is the Great I Am—the same yesterday, today and forever.

Cemetery Thought #2: Jesus’ teachings should be studied. Without a doubt, every follower of Christ must read and study Jesus’ teachings. But here’s the problem: Many people address the Bible and Jesus from merely an academic point of view. They study the Bible and they study Jesus’ teachings, but they do so in much the same way that they would study “Hamlet” or the Magna Carta or the U.S. Constitution. But because of that first Resurrection Sunday, Jesus’ teachings can never be reduced to academics. Jesus is alive, which means his words are alive. Or as the writer of Hebrews puts it, his word is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” William Barclay, a 20th century pastor and professor, said it well: “Beyond doubt, study is necessary, but Jesus is not only someone to be studied; he is someone to be met and lived with every day.” That’s so true. Don’t just study Jesus. Meet Jesus, and live in relationship with Jesus every day.

Cemetery Thought #3: Jesus’ life should be modeled. Once again, there is some important truth in this statement. Jesus is our ultimate role model. If we’re going to pattern our life after someone, that someone should be Jesus. But Jesus is not a dead role model. Dead role models can only speak to us from the past from their finite lives. But because Jesus conquered death on that first resurrection Sunday, he is a living role model who continues to set a good example, who can answer all your questions, who can show you how to do the right thing. He can speak to us, not only from the past, but also right now in the present. Jesus is alive and active today. He helps us. He guides us. He is a living, active Lord and Savior.

And just as Jesus Christ doesn’t hang out in cemeteries, he also doesn’t hang out in temples or cathedrals or even in churches. When God shows up in a church building, it’s for one reason and one reason only: Because living people are there. You see, our living Savior spends his time among the LIVING.

With over one billion dollars already pledged in support to rebuild the Cathedral at Notre Dame, I’m pretty confident that, one way or another, it will be rebuilt. But I hope and pray that people aren’t short-sighted enough to think that during the rebuilding process Jesus is going to be hanging out in the ashes—with one exception. Jesus will gladly wade into the ashes to rescue someone who’s living in the ashes and needs to be set free.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com, and join us for our Worship Celebration Sundays at 10 a.m.

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