From mere religious teaching to real redemptive power

Luke 24:5b-6a

Week 14 (April)

It was Easter Sunday morning. The Florence (Italy) congregation was singing Ei vive ("He lives"). As the voices echoed off the masonry walls and terrazzo floors, a special spirit seemed to envelop that little building on Toscanini Street.

Suddenly, just before the last verse, I felt impressed to ask if there was someone would like to stand and give a personal affirmation to the reality of that chorus, Il questo so con veritá, ch'ei vive nel mio cuor ("I know He lives within my heart").

To my surprise, up stood Laura Tardelli. This young wife had begun coming to church only a few weeks before. As we had been singing, her heart had been warmed with the inward witness to a new birth she had experienced in her home.

It was a beautiful moment as Laura said simply, "I do know that Jesus lives, because He lives in my heart." [ Missionary stories from Italy ]

It was no doubt a similar kind of burning witness that the two men on the road to Emmaus experienced that first Easter day.

Jesus Christ is alive. It wasn't His ghost that appeared to those men. There was no body left in that tomb. It was indeed He. Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead and Christianity was thus transformed from a mere body of religious teaching into real, redemptive power.

I was pastoring in Texas when a parishioner brought me a copy of a newspaper article on the Shroud of Turin. This piece of cloth is claimed by its Roman Catholic owners to be the burial cloth of Jesus.

It is not on permanent display in that northern Italian industrial city, but it has occasionally been put out for months at a time. During those times, scientific experts have had limited opportunities to do some tests on the shroud. Results have been too varied to be conclusive. I do know, however, that my belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ will neither be weakened nor strengthened by those results.

Our faith is not one which claws the air, grasping at straws of evidence. The bodily resurrected Christ was seen by at least 500 persons on several different occasions. All were convinced that it was He -- not His ghost, not an apparition, but Jesus Christ in person.

In all this furor about the Shroud of Turin, it has been useful for me to remember that the inspired biblical record concerns itself with the appearances of the resurrected Christ rather than with what happened to the burial cloth.

Jesus' resurrection was not, of course, an arbitrary miracle. As Jesus talked of His ministry to the men on the road to Emmaus, He pointed out that His death and resurrection were all part of God's prophesied plan to bring redemption to mankind.

As they walked along, a new understanding of the nature of the work of Christ dawned on those two men. No wonder their hears burned within, hearing such a sermon from a Preacher.

The Christian message does depend on Easter. On this Easter Sunday, let's remind ourselves that without our strong proclamation of the bodily Resurrection, the Christian message would stand discredited.

It doesn't matter whether you say "Egli vive," like Laura Tardelli, or whether you sing "He lives" with Alfred Ackley, just make sure that on Easter Sunday morning, you proclaim it loud and clear.

He is risen. He is risen indeed! [ another Easter devotional ]

I wrwote these devotional thoughts while we were missionaries in Italy. They originally appeared in the April 6, 1980 edition of Standard, a take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes.

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Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132  |  Phone: 405-740-4149 - Fax: 405-491-6658

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