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A recent novel titled ‘A Skeleton in God’s Closet‘ revolves around the crucial question: “What if modern-day archeologists were to suddenly unearth the remains of Christ’s body?” In other words, what if Jesus had been crucified, dead, and buried, and that was the end?

That prospect was the cause of the women’s sadness as they trudged toward the garden grave in the predawn darkness. It was the reason for the disciples’ fear as they tried to maintain a low profile in the hours following Good Friday.

What If . . . ?

What if . . . ? Common sense and human experience ask, “How could it be otherwise?” No one we know has come back from the dead. No ER on earth can revive a patient who has truly died. Even respected religious leaders seem to concede that Jesus could not really be alive, as they speak of Christ living on only through His followers.

What if . . . ? What if Jesus were no different than anyone else and were still dead? Paul gives a grim prognosis; “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). If Jesus’ bones are lying dry and decayed in an ancient tomb, then we’re dead too. Then any hope is crushed under the life-sapping burden of sin. How can we be hopeful when a guilty conscience and God’s righteous anger against sin hang over our lives like a black cloud? Then all we could look forward to would be a life spent desperately grasping for the mirage of happiness followed by an eternity of torment.

What if . . . ? Easter tells us we don’t have to wonder. We know! The women were there. They saw the stone tossed aside and heard the electrifying news from the holy messenger: “He is not here. He is risen!” Heart-wrenching grief burst into glorious ecstasy. Peter and John saw the empty tomb. With their own eyes the disciples saw the resurrected Lord standing before them Easter evening. A week later even the doubts of Thomas were erased. Fear gave way to wondrous awe. St. Paul confirms the truth for all time: “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!” (1 Cor. 15:20). There are no ‘what ifs?’ HE IS RISEN!

He Is Risen!

That certainty is my life and salvation. It tells me that my sin has been paid for in full and can no longer be counted against me. It gives me renewed hope, for it means that even on the worst of days when I can’t seem to get along with anyone, when I hurt others by what I say and do, and offend God’s holiness by living more like the world than a child of God–even then I can unburden my soul by leaving all my sin in Jesus’ grave, and rejoice in the new life of forgiveness guaranteed by Jesus’ rising.

He is risen! That truth means I have a living Lord who is more than just a footnote in a history text. He defeated Satan and now directs our lives and determines the course of world history for the blessing of His people. When troubles pile up on the outside and stress builds within, I have the confidence that my Lord sees the situation, knows the answer, and will, if necessary, move mountains for my benefit.

He is risen! That unalterable fact is my comfort when I stand grieving at a fresh graveside or when I contemplate my own inevitable death. Jesus, the Son of God, came to be my brother. He said: “I am the resurrection and the life.” He Himself rose to life. That means I too will one day rise to eternal life with a perfect, glorified body.

If you ever wonder ‘what if?’, check it out for yourself. Look to the Word. Go with the women and the disciples. See for yourself. Believe! No skeletons here!

— Pastor Michael Eichstadt