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Easter With An Exclamation Point!

What a world of difference a simple punctuation mark can make. It can be the difference between disappointment and delight.

For instance, one man realizes that he has gone as far as he will ever get in his career. He looks around himself and says: “This is as good as it gets?” He’s obviously unhappy with the way his life has turned out. Another man says exactly the same words, but with a different punctuation mark. He surveys his accomplishments and exclaims: “This is as good as it gets!” The words are the same, but the meaning is as different as sleet and sunshine.

Easter is like that too. Some react to the news about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead with a question mark, while others use an exclamation point.

It has been that way since the very first Easter. Early on the first Easter morning a dark question mark hung over the hearts of Jesus’ followers. Consider Mary Magdalene, who saw the empty tomb of Christ and wept at first, thinking that someone had stolen the body. Consider Jesus’ own disciples who were told of the empty tomb and the angel’s announcement that Jesus had risen, but did not at first believe it. Consider the two disciples who were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus that afternoon, who told a stranger about the reports of Jesus’ resurrection. With downcast hearts they considered it to be only a rumor, because “him they did not see.”

In each of these cases, news about the risen Christ was met not with conviction, but with a question–“the Lord is risen?”

Today it is no different. Many people get no further than Jesus’ empty tomb with a question mark hanging over it all. Many would agree that “Jesus lives,” but only in the same sense that other inspirational figures from history “live on.”

In this way you could say that Thomas Jefferson lives on in the ideals of our U. S. Constitution, and Martin Luther King lives on in the civil rights movement. Likewise, some would say that “Jesus lives” when we love our enemies as well as our friends, or when we try to be as forgiving to others as we would like them to be to us.

But the Bible claims much more than this for Christ!

The Bible testifies that the man Jesus is also God. It says that this man’s body was dead, but came back to life–a living, breathing flesh-and-blood Savior who still lives today!

To prove His point to His doubting followers, Jesus appeared to them in just this way. On Easter evening He showed Himself to them–not as an idea, a figment of their imagination, or a ghost–but with His risen body. “He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have'” (Lk. 24:38-39).

Jesus later appeared, alive and in the flesh, to hundreds of people, so that the news of His victory over death could be proclaimed with conviction down through the centuries.

So which is it for you? Is it “Jesus lives?”–or “Jesus lives!” The punctuation makes all the difference, for if you know the Lord Jesus as a living Savior, then you can also say with conviction, “He died for me!” and “My sins are forgiven!”

A heart that knows this knows what the future holds and says with joy: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes–I, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).

Easter with an exclamation mark means gloom is turned to gladness. The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!

–Pastor Bruce Naumann

(First written for the clergy column of a local newspaper.)