Is Jesus Alive?

On this Easter weekend, how did you celebrate?

Did you end up involved in an Easter Egg hunt?
Or sharing a meal with extended family?
Or due to a day off from work, you went out with others to see a movie or out to dinner?
Maybe you ended up at a Good Friday service?

The Paradox of Passion

For us, we had a Bryant family reunion!

The Bryant genes are very strong. I’m not talking about what we look like. I’m talking about how Bryants tend to live. You see, Bryants are intense. 

That intensity comes out whether we are having a conversation about frustrations at work or raising our kids or playing pickleball like we did this weekend.

Because of this intensity, we tend to marry more laid back and relaxed types of people. We have to have others who can absorb some of our intensity and offset it. 

The kindest and most chill people at our Bryant family reunions actually aren’t Bryants. They are the ones who married into our family.

It’s always fun when someone new comes to our family reunion. They can always pick out the Bryants – even if they have a different last name. And that Bryant intensity comes through regardless of gender or personality.

For every intense Bryant, you have a more laid back or fun-loving spouse.

This weekend I was explaining to my niece and her boyfriend how that intensity comes from a mix of control issues and anxiety. 
But that passion also comes from a place of love and loyalty – a desire to protect, to serve, and to be there for those we love.

Seemingly a contradiction yet both are true – a paradox.
There are all sorts of paradoxes in life.
This is true in the spiritual realm as well.

Often we refer to God’s Kingdom as an upside down kingdom.  Jesus wins by losing. Jesus defeats evil by taking upon Himself the sins of humanity. It killed Him, yet on the 3rd day He rose from the dead.

The Epic True Story of Jesus

In our Western culture the story of Jesus so saturates our lives we don’t even see it even though it’s all around us. 

We tell stories of a coming Messiah-type figure like Luke Skywalker, Paul Atreides also known as Muad’Dib, or Harry Potter.

In our culture, the hero’s journey includes when he or she is willing to sacrifice himself or herself for the sake of others.
We see it over and over in the stories we tell.

From Les Miserables to the Green Mile to to Katniss Everdeen, or even Jack Dawson in Titanic (although some of you are still bitter at Rose for not making more room on the floating wood).

But somehow, often our superheroes rarely actually die. It’s as if their love, their sacrifice, is stronger than death.

We see scenes of “resurrection“ like when Iron Man wakes back up or Spider-Man is revealed not to be dead or Wonder Woman is actually alive or Loki actually survives the Temporal Loom in order to hold the multiverse together.

Deep down these stories ring true to us because they are echoes of the greatest moment in human history.

The true story of the One who came to rescue us, and his name is Jesus.

People have tried to explain this away as a story that predates Jesus or even that Jesus never really existed, but over and over researchers, historians, archaeologists, and people much smarter than me have debunked these ideas. Even non christian skeptics acknowledge this story originates with Jesus and there is far more than enough evidence that proves Jesus truly lived. 

For more see “The Bible Says Jesus Was Real. What Other Proof Exists?” at History.com or “Evidence for Jesus and the Early Church from Non-Christian Authors

Do You Want to Experience God’s Peace and Presence?

Just as this story is common in our culture, so is doubt.

This morning I woke up really early. Now I wake up early every morning, but this was even earlier than I normally would.  I found myself thinking about those who may have doubt. This led me to considering the followers of Jesus who experienced that first Easter Sunday.

I found myself wondering: “why was it that some of Jesus’ disciples did not recognize Him when they saw him alive after the crucifixion?”

Some of it could have been explained away because of the time of day, the lighting, or even the distance.

  • Maybe Mary Magdalene could not see that it was Jesus rather than the gardener because the sun was just rising and all she could see was a silhouette of him.
  • Maybe Peter was too far away when he was out on the boat fishing.
  • We know that the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus were kept from recognizing him. In other words, it was like a miracle that kept them from realizing it was him until Jesus was ready to reveal Himself.

You know what I think? I think it was because they weren’t looking for Jesus.

They had seen Him crucified. The last thing they expected to see was a living risen Jesus.

Maybe that’s why we don’t experience God’s peace and presence.

We don’t experience God’s peace and presence because we don’t look for God.

I have discovered proof of the risen Jesus all around me.

When we follow Jesus, we can see Him at work in our lives and in the lives of others. We can hear His voice in a passage of scripture, in the lyrics of a song, in the dialogue of a film, or in a conversation with a friend. We can see his handiwork in nature or even in the still small voice.

Let me ask it this way: do you want to see Jesus?

An agnostic Jewish novelist who chose to follow Christ named Andrew Klavan once wrote:

“If you believe, the evidence is all around you. If you don’t believe, no evidence will ever be enough.”

– Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ

God wants to bring new life to not just certain areas of your life. He wants to bring you to life – to be fully alive in His invisible Kingdom! That can begin today. His Kingdom is advanced through faith, hope, and love – through changed lives one at a time, life by life.

Too often, those who say they believe in Jesus, don’t live any differently than they did before they said the believe.
Unfortunately, sometimes, it is even worse than that. Too often, some of those who claim to follow Jesus tend to be more judgmental, hypocritical, and obsessed with the pursuit of political power. Cultural Christians are more like the religious leaders in the Bible – the very ones who had Jesus crucified.

If you doubt or you are cynical, let me encourage you: don’t let those who do not represent Jesus well get in the way of who Jesus really is and wants to be in your life.

Others should be able to tell if someone is a genuine follower of Jesus if they live out what they say they believe.

  • Genuine followers of Jesus live with humility – putting others before yourself,
  • Genuine followers of Jesus demonstrate a radical love to all – including those who may look differently, believe differently, or behave differently.
  • Genuine followers of Jesus forgive others who oppose them – even if they don’t ask for forgiveness.
  • Genuine followers of Jesus demonstrate kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control in spite of the stresses and challenges of life.

You see, when we choose to believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead and we let Him guide us, He changes us!

The reason we celebrate today is because Jesus is alive!

How Do We Know Jesus is Alive?

We have lots of evidence that Jesus is alive.

You can experience God’s peace and presence and be transformed too.

How do I know Jesus is alive?

I’ve experienced His presence.
I’ve experienced His peace.

In the midst of the intensity I feel within, and in spite of the control issues and anxiety that so often come to the surface, when I slow myself down and reach out to God, I can sense His love… His peace… His goodness… His forgiveness….

That’s what He offers all of us today!

So I want to invite you to do that right now. 
Just in your own heart, reach out to God.
Just pray in your own mind: “God, show me who you are. Show me who you want me to be.”

If you have an open mind, consider the following:

A Spiritual Experiment – Reading Through One of the Eyewitness Accounts

Go beyond what you’ve assumed or what has been imposed on you. Who is Jesus really?

Pray before reading: “God reveal yourself to me.

  • The Three Day Plunge – Read 7 chapters a day for 3 days in a row.
  • The Seven Day Challenge – Read 3 chapters a day for 7 days.
  • The Twenty-one Day Experiment – Read 1 chapter a day for 21 days.

Look for words, phrases, or sentences that might stand out as you are reading.

Look for ways throughout the day when God may be answering that prayer for Him to reveal Himself to you through a conversation with a friend or a child, through a lyric in a song, though a line from a film, or even through a thought that is too good to be from you. Look for God to answer your prayer in the midst of talking to Him or while in nature.

Consider adding to this the video devotional I created for each chapter here: A Spiritual Experiment (Gospel of John)

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