When we moved to Arizona a few years ago, we soon became aware of the joke that “Everything in Arizona wants to kill you.” Arizona has some of the most spectacular natural beauty in the world, starting with the Grand Canyon, but it also has a number of natural hazards: venomous snakes and spiders, scorpions, the proverbial “dry heat,” etc., and plants that look like they’re saying, “I dare you to even come close to me,” some of which will leave you with a fingertip full of spines if you do take them up on their threat and even touch them lightly. Our neighbors were out recently trimming a pretty bush by the wall that divides our properties. I went over to help clean up some leaves that had fallen on our side, and was immediately warned that they could cause a severe rash, and that I’d better wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt!
So it was with fear and trepidation that I went out in our back yard to remove a dead, scraggly bush that had thorns on it that actually pierced through a half inch of hard rubber in the soles of my sneakers without breaking. Yikes! But at the same time, how could I not notice some of the other, more tame plants around me, replete with beautiful pink and purple flowers, bees happily buzzing around them enjoying their daily meal, some giving off a fragrance evocative of Paradise lost? Even the ugly, deceased limbs of the bush I was removing once carried some of the most beautiful magenta-colored flowers we’d ever seen.
If one were looking for some spiritual application here, and “one” was, it was easy to find. Thorns. Piercing. The ugliness of death. Yet… A fragrance of Paradise! Yes, the Paradise that was lost when we sinned, necessitating the thorns, the piercing and the ugliness of death, so that WE could have LIFE! A crown of thorns. Piercing nails. The cry of death. And finally, just to be sure we had “killed God once for all,” the pierce of a sword in the side.
God made the world wait and wonder. He never does things on “our” timeline. And then… Can you just imagine being there to see the man who hung pathetically on a cross just three days before now walking before you in a resurrected body, having conquered death forever!? I can’t begin to fathom what Christ’s followers felt then, but their timidity and doubt turned into a fearless desire to even die for His name if necessary!
Someone once asked me what was the most important event in Christianity. When I responded, “the Resurrection,” he was almost shocked, as he had never heard that answer before. It was always, “the crucifixion.” Then I was shocked! Yes, Christ’s birth, which we celebrate with such festivity, was important. His crucifixion was unjust and unwarranted and a powerful testimony of the evils afflicting mankind. But had He died on the cross, and if He were still dead, Christianity would just be another religion, with another dead founder, and ultimately no more meaningful than believing in the tooth fairy. The Resurrection is what separates Christianity from every other “faith” in the world. When I hear that people belong to a certain “faith,” my question is always, “Faith in what?” Yourself? Your church, mosque or synagogue? Some nebulous god in a faraway place who has nothing to do with the daily affairs of the world? Science, which has become a religion to many nowadays?
No. “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5). Everything in this world wants to kill you – spiritually. The sting of death goes beyond just the physical. This is Satan’s realm for the time being, until Christ returns to finally put an end to him and his evil work. Are you going to be ready? It’s like the virus that is infecting the world right now – an insidious force that you may be unaware of until it is too late. Now is the time to come before the resurrected Christ and receive His forgiveness for what we’ve done to the world God created, which no longer exists but for the few reminders God has left us: the beauty and flowers amongst the dead and lifeless branches full of thorns. When we do that, we receive new life, and the gift of Eternal life.
And guess what’s now happening amongst the dead stumps of that ugly bush I cut down?
Yes, you guessed it!
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).
Happy Resurrection Day!