The yellow light came on with about 20km to go - that should be ample. A sign "B5" - thatís good! We came onto some new road. There were three service stations and a few houses. Petrol was 61.9 cents per litre here - a bit high for those days. Weíre just about at Bordertown - prices may be a fraction better there. A slight detour to the right, then back to the left again.
Now - whereís Bordertown? It should be here soon! Uncertainly, we continued. We are either coming closer, or getting further away! Do we have enough petrol to get back to those service stations? We stopped to consider our position, then turned around.
A young man was putting his Peugeot bonnet up. Yes, we had passed Bordertown. We should have no trouble getting there (so he thought!). Could we help him with some water? Yes, we could, and we did make it back - and saw workers just starting to put up the signs on a new bypass!
Bordertown really does exist. If our tank hadnít been so empty, we might have passed it by with hardly a thought in the world for it. We had planned to stop there for a meal. But, if we missed it, so what! Some other stopping place would have done as well!
Two weeks ago was Easter and we were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus - a key event in human history. Yet many people miss it. Our civilisation and way of thinking has found detours and bypasses. Some of the old signposts are missing, and the new ones divert our attention to bunnies and chocolate eggs. So we are confronted with two questions - Did it really happen? and So what?
There is no doubt that the "So what?" follows from this question. Yet it also precedes it. The very reason we look to the evidence is that, instinctively, we know that so much hangs to it! The two disciples in our Bible reading werenít inclined to accept the report of the women unless there was further substantial evidence. The other disciples were like that too - not just the well-recorded Thomas!
We werenít there, of course, and we canít call for an action replay! What we can and must do is look at the evidence that has come down to us. Letís probe some of the important facts.
1. Could someone have made up the story and the gospel writers copied it?
Not at all! In fact the gospels give us four independent accounts of the same event just as today we would expect four newspaper reporters to record a number of different aspects of what is clearly and obviously the same event. Paul in 1 Cor. 15.5-8 gives a fifth account, naming a list of witnesses - many of them still living at the time he wrote.
2. What clue is there in the attitude of his disciples?
They underwent a revolutionary change! They were quite shattered by his death, and not at all disposed to believe the reports of his resurrection. They completely failed to understand his prophecies concerning it. If Jesus had not risen, there would be no Christian church - the church would have been buried with him. The belief in the resurrection was so central that the first day of the week became "the Lordís Day" and eventually took the place of the Sabbath as their day of rest and worship. The cross and resurrection were central to apostolic preaching. The apostles gloried in the fact that they were "witnesses", and they were prepared to die for their faith.
3. Was there any evidence that confronted both the enemies and the friends of Jesus?
There was the empty tomb - evidence which his opponents tried to minimise, but could never really deny. The explanation that the body had been stolen was quite ludicrous in view of the precautions taken by the authorities and the prevailing mood of the disciples. Further, the disciples are unlikely to have risked their lives for what they knew to be a hoax. We see the dogged persistence of modern-day Israelis in seeking to root out Palestinian terrorists - first-century Jews were like that too. There would have been very strong motivation to uncover the body of Jesus, but thereís no evidence that his enemies ever tried to do so.
So you can show that it all really happened - so what? Is it really all so very important for us today?
Reflecting on my earlier story, apart from our need to fill the tank with petrol, Bordertown held no great significance for us. Any place would have done, really! We did learn that it was the birthplace of then Prime Minister, Bob Hawke - a fact to which a bronze bust bears witness. We found a park - it had some playground equipment but no toilets. We ate a meal beside our parked car, and searched for the other necessities!
Why should the resurrection be of more than passing historical interest to us today?
1. The resurrection sets the divine seal of approval on the person of Jesus.
Paul writes to the Romans that "through the Spirit of holiness [Christ] was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1.4) - a fact that was hidden throughout his life.
2. The resurrection confirms the efficacy of the sacrificial death of Jesus.
In other words, he didnít just die a martyr to a cause - he died for you and me!
3. The resurrection therefore asserts that there is good news.
When Jesus cried out, "It is finished!", he really had done it. He had paid the full price for human sin. He therefore freely offers forgiveness of sins for anyone who turns to him.
4. His resurrection gives assurance that our faith is not in vain.
Death could not hold him. His rising is the sign and pledge that all who put their trust in him will pass through death into heaven itself.
5. His resurrection links with his promise in the Great Commission to be with us always.
In our Christian life and service we are not alone. Jesus doesnít simply stand at the end beckoning us. He is with us all the way, just as he promised.
Do you have that fire burning within you? The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!