I sat down next to a guy at lunch the other day and noticed that he seemed to be deep in thought about something very serious. He was just sitting there, staring at his coffee and stirring it with a stick. Finally, I decided to strike up a conversation with him.
“They make pretty good coffee here, don’t they?”
He just looked at me as if he heard my words but didn’t understand the meaning. Then he blinked a few times and said, “Yeah, the coffee is great here.”
“Good,” I said with a smile, “The way you were looking at yours I was afraid it might be poison.”
He chuckled a little. Then, with a small grin, he turned to look at me and asked, “Do you want to hear something amazing?”
“I have a friend who was murdered a while back.”
“That’s horrible! I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Thanks. The thing is, before he was killed I did something stupid. I pretty much ripped his heart out and stomped on it. It was like I knew what I was saying was wrong but it kept coming out of my mouth anyway. You know what I mean? I didn’t have a chance to apologize before he was killed.”
“Man, that really sucks,” I said, wondering where the amazing part was.
After a long, awkward pause I said, “Well, I’m sure your friend would have forgiven you if only you had been given the chance to apologize.”
“Well, that’s what’s so amazing. I may just get the chance after all.”
“What do you mean?”
The guy looked around the room and became sort of giddy. “I’ve been dying to tell people this. I just can’t keep it to myself anymore. At first it scared me to death, but now I just have to share it. My friend is alive!”
“Uh, you mean he wasn’t killed after all?”
“Oh, no, he was brutally murdered. He was even buried. But now he’s alive again! I saw him! Lots of people have seen him! That’s the amazing part!”
“Yeah, and that’s not all. The day he was killed, lots of people who were dead were seen alive again all over town!”
“Hmm…I did not know that,” I said, trying to be polite. “That does sound amazing. Well, I have to get back to work now. It was nice talking to you…uh…”
“Peter,” he said, finally introducing himself.
“Oh, I’m Thomas. Nice meeting you, Peter. Have a good one.”
Christianity has what Fr. Robert Barron calls a grab-you-by-the-lapels quality. Jesus was brutally murdered and then rose from the dead. Hundreds of witnesses saw him, talked to him and ate with him. This was not some David Copperfield or Chris Angel magic illusion. Without the resurrection, Jesus was just another nice guy or an inspiring teacher. The apostle Paul said that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we are all still dead in our sins and our faith is in vain. No other religion or philosophy compares to the message of Christianity. It is a message the disciples were willing to die for because they knew it to be true. Resurrection.
What if something amazing happened to you? What if you caught a huge fish or won a big prize or became cured of cancer? What if your favorite ball team won a championship? Would you keep the news all to yourself? Does the fact that Jesus actually rose from the dead compel you to spread that news to others in some way? Does it amaze you? Do you really believe? Without the resurrection, all we have to tell is what anyone else could tell. Without the resurrection, we’re all just wasting our time. I say that as I grab you by the lapels.