Easter – and a Japanese village

There is a village in Japan where they commemorate Jesus. According to the the story,
Jesus spent time in Japan while he was in his twenties. He studied ethics at the feet of Japanese monks and religious luminaries.  At age 30, he returned to Palestine where he challenged the Pharisees and founded the Christian faith.  Not the Christian faith as the New Testament describes it, however, as the crucifixion and resurrection did not take place.  By mistake, Jesus’ brother, whose name was Iskiri (sounds like a Japanese version of Iscariot), was killed by the Romans and Jesus escaped, via Siberia to Alaska, and eventually made it back to Japan where he settled down in the village of Shingo. He died at 106, and is apparently buried on a small hill outside the village.

Fine – if you settle for a teacher Jesus and no more. And that’s enough for some. Love your neighbour, go the extra mile, forgive your enemies. Wonderful, peace-promoting stuff. No need to figure out the mess of the cross (a tragic story of martyrdom, no need to think about a sacrifice for sin); and no need to believe what an Anglican bishop once famously described as ‘a conjuring trick with bones.’

But is that really all there is?

I don’t think so.

And neither did Saint Paul.

In fact, he was adamant. Remove the resurrection and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. That’s what he wrote to the mixed-up church in First Century Corinth.

Some of them were saying that there was no such thing as the resurrection of the dead. If that was true, wrote Paul, then even Jesus had not been raised. And if Jesus had not been raised, they had all believed a lie, they might as well abandon it and spend the rest of their lives over-eating and getting drunk.

You can read about it in 1 Corinthians 15.

Paul believed that the tomb of Jesus Christ was empty and it was not that Jesus had gone to Japan. He had been raised again.

Here are three positive implications of that.

  1. Faith is not foolish. There will always be people who argue that it is. And it would be – if Jesus was not raised. If he was buried in the tomb (or in Japan), the Corinthians (and every single believer from that time until today) is wasting their time by believing the gospel. It would be like believing that the laws of gravity will be reversed on April 15. Believe all you want, but if you jump out of a tree on April 15 you will hit the ground. Your faith would be utter folly. On the other hand, the empty tomb of Jesus gives us something to believe: it means that the Christian faith is not foolish. (Of course, someone is going to say that it’s an act of faith to believe the tomb was empty: question is though why did some of his enemies not just produce the body to nip the new faith in the bud? Why did so many people claim they saw him? Why did the disciples risk all if they knew he was still dead?)
  2. Death is not final. It can seem that it is. Whether it comes suddenly, unannounced, or at the end of a painful illness, it looks like the end. What must it have been like on ‘Silent Saturday’? The day after the terrible events of Good Friday. It looked like death had had the final word. Someone said that ‘his mother grieved, his friends scattered, but heaven just started counting to three….’ Today is the third day. The tomb is empty. Death has not won; it has been defeated. Because he lives, so shall we.
  3. Life is not futile. Because there is a hope, because death will not have the final word, we can live our lives with a purpose. Even though a battle still rages, we know who is the winner. On his side, working for him, nothing we do is useless.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

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