Easter is knowing where we're going

Saturday, April 8, 2006

For 38 years he sat by the pool -- hopeful, sometimes hopeless, praying, giving up, in faith, out of faith, questioning, believing one more time, defeated again.

For 38 years he'd had lots of time to worry and wonder, "Why me?" He'd had 38 years to become a cynic, an agnostic, an atheist or a man of faith. Thirty-eight years to believe or doubt. Thirty-eight years of trying to get into the pool of Bethesda by himself when an angel stirred the water, and 38 years of failure. Thirty-eight years of not being able to make it on his own. (John 5)

I often go along for door-to-door evangelism, and sometimes we ask the Kennedy question: If you were to die tonight and Jesus met you at heaven's gate and asked, "Why should I let you into my heaven?", what would be your response? Do you know what most "Christians" answer? They talk about their church attendance, denomination, or decent moral life.

John Wesley, an 18th-century theologian, told about a dream he had. In the dream, he was ushered to the gates of hell. He asked, "Are there any Presbyterians here?" "Yes!" came the answer. Then he asked, "Are there any Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists?" The answer was "Yes!" Much distressed, Wesley was next ushered to the gates of Heaven, and he asked the same questions. Each time the answer was "No!" So Wesley asked, "Who then is inside?" The answer came back, "There are only Christians here."

What part of dependence on God don't we understand? Jesus, because of his mercy and love, healed the man at the pool of Bethesda, cleansed lepers, opened blind eyes and deaf ears, and died on a cross for our sins. Then he came out of a tomb on Easter Sunday to prove our eternal deal was sealed.

Good works? God's perfect, and we can't measure up to him. The thief on a cross beside Jesus didn't need or get more time to accumulate some good deeds, yet Jesus assured him, "Today you'll be with me in paradise." Besides, if I can earn my way to heaven without God, then why did he come to earth and suffer the agony of Calvary? Why would he waste his blood if we didn't need it?

When are we going to get past our proud, egotistical, self-righteous belief that we can save ourselves? When do we stop breaking the first commandment and making ourselves God? Assuredly, we are commanded to do good, but it's only Jesus' blood that gets us through heaven's gate. "God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all people are the same; All have sinned and are not good enough for God's glory, and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God gave him as a way to forgive sin through faith in the blood of Jesus' death" (Rom. 3:22-25).

It's Easter, not for heaven's sake but for ours, and we call the day of Jesus' death "Good" Friday because on that day we were redeemed from sin, death and hell. We celebrate Easter's risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who bought our passport to paradise. Peter said, "You were bought, not with something that ruins like gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Christ, who was like a pure and perfect lamb" (1 Pet. 1:18,19).

I don't know how long I have in this river of life … 38 years, 38 months, 38 minutes or 38 seconds. But I know when I stand at the gate of heaven and Jesus asks why he should open his door, I can say, "Because you died for me." Hallelujah, that's Easter!

June Seabaugh is a member of Christ Church of the Heartland in Cape Girardeau.

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