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Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Resurrection!

While hundreds of millions of people around the world are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on this Easter morning, I believe it would be fair to say that most of us, me included, do not know what transpired during his three-day and three-night descent into the earth. Jesus had an enormous task between the death of his physical body and his resurrection. He had to redeem the Old Testament saints who were in Paradise, and he had to seize the keys of hell and death from Lucifer. However, the scripture does not appear to give us a detailed account of Jesus' post-crucifixion rescue mission, but I have often wondered how the drama unfolded. Since I am not aware of any scriptural account of Jesus' activity during the three-day period after his crucifixion, I have taken the liberty of providing a short fictional account of what may have occurred:

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, those who lived righteously were sent to a place called Paradise upon death. The name conjures imaginations of people walking barefooted in the sands of exotic beaches, with not a care in world, sipping refreshing beverages. This, however, was far from it: This Paradise was a paradox of sorts. God created it as a holding place to temporarily house those righteous individuals upon their deaths.

Paradise was created in close proximity to hell; that dreadful place of torment. Hell could be seen smoldering beyond the great gulf fixed between the two places. The echoes from the screams for mercy always filled the air, which carried the stale smell of ash. Since the first patriarch, Abel, was sent to Paradise, there has been a constant vigil, waiting for news that the savior was in the earth. But for the past four thousand years, no such news arrived.

Time in Paradise surprisingly passed fairly quickly. There was always a story to recount for newcomers, or a tale to be told by them. The story of the Exodus has always been the most popular, especially when Moses describes his reaction to the parting of the Red Sea, and the subsequent drowning of the mightiest army in the earth. Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah's experience in Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace, eclipsed the Exodus for about 10 years, and then it became the third most popular story behind Elijah's translation by the flaming chariot. Actually, Elisha told the story since Elijah was not around to tell it.

As each year passed, the mood became more anxious as the saints became impatient in their anticipation of the deliverer. The arrival of a prophet always seemed to create an upbeat atmosphere as they shared the revelations concerning the Savior. When Simeon died and came to Paradise, he told the saints that he had seen the Savior. He was an old man who claimed that the Holy Ghost revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the consolation of Israel. And he swore that he held the infant Savior in his arms only a few days earlier.

Simeon's story was corroborated by a prophetess named Anna one year later. Their claims brought excitement and uncertainty to Paradise, but over the next 30 years, numerous people would come and claim to have met this peculiar man named Jesus. Two shepherds spoke of the night of his birth when they heard a host of angels singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

During the last three and one half years, there have been hundreds of testimonies of people who claimed to have come in direct contact with the Savior and witnessed numerous miracles that he performed.

"He healed me of an issue of blood that I had for twelve years," exclaimed one women.

"This Jesus, who I believe is the Savior, brought my daughter back from the dead," declared the wife of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue.

Paradise was abuzz with excitement. The doubt that persisted for thousands of years had now turned into enthusiasm.

"Father Abraham! Father Abraham!" yelled one man in the throng. "You must hear this man," he said breathlessly as he brought the newest comer to the rock that Abraham sat upon.

As Abraham leaned his ear to listen to the man who had just arrived, there was a curious commotion taken place across the great gulf divide. Lightening and thunder gave way to unusual screams of panic. But these screams were not human. They sounded more like the sound of an audio tape that was dragging badly; deep, powerful groans, accompanied by eruptions of fire.

After the man told his story to Abraham, the father of the faith lifted his tear streamed eyes beyond the great gulf fix towards hell and whispered to himself, "Our long wait is over. Please!" boomed Abraham's voice, as he spoke directly into the stream that flowed through the country side. "I must have your attention. God has finally visited us, and this man," Abraham said as he clasped the young man's hand and lifted it towards Heaven, "is the witness."

Abraham was so overcome with joy that he wept uncontrollably, causing Isaac to whisper something in the young man's ear, who also had tears streaming from his eyes. After a few anxious minutes, the young man began to speak.

"I," his voice cracked, "am or should I say was the son of a Levite, raised under strict adherence to the Law of Moses. But after I became an adult, I became a thief, reaping where I did not sow. Charges were brought before me in the temple on three occasions, but I got off each time, because of deals that my father made with the Pharisees. Well, my life of crime finally caught up with me."

A loud crack of thunder across the great divide interrupted the young man, as many in Paradise instinctively ducked.

"That funnel looks like the pillar of fire," Moses whispered to Aaron as he pointed toward hell.

The young man continued to look up as he spoke. "To my dismay, I was sentenced to death. But I still did not worry, because I believed that my father would work his magic again. But this time, he couldn’t. Less than twenty-four hours ago, I stood in the judgement hall with my accomplice in crime, a murderer, and a prophet named Jesus.

"His fame had spread throughout the land as he performed miracles wherever he went. I never witnessed any of his services, but I did hear that he could raise the dead, heal the sick and deliver those who were vexed by evil spirits."

The number of people in the enormous crowd began to shout, "Glory to God! This must be the Redeemer!"

Abraham was met with another crack of thunder as he waved for silence.

"I was told that the Roman Governor was going to release one of us prisoners, but the crowd had to vote on it. My father assured me that the crowd would seek my release. The other thief had a much worse record than mine, and the people would not feel safe calling for the release of a murderer. I was assured that this Jesus was a blasphemer, who was destroying the Law. I was shocked when Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, only gave the people a choice between the murderer and Jesus. Much to my dismay and horror, the religious leaders persuaded the people to demand the release of the murderer named Barabbas.

"The three of us were led to a hill where we were crucified. The other thief said to Jesus while we hung on separate crosses, 'If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.' When I heard those words, a spirit of repentance came over me, and I rebuked him. I said, 'Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.' Then I screamed to Jesus out of fear of losing my soul, 'Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!' Jesus said unto me, 'Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.'"

The voice of the young man was drowned out by the cheers which erupted over by the river where King David led a group in a triumphant dance. Then like a spreading ripple through a pond, the entire cast of Old Testament saints were singing, and shouting praises to God. After about a quarter of an hour of delirious singing, A bolt of lightening pierced the evening sky, startling everyone, then like the refreshing dew falling on a summer night, a sense of profound peace blanketed Paradise.

Those who did not drop to the ground shielded their eyes from the radiant figure that descended from the sky. Only Moses could look directly upon Jesus as he touched down next to him. Then slowly, the eyes of the people beheld their Redeemer.

His voice did not boom; it was not deep and demanding. It was a voice full of compassion. He looked around momentarily at the Old Testament believers and said, "I am he who the prophets said would come."

His words triggered another round of singing and shouting, and for the next two and one half days the people praised the name of Jesus. He walked through the crowd not spending more than a moment chatting with anyone, except John the Baptist. Then recognizing that he had a prophecy to fulfill, he came back to the river and started to talk again.

"My Father and your Father designed a spectacular plan to destroy the works of Lucifer. I was his invention to redeem you back to himself.

"I was sent to this world," he said as he smiled at Sarah, Abraham’s wife, "to offer my body as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity. As Joel told you," he said referring to the young man who hung along side him on the cross, "I was crucified as part of God's plan. While I hung on the cross, suspended between Heaven and earth, God placed the sins of every man, woman boy and girl on my exhausted body. Once he tattooed me with the iniquity of humanity, I went through the door of death into hell."

"But why did you have to go to hell," asked Abraham.

"I had to take the keys of hell and death from Lucifer. There is only one way into hell and that is through death, but there was no way out. By going to hell and coming out, I made a way of escape for all men and women. But my mission is not yet finished. I must now take the keys of death by raising my dead body from the grave. Those of you who were raised from the dead while on the earth, still came back as a mortal being. Unlike you, within the next hour, I will raise my body as an incorruptible, immortal being."

Lucifer stood fuming on the outer fringes of hell at the great divide, carefully listening to every word of Christ. "I have one more opportunity to stop this Jesus," he snarled to himself with clinched fists. He took one legion of demon spirits with him, and they ascended back to earth.

Jesus finished his words and congratulated everyone for their righteous living, then he was translated out of their midst.

The tomb reeked of mildew, but had a hint of frankincense. When Jesus appeared, he was met in the grave by Lucifer.

"You cannot enter this body," Lucifer said triumphantly with his foot perched on top of the head.

Jesus chuckled, and then said, "Why?"

"I heard you down there bragging about the perfect plan of your heavenly father," he mocked as he said heavenly father. "You forgot one thing redeemer boy. Your heavenly laws will not allow you to dwell in an unclean temple. I heard you say that your body became sin," Lucifer growled as he slipped his foot onto the throat of the corpse.

"Have you been away from me for so long that you forgot that my planning is perfect?" Lucifer's gaze of triumph turned into a look of dismay. He wondered if he missed it. "Noooo," he said. "I'm the cleverest fox of them all. You can't fool me. You missed it Jesus. You took the keys of hell, only to leave them in the grave with your rotting carcass," Lucifer grunted to the cheers of his demon followers.

"Don't celebrate yet," Jesus said calmly. "Let me show you and your deceived followers something."

Jesus spoke a series of unintelligible words and miraculously the scene of his baptism with John in the Jordan River was cast on the humid air in the tomb.

"Do you see that?" Jesus demanded. Then he replayed the scene three more times before Lucifer recognized the significance of the words that John recited as he immersed Jesus into the Jordan: "I now baptize you Jesus Christ unto repentance for the remission of your sins."

"The baptism of John had been established for this moment Satan. I was baptized in the Jordan River for the remission of the sins of humanity that God placed on this body," and with a quick flip of his arm, Jesus pushed Lucifer away.

While the scene of the baptism was playing for the final time, Jesus disappeared, then suddenly the body of Jesus Christ stood erect, but the grave clothes lay on the floor still neatly wrapped.

Like a switch that was turned on, Jesus' translation out of his grave-clothes seemed to cause a great earthquake. And the keepers of the tomb shook as dead men after an angel rolled back the stone of the grave that once held the deceased body of Jesus. While the stone was being rolled away, small slits of light from the crystal-clear sky cut through the tomb. Lucifer and his band of demon spirits watched in amazement as Jesus walked triumphantly from the bowels of the earth. The centuries shielded their eyes from a light that was as bright as the sun.

After Jesus crossed the threshold of his temporary grave, he turned back and shouted in the direction of Lucifer, "O death, where is thy sting?! O grave, where is thy victory?!" After gazing momentarily into the tomb, as if waiting for a response, Jesus disappeared.