“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
On April 1, 2009 at the halftime show of the NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and the Orlando Magic, a fan by the name of Dan thought he had become a wealthy man overnight. He had been picked out of the tens of thousands in attendance to get one shot at a $100,000 prize. All he had to do was to make a shot from half-court. But it would be difficult. He had to do it blind-folded. So at half-time Dan was ushered out to mid-court. He was blind-folded and a basketball was placed in his hand. He turned toward the basket and let the ball fly. Suddenly the crowd erupted into deafening cheers. Dan ripped off his blind-fold and began to jump around the court celebrating. But everything changed when the promoter came out on the court put his arm around Dan and said, “April Fools.” You see the whole thing was a joke. The crowd had been instructed, in Dan’s absence, that whether he made the shot or not, they were to cheer and applaud. Actually, Dan had missed the shot; in fact, he missed the whole basket. Instead of $100,000, they gave Dan a 100 Grand candy bar. And while everyone was getting a real kick out of the prank, Dan was not laughing when he walked off the court.
That must have been the way it was for two followers of Jesus who were walking back home from Jerusalem after the crucifixion of Jesus when they had an unexpected encounter with the Risen Christ. The incident is recorded in Luke 24. As they walked along the road they were rehashing the terrible turn of events of the previous days. Suddenly a Stranger is walking beside them. He quizzes them about what they were discussing. With downcast faces they were curious why the Stranger didn’t know what had happened in Jerusalem; surely everyone knew.
They recited the details: One named Jesus of Nazareth, who was a mighty man of God and whom they thought was to be the Messiah, was arrested and sentenced to death. Three days before he was executed. Their hopes were dashed then renewed by the word that after three days Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty.
Was it a joke? A cruel prank? Seriously? Obviously it was, since there had been no further word. Apparently it was all over. Jesus was dead.
The Gospel record goes on to explain how the Stranger Jesus put all the details together for them. He helped them remember the words He had spoken about the necessity of His death and the certainty of His resurrection after three days. Seriously? Seriously!
By now Jesus is sharing a meal in the home of the two disciples. Suddenly their eyes were opened and allowed to see that the Stranger was none other than their risen Savior Jesus. As He departed the two agreed, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Jesus is alive … seriously. For two thousand years now He has been opening eyes and burning hearts to that life-changing, history-shaping reality. Rejoice!