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Christ The King

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Edward F. Markquart


From I Corinthians 15:  “And some will ask, how are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?  You foolish people.  What you sow will not come to life unless it dies.  What you sow is not the body, which is to be.  What you sow is merely a kernel of wheat.  And so it is with the resurrection of the dead.  What is sown in the ground is perishable;  what is raised is imperishable.  It is sown in the ground in dishonor, but it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness but it is raised in power.  It is sown a physical body but it is raised a spiritual body.  Physical things like flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” From Revelation:   “Look, I want to show you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  The trumpet shall sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.  Death is swallowed up in victory.”

It is springtime and soon it will be summertime. It is that time of the year when we start of think of creepy, crawly caterpillars on the ground.  We have this mental image of a caterpillar creeping slowly across the concrete.  We all have those childhood memories of picking up a caterpillar and watching it slowly move across our hand, ever so softly.  Time goes by, and the caterpillar goes into a cool place, a cocoon. They live in that cocoon for what seems like an eternity for a child, and when the caterpillar emerges, they have become a beautiful butterfly.  In the Greek language, the word used to describe this is metamorphosis, a change. 

Today, I would like to share with you a butterfly story.  This is a story from Dr. Kubler Ross and her book, DEATH AND DYING.  There was a little child, a first grader, who was having trouble at school, and the teacher felt that she might be having emotional problems.  The child was invited in to talk with a sensitive, empathetic teacher.  The school started to discover that this little girl was handling enormous emotional challenges.  That is, her mother was sick in the hospital and had been in the hospital for two weeks, dying of cancer.  Her father, rather than coming home every night after work, was now going to the hospital, and so the little girl hadn’t really seen her dad much during the past two weeks.  The little girl knew that there was something wrong, something very wrong, because she knew that her father was upset, and this little girl became upset too. An appointment was arranged between the school psychologist and the little first grade girl.  The little girl was asked to draw a picture, and so she drew a picture of a stick figure.  The stick figure had large red legs, and off to the left in a corner was a very black colored in square. The school counselor looked at the drawing and said:  “Well, what does this mean, my little friend?”  And the little girl explained that the stick figure was her mother and that the red legs meant that her mother would never be able to take her to the park again, that she would never be able to run again, that she knew her mother’s legs were bleeding.  “And what is that black square in the corner?” the counselor asked?  The black square in the corner is the dining room table, and it is turned upside down.  Mommy and I will not be able to eat with each other again.” The counselor said to the little girl:  “You know that your mother is dying, don’t you?”  The little girl said, “Yes.”  The psychologist asked, “Would you like to talk about it?”  And the little girl began to talk about the death of her mother.  Towards the close of the conversation, Dr. Ross said to her, “Well, what it’s going to be like is this:  your mother will go into a cocoon and someday your mother will be like a butterfly.”  And the little girl smiled and said, “Oh, that’s wonderful that my mother will be like a butterfly, but butterflies fly away, and I don’t want my mother to fly away from me.”  The psychologist was sad about that.  The next day, the counselor asked, “Would you like to go and see your mother in the hospital?”  The little girl, who hadn’t been to the hospital yet, said “yes”  and so the next day they went and picked some daffodils and went to the hospital.  The little girl looked into the room; she hadn’t seen her mother for such a long time.  She was afraid of hospitals, but that didn’t stop her from running into the room and giving her mother a big kiss and those daffodils.  She whispered into her mother’s ear, “Mother, you are going to become like a butterfly.”  The mother said, “I know.  I know.” And the mother hugged her little girl, smiled and cried. … The next day, this little girl went to her first grade. There was show and tell time and she told all the children at school that her mother was going to be in a cocoon and would soon then be like a butterfly.  And all the children were sad, but glad that her mother was going to be like butterfly but worried that butterflies fly away.  And such was the story of what happened in the life of Dr. Kubler Ross.

The purpose of Easter is the victory celebration that tells of the Power of God that took the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth and transformed him, metamorphosed him, transfigured him into a glorious resurrection body.  The purpose of Easter is God telling the Truth that God can create life out of apparent death.  The purpose of Easter is to convince us that creepy, crawly caterpillars become transformed into butterflies.  The purpose of Easter is to convince us that not only are there miracles in nature but that there are miracles in history, in your history and mine.  The purpose of Easter is to convince us that there will be a time in our lives when we too shall be transformed into something utterly magnificent and beautiful.  The purpose of Easter is to tell us of those good and glorious promises of God who has the power to take that which is dead and transform it into life.

Today, on this lovely spring day, I wanted to go looking for caterpillars but I knew I couldn’t find any at this time of year, but I did find plenty of daffodil flowers, with their bright smiling yellow faces.  So early this morning, I went out and dug up a daffodil from beneath its root bulb, and here it is with all its dirty glory!  Have you ever seen a daffodil bulb and someone exclaim how beautiful the bulb is?  Have you even taken some daffodil bulbs and gone into your house and arranged them into lovely bouquet of bulbs in a vase?  No, of course not.  How ridiculous.  Indeed, we would have to say that there is no comparison between the brown, dirtied bulb and the transformed, exquisite beauty of the daffodil flower.  They don’t look at all alike.  It is indeed a miracle that God has worked by transforming the plain brown bulb into this marvelous daffodil.  And so it is that the great goods, the good news, of Easter is obvious:  that God transforms bulbs into daffodils, that God transforms caterpillars into butterflies, that God transformed the dead body of Jesus into a living spiritual body, and that God will transform your human body, like a seed planted into the ground, into a resurrection, spiritual body.  This is no big deal for God.  God does this a million times a day, transforming that which appears to be dead into a new glorious life.

And equally true, Easter is an invitation for us to believe like a child, to have childlike faith that this is true. Dr. Kubler-Ross told the little first grade girl that your mother will become like a butterfly, and the little girl simply believed her.  With a simple, naïve faith, she simply believed it was true, that her mother would become like a butterfly.  And so Easter is an invitation for us to believe like children, simply and naively to believe that God works great miracles, transforming caterpillars into butterflies, bulbs into daffodils, earthy physical bodies into everlasting spiritual bodies.

But…time passes and we are no longer children.  We are no longer children but we have become adults.  As an adult, it is no longer easy to trust like a child anymore.  It is no longer easy to think simply.  It is no longer easy to think naively.  As adults, we want more words.  We want more than pretty promises of paradise.  If only we had proof.  If only we had some proof of life after death, some proof that the pretty promises of paradise were true, then we would believe.  If only there was some conclusive evidence, some brilliant insights, some direct confirmation of the next life, then we may naively believe like a child again who believes in butterflies.  … And so we look for proofs of life after death.  We might read a book by Dr. Raymond Moody entitled, LIFE AFTER LIFE.  Dr. Moody examined and interviewed 150 people who were diagnosed as clinically dead and then came back to life and all had seen that light.  They were no longer afraid of death, but saw death as a friend, and were willing to die again to be absorbed into that inviting, pulsating light.  For us adults, maybe that is proof.  Maybe if that is true, then perhaps we will believe as children again.  We want some additional proofs because way deep down inside, we don’t quite trust the goodness of God’s promises.

And so we ask the question:  why didn’t Jesus prove his resurrection?  Why didn’t he? If I were God, that is what I would have done.  I wouldn’t have messed around with anybody, and I would have done it the following way:  I would have built myself a big Kingdome in Jerusalem and would have invited 65,000 to the Kingdome to fill it up, just like for a Seahawks football game.  I would have had Jesus up there in front in resurrected form, and I would have had close up cameras scanning his whole body real slowly.  And I would have had instant replay cameras at work, showing the best angles of vision.  And I would have had those re-plays play over and over again the most revealing perspectives on his body, so I could prove to all those 65,000 that Jesus Christ was no longer dead but in a living body.  That’s what I would have done, if I were God.  I would have proved it to everybody.  … Or, if I were God, I would have Jesus be raised from the dead at the medical school in his area, at Pergama, and I would have taken every doctor and every physician and every atheist and every skeptic and every cynic, and I would have taken them to that medical school, and I would have had Jesus there.  And they could have taken out their scalpels and their knives and they would have sliced right through his resurrection, spiritual body, and then they would have believed.  That’s what I would have done if I were God.  I would have made Jesus’ resurrection happen so that there would be no choice but to believe.  I would have proven it, without a doubt.

But, thank heavens, I am not God.  Never has God in God’s wisdom so clearly shown himself as to prove his existence.  God has never so clearly shown himself  as to prove that God exists.  God has never so clearly shown himself to prove the resurrection of Jesus.  That would be very inconsistent of God to prove the resurrection when God had never proved his existence or his presence or his miracles or anything.  Ultimately, God wants us to experience the power of belief, to believe naively like children.  To trust that God is good.  To trust that God exists.  To trust that God makes caterpillars transform into butterflies.  To trust that we too shall be transformed at the twinkling of an eye from an earthly body into a heavenly body. O yes, God gives us evidences.  God gives us plenty of evidence of his existence. You look all around you and you experience the evidences of God.  God gives us the cherry blossoms of spring, the patterned complexity of creation, the oceans, the mountains, the daffodils.  God gives us the resurrection stories of the Bible, the miracles in the Bible and our own lives.  God gives us countless witnesses of highly intelligent people who naively believe in the spiritual world inside them, around them, and a spiritual world that lives outside of time and space. God gives us Dr. Raymond Moody and life after life.  But…after you have studied all of your evidences, if you believe in God’s power to create life out of apparent death, it is because…you believe.  It is because you have become like a child and simply believe in God’s good promises of eternal life, and you simply believe that God will be faithful to those promises in death, as God has been so faithful to you in life.

I would like to tell you one more butterfly story.  There was a caterpillar crawling across a Persian carpet, a Persian rug.  And the caterpillar crawled for what he thought was seventy-five years.  He was just crawling all over that Persian rug, but he could see only one color at a time.  He saw first the blues, and then the oranges, the yellows, the reds, the purples, the deep violets, the greens. He saw one color at a time and said: “O, what a beautiful world I am on.  Look at all that color!”  He lived for what he thought was a very long time, 50, 60, 70, 80 years, a blink in God’s time but long for the caterpillar. And finally, he crawled off the Persian carpet and he became a cocoon.  He became a cocoon and hibernated.  Although he didn’t realize it, the cocoon was part of the miracle, and then there was another miracle and he came out of the cocoon as a butterfly, a monarch butterfly. He fluttered up higher and higher and higher and he looked down at the Persian rug for the first time and saw it in its total magnificent splendor.  What a sight he saw.  For the first time in his existence, he saw the meaning of his whole life; he saw the past and the present like he had never seen it before.  … And Jesus said, “Those who have ears to hear, listen to the meaning of this parable.”

Easter is inviting us to believe in the Powers of God to create magnificent new life, to believe the miracle that God transforms caterpillars into butterflies, to believe the miracle that God transforms earthy bodies into heavenly bodies.  Easter is the invitation to believe as children because maybe it is only children who understand the miracles of God.

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