He was mad, seething mad. It showed on his face, disgust and anger intertwined, all directed at me. Because I had the audacity to speak the terrible truth about his condition.
A long-time smoker, several months earlier he had been diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer, an unwanted answer to the question of unexplained weight loss. Surgery and chemotherapy had done what surgery and chemotherapy do in patients like him, lengthened his days without changing the end result. He had a terminal disease.
He had returned to work, convinced that he was winning, weeks earlier. A few weeks before this conversation he took a turn for the worse, shortness of breath was now a constant companion. A chest x-ray revealed a large build up of fluid around his lungs, laboratory analysis confirmed the fluid was cancerous. All treatments had failed, he had days to live. It was my job to deliver the bad news.
“I refuse to accept it,” had been his reply, “I am not ready to die.” His defiantly set jaw supported the passion of his declaration. He was certain that he could still beat the disease.
“Whether you choose to accept it or not, whether you are ready or not, doesn’t change the fact that you are dying.”
He repeated his refusal, his voice rising.
In an attempt to break through his denial I spoke even more bluntly than before. “You are dying, and there is not anything anyone can do about it!”
He stormed out of the office and drove to the hospital where he demanded treatment. The doctor there admitted him to the intensive care unit. It was there he died less than two weeks later, proving the point that reality does not change because you refuse to believe it. The truth of things exists independent and unchanged by our acceptance of it.
His story and attitude came to mind this morning as I pondered the Christian story of the resurrection of Jesus. For over two millennia, followers of the Christian faith have gathered to celebrate a remarkable, unbelievable story. On a Friday, a Jewish man named Jesus was executed by crucifixion, his battered and lifeless body placed into a cave-like tomb. The following Sunday, the “third day”, the tomb was empty, and hundreds of his followers claimed to have seen Him alive. He had risen.
His resurrection signified to them that Jesus was more than just a man, that he was God in the flesh. It affirmed his teachings and his life, which had proclaimed the way for men to have relationship with God.
The message of Easter, as with all messages, is either true or it isn’t. As is always the case with truth, the veracity of the story is not dependent on our willingness to believe it or desire to deny it. Jesus either rose from the dead, with all of the associated ramifications, or he didn’t, with those associated ramifications.
Either Christians are fools, victims of a cruel hoax or childish fantasy, or they are not. It behooves all men, those with and without faith, to explore the truth about Easter, to formulate answers and reach conclusions based on the facts of history and the available evidence. Neither blind faith nor blind rejection are appropriate responses.
Thanks for reading and sharing. If you have honest questions about the Easter Story, or any questions of faith, I can be reached through the contacts page on this website.