For years, the Pew Research Center has identified the top stories in the media according to public interest. Last week, the shooting of Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman was the most watched news story. Before that, the news was dominated by the reports of the U.S. soldier who went on a killing spree in Afghanistan. Prior to that we were debating Rush Limbaugh’s critical remarks regarding Sandra Fluke. And, before that, we focused on Whitney Houston’s sudden death.
All of these are important stories. Some of them reflect how we live and many of them affect how we choose to live with one another. But, as the stories shift almost daily they become something of a blur. Over a lifetime only a few stories stand out. Among them, we would doubtless include the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, Watergate and the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
When we look at history, only a few events stand out, and some of those were scarcely known or recognized at the time: Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, Columbus’ discovery of the New World, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, Jefferson’s drafting of the Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg, Lincoln’s assassination, Pearl Harbor.
But the one singular event that most shapes who we are and how we live is the event that will be remembered on every continent and celebrated in almost every language this week. Millions will gather to reflect and remember what happened two thousand years ago when a Galilean carpenter was executed on a Roman cross and laid in a borrowed grave. Many innocent men have been tortured and executed across the centuries, but what made Jesus unique was the evidence that he rose from the dead.
Luke, a physician in the first century, carefully interviewed the eyewitnesses to give us the best-documented report. He wrote, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses. … I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” (Luke 1:1-4). And, again, “After His suffering, He presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:1-3).
The Apostle Paul was violently opposed to the Christian message until he became convinced that Jesus had been raised from the dead. He wrote, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also.” (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
We will continue to follow important news events week by week. The way we deal with them will inevitably shape our lives. But no event is more important and life shaping than Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. How we choose to respond to that event will ultimately make all the difference in how we live, how we love and how we die.