Saturday, April 19, 2014

Heaven is Real

Son of God
God’s Not Dead
Heaven is Real
            There seems to be an unusual amount of faith-based movies these days. Today we saw Heaven is Real. My son says we need to read the book, because the book is always better. It is about a little boy who claims he went to heaven and people have a hard time believing him. The book and movie are based on a true story.
            The question the movie poses, is, if we read about heaven in the Bible, and we believe it is a real place, why do have trouble believing when someone says they have been there?
            Isn’t this the Easter story? We read about Jesus dying on the cross and raising from the dead after three days, but do we really believe it actually happened? Or is it just a story that has become so familiar to us, that we push it aside in favor of decorated eggs and a huge bunny?
            In the movie, someone asked, “If we really believed in Heaven, wouldn’t we live differently?” The same is true for Easter. If we really believe that Jesus raised Himself from the dead, don’t we believe He is powerful enough to do anything? Wouldn’t we live differently, if we really believed?
            I will never forget sitting in an ancient dungeon in Jerusalem. Archeologists unearthed the actual house of Caiaphas, the High Priest during Jesus time. Jealous of Jesus, Caiaphas orchestrated the events that terrible night, wanting to have Jesus killed. Much smaller than I would have thought, we walked down narrow, stone steps to get to the small dungeon, underneath the house. There are indentations, carved out of the stonewall, about the height of where a person’s hands would be if they were chained to the wall, above his head.
Carved out holes where the hands were tied.
           It was eerie, and dank down there. We sat in silence and nobody had to say anything. We were all thinking the same thing. This was the first place Jesus was taken after they arrested Him in the garden. They held an illegal trial at night and the temple guards beat Jesus in that very dungeon. This was before the priests and Jewish leaders turned Jesus over to Herod. The Jews were not allowed to kill a person, only the Romans could do that.
            Even though I had read the story, and had heard sermons on the brutal beatings Jesus endured before He was crucified, I never imagined sitting in the very dungeon where he was held. I wept. It was overwhelming.
It was overwhelming and real to sit in the dungeon where Jesus was held.
            The same feeling came over me when we walked inside a stone cave, carved out of a rock wall. It is said to be the tomb they laid Jesus in after He was crucified. It is so unusual. You duck your head, and walk into the small room, where only a few people can fit at a time, and of course, there is nothing there. There is even a sign that reads, “He is not here. He is risen.” I guess, to remind people why there is nothing inside to see.
            It begs the same question as the movie. If there is so much physical and historical evidence that Jesus lived, performed miracles, was crucified and raised to life after three days, and we say we believe that, and many, many people believe it to be true, why don’t we live differently? Is there no call to action?  It is not like the historical homes and gravesites we can visit of other famous people. This is the Son of God, who died in our place, so that we can go to the very real place called heaven.
             The part I liked best about the movie, (and I hope I am not giving it away, because you should go see it) is when the boy arrives in heaven, he walks to a place and opens a door that is very familiar to him. So, even though he is alone, he is not afraid.
            How like God, isn’t it? He even promises in the Bible, that we will never be alone, because He is always with us. How great, at least for this little boy, that there was a part of heaven that was familiar, so he would not be afraid. God doesn’t want us to be afraid either, especially about where we will go after we die. He wants us to know and trust that He is always with us. That is why there is nothing in the stone tomb, because He is with us.
Happy Easter!  Or better yet, Happy Resurrection Day! And because heaven and Easter are real, hopefully, we will live differently.

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