Many years ago I was riding with a friend through Cleveland. As we were passing a cemetery he said, “That’s where James Garfield is buried.” (Garfield was America’s 20th president and was assassinated in 1881 during his first year in office.) I immediately asked, “Can we go in and see it?” He graciously indulged my love of presidential history.
This past Christmas my brother-in-law gave me Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President. It is a fascinating book. Last night as I was reading I came across this quote from Garfield, “I have sometimes thought that we cannot know any man thoroughly well while he is in perfect health. As the ebb-tide discloses the real lines of the shore and the bed of the sea, so feebleness, sickness, and pain bring out the real character of a man.”
Today we are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Of course most of my Muslim friends don’t believe he died (though some do and even see it taught in the Qur’an, but we can get to that another time), but his death and resurrection are central to my faith. Honestly, if there is no death and resurrection of the Messiah, I believe there is no hope that we could ever be forgiven and cleansed from our sins.
Garfield’s quote got me thinking about when the Messiah was crucified. The Injeel says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
While he was suffering terrible pain on the cross he was able to look past his pain and prayed for those who were killing him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
His death matters because 1) he was a perfect sacrifice, a man with a clean heart who was full of love as seen in his dying hours and 2) he didn’t stay dead but was raised by God to show the world that his sacrifice for sinners was sufficient.
Happy Resurrection Day.