The Christian Methodist Newsletter

The Christian Methodist Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 1 Spring 2006

The Meaning of Easter

Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of a doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people.

His favorite patient was Edith Burns. One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns. When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her. Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: "Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would be saved.

Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse, Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking her blood pressure. Edith began by saying, "My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Beverly said, "Why yes I do." Edith said, "Well, what do you believe about Easter?" Beverly said, "Well, it's all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up." Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Dr. Phillips said, "Beverly, don't call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room."

After being called back in the doctor's office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, "Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?" Dr. Phillips said gently, "Edith, I'm the doctor and you’re the patient." With a heavy heart he said, "Your lab report came back and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you’re not going to live very long." Edith said, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I'm going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!" Dr. Phillips thought, "What a magnificent woman this Edith Burns is!"

Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd. On the day the office opened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, "Will, I'm very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter?"

Well, they did just that and women began to come in and share that room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor from staff to patients were so excited about Edith, that they started calling her Edith Easter; that is everyone except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse. Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a "religious nut". She had been a nurse in an army hospital. She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.

One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, "Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you." Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me, it won’t work. I’m not interested." Edith said, "Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family." Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will never happen," and curtly walked out of the room.

Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, "God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I’m praying for you." One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith’s room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, "I’m so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day." Phyllis Cross said, "Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, ‘Do you believe in Easter?’ but you have never asked me." Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked..."

Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Edith said, "Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?" Phyllis Cross said, "Oh I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life." Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, she was carried out on the wings of angels.

Two days later, Phyllis Cross came in and Edith asked, "Do you know what day it is?" Phyllis said, "Why Edith, it's Good Friday." Edith said, "Oh, no, for you every day is Easter. Happy Easter Phyllis!"

Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Phyllis came into work, did some of her duties and then went down to the flower shop and got some Easter lilies because she wanted to go up to see Edith and give her some Easter lilies and wish her a Happy Easter. When she walked into Edith's room, Edith was in bed. That big black Bible was on her lap. Her hands were in that Bible. There was a sweet smile on her face. When Phyllis Cross went to pick up Edith’s hand, she realized Edith was dead. Her left hand was on John 14: "In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." Her right hand was on Revelation 21:4, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

Phyllis took one look at that dead body, and then lifted her face toward heaven, and with tears streaming down here cheeks, said, "Happy Easter, Edith - Happy Easter!"

Phyllis left Edith’s body, walked out of the room, and over to a table where two student nurses were sitting. She said, "My name is Phyllis Cross. Do you believe in Easter?"

- Taken from multiple sources. Edith’s testimony exemplifies the meaning of Easter. – Allen O. Morris

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Who is Jesus Christ?

What makes Christianity unique? In other words, we need to know why we believe what we do. The questions we need to answer are, "Why do we think that we are so unique among the world's religions? Why shouldn't there be many paths to God? What makes us think that Christianity is so special?"

Central to our faith as Christians are the person and works of Jesus Christ: He claimed to be no less than the Son of God - and our Savior. Central to his claim is possibly the single most important event in the history of the world: the resurrection. This single event has been called the linchpin of Christianity. So, for critics to claim that Christianity is just one of many religions, they must explain the empty tomb.

Some people tried to claim that Jesus never really existed on earth in human form. C. A. Bower was the last person to attempt to do this - in 1857. The "problem" is that there is just too much proof that he actually lived, walked, talked, and associated with people. There are over ten secular accounts that Christ walked the face of the earth. Let's look at just three.

Flavius Josephus - a Jewish historian wrote, "Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works - a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles." 1

Cornelius Tacitus - a Roman historian wrote, "While Rome burned, Nero accused the Christians; 'Christ' who was founder of the sect, was put to death during the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition (i.e., Christianity) repressed for a time was not only in Judea, but broke out in Rome." 2

A third reference is found in a letter from Publius Lentulus, Governor of Judea, to the Roman Senate, that reads - in somewhat modernized language, "There has appeared in these times, and still is, a man of great power named Jesus Christ, who is called by the Gentiles the prophet of truth, whom his disciples call the Son of God; raising the dead and healing diseases, a man in stature middling tall, and comely, having a reverend countenance, which they that look upon may love and fear; having hair of the hue of an unripened hazel-nut and smooth almost down to his ears but from the ears in curling locks somewhat darker and more shining, waving over his shoulders; having a parting at the middle of the head according to the fashion of the Nazareans; a brow smooth and very calm, with a face without a wrinkle or any blemish, which a moderate color makes beautiful. With the nose and mouth no fault can be found; having a full beard of the color of his hair, not long but a little forked at the chin; having an expression simple and mature, the eyes gray, glancing, and clear; in rebuke terrible, in admonition kind and lovable, cheerful yet keeping gravity; sometimes he has wept, but never laughed; in stature of body tall and straight, with hands and arms fair to look upon; in talk grave, reserved and modest so that he was rightly called a prophet...." 3

So we know that Jesus physically existed in human form.

Indeed, there are many religions. We can even visit the tombs of some of their spiritual founders: Mohammed, Confucius, Buddha. As a matter of fact, when I was stationed in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, I had a chance to travel. During one of these trips I visited what is reputed to be the tomb of Buddha. We can visit the tomb of Jesus, too, but there's one difference: it's empty!

The Bible itself points out the importance of the resurrection, "...and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised; for if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied."(I Cor. 15:14-19)4

Even our enemies recognized this fact. Gulen Ahmed leader of the Amadia sect of the Muslim faith told his followers on his death bed, "In your war against Christianity, attack at the point of the Resurrection." 5

Now let's look at what we know: We know that Jesus was a literal, historical man. We know that he was executed. And we know that three days later, the tomb was empty. So if a person is to successfully discredit the Christian faith, he must account for the missing body.

There are four theories that were used to try to explain away the empty tomb.

The first is that the pharisees stole the body. The reasoning was that the pharisees got together after they had succeeded in having Jesus crucified and talked about how his disciples had claimed that he would rise from the dead. To prevent them from stealing Jesus' body and causing even more trouble, they would steal it first to forestall any such attempt by the disciples. The problem with this theory is that when Jesus' followers started growing in number claiming that they had seen him risen from the dead, the pharisees would have produced the body - and Christianity would have died right then. This theory is the weakest of the four and cannot be supported in the least.

The second theory is that the disciples stole the body. There are many problems associated with this. The first is the Roman seal; of itself, it would not have stopped anyone. But whoever dared to break a Roman seal would incur a death sentence that would be carried out with all of the persistence of the Roman Empire. Not many people were brave enough to take such a drastic, fatal step.

The second problem with this argument is the issue of fighting the Roman soldiers who had been stationed to guard the body of Jesus. At that time, the eleven disciples would have had to overcome the sixteen Roman guards, the most efficient fighting machine on earth at that time. The contention that the Roman guards might have gone to sleep enabling the disciples to steal the body is equally implausible. Given the high state of discipline and the camaraderie among these men; their knowing that the penalty was death if they should fail in their assigned duty; and the impossibility of the disciples' being able to steal the body without waking the guards renders this idea insupportable. 6

In addition, prior to the crucifixion the disciples were like scared rabbits; they had all fled when Jesus was taken captive on the Mount of Olives, and only one had dared to attend his crucifixion. After the resurrection there was a remarkable change; they suddenly became brave and fearlessly preached that Jesus had risen from the dead! History shows that ten out of eleven of the disciples went to their deaths claiming Jesus' resurrection. Tradition has it that "Doubting" Thomas was killed in Madras, India. John, the lone survivor, was reportedly boiled in oil and then exiled to Patmos. 7 This last reason was one of the factors that led to the conversion of Chuck Colson. A student of human nature, Colson had reasoned that people don't die trying to uphold a lie; if a person's life is about to be taken for what he knows is false, he will admit to the truth. This aspect was supported by Dr. Lehman Strauss when he stated, "...we cannot imagine the disciples...going into all the world to preach a living Christ at the sacrifice of their own lives under such false pretenses." 8

Dr. George Schweitzer, a chemistry professor, analyzed possible alternative explanations for the empty tomb. After affirming the resurrection, Dr. Schweitzer concluded that a miracle almost as great as the resurrection was the change in the disciples. Nothing less could account for their courage, vision, and sacrifice in proclaiming Christ.9

Finally, Colson drew from his own personal experience as special counsel to President Nixon and states that a hoax such as the disciples would have had to perpetrate would not hold. He personally saw how conspiracies fall apart under pressure and the truth would have leaked out despite the attempts by some of the most powerful men on earth during that era.10 He further elaborated, "Is it really likely that a deliberate cover-up, a plot to perpetrate a lie about the Resurrection, could have survived the violent persecution of the apostles, the scrutiny of early church councils, the horrendous purge of first-century believers? Take it from one who was inside the Watergate web looking out, who saw firsthand how vulnerable a cover-up is: Nothing less than a witness as awesome as the resurrected Christ could have caused these men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive."11

It can be seen that neither can this theory be supported.

The third attempt to explain away the missing body is called the "Wrong Tomb" theory. The reasoning was that everyone, in their grief and anguish, went to the wrong tomb. There! That explains it! The only problem is that if one is to support this idea, he would also have to believe that: Mary in her grief went to the wrong tomb; Peter & John in their hurry went to the wrong tomb; the Pharisees in their anger and fury also went to the wrong tomb; the sixteen Roman soldiers fainted in front of the wrong tomb; and Joseph of Arimathea owned a tomb and didn't even know where it was! This would be laughable in the extreme. This theory cannot stand the test of serious reasoning.

The last and most sophisticated theory is known as the "Passover Plot." This idea is that a resurrection hoax would be perpetrated by Jesus. Since he knew there would be a coming confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders, he would stage it so as to appear to rise from the dead. To do this, he worked out an elaborate plan. When he spoke the code words, "I thirst," a sponge with drugs would be put to his lips, he would drink the mixture which would then put him into a death-like coma. In the coolness of the tomb, he would revive, push the stone aside and walk away so that His disciples would think that he had risen from the dead. This seems to be a pretty good explanation - until you examine the facts.

First, is that when the Roman soldier pierced his side, blood and water flowed out. When asked about this, a surgeon remarked that this was a clinical sign of death and explained that the blood separates from the clear watery-like liquid and accumulates in the chest cavity. So for Jesus to fake this, he would have had to know this - some 1900 years before this medical reality had been discovered. This is reinforced by the testimony presented in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "Clearly the weight of the historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound on his side was inflicted. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge." 12

The second problem with this explanation is the beating Jesus had received, the lashing of 39 stripes with a flagrum - a whip. Once I was talking with two men who were discussing a mutual friend of theirs who lived in the Middle East: he had gotten drunk and killed an Arab. Rather than being executed as was the law, he was given 39 lashes and sent back to the United States. I responded, "Man, he was really lucky!" One of the men looked at me and replied, "No, Allen, you don't understand. That beating was so severe that it almost killed him!" Later, I understood the truth of what they meant when I saw a picture of a man being whipped in an Islamic country. It really turned my stomach. Such a beating would have a devastating effect on any man receiving it.

So to describe how this theory would work out: In Jesus' weakened condition, he would have had to get out of His burial wrapping by himself; push away a stone weighing over a quarter of a ton; overcome sixteen Roman guards, the most efficient fighting machine on earth at that time; and walk away so that no one had seen him.

Believing this is beyond rational possibility.

The Bible narrates the visit to the empty tomb on the third day after the crucifixion with the words "...saw and believed." 13 Dr. Thomas states that, "The construction in the Greek language makes it clear that early on the morning of the resurrection the grave clothes were still wrapped up like a cocoon, but with no body in them." 14

History is replete with countless First-century martyrs who died believing in the physical resurrection of Christ. For them to have paid the ultimate price, something would have had to persuade them that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.

For almost 2,000 years, people have attempted to explain away the resurrection in one of the ways cited above - but have failed.

History is replete with skeptics who have disbelieved the resurrection. One was Dr. Simon Greenleaf, a professor of law at Harvard in 1842, who was an atheist; he wrote a widely-used book on how to present evidence that cannot be refuted in a court of law. One day, a Christian student challenged him to apply the rules of evidence that he taught to the information that they (the students) had that Jesus rose from the dead. After his attempt, he wrote, "Evidence that such as we have that supports the fact that Jesus rose from the dead has never failed in a court of law." Dr. Greenleaf became an enthusiastic follower of Christ.

Two other atheists were fed up with Christianity and were going to get rid of it by proving two different points: Benjamin Gilbert West set out to prove that "Christ did not rise from the dead." His friend Lloyd Littleton set out to prove that "Saul of Tarsus never converted to Christianity." Two years later they met and discovered that each had failed to prove their original theses but rather confirmed them - and each had become a Christian.

Dr. Frank Morrison, was a British journalist and an atheist, who was determined to rid the world of what he called "the scourge of Christianity" once and for all. After aggressive research, he wrote a book called Who Moved the Stone? - The book that refused to be written; this was later published by Zondervan. Dr. Morrison himself became an enthusiastic follower of Christ 15

Lee Strobel, himself an investigative reporter and former atheist, cites multiple extra-biblical references surrounding the crucifixion, two describing the unnatural darkness at the time of Jesus' death. If this had really happened it would surely have been mentioned by others. One is a man named Thalllus who wrote a history of the eastern Mediterranean in 52 A.D. Although his work has been lost, reference was made to it by Julius Africanus in 221 A.D.: "Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away the darkness as an eclipse of the sun - unreasonably it seems to me." 16 Paul Maier referenced a Greek author who wrote, "This phenomenon, evidently, was visible in Rome, Athens, and other Mediterranean cities. According to was a ‘cosmic’ or ‘world’ event." Phlegon, a Greek author from Caria writing a chronology soon after 137 A.D., reported that in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (i.e., 33 A.D.) there was "the greatest eclipse of the sun" and that "it became night in the sixth hour of the day [i.e., noon] so that stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicaea." 17

The weight of this information is in a testimony given by Sir Lionel Luckhoo, a man of extremely logical reasoning and reputed to be the world's greatest lawyer. He states, "I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt." 18 His reasoning is very similar to that of Dr. Greenleaf, the professor mentioned earlier.

There is no logical choice other than to face the reality that Jesus was crucified, died (was as dead as he could be), and on the third day, rose from the dead. This is a "logical" analysis that has led so many people to understand the truth of the Resurrection. The Bible reassures us on this when Paul the Apostle wrote, "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep." 19

The best summation is given by C. S. Lewis, the brilliant Cambridge University professor and former atheist who was eventually won over by the evidence for Jesus Christ: "I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." 20

References to "Who is Jesus Christ":

1. Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, p. 480. Translated by William Whiston, pub. by Hendrickson


2. The Reverend Billy Riggs, United Methodist Minister, taken from a message entitled "The Resurrection of Jesus


3. Publius Lentulus, letter as quoted in "A Description of Christ" by E. J. Goodspeed, and found in The Book of Jesus

by Calvin Miller.

4. The Bible, I Corinthians 15:14-19, NASB.

5. Acknowledgements go to Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and

The Reverend Billy Riggs, for background material provided in two sermons.

6. Personal experience of the author Allen Morris.

7. The Reverend Billy Riggs.

8. Dr. Lehman Strauss, Certainties for Today (Fincastle, Virginia: Scripture Truth Book Company, 1956), p. 144.

9. Adult Life and Work Lesson Annual (Nashville: Conv. Press, 1989), p. 213.

10. Testimony heard by the author Allen Morris.

11. Lee Strobel, "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" The Christian Reader, March/April 1999; p. 61.

12. Strobel, p. 59.

13. The Bible, John 20:6-8.

14. Dr. Ralph Richardson, President Emeritus of Carolina Bible College, lecture. Dr. Thomas N. Davis III, M.D., No

Final Exit (Fletcher, NC: New Puritan Library, 1992), p. 164.

15. The Reverend Billy Riggs.

16. Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), p. 84.

17. Ibid, p. 85. Paul L. Maier, Pontius Pilate (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1968), 366, citing a fragment from

Phlegon, Olympiades he Chronika 13, ed. Otto Keller, Rerum Naturalium Scriptores Graeci Minores, 1

(Leipzig: Teurber, 1877), 101. Transl. by Maier.

18. Ibid, Strobel, p. 255. Personal testimony heard by the author.

19. The Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:20, NASB.

20. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan-Collier, 1960), pp. 55-56.

. Extracted from the book New-Life Witnesses, by Allen O. Morris

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God’s Messenger

I wanted to write this letter as a testimony of what God can do for us in a time of great need. I wanted people to know of my experience when I recently had a stroke.

I was alone at my most favorite place in all the world - my place at the beach at Turkey Creek, North Carolina near Snead’s Ferry. I cannot remember the timeline in which everything happened because I must have been unconscious part of the time. I went to bed Thursday night after 11:00 P.M. and was found by my neighbor and friend William Parker at 9:00 P.M. Friday night.

I had had a stroke and lay on the floor in the doorway between the bathroom and the bedroom. I could reach up and feel the lavatory. I tried to lift myself up but didn’t have the strength. Then I tried to reach the telephone – but couldn’t. I lay on the floor – how long? I talked to the Lord, "Lord, I need help." Then, "Lord, send someone." After some time that I lay on the floor I prayed to God, "God, You know where William is. Please send him to find me." It seems that it was within minutes after my prayer that William was at my side.

He had come to the house looking for me; saw me through the window lying on the floor; and come inside. When he looked at me, he thought I was dead and touched my shoulder. I opened my eyes and asked, "What’s going on?" William said, "Oh, not much." Then he ran the distance (about a tenth of a mile) to the next house to get his brother Mitchell, who had worked with the rescue squad. They called "911" and then ran back to my house where I lay on the floor and stayed with me until the ambulance from Camp LeJeune got there.

William went with the ambulance from my place to the Wilmington hospital, where the doctors worked on me. .

I want people to know that God answers prayer and if you are not a Christian, all you have to do is to ask Jesus to come into your heart and forgive you of your sins, and He will. He will be with you forever helping you through life.

We are God’s hands to help people while we are here on earth. I want to thank God for sending William to help me that night, and all the other people who were involved in my rescue.

- John Thomson

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Of Interest

Welcome to the 2006 World Ice Art Championships

John Leguizamo, the voice of Sid in the ICE AGE movies, and Alaska State Gov. Frank Murkowski arrived at the ICE AGE - MELTDOWN park by dog sled. They stood before a cheering crowd as they cut through a ribbon of ice with a pair of flaming 100K BTU propane torches officially opening the park for use. The whole show was captured by five Ice Alaska web cams and sent out to the World Wide Web. These works can be viewed:

Editorial note: When I was notified of this by one of our contacts in Fairbanks, it was 350 below zero there.

Published by: Concerned Methodists, P.O. Box 2864, Fayetteville, NC 28302. Tel.: 910/488-4379 FAX: 910/488-5090

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