Spiritual Matters: Dying like a man. Living as a King
SITTING majestically on top of the highest hill in Toledo, central Spain, not far from the capital Madrid, is the Alcazar, a formidable fortress built in the 16th-century.
In the 1930s a civil war was raging and the Alcazar became the focal point of a ferocious battle as the Loyalists tried to take it from their enemies - the Nationalists.
During one dramatic phase of that battle, the commander of the Nationalist forces received a phone call as he sat in his office at the Alcazar. Picking up the hand-piece, his heart skipped a beat as he heard an unmistakable voice. It was his son. He'd been captured earlier by the Loyalists. In a trembling voice, his son delivered the ultimatum he feared. His captors were demanding that his father surrender the Alcazar. If he failed to do so, the Loyalists would kill him! The commander heard the anguish in his son's voice and knew that the threat was very real. An overwhelming heaviness gripped his heart as he weighed his options. After a very long pause, he pulled himself together and in a strong voice that completely belied his inner turmoil, he responded: "Then die like a man."
Death is the great leveller. It's something we all face, and the manner of our dying is something we wonder about from time to time. Will it be quick? Will I suffer? Can't I just go to sleep and pass peacefully from this life?
Few of us will have any say in how it happens. But as we remember the events surrounding that first Easter in Jerusalem, it's clear that the manner of Jesus' dying was horrendous - for he was a victim of brutal, callous and inhumane treatment. Worse, the reason for his death stands as one of the gravest travesties of justice ever encountered in the history of the human race.
However, what will surprise us is the manner in which Jesus accepted his fate, for absolutely nothing could quench his love for the people - friends and enemies alike! God's son died like a man.
Then, when the tables were turned and his Heavenly Father intervened to raise Jesus to life again, the joy and hope that overwhelmed an undeserving world turned that world upside down. The resurrection effectively smashed the grip of evil by guaranteeing forgiveness, peace and ultimate salvation to all who choose to embrace it.
Yes, Easter is not Easter without the empty tomb and all that it symbolises and promises!
Let's not pass that by. Yet every year, thousands of people climb a mountain in the Italian Alps, passing the "stations of the cross" to stand at an outdoor crucifix. On one occasion however, a tourist noticed a faint trail that led beyond the cross. He fought his way through the rough, thorny scrub and, to his surprise, came upon another shrine, a shrine that symbolised the empty tomb. It was neglected. The thick vegetation had grown up around it. It seems that almost everyone had gone as far as the cross. But no further! For far too few had moved beyond the cross - to find discover and embrace the awesome message of the empty tomb.
Join us at sunrise (6.15am) at Maclean Lookout on Easter Sunday to celebrate this turning point of history. You'll be glad you did!