Of Easter and Liberty

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem and palm branches were strewn before him as a sign of welcome and praise. The Friday after is Good Friday when Jesus was crucified nearly two thousand years ago. Of course, the Sunday following is Easter when Jesus arose from the dead in fulfillment of what he said; and in proof of fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture and prophecy. Holy Week thus commemorates the most signal and momentous series of events in all human history, the week moving as it were, from victory unto Victory—with the depths of passion, pain and despair in between. The Story alone, if it were just literature is rich: for what it says about how quickly and radically a man’s fortunes will change; about the fickle nature of public opinion and public approval; the shallowness of perception at every stage, even if perception is reality—how shallow then the reality we perceive; the limits of loyalty even from friends, and the effects of fear and jealousy and greed on human action; the utter aloneness we face at the door twixt life and death and life again. The Story, however, is greater by far, because it is History and it is true.

It was from the moment of His appearing that the history of our civilization took its dramatic turn and produced ascendant values and aspirations—the definition of what constitutes Good; the attributes of Love; and the Liberty we profess and try to secure through constitutional republican government. The original twelve disciples or Apostles were: Andrew, Bartholomew, James (the younger, son of Alphaeus), James (the elder) and John (sons of Zebedee), Jude (or Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus), Judas Iscariot, Matthew (or Levi), Philip, Simon the Canaanite, Simon (called Peter), and Thomas (or Didymus). Judas who betrayed Jesus killed himself, after which the eleven saw Jesus in both spiritual forms and in the flesh after the Resurrection. The eleven also witnessed the Lord taken up in ascension. It was this powerful and undeniable demonstration of existence and life after death, in addition to a dispensation of Spirit that drove them far and wide—to carry the news and Christ’s doctrine. Incidentally, Matthias was chosen by the eleven to replace Judas. Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” was not among the original twelve but had originally persecuted Christians. He was confronted supernaturally by the risen Christ while traveling on the road to Damascus, and this led to his dramatic conversion. Paul and the twelve then proceeded on a mission as it were from God, recruiting many more “apostles.” The Book of Acts (or the Acts of the Apostles) in the Bible describes the beginnings of the Christian church, all precipitated by Christ’s resurrection that first Easter morning.

Christian forebears founded the United States of America. They knew that leaders, elective or otherwise, needed to borrow a lesson from Solomon. Besides the hard work and vision supplied by the Declaration; besides all those practical matters of planning and raising an army and navy; the multiple responsibilities of checking, tracking, monitoring, correcting, disciplining, and also giving; besides all this they had to have the ‘understanding to discern judgment’ and ‘a wise and understanding heart’ (paraphrase I Kings 3: 11-12). Moreover, they looked ‘into the perfect law of liberty’ and were ‘blessed in their deed’ (paraphrase James 1: 25) to establish for us a written Constitution. One can learn the history of the American Revolution and early Republic all day long, but if one fails to capture and apply the Spirit of ’76 in the context of the Founders’ worldview it is almost a barren exercise. For what then become the rule of law and the context of our government?

Some will say that I digress, but here is where I make the point about all history and indeed all knowledge. Ladies and Gentlemen, I never met Jesus Christ in the flesh when He strode the earth among us—but neither did I know George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, et al, in person. Their bones were quite reduced to dust before I was conceived. Yet there is evidence that something great transpired to change the Course of human events. There is also the written word of witnesses, whose bones are also reduced to dust—and I still believe. Faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11: 1) and thus the foundation of all human knowledge, history and science included. I know only because I first believed. I believe the accounts of witnesses and the words recorded of the Founders themselves, who say they likewise believed in the risen Christ and felt His presence when they laid the foundations of this nation. No Ladies and Gentlemen, I have never seen a quark or lepton or cosmic glue either—except that I have a pretty good idea of what holds the Milky Way and the universe together.

The Founders never mistook the means for ends, so unlike our own time. They knew there is a liberty wherewith no human government confers. Authority is never for the sake of authority, or empire or even Union but only to serve the ends of the Creator in creation. That is to say, government serves those truths the Founders said were self-evident; and secures certain unalienable Rights, among them Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That is the Law for government ushered in by the risen Christ, which we need desperately to rediscover or reaffirm. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea (c. 26-36 A.D.) when Jesus was crucified. Notwithstanding Jewish customs that were broken to deliver Jesus to him, Pilate clearly had the authority according to the laws of Rome to crucify Jesus. No administrative lapse of due process occurred from a Roman standpoint. The letter of the law was carried out. Easter should rekindle our love of Liberty and remind us the laws of the nation are not always in accord.