Message Delivered April, 5 2015
In our secular society heroes are openly worshiped. It is no surprise that on Good Friday, April 15th, 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln was attending a performance of “Our American Cousin” at the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C. when actor and southern conspirator, John Wilkes Booth, shot Mr. Lincoln in the back of the head. Mr. Lincoln died the next day–only four days after the Civil War had finally ended. Americans will once again remember one of its greatest and beloved leaders (beside the IRS) on April 15th.
Lincoln has actually been compared to Moses leading his people out of slavery to the Promised Land and even to Jesus as the savior of his people. A Baptist minister, Rev. C.B. Crane of Boston, said at Lincoln’s death, “Jesus Christ died for the world. Abraham Lincoln died for his country.” Not an actively practicing Christian, Lincoln focused on justice for all, forgiveness and mercy for his enemies, and the liberation of the oppressed–all Christ like qualities but this is where the parallels end.
Lincoln’s body would lie in state at the White House and then in the Capitol Rotunda before the long train ride back to his burial in Springfield, Illinois. The train stopped over four hundred times for Americans to pay their respects along the way.
Mark tells us that Jesus had been publicly and brutally crucified on Friday afternoon. A wealthy, secret disciple of Jesus named Joseph of Arimathea, asked Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, for Jesus’ body, which was very unusual because most crucifixion criminals were left on display or discarded into a ditch after death.
Joseph took Jesus’ body and laid it in a newly hewn tomb and rolled a large stone over the opening to seal it. Lincoln’s body had been carefully embalmed, a new process for American mid-nineteenth century burials. In the first century it was up to family and friends to do the burial preparations, a two-stage process. First, the body was washed, wrapped in linen cloths, and covered with spices that would lessen the smell and hasten the decay process. A year later, the family would gather the bones and put them in a stone box called an ossuary and then, place the ossuary in a niche at the back of the tomb.
Early Sunday morning, the women came to the tomb to do their funeral preparation, found that the stone had already been rolled away, and the tomb was empty. Had someone stolen Jesus’ body? What had happened to him? Grave robbing was so common in the first century that Emperor Tiberias had issued an edict condemning the practice! The women were shocked when they saw a “young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side of the tomb.” He proclaimed, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is NOT here. Look, there is the place they laid him.” Jesus definitely had been moved but he had been the one to move himself.
Today respectful mourners can visit Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Illinois. There are monuments to him on Mt. Rushmore, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and the massive edifice in Washington, D.C. He is even pictured on coins and paper money! In Washington, Lincoln sits on a throne with an inscription over him, “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”
- Lincoln may have saved his country and people from slavery, but the risen Jesus actually saved the world.
- The slavery Jesus abolished was the slavery that holds humans in bondage to sin and death.
- Jesus’ emancipation from the tomb means that we all will be emancipated–set free from death and sin.
- Jesus’ throne is a heavenly one from which he will reign over heaven and earth, Jesus’ kingdom forever.
- Jesus has no temple because he is the temple (Revelation 21:22).
- Jesus belongs to the ages and is the One who will be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
What would the United States be like today if Lincoln had finished his term in the White House and his life span on earth? Easter tells us that true divinity can only be found in the One who can save us, who is still alive and will make us alive as well. We can celebrate great men like Lincoln but today we WORSHIP the One who is the risen Christ, the Lord and Savior of us all, forever. Hallelujah, he is risen, indeed, and lives to reign over his kingdom of heaven and earth, forever!