By JUDD MATSUNAGA, ESQ.
As kids, my sister, brother and I were told that the Easter Bunny would bring baskets filled with colored chocolate eggs, candy and toys on the night before Easter Sunday. What’s more, this oversized rabbit would lay a nest of colorful eggs and hide them in the garden for our Easter egg hunt.
At Sunday school, however, we were taught that we celebrate Easter Sunday because that was when Jesus rose from the grave. Nobody told us that painting eggs or hunting for Easter eggs had absolutely nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus. Although confusing, it didn’t slow us down too much because it was time to go hunt for Easter eggs.
Like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus also visited on the night before Christmas bringing toys to good little boys and girls around the world. I remember one particular Christmas Eve when we heard on the car radio that an airplane pilot sighted Santa on his sleigh. We were thrilled and excited.
The moment we got home we ran to the phone to call our cousin (who was a couple years older), to share the exciting news — “It was on the radio! An airplane pilot sighted Santa Claus!! He’s got a sleigh full of toys!!!” — I can recall how confused and dismayed I was when my cousin didn’t share our excitement.
Let’s not forget the Tooth Fairy. As we lost our baby teeth, we were told that if we placed the tooth under our pillow, the tooth fairy would visit during the night and replace the lost tooth with money. Back then, I remember getting a quarter for a lost tooth. (A 2011 study found that American children today receive $2.60 per tooth on average.)
Studies suggest that children often discover the Tooth Fairy is imaginary as part of the 5-7 Year Shift. Children will often connect this to other gift-bearing figures such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Here’s the problem — what happens when we finally tell our children that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy really do not exist, but God does?
A child is prone to reasoning that if Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy do not exist, maybe God doesn’t exist either. To make matters worse, since you cannot see or touch God, you must believe by faith. Wasn’t Santa Claus also omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, i.e., “he knows if you been bad or good,” just like God?
I’ll admit that I once believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And when I found out that they didn’t really exist, I still believed in God. I did, however, briefly question God’s existence when I was taught evolution in high school and college. It wasn’t until I was out of college, however, that I learned that God could be known in a personal way.
But for many children, their faith in the real person of Jesus Christ is hindered when they find out that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are fictional, i.e., “the baby is thrown out with the bath water.” Oh sure, they may be able to believe that there is a creator of the universe, or maybe even believe in God, but the reality of a personal savior named Jesus is for children or the religious fanatic.
I can remember the look on my friend’s face when he realized that Jesus was a real person. For all of his adult life growing up in Los Angeles, he had dismissed Jesus with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. “Why do you think we use ‘AD’ and ‘BC’ when referencing calendar years?” I asked.
You could almost see the hamsters turning the wheels in his head. With a big grin on his face, he said, “Yeah, Jesus was a real person!!!” Jesus was not just another fairy tale for children to believe in. Jesus was a real, historic figure. He actually walked the earth. That changed everything!
Now, many of you have the same question buried in your heart as all men have had since the beginning of history — “Is death the end?” God wants us to have a joy and an assurance of our salvation. That’s what Easter is all about. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s divine endorsement of Jesus’ teachings, God’s confirmation that Jesus’ teachings were true.
Jesus said to Mary, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) This Easter Sunday, He says the same thing to you, “Do you believe this?”
Jesus always demanded a “yes” or a “no” answer. You cannot be neutral. There is no “middle ground.” You cannot say, “I believe Jesus Christ was a good man, a great moral teacher, a prophet just like Buddha, Mohammad and Confucius.”
Hogwash! “Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was divine.” (Rabbi John Duncan, 1859-60) C. S. Lewis, an Oxford medieval historian and author, popularized the saying, “Lunatic, Liar, or Lord.”
C. S. Lewis wrote, “….A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher….” Jesus Christ was either a lunatic, i.e., raving mad, or He perpetrated the biggest fraud on humanity, or He was everything He claimed to be, the Son of God.
Now, what about you? You only have three choices, and you must take a stand. By the way, you can’t be “undecided” either. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me….” (John 12:30) In other words, any decision to not make a decision about believing in Jesus as the Son of God is a decision against Him.
Some of you may say, “OK, I believe that Jesus Christ was a son of God, but so was Buddha, and so was Mohammad.” Still others may say, “I believe that we are all God’s children.” Jesus would say, “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you?” (Luke 6:46, The Message)
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) The Bible also says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
Well, if you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that’s advice you will follow.
“Now wait a minute. Are you saying that if I don’t accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior that I won’t go to Heaven?” Actually, I’m not saying it, i.e., the Bible says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1) But that’s what Jesus said. I’m only repeating it.
Easter is the perfect time for you to consider which of the three positions concerning Jesus is the correct one, i.e., Lunatic, Liar or Lord. This divides the world into two categories: Those who believe, and those who do not. Those who have hope, and those who have no hope. Those who will die, and those who will live. Happy Easter.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.