“He is not here,” the angel declared to Mary Magdalene and “the other” Mary: “for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:6). In his declaration, the angel articulated the great Christian hope—that Christ lives and that, through Him, we may also conquer death. But, in pointing the women’s attention to “the place where the Lord lay,” the angel also taught a valuable truth. Jesus Christ had lived and had died, being buried in a borrowed tomb, and the physical spot where He had lain was empty! He had been there, physically, and, just as physically, He had risen, conquering death and fulfilling every jot and tittle of the law (Matthew 5:18). Christ, His gospel, and His saving mission were not and are not merely ideas or abstract ideals—they are reality, physical, particular, and comprehensible. One of the great truths of this Easter season is that the God we worship is not an abstraction, not an esoteric intellectual concept: no, He is a living, physical Being who sent His Son to teach us by actual, physical example.
I think there’s a simple significance to Jesus’ repeated invitation to follow Him. He isn’t asking us to follow an idea or to pursue a philosophy. We’re meant to follow Him—an individual who walked on this earth and did marvelous things for the love of God that was in Him. When He says, “Follow me,” He’s effectively saying, “the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Nephi 27:21). Christ went about doing good: healing the sick, teaching the ignorant, comforting the distressed, defending the truth, and easing burdens wherever He found them. If we are to be His disciples and truly follow Him, we only need to do the same. Imagine how much more difficult it would be to follow Christ if He had only given us abstractions, concepts, or philosophies: how could we ever know that what we were doing was the true expression of His gospel? But, because Christ taught by the strength of His personal example, we have a clear, accessible model to follow. There is no ambiguity. We, as disciples, are meant to do what He did as He did it.
The testimony of the women, apostles, and others who witnessed the resurrected Christ is a testimony that Christianity is more than just another idea among ideas. Christians do not follow some abstract truth: they follow the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus Christ lived nearly two thousand years ago and left a specific, indelible example of how we ought to enact our love for God and for our neighbors. Beyond that, though, He died and rose again on that first Easter morning, showing Himself to be far more than a good and wise man: He is the prophesied Messiah, the Son of God, who holds power over death and sin. And He yet lives, our perfect example and supporter.
This Easter, I am, of course, grateful for the message of hope in the resurrection and redemption that Christ wrought in rising from the tomb. Additionally, however, I am grateful for the security and clarity that come from being able to place my faith in Him, a perfect, unchanging, singular being rather than in a shifting, shapeless abstraction. There is power in following the living Christ, in emulating the practical reality of His example. He lives. Today is the day on which we commemorate that fact. And because He lives, He can teach us, lift us, and invite us unto Him, saying, “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14).