Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunrise

When they were slamming on the door of the upper room that Sunday morning with their incredulous news, do you think the women had any idea the import of what they had just witnessed? On that morning a new era of history was born, and our Western calendar would eventually be broken into two periods: before Him and after Him.

Even if the Resurrection didn’t really happen, it’s still the most important event in history. The belief that a Jewish rabbi rose from the dead has changed the world more than anything else before or since.

But what does it mean for you and me today?


The Resurrection is the ultimate vindication of Jesus’ life and mission. If it happened, then he really is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ. It means you can trust him when he says that God loves you and will do anything for you. It means you don’t have to be afraid of God. It means that you can find a measure of peace and comfort even in your darkest hour, knowing that one day all will be restored, every tear will be dried, every wrong will be righted, and good will eventually win out.

The ultimate question though, is this: did it really happen? I am indebted to Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, authors of the excellent Handbook of Christian Apologetics for the following few paragraphs.

From a strictly intellectual perspective, in order to show that the Resurrection did indeed happen, you don’t have to believe the New Testament is inspired, infallible, or even true. All you have to acknowledge is that the New Testament exists, and that the Christian church exists.

Those two facts give us 5 and only 5 possible explanations for what happened that first Easter morning (short of nutty theories like Jesus never existed or he was a space alien or such). First of all, either Jesus died or he didn’t. If he didn’t die, then you’re facing 1. the swoon theory. That’s just about the most ridiculous of the choices.

If Jesus did actually die, than there are four remaining possibilities. If he died but did not rise again, then his disciples were either 2. deceived, 3. deceivers, or 4. creating a myth. That leaves only one other option.

5. He died, and he rose again.

That’s it. There are no other choices. I’ve tried to show over the last two months that the non-supernatural theories don’t hold any water. That leaves open only one possibility: Jesus really did rise from the grave. As impossible as it sounds, it’s the only rational explanation! Believing in supernatural causes for strange events should not be your first line of thought, in my opinion. But if you can rule out all other naturalistic explanations, then it becomes logical to do so. And not only can we quite easily rule out all the alternative naturalistic explanations in this case, there is all kinds of positive evidence for the supernatural occurring here.

There was a man named Frank Morison. He was a very bright, very gifted lawyer. Mr. Morison respected Jesus greatly as a spiritual master, but believed that tacking on this nonsense about a supernatural ending with him rising from the dead did a disservice to the real Jesus. And so he set out to research and write a book proving that the resurrection was nothing more than a fairy tale.

After several years of research, he found that he was utterly unable to do so. In fact, the historical and legal evidence was so strong in favor of the Resurrection, that Frank Morison ended up a believer and a follower of Jesus.

Oh, he did still write a book about his research. It’s called Who Moved The Stone?

It’s a Christian classic.

What’s Your Faith In?
You’ve all heard Jesus’ saying about having the faith of a mustard seed:

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20

What does that actually mean, and what does it have to do with the Resurrection?

Faith, you see, depends not on how much of it you can muster up. As Eugene Peterson says, “You don't need more faith. There is no 'more' or 'less' in faith.” Faith is not a matter of degree or quantity; it is a question of object.

It doesn’t matter how much faith you have in something if it’s not real or not capable of saving you. As my good friend and spiritual mentor Tim Timmons says, you can have all the faith on earth that a quarter-inch of ice will support your weight should you decide to go ice-skating on a frozen pond in Ohio. But your amount of faith means absolutely nothing, because the simple fact is that a quarter-inch of ice is not enough to hold you up. If you decide to act on that faith, you’re going to get very wet, maybe even very dead!

On the other hand, you can have only the smallest, tiniest, barest smidgen of faith that four feet of ice will hold you up on the same lake. You may skate out into the middle in fear and trembling, sure that at any second you will crash through to the water below and freeze to death. And yet you will be safe. Your faith has been well-placed in a trustworthy object—no matter how little of it you have.

This is what Jesus means. You may have faith only as small as a mustard seed, a seed so tiny that it is almost invisible to the naked eye. Yet if you place that faith in Jesus, anything will be possible, for the object of your faith is something and Someone real. Someone powerful. Someone who created the universe and has the power to save you.

So Sit Down Already!
There’s another aspect to faith, however, that can keep you from experiencing its power, even if you have placed it in the right object.

Imagine a chair. It’s a good chair, you think to yourself. Sturdy. Well-constructed. It could definitely hold you. “So sit down then,” someone says. “Ahh no, that’s okay,” you reply, “I know it can hold me up, but I’m cool just standing here and admiring it. I’ll eat dinner standing up, thank you.”

How foolish is that? Faith is the same way. You may possess the faith, and your faith may be in something solid, but if you don’t lean on it, then you’ll never experience the benefits of it! And you’ll be left standing at the dinner table while everyone else sits and enjoys their meal.

So sit down!

But Why Jesus?
You know, there are a lot of religions out there, a lot of spiritual teachers, and a lot of belief systems and worldviews that have existed throughout history. Many of these have spoken profound truths and ancient wisdom that you would do well to live by.

So why follow Jesus?

In my case, I follow Jesus exclusively and as the highest authority of all for this reason:

Confucius said he was a wise man.

Buddha said he was an enlightened man.

Mohammed said he was a Prophet.

Jesus…Jesus said he was God. Then he backed up his words on Easter Sunday.

Jesus stands alone, above all others. Yes, there have been many other religious and spiritual leaders throughout the centuries who have imparted much wisdom and truth. And the truth they reveal is indeed God’s truth. But all of these men and women are as stars in the night sky when compared to Jesus, whose light blazes forth as bright as the noonday sun. He’s not just another ‘enlightened one.’ He’s not just another way up the mountain. He’s not just another claimant to the truth. He IS the truth. He created Confucius, Buddha, and Mohammed. He is the great ‘I AM’.

Moses is dead.
Mohammed is dead.
Buddha is dead.
Confucius is dead.
Lao-Tzu is…well, kind of dead.
Jesus is ALIVE.

All the gurus, all the sages, all the mystics, all the avatars, all the preachers, all the popes, all the prophets, all the imams—all of them are dead. There is only one person in all of history who came back from the dead. That’s why I worship him—he proved himself.

Jesus is ALIVE. The Resurrection is the ultimate proof and vindication of Jesus’ claims to be the divine Son of God. And it’s our greatest hope. Hope that there really is more to this life than the pursuit of money, power, sex, pleasure or fame—all of which evaporate along with our last breath. And it’s hope that the Creator of the universe is an active, involved God who cares deeply about our lives. It’s hope for me personally that I haven’t wasted my life by believing that, and that you and I are not fools for following Him.

But I’m a Democrat!
Well, you’re in luck! Jesus doesn’t care what political party you’re in. Unfortunately, though, in American Christianity a whole host of misunderstandings have arisen about what it means to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus doesn’t mean becoming a Republican (or a Democrat for that matter). It doesn’t mean turning off your brain. It doesn’t mean blindly following everything people tell you. It doesn’t mean believing in something that isn’t true. It doesn’t mean hating gay people. It doesn’t mean being intolerant and bigoted. It doesn’t mean never questioning, never doubting, never wrestling, never raging at God.

What it does mean is following the One who created you. The One who knows you the best and loves you the most. It means starting up a relationship with someone who loves you so much that He wielded His awesome power not to obliterate you for failing Him, but to die and visit the Grave for you, and use His unlimited Life-generating, creative power to destroy Death itself.

People often say that Jesus died to pay the price for our sins for us. This is absolutely true, but they often mean it in the way of God saying, “Well you broke it, now I gotta buy it,” as if he was disappointed in us and only going to the cross because we forced Him there. That’s the perspective of guilt and condemnation.

I don’t think Scripture teaches that at all. Instead, when I think of the price that Jesus paid for us, I think it’s more like a lover finding the perfect gift in the window for the girl he’s courting, and being willing to pay any price in the world to obtain it to win her over. Just look over Jesus’ parables of the field and the pearl, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son. I think the Trinity looked down at His prized creation and saw our sin, our brokenness, and our disconnectedness, and the Son said, “Send me. I’ll do anything to bring them back!” That’s the way of selfless love and wholeness.

The Grand Enchilada
You see, God is in the redemption business.  Even people like Frank the lawyer and rabidly anti-Jesus Saul of Tarsus can be touched and transformed by God’s grace if they keep an open mind.

Where do you fit in the story?

When it comes to investigating and testing the claims of Jesus and Christianity, there can be many obstacles to faith, and many hard questions to be answered—some of them legitimate, some of them merely smoke-screens to avoid having to make any personal choices. But if you are reading this and not yet a follower of Jesus, I challenge you to start here, at the Resurrection.

The Resurrection is the crux of Christianity. It’s the whole shebang. The grand enchilada. If the Resurrection really happened, then it is the most important event that has ever happened in human history. You owe it to yourself to take it seriously before dismissing it as just another religious fairy tale.

If it stands, then you can be assured all other matters will fall into place. If it falls, then you don’t need to waste any more time and life thinking about it.

The reason I worship Jesus is because of the Resurrection. There is no other way to explain what happened except that on the third day, he rose again. No other explanation has ever been offered—ever!—in two thousand years to undermine this fact. Many axes have attacked the monument of the Resurrection only to be dulled in defeat.

Jesus’ resurrection is the reason Paul could look back on the prophets and repeat their words:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting? (1 Cor 15:54-55)

Jesus’ resurrection means that no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, and no matter what has been done to you, there can be Sunrise in your heart.

Jesus’ resurrection means that one day, there will be Sunrise over the whole world.

Because the Son is already Risen.

He is risen indeed!

--Jeremy
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not it's falsity.


Thank you for following this blog with me! This marks the end of my Resurrection is GO! series. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


If you'd like to study this topic further, I highly recommend the books mentioned in the post above, as well as The Case For Christ, Mere Christianity, More Than A Carpenter, and Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Each of them are a fantastic look at the intellectual underpinnings of faith in Jesus. If you'd like to contact the Skeptical Believer, click the 'About SB' link on the right of the page.


Happy Easter!

4 comments:

  1. WOW! That is such a beautiful description of what Christ did for us and why... truly touching.

    ReplyDelete