When they were pounding 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 of Jesus 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 that the New Testament is inspired, infallible, or even true. The only two things you need to acknowledge are that a) the New Testament exists, and b) the Christian church exists.
Let me explain:
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 us with 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 several posts 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 once 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.
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 Confucius was a wise man,
- Buddha said Buddha was an enlightened man,
- Mohammed said Mohammed was a Prophet,
- Jesus said Jesus was God Himself.
Oh yes, he made that lunatic claim. He told an entire culture of super-religious people, wholly and faithfully devoted to their god, that he was their god. That he was THE God. The God of Gods.
And then he backed it up.
On Easter Sunday, Jesus put his money where his mouth was.
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 good 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 made the mountain. He’s not just another claimant to the truth. He IS the truth. He created Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, Osho, and even Richard Dawkins. He is the great ‘I AM’.
Moses is dead.
Mohammed is dead.
Buddha is dead.
Confucius is dead.
Nietzsche is dead.
Jesus is ALIVE.
All the gurus, all the sages, all the mystics, all the shamans, all the avatars, all the preachers, all the popes, all the prophets, all the imams, all the atheists—all of them are dead or will die. There is only one person in all of history who came back from the veil. 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 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. Hope that the Energy that made you is for you. 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, and we got a lot of people putting their Jesus in a box. Making him a small, safe Jesus. A Jesus who turns people away who don’t fit in that box just quite right.
What a tragedy that is. How many of my readers have ever read the gospels? Let me ask you a question: in which verse did Jesus ever, EVER, put himself and his mission into a box to be easily understood and easily politicized? In which verse did He tell us that we will clearly be able to see those who are going to ‘get in’ and those who are going to be ‘kicked out’?
I picture a bunch of moving boxes covered in Sharpie:
Republicans – UPSTAIRS, Democrats – DOWNSTAIRS.
Baptists – UPSTAIRS, Homosexuals – DOWNSTAIRS (next to furnace).
Greek Orthodox – UPSTAIRS (iffy) – MORMONS (garage until I figure out what to do with them)
Kinda funny? Hopefully. But if you think you’ve found a box like this somewhere in the Bible, you are wrong and you haven’t done enough research. Every time Jesus spoke He only seemed to confuse people more…people who were looking for the wrong Jesus, that is. The only people before the first Easter that seemed to truly understand what He was about were the screw-ups, the scumbags, the cheats, and the failures around him.
The ones who had it all figured out who was going where when they died?
They’re the ones who killed Jesus.
Something to think about. And be afraid of.
So the next time you think you’ve got Jesus in a box and you proclaim to know what He feels about someone’s political stance/denomination/religion/sexual orientation/etc. etc., I would be very careful before speaking aloud for Jesus. You’re walking on dangerous, dangerous ground. And it’s not ground that Jesus ever trod. Jesus took a flamethrower to that kind of attitude in Matthew 23. One of the extremely few times he ever did speak so directly, with no ambiguity.
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 so that we could all spend our lives partying together in unison—every tribe, every tongue, every nation, at peace with each other. No more sorrow, no more sickness, no more cruel deaths, no more evil, no more humiliation, no more backstabbing, nothing being done in vain ever again.
People often say that Jesus died in our place to pay the price for our sins. This is absolutely true, but they often mean it in the way of God sighing with resignation, “Well you people 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 He had to go die on the cross to save us from an abusive Father who’s super-pissed at how we’ve ruined everything. As if Jesus had to save us from God. That, my friend, is the perspective of guilt and condemnation. And you know what Jesus says about 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 eagerly 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, at his beloved family, and saw our sin, our brokenness, and our disconnectedness, and the Son said with excitement in His voice, “Our kids are in trouble. They need rescuing. Send me—I’ll do whatever it takes to bring them back!”
That’s the way of selfless love and wholeness. The way of a true parent. The way of agape.
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 it all. It’s the whole shebang. The grand enchilada. If the Resurrection really happened, then it is the most important event that has ever taken place 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.1 Cor 15:54-55
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
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. Right now.
And forever-after beyond that.
Jesus’ resurrection means that one day, there will be Sunrise over this whole aching world.
Because the Son is already Risen.
He is risen indeed!
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
Falsehood aptly defended loses not its falsity.