NT, Part 4 Resurrection
Jesus died. Certainly the Christian “spin” on his dying was that he died for a higher cause, a greater cause, an eternal cause, i.e., “to take away the sin of the world.” In his death he fulfilled the eternal desire of God to see humanity become reconciled to God.
But every religion has its’ spin. We hear about religious spin as we read about a suicide bomber. “Strap this bomb to your body. Walk into a crowd of enemies. Ignite the bomb. Yes, it will be the end of your life. However, you will go to paradise and god will bless you for killing many infidels and will reward you with many virgins.” The religious spin. The promise.
Another promise that has captivated the West in recent decades comes from Hinduism/ Buddhism. “Keep coming back. Live out your karma. Work out your failings and shortcomings. After you have walked the road of this life many times and have purified your soul of its many imperfections, you will enter into the light and become one with the great eternal. The promise. The spin.
Every religion has its’ promise. Every religion tells how a person must pay for their misdeeds and reconcile with their Creator from whom they are separated because of those deeds. Obviously the various messages of the Great Religions of the world are listened to and followed by billions. I will not criticize those of other faiths. Many are more sincere and have greater devotion to their religious practice than those of my faith, those who claim the name Christian.
That having been said, I am a Christian. I believe Jesus paid for my misdeeds, my sins, when he died on the cross. I believe he is “The lamb of God who takes away the sin (my sin) of the world.” I believe I become reconciled with God as I accept Jesus’ gift. I know I do not deserve such a gift. It is graciously given. I know I am a different person as I accept this gracious gift through Jesus Christ my Lord. .
But, why do I believe this? Is it because I was raised in a Christian family in a predominantly Christian nation? Maybe. However there are an increasing number of young adults from similar backgrounds as me who do not believe. So, why do I believe the Christian message, the Christian spin? There is one event that underpins Christian belief, that causes us to believe the promise is true, THE RESURRECTION.
Jesus being raised from the dead was the central point in the early teaching of those disciples who had walked with Jesus. 10 times in the messages recorded in the Book of Acts, the history of the early church, the resurrection was presented as proof positive for Jesus’ life and teachings. In the key theological writing of the New Testament the resurrection is presented as the foundation of belief. Romans 4:23-25 says
23 The words “it was credited to him” (Abraham) were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness (being right with God) –for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins (the religious sacrifice for our sin) and was raised to life for our justification (our legal vindication before the judge of the universe).
The hope those early Christians had, that death would not be the final word for their lives, was anchored in Jesus’ resurrection. The longest presentation on the resurrection is found in 1 Corinthians 15. In Corinth there were antagonists arguing that the resurrection of the dead was foolishness. This chapter is the Apostle Paul’s lengthy response to their argument. Here is a key thought to consider.
16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (Note the early church’s teaching that he died to take away our sin.) 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 (Note the hope of the early church in their own resurrection after death.) If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
If there is no eternity spent with God, if this life is the end and that’s all there is, then we should either live as hedonists…seeking self-gratification or we should seek the betterment of humanity since it is the world our children and grandchildren will inherit. But Paul then proclaims a message that has changed lives from the very beginning to this very day. He says,
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:20
The resurrection is proof positive that there is life after death and that we will share in that life. Death (falling asleep) is simply a birthing event, the means by which we leave this world and enter into the next.
The resurrection is also the motivation as to why Christians share their faith and invite others to believe in Jesus too. If there is an eternity (and the resurrection proves there is), and if Jesus died for my sins so that I could enter into that eternity as a forgiven child of God (as the resurrection affirms is true), and if believing in the life and teaching and death and resurrection of Jesus is the means of being forgiven and entering into eternal life is the way (“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16) then we who have come to believe in this Good News should be motivated to invite others to accept this Good News for themselves as well.
One final thought. The early Christians believed so deeply in the truth of the resurrection and the need to share this truth with others that they were willing to give their lives in the process. With the exception of the Apostles Judas (who betrayed Jesus) and John (who died of natural causes late in life), each chose to die a painful martyrdom instead of recanting the truth in which they believed. Maybe it was because they saw how Jesus had died and had the opportunity to touch him in his resurrected body. They knew the resurrection was true. They gave their lives because of that truth.