Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why is the resurrection of Jesus so important?

Who would dare ask such a question? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that on the first Easter, Jesus miraculously stepped out of the tomb? Obviously from the initial reports that such an event had taken place, many did question it and did not realize its importance.  Even the closest followers of Jesus disbelieved the first resurrection report brought to them by some women and sought evidence to support the news they were hearing. Having immediately become doubters, some of the disciples did the obvious – go and see for themselves. The thing the disciples discovered was the same that those in opposition to Jesus discovered[1]; the tomb was empty – leaving us with several explanations, but with basically two options. Either Jesus did in fact rise from the dead or he did not.

But back to the original question, why is the resurrection of Jesus so important? As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15, if the resurrection of Jesus did not take place, then we have no basis for our faith in Him as being our propitiation and expiation.[2] “The point is that Christianity is a gospel, it is good news about how God sent his Son to be our Saviour. But if Christ did not really rise, then we have no assurance that our salvation has been accomplished.[3]”

But if Christ did in fact rise, as is supported by the evidence of many more eyewitnesses than it took to condemn him, then a multitude of questions about God are answered – not the least of which would be God’s very existence. The statements Jesus makes about his own divine nature have the support of an historical resurrection event. The many references Jesus makes to passages from the Old Testament lend His divine authority to the veracity of those scriptures. Jesus even gives the key to understanding the Old Testament when he explained to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, that beginning with Moses and all the Prophets – all the Scriptures point to himself. [4]

Finally, if the resurrection of Jesus did not happen then we have no evidence that our own resurrection will one day take place as promised by The Lord himself. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live… [5]” 18th century minister John Logan preached, “Christians, behold in the resurrection of Christ, the proof and the earnest of your own resurrection.” Surely it was (in part) this eyewitness knowledge of the resurrection of Jesus that gave the timid disciples the ability to become His steadfast Apostles and face certain death themselves. And it was on the Apostles’ reliable evidence for the resurrection that many members in the early church suffered martyrdom – with confidence in their own salvation through the atonement of Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. [6] [emphasis mine]

I believe in the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.


[1] The earliest existing report of the rumor propagated by Jewish authorities is found in the Gospel of Matthew.  In support of that rumor one scholar writes: “Either the audience of the first evangelist knew of this rumour or they did not. If they did not, then the rumour itself could have been a Matthean invention. However, there is no apparent reason why the gospel writer would invent a non-existent rumour and then expend himself in responding to such. It is furthermore unlikely that the gospel writer would risk discrediting himself in the presence of Jews who could easily say, ‘No such rumour exists among us’, or in the presence of his own audience who could say, ‘We have heard of no such rumour from the other Jews around us’. Either there actually was such a rumour in the environment of the gospel writer, or he is engaging in self-sabotage. The gospel writer may in fact be engaging in self-sabotage, but that would make it extremely difficult to explain the survival and historic importance of his gospel in the early church.”  Quoted from: Matthew 28:1-6 as Temporally Conflated Text: Temporal-Spatial Collapse in the Gospel of Matthew.  Kenneth L. Waters, Sr.  The Expository Times 2005 116: 295.  DOI:10.1177/0014524605053988
[2] “Expiation speaks of the process by which sins are nullified or covered. Propitiation, taking a personal object, speaks of the appeasement of an offended party—specifically the Christian God—from wrath or anger. Expiation falls under the concept of propitiation. In Scripture it cannot exist without propitiation. Other terms used for propitiation are appeasement and placation.”  Quoted from:  Russell, J. H. (2003). Expiation, Propitiation. In (C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler, Eds.)Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
[3] Morris, L. L. (1996). Resurrection. In (D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman, Eds.)New Bible dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Lk 24:27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jn 11:25). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Co 15:12–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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