There is no more important debate in the world of Christianity than the debate over the reality of the resurrection. Unfortunately, due to pressure from the world, there are even some “Christians” who question whether the resurrection really happened. So called science has made us question whether miracles are even possible, despite the fact that science cannot even answer that question. Science studies the natural world, and miracles are clearly supernatural. But that debate is beyond the scope of this blog.
The Apostle Paul faced a very similar challenge in his day. The Corinthian church was apparently floating around the idea that bodily resurrection was impossible. Much like today, they had given in to the philosophy that because miracles are improbable, that they are also impossible. There is a major issue when the church begins to listen to the voices of the world instead of the voice of the Spirit. It results in carnality, and especially in the case of the Corinthians, it also results in doubt.
Paul does not even bat an eye. He approaches the Corinthians’ argument with an irrefutable logic. Almost the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 is devoted to the subject of the resurrection. Paul questions how the Corinthians can even think about believing this nonsense. If there is no resurrection, Paul says, then there is no Christianity. If the dead don’t rise, then Jesus didn’t rise, and if Jesus didn’t rise then the entire foundation of Christianity is gone. We would have no hope of escaping the clutches of sin.
There are at least three reasons why the resurrection does indeed matter. First, if the resurrection did not occur then Jesus was a liar and a charlatan. There are many instances in the gospels where Jesus predicts his death and resurrection. If he didn’t rise from the dead then he would have been the false prophet that the religious leaders accused him of being. There would be no reason to believe anything he said. This is why the Muslim or Hindu version of Jesus just doesn’t work. We can’t call Jesus a prophet or wise man if we don’t truly believe that he rose from the dead.
Second, we would live in a world that would be much more hopeless than it even is today. There would be no reason for joy, happiness, or any kind of positive response to life. Why? Because without the resurrection nothing would matter. As Paul said, we would still be dead in our sins. How can we possibly have hope if sin still rules even over believers? Again, to quote Paul, we would be of all men most miserable.
Third, and most importantly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ ushered in a new way of living. Not only do we have the hope of eternal life, but also when we receive the Spirit of Christ we become part of the body of Christ, and we actually come to life. The destruction and chaos that sin caused for years of our lives is suddenly and completely wiped away through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. That is why as apostolics we believe in the necessity of receiving the Holy Spirit. It’s not just about an emotional experience, but it actually gives us a clean slate to begin to follow Jesus.
It is very apparent that the resurrection DOES matter. As a matter of fact, for Christians, it is the central rock of truth on which all of Christianity is built. So is there good reason to believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead? There certainly is! We will cover a few of the reasons to believe as we conclude the blog, but just know that this is in no way an exhaustive list or explanation.
First, we can be confident of the resurrection because of the harmony of the gospels. There are four gospels that all give an account of the Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. The gospels give different viewpoints, but they all tell the same story. Jesus was dead and buried, but then he rose again. There is no reason to discount their witness because the disciples were fearing for their own lives when Jesus appeared to them. Something changed them from scared and lonely disciples to fanatic world changers who willingly laid down their lives for Jesus. Why would they do that for something they knew to be a lie?
Second, we have the witness of the empty tomb. Jesus was dead. There is no questioning that based on modern medical studies. So why was his tomb empty? The only explanation that makes sense is that he rose from the dead! There are many who would make arguments against this conclusion, but none of their arguments make sense. Every single one of them has been shown to be merely grasping at straws.
Third, we have the witness of the witnesses. The first people to see Jesus alive were women. The sad reality is that the testimony of women in the first century was not regarded as trustworthy. So I have a question. If you were going to make up a radical story about a crazy miracle, why would women be the first witnesses that you would use? The only thing that makes sense is that that is actually what happened! Paul also says that there were 500 people who saw Jesus physically alive after his death. That is a lot of people to witness one event.
Finally, we have the witness of Christians today. Millions of people throughout history and around the world today have claimed to be filled with the Spirit of the risen Jesus. You can call them liars or delusional all you want, but they are the ones who had the experience. It is foolish and unfair to dismiss their account simply because it goes against what you believe to be true.
I think we can reasonably conclude that the resurrection of Jesus not only happened, but that it is also extremely important. His resurrection happened two thousand years ago, and yet it is still inspiring and changing people today. No person in history has had the effect that Jesus has had, and no event in history has had the effect that the resurrection has had. The exciting part is that you can take part in the story. Even while reading this blog, the risen Jesus can fill you with His Spirit, and change your life forever!