In this space, I focus my thoughts on the person and work of Jesus Christ. I have written numerous posts on His teachings and His character. In different ways I have discussed the relevance and implications of Jesus’ teachings for today. I have written about His incarnation and crucifixion. Looking back recently on the posts I have written over the last year or so, it was with a good bit of surprise (and also dismay) that I realized I had not written anything significant about the resurrection. And that’s too bad—I think the most encouraging message of Scripture comes from an examination of the foundation of our faith—the basis we have for believing what we do. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, that basis for our faith is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
It is this event upon which all of history hinges, and which gives us hope as Christians. This is what makes us different from those around us—this is what gives us a different outlook on life, and gives us the strength to persevere through difficult times.
There are many people in the world who deny the truth of the resurrection. There are actually some people who consider themselves to be Christians, but reject the idea that Jesus physically rose from the grave. They believe that Jesus was a good man, a great teacher, that He had some great ideas, but that whether or not He rose from the grave doesn’t really matter. But that’s not what Paul says.
After describing the resurrection as “of first importance” in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul goes on to get even more specific. He says, “…If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is vain…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…if we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15.14,17,19).
What Paul is saying here is that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t hedge your bets. When it comes to the resurrection, there are only two choices:
(1) Jesus was not raised from the dead. If this is true, then all of us are, according to Paul, pathetic people who are wasting our time—we’re following someone who won’t lead us anywhere. If this is true then Jesus was a man, just like us, not unique in any way. He may have been a good man who had some good things to say, but He’s basically reduced to being someone like Mark Twain—a clever man with great insight who people like to quote, but someone who doesn’t have the answers to life’s questions and has no right to tell people how to live.
(2) Jesus was raised from the dead. If this is true, then it is the single most important fact in history. It means that Jesus was different; He was unique. He has power over life and death, He has the answers to life’s questions, He has the right to tell us how to live, and nothing in life is more important than following Him. That’s the foundation for the Christian faith, and the source of our hope. It is what powers us as Christians to live in such a way that we shine our lights in a dark world.