April 8, 2019
Do you believe that the Resurrection happened?
That a man, Jesus of Nazareth, actually rose from the dead, do you? We celebrate this unnatural, God – motivated event, the greatest in human history next week. But again, do you actually believe that this Resurrection, physically, bodily actually happened?
The Apostle Paul says that if you do not believe, then your faith is in vain. That is, if this Resurrection never really happened, Christianity is predicated on a false premise, no better than any other so called religion and in fact maybe worse. Unless Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He was no more than a good moral teacher, and perhaps more magician than miracle worker and by no means the Savior of the World. Again, the words of the Apostle Paul:
IF CHRIST BE NOT RISEN
YOUR FAITH IS IN VAIN
But he did. So we believe, and in fact base our lives, our future fortunes on this miraculous event. But Christian faith is based on:
THE EMPTY TOMB.
Witnesses saw him. They touched him. They heard him speak. They dined with him, another supper after THE LAST SUPPER. They listened to him, heard his voice and believed. They saw an ascension. They felt the power of God the Father in his person. And if ever there was doubt, it was gone. And all who believed could say with the Apostle Paul:
FOR ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST!
The power of this Resurrection consumed them, became them and out they went to testify, to witness, boldly proclaim, never the same again and wishing the same for others. The power of the resurrected Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit produced a movement among mankind never before and never like it again. They went, these empowered believers:
INTO ALL THE WORLD TO PREACH THIS GOSPEL
to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. But to all men and women everywhere.
But think of this man, this carpenter from Nazareth whose ministry was a short some three years before his Crucifixion. He was a worker of MIRACLES. He, the God – man, was possessed with power over nature. He commanded the seas, he raised the dead, he healed the sick, he restored sight but all of that, miraculous as it may be, was not enough.
He was a great teacher, endowed with divine wisdom. His teachings, those parables would live ‘til the end of time. He brought a special divine wisdom. But that was not enough.
He introduced a new social order. John the Baptist came fasting but HE came eating and drinking. He came that our joy, the happiness of the new believer should be full. That life in HIM should be merry, abundant for the earth was his and he gave it to us. But that was not enough.
Some who came before him did these things. And so, for him to be special, one-of-a-kind, GOD WITH US, there came the trial by heathen men. Then came THE CRUCIFIXION, that horrible, brutal, excruciatingly painful death on the cross and the shedding of all that innocent blood. There had to come that event of NO GREATER LOVE. For we were taught in that Crucifixion that there is no greater love than that a man or a woman should lay down his or her life for someone else, for a friend. THAT WAS NECESSARY, the shedding of the blood of this innocent man for the REMISSION of all sin. The Crucifixion, this supreme redemptive act was absolutely necessary for without it, all that HE was or did was not enough.
The blood of a sinless man must be shed in remission of the sins of sinful men.
Even he, on that cross, felt forsaken even as we at times do. But this radical, lifechanging event was absolutely necessary in order to change the course of human history, to change the nature of all mankind. Think of all that the next time you partake of the wine and the bread.
I often wonder about this man, this carpenter from Nazareth. Sinless was he, so we are told and believe, but a man nonetheless. I wonder about his humanity, what he looked like, how he acted, his personality, his ability to laugh and cry. We know he wept but we can only assume he laughed, because he loved the joy of life. We know his heavy heart and enlightened mind, his teachings serious and weighty. But surely he laughed, saw the humor in life and in mankind for his teaching parables can often be ironic or even sardonic. We can perhaps believe that even as he loved mankind, surely he laughed at their hypocrisy and pretenses.
Was he, I wonder, subject to headaches, or on occasion a stomach upset. Surely he was tired. We were told he could be angry which means he ran the gamut of human emotions. I wonder how often he bathed or who may have trimmed his hair. I wonder how he prayed in all those private moments when he was alone with his FATHER. I would trade any of the four gospels for a recording of his thoughts and words in private, with his disciples, in prayer, comments on sunsets, or howling winds, or even the sporting events of the time. How wonderful it would be to know more about this MAN, this carpenter from Nazareth who was crucified for the sins of the world.
But then he died. And the earth shook. The sun hid its face. One Joseph of Arimathea took his dead body and laid it in a tomb, over and done for every man before or since.
But not this one. For then came the third day:
The greatest day in the history of mankind. RESURRECTION DAY. UP FROM THE GRAVE HE AROSE. And so we celebrate Easter and we who believe in the Resurrection say boldly to all mankind:
HE IS NOT HERE
HE IS RISEN!
The natural man receives not these things of the Spirit. They are folly, mythological, just flat out untrue. From dust you came, says this natural man and to dust you will return and there will be no more. Not so, says the carpenter from Nazareth, the resurrected Christ of Glory, NOT SO. Even as I rose up from the grave, SO WILL YOU! Those who believe in me will live with me eternally. You are wrong, natural man, deadwrong for you have failed to understand or believe in the greatest event in human history. But the natural man continues to say that CHRIST IS NOT RISEN, and the natural man laughs at Christians and with a look in the eye boldly says:
YOUR FAITH IS IN VAIN!
Ah, but not so says the Christ of Glory. I am by the power of God alive and I have triumphed over death and the grave. And so will you if you believe in the crucified Christ and the resurrected Christ of Glory. It is as the philosopher and theologian Pascal said the supreme wager in all of life:
Do you believe in the resurrected Christ or not?
You will make the wager of a natural man or a spiritual man. You will BELIEVE or you will not.
Do you believe, do you believe in that Resurrection? If you do, and you should, then your faith is not in vain.