Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Resurrection: By Which Our Hope Stands or Falls

Photo Credit: http://www.kristinahansen.com/

"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." (1 Corinthians 15:12-19  NIV)

A Long-lasting Lie (50s-60s A.D.)
The soldiers trembled in fear. They were assigned to guard the tomb of Jesus. There was a sudden earthquake so strong. An angel shining as lightning and clothed in a garment as white as snow went down from heaven. He rolled the large stone securing the tomb and sat on it. Jesus' body was missing!

Perhaps they were still trembling when they reported before the chief priests. They could be charged of negligence in fulfilling their duties. It might cost them their jobs, or worse, their very lives. Yet they were spared. Matthew reports:
When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, `His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (Matthew 28:12-15)
A Long-lasting Lie (2nd Century A.D.)
Though the conversation was a work of fiction, Justyn Martyr's purpose in writing Dialogue with Trypho is to show the credibility of Christianity as a system of faith. Justin asserted that the Jews sent emissaries all over the world to "proclaim that a godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galil├Žan deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven."

A Long-lasting Lie (Year 2000)
Irene was and still is a dear friend-- one of the most brilliant girls I've ever met. One day, she was so elated over a book she's reading. Long before Facebook, friends shared good stuff with each other. She thought it was good stuff so she shared it with me. But from the very first page I knew, and perhaps she knew that I would not click on the "like button".

In the chapter dealing with the empty tomb, the concluding sentence was:
"Thus when Jews spread abroad the story that the disciples of Jesus had 'stolen' the body, they spoke the truth."
~ J. Spencer Kennard Jr.
Cited in The Lost Years of Jesus Revealed
By Charles Francis Potter

That was 12 years ago. I didn't know much way back then, but the passion was there, both for the honor of my Lord and the spiritual well-being of my friends. On graduation day, I handed over her a handwritten response to the book.

Satan's Other Lies and the Motivation Behind Them
The Stolen-Body "hypothesis" was just the first of the series of lies formulated to deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of them are listed below:
  • the body was stolen
  • the witnesses went to the wrong tomb
  • he did not die, but merely fainted; Gained consciousness at the tomb
  • the Koran asserts that there was a switch that took place before the crucifixion. Somebody else got killed.
  • Mass hallucinations
  • James Cameron's documentary "The Lost Tomb of Jesus " (Discovery Channel, 2007)
It seems to me that on the subject of the resurrection, Satan is using all of his creativity in concocting lies. Why?

May I propose, that Satan, being a brilliant theologian knows this: The hope of believers stands or falls on the truthfulness of the resurrection.

The Resurrection has always been a part of Apostolic preaching. Less than two months after Jesus' death, the resurrection was an essential component in Peter's first sermon (Acts 2).

Paul, preached a tailor-made message for the pagan minds of Athens. It was significantly different both in style and content compared to his messages delivered in Jewish synagogues. Yet Jesus' death and resurrection wasn't left out. (Acts 17:18; 29-31)

The early hearers of the gospel then would have to choose between:
the widely accepted lie circulated by the Jews VS. the apostolic preaching of a man who has risen from the dead, and now demands that he should be received as Lord and Savior.

Most of us Filipinos were raised in a Roman Catholic culture. Some of you grew up in evangelical households. Year after year, your family and your neighbors celebrate the resurrection. In the place where I was raised, the public market is crowded on Black Saturdays in preparation for the next day. Folks who abstained from eating meat since Maundy Thursday must eat special meat dishes on Easter. It is hard to find a person in our town who doesn't intellectually assent to a crucified yet a living Jesus.

But none of that is present in the first century, whether its Jewish culture or Gentile culture. The thought of a crucified Messiah is a stumbling block for a Jew and a foolishness to a Gentile (1 Corinthians 1:23). Profess faith in the Christian message and be counted as a gullible person.

Paul was a scholar thoroughly trained in the law under the tutelage of the eminent Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He was advancing in this career way beyond his contemporaries (Galatians 1:14); he could have been the next Gamaliel. Yet when he professed faith in Christ, he lost his academic reputation. At one point, a high-ranking government official shouted "Your great learning is driving you insane." It's all because of his testimony about a crucified and risen Lord (Acts 26:23-24)

Lord, Liar or Lunatic?
As hard as it was to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, it was never compromised by the Apostles. It has always been regarded as an essential tenet of the Christian faith-- something you must believe in order to be a Christian. And it is something you must continue believing unless you believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1)

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul makes a a case for the fact of the resurrection. His pieces of evidence could be classified in two categories:

1. The Testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures( see also Luke 24:25-27)
2. The Testimony of More Than 500 Eyewitnesses

But the real difficulty in the minds of some of the Corinthian Christians is accepting the truth of believers' bodily resurrection. It could have been due to the influence of ancient dualism where spiritual things are viewed as good and material things are viewed as bad. Or it could have been due to the influence of the Sadducees (Luke 20:27).

Paul responds in verses 12-19. He tells them that their disbelief in a future bodily resurrection of believers is inconsistent with their belief in Christ's resurrection; the resurrection of Christ and believers stand or fall together. You cannot take one and reject the other. If they have to reject one, they must reject both; and if they have to accept one, they must accept both. Why? Because in Paul's theology, Christ's work reversed the effects of Adam's failure. As Adam, the first representative of humanity fell and brought physical and spiritual death to all related to him, so Christ's victory brings physical and spiritual life to all who are related to him (1 Corinthians 15:21-22; Romans 5:12,18-19). His resurrection was not for him alone; it was the first-fruits assuring us that more resurrected bodies are coming (1 Corinthians 15:20).

If they must reject the bodily resurrection of believers, they must also reject a risen Christ. And if Christ is not raised, both the preaching of the message and the believing in the message are worthless. The Apostles are liars, and there is no salvation from sin (Romans 4:25-25).

Christ's death without the resurrection puts him on equal footing with Theudas and Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:35-37)-- he claimed to be somebody when he was a nobody.

Jesus death without the resurrection, doesn't make him LORD. When you gather followers around you and falsely claim that you have power over death (John 2:19; 10:17-18), that makes you a LIAR. And if you are sincere in your claims with no intention to deceive, that makes you a LUNATIC.

If we have believed in a Liar or a Lunatic, we are the most miserable of all men. The martyrdom of Stephen was worthless (Acts 7). The early death of the Apostle James was foolishness (Acts 12:2). Paul suffered for nothing (2 Corinthians 11:22-28). The early Christians gladly suffered from the confiscation of their properties for their faith in a worthless savior (Hebrews 10:34). What about those who were crucified upside down, burned as human torches, and those who were fed to the lions? If Christ is not raised, Foxe's Book of Martyrs must be retitled as Foxe's Book of Fools!

Praise God Our Hope Stands!
But Praise be to God we are waiting for the return of:
A dead LIAR

And when he returns, he will “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Phil 3:21)-- free from the effects of sin. Free from poverty, misery, pain, sickness and death.

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