Monday, March 24, 2008

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Good Friday is called Good Friday because Jesus rose again. Imagine us as believers celebrating the brutal death of Jesus Christ who died prostrate in the pool of His own blood. Imagine celebrating that with joy. Well, there's no explanation why the early Christian believers did just that apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The reason that they celebrated His broken body and shed blood with joy was because on the first day of the week He rose and He gave convincing proofs that He was, indeed, alive. As a result of that the scattered disciples became fearless disciples because they knew that their Master was alive and they knew with certainty that when they died for saying Christ is Lord they too would rise. With that hope they turned the world upside down.

Well, today a lot of people think that this whole issue of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is just an academic debate. But this is not an academic debate; this is a debate that has real relevance on how you live your life. Without the bodily resurrection of Christ you might as well tear up your Bible, terminate your preacher, torch your church because Christianity is false and there is no hope whatsoever for salvation and immortality. In fact, Paul says "If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." The physical resurrection of Christ is the capstone of our faith. Without it Christianity simply crumbles.

It is precisely because the physical resurrection of Christ strikes at the very heart of the Christian faith that it is constantly under siege. The culture frequently denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ because they have a bias against miracles. Thomas Jefferson, for example, not only dispensed with the bodily resurrection of Christ, but he discarded every other miracle chronicled in the Gospels. In fact the Jefferson Bible ends up with the words "Now, in the place where he was crucified there was a garden and in that garden a sepulcher wherein was never man yet laid. There they laid Jesus Christ and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher and departed."

It's common for aberrant Christianity and cultism to compromise the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ as well. As a case in point - I've noted this on the Bible Answer Man broadcast often - Jehovah's Witnesses claim that Christ was resurrected an invisible, immaterial spirit. The Watchtower says it like this: "The fleshly body is the body in which Jesus humbled himself like a servant and is not the body of his glorification, not the body in which he was resurrected. He was raised to life divine in a spirit body. So the king Christ Jesus was put to death in the flesh and resurrected an invisible spirit creature."

It is precisely because Christ's bodily resurrection is compromised, confused and contradicted that we have to be equipped to defend this essential of essentials. To do that, of course, you have to be familiar with the biblical and the historical record. It's the canon of Scripture, the confessions of the church and the characteristics of Christ's resurrected body which altogether build a cumulative case that there's a one to one correspondence between Christ's pre-resurrection and post-resurrection body. Remember the Apostle John when he said "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched, this we proclaim concerning Jesus, the Word of life."

Indeed, the characteristics of Christ's body bear eloquent truth to His physical resurrection. Jesus invited the disciples to examine His resurrected body so that they would know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is the exact same one that had been fatally tormented. If Jesus had been resurrected an immaterial body He would be guilty of misleading the disciples by conning them. But He didn't con them. He ate food as proof of the nature of His resurrected body. In fact Dr. Luke says that the disciples gave Jesus a piece of broiled fish and He took it and ate it in their presence. In fact Jesus was eating with His disciples prior to being taken up into heaven. Jesus provided the final exclamation mark for His physical resurrection by telling the disciples that His resurrected body was comprised of flesh and bones. "Touch Me and see. A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have."

Well, was Christ physically resurrected from the dead? Absolutely! In truth, apart from that affirmation - the affirmation we made this past Easter Sunday - there is no Christian faith. Paul was emphatic. "Your preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then false witnesses about God."

All of that to say that you as a believer are compelled to give an account of your faith, and you do that by demonstrating that Christ is risen. That's not a mere affirmation on your part. It's something that you should be able to demonstrate to a world that has lost the majesty of the resurrection. We now practice self-help religion. The early Christians did not. They were committed to one thing and one thing alone - that Jesus Christ had come, that Jesus Christ had died, that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, that He had ascended into heaven, and that as He lives we too shall live.

That affirmation turned an empire upside down and we have taken that affirmation and the evidence for it and packaged it for you in such a way that you can communicate that with power and passion. I developed the acronym F-E-A-T - Fatal Torment, Empty Tomb, Appearances of Christ, Transformation of the Disciples - and put that in a little book called The Third Day, the Reality of the Resurrection in such a way that you can remember how to communicate that, not just on Easter Sunday but every Sunday and every day
in-between. Remember, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ not just on Easter, but every single day of the week, and the apex is the first day of the week, Sunday, which the first century Christians set apart as a day to remember the resurrected Christ. That's why we worship on Sunday and that's why we should evermore be reminded that it is our prerogative in the 21st century to communicate that glorious truth to those who have not as yet heard.

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