Monday, April 07, 2014
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Jesus' resurrection: not an optional teaching for the apostles

By Pastor Roger David

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[April 07, 2014]  Some regard Christians as gullible people who accept "on faith"  with little or no thought about supporting evidence  what others have told them about Jesus, including His teachings, miracles, death and resurrection. However, neither He nor His apostles called others to a blind faith that's divorced from facts and unable to withstand fair and open-minded investigation.

As to His resurrection, some may say that if comfort and peace can be had by believing in a Jesus who never literally arose from the dead, then to preach that God raised Him is to raise unnecessary issues. But Peter would regard preaching a non-resurrected Christ as denying the Jesus who is the only Sovereign and Lord (2 Peter 2:1; also Jude 1:4). Judging from what Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 11:4, he would suspect the influence of preachers who promote "another Jesus."

Some may prefer a figurative or greatly expanded definition of "resurrection," meaning that a person continues to live in spirit (or at least in the memory of others) after his/her body has died. But the Bible reports that Jesus resurrected the bodies of Lazarus, Jairus' daughter and, at Nain, a widow's son; that Jesus Himself arose from death in bodily form  able to walk, talk, breathe, eat and cook  and that others (individuals and groups) could see, touch and hear Him.

The New Testament documents provide most, but certainly not all, of the evidence about Jesus Christ and His life on earth  including His life after resurrection. Among the writers were those who had been with Him. The documents were in circulation when many contemporaries of Jesus were still alive who opposed Him and claims about His resurrection.

The New Testament reports that followers of Jesus unexpectedly found His tomb empty  and also reports when and where named witnesses saw, heard and touched Jesus alive and in the flesh after He'd been dead. Yet no contemporaneous historical record has been discovered that tells about any who lived at that time making any serious, credible and successful attempt to disprove these reports, even though many had motive to do so.

Not long after the church came into being, those who taught in Jesus' name, or spoke about what they heard Him say, saw Him do or otherwise testified about Him, faced persecution and even death (Acts 4:17-21; 5:25-42; 6:8  8:3). If any of these were unsure of the facts or were making up stories, they would have had no incentive to speak, teach or testify for Jesus.

As a young man, Paul's mission was to jail and persecute Christians. Then he met Jesus on the road to Damascus (this was clearly after Jesus was killed). After being brought to faith in Christ, he went from being one of the persecutors of the Lord's people to being one of the persecuted apostles of the Lord. Paul was periodically jailed and beaten, but he continued risking his life by preaching Jesus as the only Savior and Lord, the crucified and risen Son of God and Son of Man.

As an older man, St. Paul was beheaded. St. Peter was crucified upside down. Others who been with Christ and were brought to faith in Him testified as to what they had seen and heard (e.g., 1 John 1:1-3), even when that testimony meant torture or death.

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Not many years after the Lord's resurrection, Paul wrote to the Corinthians a summary of what he had received about Christ dying for our sins, being buried and rising again. Paul included a partial list of those who had seen, heard or touched the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Paul had heard, though, that some among the church at Corinth were saying that there's no resurrection of the dead. So, following the summary, he pointed out that IF the dead are never raised AND IF Christ was therefore not raised, then in essence: preaching about Him and having faith in Him would be empty, devoid of truth and ultimately futile, meaningless, etc.; Paul and others who teach that God raised Christ from the dead would be false witnesses; His death would offer no real forgiveness of sin; He would provide no eternal salvation to those who have already died trusting in Him; and if our "hope" in Christ is just a subjective way to cope with this life, then we're to be pitied more than any others (1 Corinthians 15:12-19 paraphrased).

Paul knew, though, from his own experience that Jesus was alive. So he added: "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20). "Firstfruits" indicate more to come. Because Jesus arose on a Sunday morning as part of real history, those who place their faith in Him have this blessed hope that they, too, will one day rise to live (soul and body) with Him forever.

[By Pastor ROGER DAVID, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church]

Roger David and his wife, Rose, lead a Foundational Fellowship nursing home ministry; he also serves part-time/temporarily at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lincoln.


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