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.
[to top of second column]
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
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.