No Resurrection…No Savior

Christian-Easter-Images

We read in the Bible about a man named Lazarus who the scriptures tell us was a beloved friend of Jesus. Lazarus had two sisters, Mary and Martha whom Jesus knew as well. The story of Lazarus is found in John, chapter 11 and it is significant because Lazarus became sick and died, but after he has been dead four days Jesus arrived at Bethany where Mary and Martha lived and where Lazarus was buried and performed a miracle. The narrative of the story recounts the pain and grief of Lazarus’ sisters but also their faith in the power of Jesus. In the course of Jesus’ encounter with Martha, He makes a bold declaration,

John 11:21-26
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;
26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection…” While this may seem to be an unsubstantiated claim, what Jesus did next proved what He had said. You probably know the story: Jesus had them roll the stone away from the tomb of Lazarus and said to him, “Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus emerged from the tomb, alive and well.

Martha’s answer earlier did not appear to answer Jesus’ question about whether or not He was the “resurrection and the life,” but if she did not completely understand or believe then, she was certainly a believer after her brother was raised from the dead. There was nothing left to doubt. They, and many others, were witness to the fact that Jesus had power over death.

We have only to jump forward a short time in the Bible to read the story of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Jesus had told His followers that he was going to die and that His death would have a purpose. His death would be the sacrifice necessary to cleanse all mankind of their sin. But for Jesus to substantiate that He was, indeed, the Son of God one more event needed to take place; His resurrection from the dead on the third day. Without the resurrection of Jesus every other claim He made would have been negated. It is the resurrection of Jesus which we celebrate every Easter.

The Bible tells us that after His crucifixion, Jesus was placed in a tomb which was sealed and guarded by sentries. But on the morning of the third day, the stone was rolled away from the tomb to reveal that Jesus was no longer in the grave.

The apostle Paul recounted in 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection of Jesus was a verifiable fact, not hearsay, supposition or conjecture. He pointed out that Jesus was seen by many people following His death and burial; people who were eyewitnesses to the fact that Jesus was alive. Because the believers in Corinth were engaging in some debate regarding the resurrection Paul addressed that concern in his first letter to them.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 12-22
1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.
2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.
6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,
8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

12 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?
13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
15 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.
16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.
17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

So Paul used the fact of the resurrection of Jesus to establish that our faith in Jesus is justified. If there is no resurrection, Paul argued, then our faith is worthless. But if Jesus is resurrected then our faith is well founded. So because our faith is founded on a historical fact we can be confident that through Jesus’ sacrifice we are reconciled to God and that because of His resurrection we also have eternal life.

Still, many struggle with the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. It’s just too far-fetched; too illogical; too unbelievable.

But here is what we do know. Every one of us knows that we are broken; that somewhere deep inside of us something is amiss. After all, we are unable to even keep the rules and live up to the standards we set for ourselves. We think we can. We intend to. But at some point we always fail to perfectly live up to our own expectations. Why is that?

Could it be that what is broken inside of us is something over which we have no control? Could it be that we are born flawed by the tendency to be selfish to the point of failing to keep the rules and standards which we set for ourselves even though we believe they are in our own best interest? Where does all that come from? Well, the Bible explains all of this and also provides the remedy God prescribed.

If you don’t believe there is a God, none of this matters. But if you look at the world and the universe and conclude that the magnitude and order and beauty of it all must derive from a source and power beyond anything we know, then God’s Word begins to make sense. We cannot, however, take only parts of God’s Word and leave off the rest. If we conclude God is our creator, we must also accept the rest of His story; that we are helpless, on our own, to attain a level of righteousness acceptable to Him. That is why God came to the world in the form of Jesus. He came to reveal Himself to us and to provide a way for our relationship with Him to be restored. And He proved He was capable of accomplishing that reconciliation by living a perfect life and by conquering death through His resurrection; two things we would all agree are impossibly beyond our control.

For thousands upon thousands of years people have believed in God as the Creator. For over two thousand years people have believed that Jesus was the Son of God, God in the flesh, who came to the world to rescue us because of our fallen, sinful condition. We believe that One who can rise from the dead is qualified to break the power that death wields over us.

Yes, it takes faith to trust Jesus for our eternal future, but the change that placing our faith in Jesus brings about in our hearts and lives is all the proof we need to know that God’s Word is true. If it were not for the evidence of transformed lives it’s hard to imagine that Christianity would survive for so long and continue to thrive. In fact, it’s almost certain it would not. But the first-hand experience of millions testifies to the truth of the scriptures: Faith in Jesus – the One who died for our sins and rose from the dead – brings peace to our hearts and change to our lives.

 

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