The Christian faith stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus.
What do I mean by that?
The Bible does not present the resurrection of Jesus as a fable intended to convey some profound moral truth, nor as a piece of folklore or mythology intended to explain the founding of Christianity.
It presents it as a real, historical fact that actually took place, and furthermore without which there is no point in being a Christian.
As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
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 of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:17–19)
Are there good reasons to think that it really did happen? Or is it something Christians must simply accept on faith?
For me there are certainly good reasons and that’s something I will expand on in a future post, but for today I want to explore a different question:
If you believe Jesus really was raised from the dead, what impact has that had on your life?
While he was with them, Jesus had told his twelve closest followers that he would be killed by his enemies but then raised back to life by God:
He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:31–32)
After he died on the cross, the eleven remaining disciples went into hiding, terrified of the same thing happening to them:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19–20)
There are three things here to note:
First, they didn’t understand what he meant by being raised from the dead.
Second, not one of them believed it until they actually saw him alive again.
The Jewish people at the time believed that God would raise the dead, but only at the end of the world when everyone would be raised together. The idea of one single person being raised to eternal life before then wasn’t an idea any of them understood.
Nobody, not even his closest followers, was expecting Jesus to rise from the dead.
How did his resurrection impact the lives of those around him?
First, the eleven followers, who’d been hiding in terror from the Jewish leaders, were transformed into utterly fearless preachers who were prepared to stand up to the very men who’d had Jesus killed:
The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:27–32)
Second, Jesus’ own family, who at no point during his life had believed he was the Son of God, were among the first members of the earliest church. The very day Jesus ascended to heaven:
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:12–14)
Third, Saul of Tarsus, a zealous Jewish scholar who had made it his life’s mission to destroy the church, became a Christian almost overnight when he encountered the risen Jesus:
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. (Acts 9:1–5)
All of these people were inspired by the resurrection to dedicate the rest of their lives to the risen Jesus and to tell as many other people as they could about him.
What about you?
Has your life been transformed like theirs? Is your faith fearless? How much of your time or energy or money or ability belongs to Jesus?