– by Dennis Loots
“Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen.” – Luke 24:5-6
I want you to cast your mind back and try to identify with the disciples of 2000 years ago. The reality is, they were a group of shell-shocked men and women, whose hopes and dreams had been shattered completely, and now they began to hear some unbelievable news. Some women had come back from the tomb of where Jesus Christ had been laid. The stone had been rolled away, they had seen Jesus, and he was alive. Amazed and almost too fearful to believe this, John ran to the tomb to find it empty. Over the next while Jesus begins to appear to His disciples and followers, and slowly but surely, what they begin to accept is almost unacceptable. Jesus is in fact alive, and He has risen. Their lives are changed forever.
I don’t need to remind you that the resurrection of Jesus is absolutely crucial and central to our Faith. If there was no resurrection, and if this was not a historical fact, it means that over the centuries, we have built a system, developed a religion, constructed vast numbers of buildings, spent billions of Rands, mislead and deluded millions and millions of people, and literally millions of people have laid down their lives for something that isn’t true. Paul says this: “ If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” – 1 Cor 15:14. We need to understand that.
But, along with hundreds of millions of people around the world today, and down through the centuries, we are part of many people who have celebrated and continue to celebrate the wonderful truth that we sing about and are hearing about this Easter, that Jesus has risen. Praise the Lord! In the scriptures, the resurrection of Jesus is never presented as anything other than a historical event. An event that took place in time, in history, was given testimony to, and was experienced by real people. It’s been said that all, but four, of the major world religions and philosophies are based on philosophical propositions. Of the four major religions that are based on personalities, only the Christian faith claims that the tomb is empty, and its Founder is alive.
What is the significance of Christ’s resurrection in terms of His person, who He is, what does the resurrection say to us about this man, Jesus Christ?
The apostle Paul talks about the facts of Jesus’ life, and resurrection as of first importance. There are ideas and books out there today that say that “Whether Jesus really lived or died, or rose from the dead or not, is of no importance. What is important are His teachings.”
I read again recently about churches in Europe where the pastors are atheists and they openly declare that they don’t believe in God, but they say what matters are supposedly the teachings. In scripture, nowhere is Jesus separated from his teachings. Nowhere in scripture are we called to believe in some wild claims or philosophies, but always we are called to believe in One who lived, who was experienced, and who really rose in history.
“ For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” 1 Cor 15:3-6
What is Paul saying?
Well there are several hundred people that Jesus appeared to, and whose lives were changed. These are not little silly myths, but historical truths. And what does this historical truth tell us about Jesus? Well the first thing that it tells us about Jesus is that it is a divine vindication of all His claims. That’s what the resurrection speaks to. What He claimed was true, because He was raised from the dead. Jesus made same extravagant claims, some of the Jews of His time said: “He is crazy, give Him enough rope and He will hang himself.” C.S. Lewis, the Oxford scholar, reminds us that if Jesus was not who He claimed to be, lets not kid ourselves, He was a lunatic.” He claimed to be the Son of God, He claimed to be equal with God, He claimed to be able to forgive sin, He claimed to have power and authority over nature itself, He claimed to have authority over evil, He delivered people from demons, He claimed to have authority over life and death. He claimed that He was the Messiah that the people were waiting for. He claimed that He would rise from the dead. If there were no resurrection, then all of that was simply the ranting of a deluded man.
If there were no resurrection it would have meant that He is either a liar, or there was something wrong with Him – like many other false preachers, pseudo-messiahs, and other people who have had delusions of grandeur. But the message of history is that Jesus is risen – and the resurrection vindicates all of those claims. It has been said that no man has ever been born with a greater sense of purpose than Jesus was. Right from the beginning He was clear about why He was here and what He came to do. Even at His birth it is announced, “Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you!” And essentially in the scriptures we find that Jesus came for three main reasons.
Firstly, He came to reveal the Father, to show us that God is like.
Secondly, He came to destroy the devil’s works.
And thirdly, He came to save lost sinners like you and me.
With no resurrection, none of that would have happened. But His resurrection proves that He accomplished everything. God is revealed! When people come and ask, “ I don’t know what God is like?” “How can we know what God is like?” “How can we understand God?” I say it is quite simple, He is like Jesus. Jesus came to reveal the Father, He came to defeat the enemy, and there on the cross when the enemy thought he had the better, Jesus defeated him. He paid for sin on the cross. “Now all who call on the name of the Lord, will be saved.” No resurrection = mission failed. When He received the drink on the cross, Jesus said, “it is finished”. And with that He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. Mission accomplished. The resurrection of Christ is the Father’s seal on that ministry. Christ has risen from the dead. Christ has not only spoken to us by His life, but He has spoken to us by His death, and by His resurrection as well.
What is the significance of the resurrection to the early followers of His day?
Jesus had an inner circle of twelve disciples who He trained, taught, prepared and commissioned, but also several hundreds of other people who were His followers as well. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus had a huge impact not only on the apostles, but on hundreds of other people as well. The cross, a few days before, had left them shattered, and disillusioned. Their hopes and their dreams were hanged on a cruel roman cross. Many had given up everything to follow Him, and now He is crucified. They’d believed He was the Messiah, now it seems as if everything is ended. And not only are they depressed and scared out of their wits, but they are disappointed as well. Then suddenly, He is with them. The resurrection meant for these believers a revival of shattered hopes and dreams. When you lose hope, you lose everything. When you encounter the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our hearts burn within us. Peter writes “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls… For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”
When hope is restored, men and women can face most things. Hope comes with the resurrection. And in the resurrection to these disciples was a renewal of lost vision as well, the vision changed. Jesus had to remind the disciples that His kingdom was not of this world, but one for eternity. The resurrection of Jesus restored vision to his disciples.
What does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean for you and me?
This is our foundation for our belief as Christians. With no resurrection, lets just pack up and go home. Paul says that if the resurrection is not true, we are to be pitied more than all men and women. We would be a pretty pathetic bunch, because we live and believe a myth. We are Christians because we believe certain things to be true. We have committed our lives to Christ, the One of who all is truth speak. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We believe He is the Saviour of the world. We believe He paid for the sins of the world. We believe He has taken on God’s wrath in our place. We believe that if we call on God’s name, we are saved. No resurrection, and none of that would be true. No resurrection – no victory. We believe that we can know and enjoy eternal life. He is not just risen in our hearts, His teachings have not just risen, but Jesus has physically risen. We believe this, it’s a historical fact, and it changes our lives. It is also the rock on which our assurance is built. Christ’s resurrection from the dead speaks beyond the grave, into eternity.
Somebody once said, “Having settled eternity, I can now live my life with joy.” It is not just the way we live our lives that affects eternity, but it is also eternity that affects the way we live our lives. We can know these things are true, because Jesus is alive.