THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS FULLY BELIEVED
At Easter, millions annually mouth the words “He is risen!” but these words must be fully believed beyond what is commonly understood. In a world of many religions, only one claims that its founder returned from the grave. Let it be said, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the very cornerstone of the Christian faith and it is an attested event recorded in history.”
Yet, in our age of enlightenment with the scientifically-minded among sophisticated people, where very often myth has given way to science, who can believe a dead man came back to life? People ask, “Is it credible, is it believable, is there evidence—is it an actual event in human history?”
We must base our faith on facts and God’s promise—Jesus really died and Jesus really rose from the dead, that is our absolute belief. The mighty declaration that God is a God who cannot lie—Jesus promised He would rise from the dead, and it is a bold, historical fact, He did exactly that!
Let’s admit with the open Bible before us, if there was ever a situation that appeared to be beyond hope and an absolute calamity, it was when Jesus was mercilessly nailed to a tree—bleeding and dying in agony. And then taken from the cross lifeless and buried in a tomb nearby by those who loved Him most. At the grave His closest disciples were totally distraught and completely defeated—was there any doubt in their minds that the most terrible end had come? Write “hopeless” on their foreheads as they walk away with their dreams and their confidence totally shattered into a thousand pieces. The death of Jesus had left them despondent, disillusioned, and at the point of total despair. It could not, for them, have been worse. It was defeat beyond words!
But as He had promised, only three days later: the earth shook, the stone moved, and He walked out alive—God acted powerfully in that event. So the testimony was given, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose … with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead … it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:23-24, NIV)
They boldly declared to the very people who cried “Crucify him!” these words, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (Acts 3:15, NIV) At the resurrection of Jesus God proved He was still God, a powerful and mighty God, and death meant nothing to Him. There was no impossibility before such a glorious God of unlimited power! Glorious and awesome.
Which means, all Christians must now say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a wonderful idea, but a literal, true, historical fact of history. It’s then, not just a religious belief—no, it’s a dateable historical fact.
At Lenin’s Tomb in Red Square, in the coldest day one can imagine, we saw thousands of Russians walk by his embalmed body and say in Russian language, “Lenin lives,” but, no, he doesn’t, he is lying there before them! What Christian believers say is different: Jesus Christ, a victorious Lord, literally came out of the grave—He is alive, fully alive forever!
All human beings sinfully lived and died, only Jesus sinlessly died and lived. “The resurrection was an objective, historical event,” said John Stott to the world. “Indeed, it was dateable; it happened ‘on the third day.’” He adds, “The very concept of resurrection is therefore supernatural. At Christ’s resurrection the natural process of physical decomposition was not only arrested, nor even reversed, but actually superseded … the resurrection of Jesus is presented in the New Testament as the supreme manifestation of the supernatural power of God.” So it is far more than a lovely idea or a religious belief. Truth matters, and Jesus alive from the dead is truth!
Yes, it’s a fact, “God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.” (Acts 10:40, NIV) So that we proclaim, “… the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead [was declared] Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:4, NIV)
A prominent Christian historian said, “Even the more skeptical historians agree that for primitive Christianity … the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was a real event in history, the very foundation of faith and not a mythical idea arising out of the creative imagination of believers.”
If this is not true, then there is no gospel to preach. For, “if he is still dead, then … your trust in God is empty, worthless, hopeless” (I Corinthians 15:14, TLB). We declare that it is not that we faintly hope that there may be life beyond the grave. We are not saying that the thought of the living Jesus is still alive with us. It’s far beyond that—we are saying that He literally rose from the grave in His body.
Dr. Michael Green, a widely respected British theologian and an evangelist, claimed, “The appearances of Jesus are as well authenticated as anything in antiquity … There can be no rational doubt …”
And we declare with confidence that “we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.” (II Corinthians 4:14, NIV) And that is the expression of our confidence. The whole of the Christian faith depends on the truth of this! The empty grave of Christ is the cradle of our faith.
This is the loud “Amen” to all God’s promises to us. This is the hallelujah shout! Professor James S. Stewart said it well, “Christianity is essentially a religion of the resurrection.” Because of Christ we live in triumph.
But please stop and think clearly; to affirm with a mumble that the presence of Jesus is in our hearts is not the same as saying to the world, “This is an undeniable historical fact, the Jesus once crucified is the Lord Jesus resurrected.” Yes, His indwelling presence within is a continuous experience, but it’s based entirely on the resurrection as a dateable event. That glorious event declares to the world, His dead body was made alive, His tomb became empty, and the power of death was defeated! And by the resurrection of Jesus Christ the meaning of history is turned upside down.
“How we thank God for all of this! It is he who makes us victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (I Corinthians 15:57, TLB)
John Stott, whom I quoted earlier, is known worldwide as a preacher, evangelist, and communicator of Scripture. He said boldly, “… the resurrection resonates with our human condition. It speaks to our need as no other distant event does or could. It is the mainstay of Christian assurance.” He adds, “By it His body was transformed, His tomb became empty and the power of death was defeated.”
The resurrection declares, “Jesus is Lord!”
And then, one step more, the resurrection of Jesus demands not just hand applause but our heart allegiance. It does not just require the compliment of our mouth but the commitment of our life. He is Lord! As it has been said before, “Jesus is let loose on the world!”
That’s the resurrection of Jesus fully believed.