05 April 2012

Ground Zero, Part 2

Dear God help me, is there something that I’m missing?
Well, there was, and it 
changed everything for me. What was it? Just this: that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. If that much is true, then everything else is secondary. If Jesus really rose from the dead, then I don’t have to solve every conundrum to have a robust, confident faith; I don’t have to feel a certain way to be assured of my fate; I don’t even have to have an inerrant Bible. If Jesus Christ really rose from the dead, then my biggest question is answered.

Why am I a Christian? Because Jesus rose from the dead. This is my ground zero, the same ground that rooted the faith of the very first Christians. It’s all there in 1 Corinthians 15.
I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received...

that Christ died...
It really happened. Four gospels, multiple letters, and historians like Tacitus, Pliny, and Suetonius all agree: Jesus died. His heart stopped. His eyes closed. His breath left.

and that he was buried...
Buried by the unlikely figure of Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the very council that called for Jesus’ death.
and that he was raised...
The people of the ancient world saw more of death than most of us, so they certainly didn’t need modern medicine to tell them that dead people stay dead. 

and that he appeared...
Why did Peter turn from the coward who denied the living Jesus, to the apostle who went to his death proclaiming the lordship of the crucified Jesus? Why did the rest of the disciples not fade back into the woodwork as did all the other followers of failed would-be messiahs? Why did Paul draw his readers’ attention to the experience of 500 eyewitnesses, most of whom were still alive and available to be questioned? Why is it that James, the brother of Jesus, disbelieved in him while he was alive, but believed in him so strongly after his death that according to the historian Josephus, he was stoned for proclaiming his brother as Lord?

Why did Paul turn from hunting Christians as blasphemers to giving everything to make their cause grow, through poverty, whippings, shipwreck and execution? Why? Because in Paul’s words, 

He appeared also to me.

The historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection changes everything. It means that when I come to the New Testament, I come to a collection of documents that bear witness to the experience of those who saw and heard and died for the risen Lord. It means I have a preview of my fate after death, embedded right there in eye-witness testimony. It means that this faith is not some imaginary fort in which to hide away from fear, but a staging point for great deeds and great thoughts, all grounded in history.

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. But, in fact, he has been raised from the dead: the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

That’s all that death is for those who are in Christ: a closing of the eyes into a sleep from which we will awaken to the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, as though it were only yesterday. So then, my Christian comrades, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of our Lord, knowing that in him, our labor is not in vain, but rooted in the fertile soil of well-grounded hope.


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