Risen #1

An Unbeliever Looks at the Resurrection

Published on 11th April 2016
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by Andrew Consiglio - Leader and Director of Youth Fellowship

The famous conqueror of the ancient world, Alexander the Great one day came across the philosopher Diogenes. Diogenes was staring attentively at a heap of bones. “What are you looking for?” asks Alexander. “Something that I cannot find” replied Diogenes. “And what might that be?” “The difference between your father’s bones and those of his slaves”

We all one day will face death – not just that of others but our own! But for human beings, death for is unnatural because we were designed to be eternal. Even in today’s society which has no use for God, or to live with an eternal perspective in mind, most people still do not wish death to be the end. It is not uncommon today that children are told that when their loved ones die, they become angles or stars.

The Word of God makes it very clear: death was not God’s original plan; it is the wage we pay for sin. It is the physical manifestation of fallen man’s separation from Life, from God. The Word of God makes it very clear: death was not God’s original plan.

Matthew 28:1-15

Maybe you do not count yourself an one of the unbelievers who still holds to the ‘widely circulated’ fabricated story. Maybe you really believe in the resurrection of Jesus. However it could also be that sometimes we live as if Jesus’ resurrection was of no importance to us, just as an unbeliever does.

Let’s say it as it is: There is only one way to be saved: faith in Jesus Christ and what He accomplished in His Death and Resurrection. The Word of God says:

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
(Rom. 10:9)

That is why baptism is so pivotal and discipleship vital.

But what can we say about Jesus’ Resurrection and what are the implications for us?

1. Jesus’ Resurrection was not Resuscitation

We have lots of accounts of people dying and being resuscitated eg. near death experiences. In the Gospel we read of people being supernaturally given life back e.g. Lazzarus – but these are not resurrections because they all eventually died again.

Only one man died, and rose and never experienced death again: He is Jesus Christ. You will see therefore in the resurrection narratives a lot of emphasis is placed on the fact that Jesus is not a ghost, or a resuscitated corpse and the resurrection appearances are not dreams, visions or hallucinations – but Jesus actually eats, can be touched and interacts fully with His disciples.

For us, the implication is that if Jesus really rose, then that proves that what He said is perfectly true: He is God, He is the  Lord! And of that is the case, then we need to listen to Him, to follow Him and to be renewed by Him. He tells us

‘I am the Resurrection and the life’
( Jn 11:25)

It also means that His resurrection is a prototype of our own resurrection

2. Jesus’ Resurrection is Historically Credible

Is the account of the death and resurrection credible because it is in the Bible? Yes. But more than that it is in the Bible because it is credible. What makes it credible?

Witnesses have always carried a lot of weight and the more witnesses the weightier the testimony. Besides the 11 resurrection episodes we find in the Scripture, we read this:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 1Cor. 15:8

500 people couldn’t invent a myth.. Our faith lies in the credibility of the most important historical fact that has ever taken place: Jesus resurrection which took place in Jerusalem. It is so important that without it we would be still lost in our sins:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins’
(1 Cor 15:17)

And speaking about witnesses, there is a detail which really counters the idea that this was an invented story. If you want to invent a story make your witnesses as credible as possible and don’t put women as the first witnesses of the resurrection.

The natural thing for someone making up a legend about the empty tomb would have been to have credited the discovery to men, not women. Legend makers do not normally invent positively unhelpful material (Fr Gerald Collins in Hear O Islands p.188)

For us the implication is that even though, unlike the disciples and the 500 we did not see Jesus, He tells us:

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed
(John 20:29)

How do we see him? In prayer, the Eucharist and the Word, in the Christian community.
We need to constantly walk with Him and never lose hope or let discouragement set in.

3. Jesus’ Resurrection Transforms Us

Variants of conspiracy theories abound. Some say Jesus fled to India and others that he ran away to Egypt where He married the goddess ISIS. In any case, according to these theories the disciples faked the resurrection all the way. But that is crazy. When John wrote His gospel, decades has passed after Jesus’ resurrection and many of his friends has been martyred. Indeed St Paul told the Governor Felix:

It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’”
(Acts 24:21)

To save themselves all they had to do was tell the truth. Who would die for a lie? They had no material gain but eternal life.

The implication for us is that the transformation of the disciples, and ours, is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection. This transformation was possible through the inner power of the Holy Spirit who we receive and will receive again in Pentecost.

In Conclusion

“I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”
Mark Twain

Mark Twain believed that the after-life would be no different than the before-life = non-existence. How mistaken he was. Its no longer a question of existence versus non-existence. Instead, it becomes a question of the quality of one’s existence: heaven or hell.

For this reasons we need to live with the eternal perspective in our hearts and minds. There is judgement, there is hell and there is heaven. The way we live our lives indeed has eternal consequences!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
(Rev 21:3-4)