Jesus resurrected from the dead?
2) issues surrounding belief
Come to me, all
you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke
upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you
will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
through the Cross is worse than damnation, because of the terrible burden
it imposes on humanity...fettering and paralyzing it with the weight of
the burden exacted through the death of Christ."
Who are we kidding?
it comes to deciding whether or not Jesus Christ actually returned to life,
there is one detail so overwhelming that it almost overshadows every other
consideration. That one detail is the implication of what resurrection
would mean if it was true. Resurrection would validate the Bible more
so than any other proof, and it would do so in this manner:
dealt with and quoted from the Old Testament as the reliable truth of God.
Jesus also promised that his Spirit would guide his apostles into all truth,
and bring back to their memory that which became the written New Testament.
one of the crowning prophecies by which the Old Testament identifies the
divine Messiah; a prophecy Jesus repeatedly applied to himself. Consequently,
Jesus' resurrection would validate the Old Testament, the New Testament,
and Jesus' personal and unique authority over life and death as Almighty
all of this means is that even before we ask ourselves if we can believe
in Jesus, we quietly ask ourselves if we want to believe. In words
attributed to Charles Darwin:
I can hardly see how
anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language
of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would
include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly
punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.
-- THINGS I DON'T WANT TO BELIEVE
we want to believe that our friends and family have or could condemn
themselves to hell just for lack of receiving Christ? Do we want
to evaluate our speech, activities, hobbies, likes and dislikes, sex lives,
public lives, and our general way of life by any standard other than our
own? Do we really want believe in the resurrection?
be honest, we all want to answer "no" to at least some of these questions
some of the time. But ever since we were toddlers and learned our first
words (like "no"), we were at some point confronted with the harsh
reality that we were not the center of the universe, were not
in control of the world, and were not going to have everything our
way. That same spiritual lesson awaits us in our adulthood.
for one, don't want to believe anyone will end up in hell. I don't even
want to believe there is pain and suffering in the world. What I want to
believe is that each and everything I do is exactly what God desires from
me. But the operative word in each of these instances is "want".
What you or I want doesn't change reality.
want to believe there was a Titanic, but there was. I don't want to believe
there was a 9-11 attack, but there was. I don't want the road to pleasing
God to be narrow and sometimes difficult, but it is.
-- WHY BELIEVE SOMETHING YOU DON'T
so few people want to thoroughly believe in the resurrection, how has it
become a focal point in Christianity?
become willing to accept truth, regardless of consequence or implication,
is one of the final barriers in the journey from unbelief to belief. This
can be very difficult, more so the older one is. However, we can take comfort
in the knowledge that certain others have struggled with this same obstacle
and persevered. Of course, I am speaking here of Jesus' very own disciples.
At one point after Jesus had conveyed the narrow requirements of true belief
and many people turned away to never follow him again, the Bible records,
"You do not want
to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him,
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe
and know that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:67-69 NIV)
other words, what Jesus' followers knew and believed about him established
their respect for him regardless of the fact that it may not have been what
most people wanted to hear. This is the identical dilemma encountered by
today's listener to the gospel.
life is a gift that God offers freely, but it's a high calling to accept
that gift. By this admission, it cannot be argued that those who believe
in the resurrection do so because it is so desirable and so in-line with
how they already think. The Bible, like reality, contains truths which are
not convenient and not always within our comfort zones.
the truth of the resurrection and its implications can be difficult; especially
for adult non-Christians who have very well defined comfort zones and established
lives. Paul refers to the pain of leaving one's old life behind when he
says he dies daily for the Lord. So it is not out of convenience, but out
of love for truth that the solemn, literal interpretation of the resurrection
is held by Christians. Many who believe in the resurrection as literal truth
do so because they cannot reasonably conclude it to be otherwise. This firm
belief in the truth of the resurrection is a literal gift from God.
-- WHO IS MOST LIKELY ACTING OUT
those who proclaim Christ be doing so more for some kind of self-interest
than anything else?
is wildly true for certain televangelists. It is also true, though to a
lesser degree, in the occasional or average church attendee. In the latter
case, the self-interest might be in being seen, wanting to feel like they're
"giving back", or for some reason just wishing to avoid the guilt
of not going.
there are a great many other self-proclaimed followers of Christ in whom
the self-interest is much less. I'm referring to those who follow Jesus'
teachings when the penalty is ridicule, job loss, or law suit. Aside from
true believers in this country, consider believers in Islamic nations or
China. These are well known persecutors of Christian converts and practitioners
(as was Stalinist Russia). A study, purportedly sanctioned by the U.S. Congress,
found that more people have been martyred for Christianity in the twentieth-century
than in all previous centuries combined.
would have been the vested interest of the early church in proclaiming Christ?
to the resurrection and the first and second generation Christians were
not trying to look good, be popular, or establish a television empire by
proclaiming Jesus as the risen Christ. Upon this proclamation, some were
being fed to the lions in the Roman Coliseum while others burned alive as
torches to light Nero's garden at night. That was the degree of their certainty
in the resurrection of Jesus Christ: believing he rose from the dead when
the penalty for believing was horrible death.
all this, it seems clear that it is the position yielding the most obvious
pleasure and immediate convenience that should be considered the one most
suspect of having a vested self-interest.
position is the one that says, "Christ did not literally rise from the dead
nor is there much literal truth in the Bible. Therefore I can acknowledge
life on my own terms and in the end it will all work out...somehow."
tendency in choosing a position on Christ and the Bible is like electricity
- we seek the path of least resistance. Wherever we are in life, however
we are living, trying to accommodate the historical reality of Christ with
our status quo always tends to bias us towards the most lenient and sometimes
even licentious interpretations we can find. This is why no one - not us,
nor our friends, nor relatives, nor professors, nor experts of any kind
are in a position to take a neutral it-doesn't-affect-me stance on the resurrection
and divinity of Jesus Christ.
NEXT: Was Jesus resurrected from
the dead? - part three
What do we know about Jesus from
Do miracles really happen?