(38) . . . he rose again from the dead

The evidence for Christ’s resurrection lies all around me in things that can be traced away back through history to find their meaning and explanation in the reality of Christ’s rising.

The Lord’s Day, Sunday, the first day of the week, became a special day of worship for the Jewish disciples, who had always emphasized the seventh day according to the fourth commandment. Only a tremendous event like the resurrection could have driven them to change their emphasis. We follow their lead and still observe the Lord’s Day.

The Christian church, which has always been an utterly unique thing among the religions of the world, could neither have begun nor spread without the resurrection. This most remarkable social phenomenon of all time could not be sensibly or satisfactorily explained if Jesus did not rise from the dead. The resurrection was central in the church’s message from the beginning, well before the Gospel stories about the risen Jesus were written. The apostles were respected as authorities because they were the witnesses of the resurrection. It was Christ’s rising that turned those beaten, cowardly disciples into brave proclaimers of the resurrection, though their message upset every system of human thinking. They risked dying for their message because their resurrection-Lord could rescue them even in death. They went out into the world with everything to lose and nothing to gain, just to tell the world that Christ was risen. My church would not be here today if Jesus had not risen.

The Lord’s Supper, beginning in the earliest church, has always told of a Lord who died with a broken body and shed blood. But the Supper is to be served “until he comes.” The one who was dead must be alive if we are to have communion with him and if he is to return. The Lord’s Supper is another witness to the resurrection.

Baptism into the Lord’s death and resurrection would never have begun in the early church if Christ had not risen. John’s baptism would have been enough. Only after he had risen did Jesus command his disciples to baptize.

The cross, like a gallows, was originally the sign of disgrace, defeat, and death. Because Christ arose it came to be a symbol of triumphant victory and life. So it will ever be.

The letters of Saul of Tarsus tell how he persecuted Christians but became convinced that Christ had risen. He collected a list of the times the risen Jesus had reappeared to his followers (1 Corinthians 15). As Paul, the missionary, he outpreached and outwrote the apostles on the subject of the resurrection, years before the Gospels were written. His writings, even if taken merely as historical documents, are a testimony to Jesus’ rising by one of Christ’s former enemies.

The Gospels with Jesus’ big claims and big promises would neither have been written nor preserved if Jesus had not risen. His disillusioned followers would have debunked him instead of proclaiming him Lord of all. The New Testament does not and cannot explain the resurrection. But the resurrection certainly explains the existence of the New Testament.

I believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Theories which try to explain away the resurrection always contradict one another and are altogether unfounded and inadequate. Christ’s resurrection is like a spear pointed at the stubborn heart of an unbeliever.