Is the resurrection of Christ important in Christian missions? Is it relevant? Is it a worthy point to study, teach, and support? I believe so. I believe it is foundational to our hope and our message.
- It Verifies God’s power. If God could raise Jesus, he could raise us. If He could not raise Jesus, how do we know that He can raise us?
- It Verifies Christ’s words. Christ’s words were thought of as blasphemous by religious leaders of the time. If Jesus was a false prophet, then his being tortured and killed in an ignominious manner would not only seem appropriate to some… but even divinely appointed. If Jesus was resurrected from the dead, it would appear to be the stamp of approval from God. Only God could raise Jesus from the dead, and presumably God would not resurrect a blasphemer and false prophet. If you think about it, there aren’t a whole lot of ways God can unambiguously demonstrate his approval of a prophet. However, if God raised Jesus from the dead, it seems pretty clear that God has decided to make Him the standard by which truth is set against.
- It verifies the Bible. If Jesus is the reliable prophet of God, His recognition of the Hebrew Scriptures as divinely inspired is important. His words are important, and the words of those He personally taught are also important. This gives the Holy Bible a status by which other words are judged against.
Do we know Jesus rose from the dead? Mohammed said he didn’t (although his words are open to interpretation in this manner). Some Jewish leaders at the time said he didn’t. Some theologians in Christian seminaries today say he didn’t. Many rationalists say he couldn’t. Why do some of us believe God raised Jesus from the dead? After all, we weren’t there.
- The Bible teaches it. This is a good reason. For 2000 years, people have found the Holy Bible to be a (or the) reliable source of knowledge and inspiration. The Bible makes it extremely clear that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the 3rd day, and then ascended to heaven. The Bible describes real events and real places. I had a chance to go to Jerusalem. I stood on the Mount of Olives and looked down at Jerusalem. I got to go through what is traditionally thought of as the Garden of Gethsemene. It even has olive trees growing in it hundreds of years old, the oldest thought to go back, perhaps, to the time of Christ. I had a chance to go within the walls of the old city of Jerusalem and walk down the Via Delarosa the path Jesus was believed to take to the Cross. I had the chance to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This place was determined by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century to be the empty tomb that had housed Jesus body.
- The death of Jesus and his time after the resurrection were public events. Hundreds of people saw Jesus die. These include many of the disciples of Jesus, his enemies, Roman soldiers (experts on death), and political leaders. He was savagely tortured in private and in public. He walked through the city for all to see slowly bleeding to death. The soldiers nailed Him to a cross on top of a hill as a public example. They drove a spear into his heart at the same public event while still daylight. The man who drove this spear into his heart was an expert in the art of death. Years later, the enemies of Christ never tried to pretend that Jesus hadn’t died… it was too public. They also did not pretend that Jesus’ body was still in the grave. This too was public knowledge. Rather, they suggested the followers of Jesus must have stolen the body. Likewise, Jesus was seen publically after his death. Paul says that over 500 people had seen Jesus risen from the dead in one event alone. He said that if you wanted to be sure, you could ask some of them since many of the witnesses were still alive. He was seen by many that knew him well. They did not simply see him. They talked to him, touched him. Ate with him. They saw him rise to heaven.
- The disciples were absolutely convinced of the resurrection of Jesus, and this radically changed their lives. Some say that the disciples could have faked the stories. But why? The disciples of Jesus, ran away into the night when Jesus was arrested. But after the death and burial of Jesus, one should expect that they would kick themselves for being tricked by a false prophet. They waited around, at least 120 of them, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. When He came upon them. They ran into the streets boldly proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. They stood before religious enemies, kings, emperors, boldly proclaiming the resurrection of Christ. They did not directly profit from the resurrection. Those who claim to rise from the dead today, get speaking engagements, get to travel the world, get to write books. The apostles of Jesus got attacked, forced into hiding, and jailed. As far as we know, all of the apostles except for John were killed for their faith. Even John spent years in prison. Yet they suffered all things for their Savior. They were absolutely convinced of the resurrection of Jesus and this radically changed their lives. For these men to be absolutely convinced, it would take absolutely convincing evidence. They did not pretend, they did not trick… they went to their deaths joyfully proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus.
- The resurrection was the focus of the early church. Some say that resurrection was added later by the church. Yet the resurrection was the central theme of the early church. In recent centuries, both Catholic and Protestant churches tended to focus on the death (or passion) of Jesus, but the early church focused on the resurrection.