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Resurrection Faith (Part 3)
During His ministry, Jesus often made references to His impending death but the disciples, apparently so consumed with their own agenda for Jesus, missed the meaning of Jesus' words. Thus, when He was crucified, it caught them totally off guard. They could not comprehend what had happened. They were confused, hurt, utterly discouraged, depressed and defeated. All the Gospels testify to the depressed, unexpectant mood of the disciples after Jesus' death.
The women who went to the tomb prepared to embalm Jesus' body were obviously expecting Jesus' body to be there and were thoroughly discombobulated when they discovered He was not there. Two men appeared to them and reminded them that Jesus had risen just as He had foretold. Luke tells us that when the women told the disciples of their experience at the tomb and that Jesus had risen, the disciples thought they were talking foolishness (24:11). Matthew states that on the occasion of Christ's meeting with His followers in Galilee, they saw Him and some still doubted (18:17).
Yet, it is exactly because the disciples did not understand Jesus, confused by His death and not expecting the resurrection that we know that something dramatic and earth shattering had to have taken place to create in them a faith that believed Jesus was alive - resurrection faith.
Christians everywhere believe and affirm that what happened was the disciples personal eye witness of the risen Lord. Even though the disciples (and others) did not actually see Jesus rise from the tomb; they did not see His mortal physical body transformed and rise as immortal and spiritual and they do not make this claim. But, what they do claim is that they did see Him after He had risen. And it is because they saw Him as the risen Christ that their lives were changed; so much so that they were willing to sacrifice their lives in His name and for His sake.
The apostle Paul hangs the entire corpus of Christian truth and eschatological hope on the factuality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some disbelievers in the resurrection suggest the plausibility of one being able to doubt the historical actuality of the resurrection and still believe in God as the creator and sustainer of the world. However, Paul fiercefully maintains that if Jesus in not raised, we are misrepresenting God; in fact, the entire Bible is misrepresenting God.
If Jesus is not raised:
- Redemptive history ends in a cul-de-sac.
Without the living Jesus Christ, the Christian faith would have been destroyed by the crucifixion and in the return of the apostles to the synagogue and to Judaism all of His teachings would have been buried under the rubble of oblivion.
But as people witnessed the resurrection, something happened to them. Something happened to create a faith so strong that men and women were willing to devote their lives to preaching Christ Jesus, by any means necessary and whatever the personal cost.
Peter, who denied Him three times, stood outside the upper room preaching Christ boldly. James, the skeptic, assumed a position of leadership in the Jerusalem church. He was transformed from a non-believer to a believer. Nicodemus who approached Jesus at midnight desiring to know what he must do to be saved, now proclaims, "This must have been the Son of God." Thomas, who refused to believe unless he saw Jesus for himself, after seeing Him cried out, "My Lord and my God."
Lives were and are changed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus stepped forth from the grave, leaving the grave clothes behind. He stepped out in new life, in new strength, and in new power.
Christian believers accept the Biblical witness to the resurrection, not because of logical proof; not because of historical reasoning but because of an inner testimony of the gospel. Our faith is not in history - but in God who acts in history. The Christian faith is resurrection faith.
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. http://www.clergyservices4u.org. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, will be available in July.
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