I have benefitted tremendously over the years from apologists who’ve offered rock-solid evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. The proofs they’ve shared never cease to be exciting and encouraging — not only for the tools they can become during conversations with those who haven’t yet come to faith, but also when my own faith needs a boost.
Pastor Scott’s Easter message offered another kind of proof and evidence that’s equally important: What does Jesus’ rising from the dead 2,000-plus years ago mean for us on a practical level? Nuts and bolts. Day to day. Where the rubber meets the road.
To start we looked at the words of three individuals in the Bible who share our faith: Peter, Paul, and John.
We know from Scripture that while Peter arguably possessed the most faith of any of Christ’s initial disciples, he also ended up denying his master three times following Jesus’ arrest — and after having proclaimed him the son of God when his friends still had doubts. But later when the 12 got word on the third day that Jesus wasn’t in his tomb any longer, Peter ran with John to the place where Jesus had been laid to rest, charged past John right into the empty sepulcher, and immediately believed! Jesus’ resurrection was everything to Peter — as it should be for us. He even began his first letter telling us that God the Father’s mercy made us “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
As Pastor Scott emphasized, those two words that make up part of the name of our church — “living hope” — offer infinitely more than human, false hope. Those who hope to “feel better” through drugs and alcohol, sexual immorality, rebellion — and even through what may seem like righteousness through monetary offerings, baptism, membership, and service at church — are relying on false hopes. In the end what we strive for and hope for in our frail humanity doesn’t come close to Christ’s living hope, which is way bigger and more powerful than what we can possibly fathom. It’s time to let our false hopes go!
Now Paul came to faith in a completely different way than Peter — and in fact began making a reputation for himself not as an evangelist but as a persecutor of Christians. But one day God literally knocked this very learned Pharisee right off his high horse and blinded him — and all so he ultimately could see Jesus. Soon Paul was traversing the known world with the gospel message — and with the same energy he formerly exuded to persecute believers in Christ. But while Paul didn’t see the resurrected Jesus in the flesh like Peter did, he knew the event came to pass because Jesus literally spoke to him and told him what he must do in his name. And that kind of power compelled Paul to write the following in the first chapter of his letter to the Philippians:
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Think about it: Raising someone from the dead takes a kind of explosive power no human being possesses. A supernatural strength that can only come from God. Yet that kind of otherworldly power is at our disposal right now when we ask the Lord to help and guide us! No more guilt or regret, either. Christ’s forgiveness washes all of that away with the same force that raised him from the dead. Losses, disappointments, dead dreams and visions? Give them over to Jesus and watch him bring those dead things back to life! So indispensable was Christ’s resurrection that Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15, that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” In other words, worthless. Rubbish. To be pitied. But since Jesus has been raised, our faith is constantly empowered with his power.
Then we looked at John — author of one of the four Gospels along with other New Testament writings — and we were reminded through John’s recollections after Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, he proclaimed that “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live …”
Which brought us to the other immensely practical element of Jesus’ resurrection: Life.
As Pastor Scott shared, there are three forms of the word “life” in the Ancient Greek language found in the New Testament — and they all represent different levels of life. The first level represents “life” as a child understands it: What are my wants right now and how can I get them? The second level is what parents often find themselves in when corralling their kids: How can best act responsibly with my children for their ultimate and best benefit? But interestingly, the word “life” in the latter verse isn’t either of those forms in the Greek. No, it’s a form of the word “life” that denotes another dimension of thought — a spiritual level of “life” that has us asking how God fits into everyday events. In other words, this is the kind of life Jesus died and rose again to usher us into!
But still the Lord doesn’t simply want to grant us eternal life and then ignore our lives in the here and now as if they don’t matter. He also wants you and me, as Paul records in Romans 12:2, to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Jesus wants us to change the way we think so that more and more we’ll be transformed from the inside out — and not at some distant point in the future, but right now.
As you ponder Jesus’ resurrection from the dead this Easter, remember that his rising gives us a “living hope” that will never pass away, power that this world cannot comprehend, and the highest level of life that we can know. And it’s right here for all of us as we humbly call upon his name.