Christ has Risen! He has risen indeed; praise be to God! We joyfully shouted those words out on Easter morning as we gathered for our sunrise service, and again as we gathered for our morning worship service, and truthfully and rightly so. For Jesus Christ has indeed risen from the grave, death could not keep Him in that tomb. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important (f)act that every single Christian, everywhere, for all time, finds as the foundation for our faith and our beliefs.
The Apostle Paul actually had some very strong words about the resurrection, note in his letter to the Corinthian church; “now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are misrepresenting God…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:12-20) (Bold mine)
It is an unfortunate reality however, that there are many, self-proclaimed Christians, who deny this reality. Just this week in a post from the NY Times, protestant minister and president of Union Theological Seminary, Serene Jones was interviewed for an Easter Sunday edition. This was her response to a question about the validity of the resurrection; “There’s no resurrection story in Mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves.” When pressed by the interviewer about no resurrection she added these pearls; “the message of Easter is that love is stronger than life or death. That’s a much more awesome claim that they put Jesus in the tomb and three days later he wasn’t there…what if tomorrow they found the body of Jesus still in the tomb? Would that then mean that Christianity was a lie?”
Ummm, yes Ms. Jones, that would indeed mean that Christianity was a lie. And I am pretty sure that Peter, John, James, Thomas, Paul and the rest of the Disciples who ultimately experienced a martyr’s death for the sake of their Lord Jesus, were not, as you so eloquently put it, “kidding themselves”. Jesus warned His listeners at the Sermon on the Mount to “beware false prophets, who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” John warned the early churches in his 1st letter that there would be those who “went out from us, but were not of us; for if they would have been of us, they would have continued with us.”
We exclaim Christ is Risen because He truly has. There is no symbolism, allegory, literary manipulation or whatever you might want it to be. No other option exists that has any credibility or viability. As C.S. Lewis once stated; “Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or He was who He said He was.” Lewis’ was in essence summing up a brilliant argument that had actually been set forth a century earlier by Scotch Christian “Rabbi” John Duncan who formulated what he called a “trilemma.”
Duncan’s argument in its basic form went like this;
Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.
In 1936, Watchman Nee mad a similar argument in his book, Normal Christian Faith. He exclaimed this trilemma in this way;
First, if he claims to be God and yet in fact is not, he has to be a madman or a lunatic.
Second, if he is neither God nor a lunatic, he has to be a liar, deceiving others by his lie.
Third, if he is neither of these, he must be God.
If you do not believe that he is God, you have to consider him a madman.
If you cannot take him for either of the two, you have to take him for a liar.
There is no reason for us to prove if Jesus of Nazareth is God or not. All we have to do is find out if He is a lunatic or a liar. If He is neither, He must be the Son of God.
It is not enough that Satan continues his attempts to silence Christians, all one has to do is turn on the news on any given day, note the senseless bombings on Easter morning in Sri Lanka which targeted churches with practicing Christians. No, that is not enough for him, he must also infiltrate Christianity at its very core with false doctrines being spewed from mouths of false teachers. In the case of Serene Jones, she is influencing countless future Pastors, Missionaries, and church leaders.
It is for this very reason that my job is one that involves a great responsibility to build all of you up in your faith. In this rapidly declining society, perhaps now more than ever should we give careful consideration to Paul’s instruction to Timothy; “preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths”. (2 Tim. 4:1-4)
Let us not just exclaim that He has risen on Easter Sunday, instead let it be your cry of salvation every morning when you get up out of bed! Without the resurrection, we are of all people most to be pitied!