4/03/2010

THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION

The Christian belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is not blind faith. In fact, there is more empirical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus than for any other event in ancient history. This is because there were numerous eyewitnesses who saw Him, talked with Him and ate with Him both before and after His death and resurrection. The first person to whom He appeared after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene, but then to the Twelve, to others and, on one occasion, to over 500 at one time of whom, according to Paul, most were still alive at the time of his writing his 1st letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 15:6). The testimonies of these primary, first-hand witnesses are recorded in the 4 gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Not a Myth

Some, of course, refuse to accept the historical facts and claim that these stories are myths fabricated by followers of Jesus who wanted to deify Him. If this were the case, then those who created these myths were literary geniuses beyond anything we can imagine, for they created a person and a narrative that changed the course of human history and continues to move millions to forsake everything to follow this so-called mythological figure they created.

This reminds me of C.S. Lewis, an agnostic professor of Renaissance Literature at Oxford University, who exposed the shallow claims concerning the mythological character of the New Testament. Lewis was an expert in mythological literature and he tells of his astonishment the first time he read the gospels. His surprised response was, “This is not myth!” Lewis, of course, became a believer and an astute apologist for Christianity. It was at this time that higher criticism was being popularized in seminaries in Germany and certain theologians, such as Rudolph Bultman, were claiming that the New Testament accounts of Jesus, His miracles and His resurrection were myths created by His followers. Lewis replied, “I would like to know how many myths these people have read!” Lewis went on to explain that he had been a long-time professor and critic of mythological literature and knew how a myth sounded and felt, “And the gospel story is not myth!”

Ours is Not a Blind Faith

Yes, the evidence is there for those who are willing lay aside their prejudices and open themselves to truth and the Holy Spirit. This evidence includes, not only the eyewitness accounts, but also consideration of questions such as how the earliest disciples of Jesus were suddenly transformed from cowering individuals to bold witnesses willing to lay down their lives for their testimony of Christ and His resurrection? And why didn’t the Jewish and Roman leaders in Jerusalem, who tried to suppress the new Jesus movement, produce His body, display it publicly and, thereby, put an end to the preaching about the resurrection of Jesus? Many skeptics have been convinced of the resurrection of Jesus Christ by being willingly to lay aside their prejudices and honestly examine this sort of evidence.

A Harvard Law Professor is Convinced

For example, Dr. Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) was the Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University and one of the principle founders of the Harvard Law School. He authored the famous three-volume work, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which is still considered one of the greatest single authorities on judicial legal procedure. Greenleaf originally set out to disprove the biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, believing that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would reveal the myths at the heart of Christianity. Instead, this legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were reliable, and that the resurrection did in fact happen. As a result he became a believer and wrote a book entitled, An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice. Greenleaf concluded that, according to the jurisdiction of legal evidence, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best-supported event in all of ancient history.

A British Lawyer is Convinced

A brilliant young British lawyer, Frank Morrison, decided that he would write a book showing that, based on the testimony of the eyewitnesses, Jesus Christ could not have risen from the dead. Unfamiliar with the earlier work of Greenleaf, Morrison’s plan was to examine and compare the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the same way he would examine and cross-examine the testimonies of witnesses in a court of law. He felt confident that by doing so he would be able to show that their testimonies could not be corroborated. His book was never written for in the process of examining the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection and the questions raised by such an examination, he too became convinced that Jesus did, indeed, rise from the dead. Instead of a book disproving the resurrection he wrote a book entitled, Who Moved the Stone?, demonstrating, from a lawyer’s perspective, convincing proof that Jesus did rise from the dead.

The Foundation of Our Faith

The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith. If He did not rise from the dead, then His birth, His life and even His miracles are void of meaning. However, He did rise from the dead just as He predicted, giving meaning to all of life. His resurrection is the guarantee that everything else He promised, such as eternal life and His personal return, will also be fulfilled.

The Same Power that Raised Jesus
From the Dead is at Work in the Believer

According to Paul, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in the believer. He clearly spells this out in Ephesians 1:15-23 where He says that the same power that broke the power of sin, Satan and death on that first resurrection morning is the same power at work in you and me. Paul says that this resurrection power, not only brought Jesus out of the tomb, but raised Him to the pinnacle of the universe far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named both in this world and that which is to come. In 1:19 Paul makes the point that this same power is in us by using the Greek preposition eis, which the NKJV translates as “toward” and the NIV as “in.” It literally means “into.” In other words, that same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the pinnacle of the universe (the right hand of God) is now directed “into” us.

You see, there was a great cosmic shift in the spiritual realm when Jesus was raised from the dead. Satan was absolutely defeated. Sad to day, many Christians are still relating to the devil from an Old Testament perspective, and even formulating concepts of spiritual warfare that are based on the Old Testament. Don’t let anyone tell you that you do not have authority over Satan and all demonic forces!! This also means that you do not have to run here and there looking for an impartation from a preacher, a revival, a relic or a shrine. You already have something in you that is far more wonderful—the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Knowing this is a key to victory over the world the flesh and devil now, in this life.

The Resurrection is Personified in Jesus

In Jesus, the resurrection became personified. When Jesus discussed with Mary and Martha the death of their brother Lazarus, He made the statement, I Am the resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25). During one of the darkest periods of my life when it seemed that a vision God had given me had died, I heard Him say to me, “Don’t be afraid of death, because I Am the Resurrection.”

At this time of the year—and all during the year—let’s remember that the resurrection is a reality and is a person—Jesus Christ—Who is living in you. Yes, at some future point in time He will raise from the dead all those who have trusted in Him. However, His resurrection power is at work in us now and will, through the Holy Spirit, resurrect hopes and dreams and give meaning to all areas of our lives. Rom. 5:10 says, For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His [resurrection] life.