From the Halls of Montezuma... or Jerusalem?

1 Corinthians 15:17-23 NLT - And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. 20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. 21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the chief hinge upon which the Christian faith swings.  Everything rises (no pun) and falls on the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection.  Christianity alone among religious views sets itself up as provable or falsifiable based on the validity of this one historical event.  Popular and scholarly defenses of the resurrection of Christ are widely available for study (most notably, scholars such as Gary Habermas and N.T. Wright).  Simply put, if it is reasonable to conclude that Christ rose from the dead the third day, then Biblical Christianity is objectively true and all other religions and beliefs are necessarily false.  If Christ did NOT rise from the dead (literally, bodily in time-space history), then Biblical Christianity is false and Christians are liars who deserve to be pitied for their beliefs (no matter how nice they may be).  This was the position of the Apostle Paul.  Of course Paul had the unique distinction of being an unbelieving persecutor of Christians who happened to be persuaded of the truth of Christianity because the resurrected Christ appeared to him and corrected him!  In history, this would be considered a “hostile witness” - one whose account is not a friendly or positive support but an unwilling source.

For those of us Christians who are parents of younger children, we have an obligation to help our kids understand that our belief system is objectively true - that it corresponds to the way things really are.  This does not mean that we have to be experts at the historicity of the Bible or the exact age of the universe.  Nor does it mean that we must have a perfect understanding of the Godhead or how to interpret every bit of the Book of Revelation.  I wish every parent did have a solid knowledge of such subjects, but the bottom line is that the foundation of our Christian faith is a Person - specifically One whose resurrection verifies His identity, teachings, and positions.  Whatever teaching aids, methods, videos, etc., that we can use to remind our children of the fact of Christ’s resurrection is valuable.  When my kids were younger, I simply rewrote a song I liked to convey the reason why we are Christians.  Though not the most theologically smooth nor lyrically artistic, my re-write of the Marine Corps Hymn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGJuBj08Tmo) became a staple to sing in the car or around the house.  Why?  Not because I disrespect the USMC, but because I want my children to remember why Christ resurrected is so key - and I think the melody of the Marine Corps Hymn is inspirational.  Nobody has to utilize this as there are better teaching tools, but for a fun example, let me share the lyrics and teaching points as an example here:

Even though Christ’s tomb was guarded

And sealed by order of Rome

Enemies admit it was empty

Despite a guarded, one-ton stone

Christ appeared first to the women

After dying on His cross

Women’s testimony was worthless then

Writing this didn’t help the cause

Teaching points:

  • Christ’s tomb was securely guarded by either Roman soldiers or the Jewish Temple Guard, either of whom would be exceedingly motivated to keep it secure since allowing the unauthorized breaking the Roman seal on the tomb was punishable by death.

  • The earliest enemies of the Church acknowledged the empty tomb of Christ almost immediately.

  • The apostles’ written record of women as the first eyewitnesses of the resurrection (while they hid in fear) was the sort of embarrassing testimony that would never have been included in a false story.  

  • Even Paul’s defense of eyewitness testimony in 1 Corinthians 15 left the women off the list as it was inadmissible.

Christ appeared to 500 brethren

With two very special guys

James and Paul were unbelievers

Changed by the Risen Christ

These non-Christians had rejected

Jesus’ ministry before

They became preachers then martyrs

Once they met the Risen Lord

Teaching points:

  • Jesus appeared alive to over 500 men within 40 days after His most undeniable and historically-confirmed death at the hands of professional Roman executioners.

  • Christ’s half-brother, James - and Paul, were both initially unbelievers who had rejected Jesus as Messiah prior to His resurrection appearances to each of them.  These two hostile witnesses are key in confirming the truth of the historical resurrection account.  Eventually, both James and Paul were martyred.

Those earliest eyewitnesses

Proclaimed the Risen Christ

Choosing loss, torture, and murder

Instead of lying to save their lives

For a lie of one’s own making

None would ever choose to die

And all those early Christians

Chose to die and not deny

Teaching points:

  • Most of the earliest disciples who were eyewitnesses of the resurrection (or disciples of those who were eyewitnesses) suffered the loss of all things, including their lives, rather than deny Jesus as risen Lord.

  • Though various people throughout history have been deceived into believing lies for which they would die, the early disciples were in the unique position of knowing whether or not the resurrection was true.  

  • If it were not, that means they would be intentionally promoting a lie they knew they had made up - and that all would be willing to go their separate ways and be tortured to death rather than admit the group lie.  Practically and psychologically, this simply does not happen.  

  • People may die for a lie they have wrongly believed but not for one they know they themselves made up.  The horrific deaths that the early disciples gladly embraced (after hiding at first) is reasonable evidence in support of the resurrection of Christ since they claimed this as their motivation.  The disciples had absolutely no motivation for lying about the resurrection and everything to lose, unless it happened.

In the city of Jerusalem

After only 50 days

Jews who’d called to crucify The Lord

Got baptized in Jesus’ name

They all knew where He’d been buried

His rising, not denied

3000 Jews then joined the Church

Seven weeks after Jesus died

Teaching points:

  • The explosive birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost defies explanation apart from the resurrection of Christ.  The belief in Jesus as divine, risen Lord was the earliest belief of the Church - not a later legend.  Without the resurrection being a fact, explaining the historical establishment of the Christian Church is illogical if not impossible.  

  • Monotheistic Jews (whose Law placed a curse on those who die on a tree) begin a new world religion based on the worship of a Man who had been humiliatingly executed just seven weeks earlier?  

  • And the first 3000 converts included more monotheistic Jews, including those who had called for the Man’s execution in the first place?  

  • Also, the public notoriety of the executed Man meant that everyone in the city knew where His tomb was located - meaning if He were still dead in the grave, it was easy to prove.  Not only did they not try to prove it, but they also knew for a fact that His tomb was empty.

  • Practically and historically, there is no logical explanation that explains the birth of Christianity - in the city where its Founder was executed just 50 days later with the first converts being those who called for His execution and who were aware of the location of His tomb.  

  • Oh, and to worship a Man was contrary to their deeply he'd religious convictions.  How did this happen where it did and when it did among whom it did?  

  • Either the resurrection best explains why or something else ties all the facts together better.  Almost 2000 years later such a better explanation has yet to be promoted.  The resurrection is the most reasonable explanation of the facts.

Now for those of us alive today

We have confidence in this

Our faith’s based on the Risen Christ

Not a feeling or a wish

Resurrection beats all arguments

Of religion in our day

The one true faith and path to God

Confesses Christ - the only way!

As much as this last stanza violates the dogma of our world that wrongly supports all religious beliefs as equally valid and wrongly considers religious truth claims as mere preferences or opinions rather than objective truth, the fact is this - the resurrection of Christ is the game-changer, the mic drop, the walk-off home run.  Regardless of all the squabbles among those of various beliefs, holy writings, or other ideas, Christ rising from the dead ends the ultimate discussion and demonstrates where everyone must eventually turn in order to be right with God.  It is the authority of the One who rose from the dead, not our opinions or preferences, that makes all the difference.  Christ - the resurrected Lord, Savior, Messiah:  He is… Always Faithful.  Let us be likewise to Him.