Lucas Cranach, The Risen Christ (1558)
Yesterday churches of all denominations across America were filled to overflowing with worshipers, singing hymns like “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and hearing white-robed ministers proclaim, “Jesus is Alive!” Although the holy day we call Easter was unknown in New Testament times, the message of the resurrection was at the heart of Christian preaching because it was (and is) the central miracle of the Christian faith. The Apostles Creed says, “On the third day he rose again.” The Baptist Faith and Message states, “He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to his disciples as the person who was with them before his crucifixion.” Perhaps the earliest written account of the resurrection, even earlier than the gospels, comes down to us from the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Cor. 15:3-8)
Despite its venerable pedigree the belief that Jesus rose bodily from the grave is not universally accepted. Protestant theologian Shubert Ogden quipped that “the bodily resurrection of the Jesus would be just as relevant to my salvation . . . as that the carpenter next door just drove a nail in a two-by-four, or that American technicians have at last been successful in recovering a nose cone that had first been placed in orbit around the earth” (Christ Without Myth, 136). The Bible disagrees. Again, Paul: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). Simply put: No resurrection, no salvation.
What difference does the resurrection make to those who have lost a job or a spouse? How does the story of Easter speak to those who are sick or traumatized? If we have been deeply disappointed and our dreams have disappeared, does Jesus rising from the dead change anything? So what if Jesus rose again when I am broken and hurting? What does it do for me? Everything.
Not only does the resurrection give us hope of future salvation, but it assures us that Jesus is now alive. And if Jesus is now alive, he is there for us . . . not just in the sweet by and by but in the not-so-sweet here and now. I serve a risen Savior. Do you?