Sunrise, A Prayer of Hope by Thomas Kinkade (Jan. 19, 1958 – Apr. 6, 2012)
I often ask my history students the question, So what? I tell them it’s not enough to regurgitate facts about the past: the Who? What? When? Where? I teach them to look for the significance of people and events: the So what? On final exams I sometimes include an extra credit essay with the following simple prompt: History—So what? On this Easter Sunday, I want to apply this question to the central miracle of Christianity: The Resurrection of Jesus—So What?
Does it really matter whether Jesus rose bodily from the grave? If he died and remained dead, he’s still one of the greatest figures of history. He still taught profound moral and spiritual truths: Turn the other cheek. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. His life still inspired a great religion—the largest in number of adherents. Maybe Christianity doesn’t depend on the literal truth of the resurrection. Perhaps we can believe the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith without the resurrection tying the two together. Maybe Jesus’ spirit lives on in glory, while his body remains in a tomb.
The same Bible that tells us about Jesus being raised from the dead—in all four Gospels and the Epistles—teaches the necessity of the resurrection for the Christian faith. This miracle forms the core of our religion. It’s the sine qua non, the indispensable element. Consider what happens if you take away the resurrection from Christianity.
If Christ is not raised, then . . .
- Jesus was wrong when he predicted his death and resurrection (John 2:19-21)
- The preaching of the apostles was false, since they emphasized the truth of the resurrection in their sermons in the Book of Acts
- The promised return of Christ and coming Kingdom are fantasies without the possibility of fulfillment
- Redemptive history ends in the cul-de-sac of a Palestinian grave
- St. Paul’s desire to know Christ in the “power of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:10) was a delusion
- There will be no resurrection for us at the end of the world, since Jesus is the “first fruits” of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23) and his resurrection is the foreshadowing and promise of our own
- Justification is not possible, as Paul says Christ “was delivered for our offenses, and was raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25)
- Our faith is pointless and we have no remedy for our sins; Paul writes, “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17)
The Good News is that the opposite is also true. If Christ is risen, then Jesus was right, and so were his apostles. If Christ is risen, then we have the hope of his Second Coming and our own resurrection. If Christ is risen, then redemptive history has meaning and direction. If Christ is risen, then our faith is not pointless and we have a remedy for our sins. If Christ is risen, then he can receive our worship and hear our prayers.
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, because the Bible teaches it, the creeds and confessions of the church proclaim it, and my experience of faith confirms it. Because I believe it, I can sing on this Resurrection Day:
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!