• Matters of utmost importance

    I told you the most important part of the message exactly as it was told to me:
    Christ died for our sins,
    just as the Scriptures said.
    He was buried,
    and three days later he was raised to life,
    just as the Scriptures said.
    — 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

    Another Easter has come and gone and, apart from new highs in the consumption of chocolate Easter eggs, people are still largely indifferent to what Easter is all about. Although mention of the word “resurrection” will still raise some hackles, and Charles Foster’s recent book, The Jesus Inquest,* reminds us that the Western mind, with its emphasis on cold rationalistic investigation, has always found it difficult to cope with the idea that Jesus might have come back to life after he died.

    The Eastern mind, on the other hand, finds little problem with the concept of resurrection. Muslims are a good example. For them, the stumbling block is not that Jesus might have risen from the dead, but that he should ever have died in the first place. For in a culture where honour is to be maintained at all costs and shame is to be avoided, it is unimaginable that God could allow such a great prophet as Jesus (also called the Messiah by some Muslims) to be arrested and put to death. That would be the ultimate shame. Instead, they maintain that God miraculously raised Him up before He could be killed, and that someone else — someone who looked like Him — died on the cross in His place.

    Come back to the Bible and there we find no question on either of these two points:  did Jesus really rise from the dead? Indeed, did he ever die in the first place? 1 Corinthians 15 is the great resurrection chapter of the Bible, and in it the Apostle Paul clearly affirms both these foundational truths about our faith: first that Christ died, and second that three days later he came back to life. If some still argue that he never died, Paul emphasises the fact not just that he died, but also that he was buried  — for if death is final enough, burial is even more final. And if some still argue that Christ never rose, Paul gives the evidence of 500 or more witnesses who saw him alive after his death. This event had been predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures hundreds of years before, and from that day to this there have been millions of people who have staked their lives upon it (30-31). This is of utmost importance. “If you do not hold firmly to it,” Paul says, “your faith was all for nothing.”

    * Charles Foster, The Jesus inquest: The case for and against the resurrection of the Christ, Thomas Nelson, 2010.

    — by Walter Raymond, Christchurch

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