Theology 101 — Christ Was Raisedcomment (0)
April 17, 2014
By Jerry Batson
Christ is at the heart of the gospel. Its good news swirls around who He is and what He did. Last week we looked at the first part of the summary of the gospel as found in 1 Corinthians 15:3 in the declaration of Paul the apostle, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
Through the centuries Christian faith has confessed that Christ was raised on the third day. His bodily resurrection stands as the distinctive component of our faith. Those who have gone before us have pondered deeply the reasons for this confession. Their ponderings may well bless us as we approach Easter 2014.
Many take the starting point for belief in the resurrection of Jesus the reported fact of an empty tomb on the third day. Both Jesus’ friends and His enemies attested that the tomb was empty. A small group of women that included Mary Magdalene were the first recorded eyewitnesses to the empty tomb (Matt. 28:1–6). After she shared what she saw, or rather did not see since Jesus had vacated it, Peter and John also became eyewitnesses of the tomb’s emptiness. Outsiders like the guards posted to watch the tomb knew it to be empty as did the authorities who had insisted on Jesus’ execution. Those authorities also offered a bribe to the guards if they would spread the idea that Jesus’ friends had removed His body (Matt. 28:11–13).
In addition to reports that His tomb was empty were repeated reports of eyewitnesses who claimed they had seen the risen Christ. Eyewitnesses of the vacated tomb included individuals who saw Him on the day of His resurrection: Mary Magdalene, as well as 10 of His 12 disciples and two unnamed followers who walked with Jesus from Jerusalem to their home in nearby Emmaus. Later the record tells us that the risen Lord appeared to more than 500 at one time (1 Cor. 15:6).
Beyond an empty tomb and reported appearances, evidence for Jesus’ resurrection can be seen in the changed lives of those who did encounter Him alive again. The reality of the resurrection was a major part of the transformation of a disciple like Peter from a distance-following, cowering, fearful, denying disciple prior to Jesus’ death into a fearless witness standing before the very people who engineered the crucifixion and charging them with Jesus’ murder (Acts 3:11–15; 4:8–13). Whence such boldness? In no small part, the changed lives of the disciples were because a conviction that Jesus who had died was indeed alive again. This conviction, coupled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, goes a long way in explaining their own death-defying boldness. (In future weeks we will begin thinking about the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the world and in the lives of believers.)
We can go a step beyond the changed lives of others as evidence of a real resurrection that followed a real death. We can look into our own hearts. Often many of us have sung the familiar words, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.” It may well be that the confirming proof of the resurrection of Christ is our own Christian experience.