This week we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. That statement is the primary statement that separates all of the major religions from Christianity. All religions, for the most part, were founded by someone who was viewed by their followers as “god-like” or of high moral ethical character. No one but Jesus Christ the Lord is able to say He actually is God. No one but Jesus Christ the Lord is able to say He is risen from the dead and is the resurrection and the life. Jesus is the only religious leader who died and came back to tell about it.
The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus has historically been controversial because it is the single indicator that proved Christ’s deity. Take away the resurrection, and Jesus is nothing more than another great teacher, who is widely quoted and known for His moral message. However, as great as this phenomenal doctrine is, what difference should it make in the life of a follower of Christ? The Apostle Paul answers that question by stating if Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is in vain and is worthless.
After the national tragedy of 9/11 occurred at the World Trade Center, the Muslim community across the United States extended an olive branch to people of other religions by inviting faith leaders to be their guests for a meal and conversation. I attended a gathering at the mosque in Cuyahoga Falls, and part of the program was the opportunity for one of their leaders to give a speech in an effort to assure those of other religions that they respected their communities of faith. Moses was heralded as a great moral leader, and Jesus Christ was as well. At the conclusion of the lecture, they invited the audience to ask questions in response to the presentation. I respectfully asked a question that seemed to challenge their theological presuppositions. Here is what I asked. “You have said that you have a great respect for Jesus, the founder of the Christian faith. How can we respect a person like Jesus if He has lied about His credentials? He declared Himself to be the divine Son of God and if this is not true, He then is nothing more than a liar.” Of course the response was that they didn’t believe that Jesus referred to Himself as God.
I could have quoted Bible passages that disproved this, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful in their place of worship. One of those passages is found in John 8:56-58, where Jesus says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad. So the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’” I could also have pointed out John 14:9, where Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” Here, of course, He was speaking of God, the Father. I could have also shared that when Thomas felt Jesus’ nail prints after He had risen from the dead, Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God,” and Jesus did notcorrect him.
My point is that Scripture is clear that Jesus was more than
merely a good moral teacher but was the incarnate God, “Emmanuel, God with
us.” Apologist Josh McDowell, who
defended the biblical doctrine of a literal, physical resurrection, said it correctly
when he said, “The resurrection of Christ either makes Christ a liar, lunatic,
or Lord.” I choose the latter. So this Sunday morning I’ll be able to sing at
the top of my lungs, “You ask me how I know He lives, HE LIVES WITHIN MY HEART!!” And I can also join with Bill Gaither and
sing, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just
because HE LIVES!!” AMEN!!! He is risen indeed!!!