He's Still Alive! 8 April 2012

If you could have dinner with one deceased person other than a relative or Bible character, with whom would you dine? Why?

There are so many great historic figures that have changed the world. A few of them include

  • George Washington
  • Thomas Edison
  • Henry Ford
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Rosa Parks
  • Steve Jobs

They have had tremendous influence on our lives, but each has one thing in common—they can do nothing further to change the world. Their work is done. They are, by definition, history.

As much as I love President’s Day, MLK Day, and other celebrations of great men and women, this day is different. Today is a celebration of Jesus. He’s still alive!

The Story

For decades Christians have been complaining about the commercialization and secularization of Christmas. I love Christmas, but as much as I appreciate Jesus’ birthday, today is the real day of celebration. Whether you call it easter or dismiss the pagan roots and refer to it as Resurrection Sunday, there is no greater celebration than that of a risen Jesus.

But did it really happen? Did Jesus really conquer death? The whole of the New Testament revelation rests on the resurrection as an historical fact.

Consider this...there was a very educated, respected, religious man named Saul. He was so zealous about his Jewish faith that he led the execution of countless Christians who threatened the organized religion of the day. God gripped his heart, changed his name to Paul, and this is what the former skeptic wrote:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)

Not only were there hundreds of eyewitnesses of Jesus after His resurrection, many died for their simple testimony to that fact. It would be foolish to die for a lie.

Paul continues a few verses later

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

If Jesus is dead, let’s all go home!

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

He concludes

If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

Friends, because Jesus lives, we have hope. Because Jesus lives, we can face tomorrow. Because Jesus lives, we can discover meaning, and purpose and joy.

The Resurrection is the defining moment in the movement of Jesus, and arguably of all human existence.

By definition, faith is involved in following Jesus, or any, uh, faith! Jesus’ posture was always one of invitation. He said, “Follow me. Come and see.” Today He is still inviting men, women and children to follow Him. Notice I didn’t say obey a bunch of rules or engage in organized religion. His invitation is to Himself. It’s to know Jesus.

Unlike George Washington and Rosa Parks, it is possible to know Jesus, because Jesus is still alive!

There are two things that make Jesus unique from other world religions. First, He is alive. I can’t prove it 100% today, but for more than 2000 years people have been searching for His dead body and have come up, uh, empty. If Jesus is dead, our faith is dead. Our hope is dead. Our future is dead.

Second, following Jesus is truly about a relationship with God, not a religion. Religion is spelled D-O. It’s what people do to earn God’s favor, access to paradise after death, and the approval of their peers. Tragically, there are many people that practice the religion of Christianity, working hard to be good enough for a perfect and holy God, which is impossible! Jesus despises the religion of Christianity!!! Why, because it’s not what you DO but what has already been D-O-N-E on the cross. Only following and knowing a perfect Jesus who died on the cross for you can grant you reconciliation with God and the ability to know your Creator. It’s not enough to know about Jesus. You can know Him today!!!

Is your head filled with knowledge, but your heart empty? Have you been pursuing the religion of Christianity rather than the relationship of knowing Jesus Christ.

Paul, the writer of the letter we read earlier to the church in Corinth, wrote this to the people of the city of Philippi:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

Paul was not content with knowledge of Jesus or religious gatherings and practices. He wanted to know Jesus, and you can only truly know a person who is living. Paul knew that Jesus understood suffering and death. Rather than a distant Creator, Jesus knows what it’s like to be human, to experience pain, to laugh and cry, and to journey through life. He’s not above it, He lived it...and He’s living today!

I can tell you from personal experience that my life changed when I went from knowing about God to knowing God. Amazingly, my faith is more than just reading about history in the Bible and trying to follow the rules. Every day is a new adventure of literally doing life with Jesus, because He’s still alive! Do you know Him?

No one can remain neutral regarding Jesus' resurrection. The claim is too staggering, the event is too earthshaking, the implications are too significant, and the matter is too serious. We must each either receive or reject it as truth for us, and to remain indifferent or undecided is to reject it. (Mark Driscoll)

Some words of encouragement or inspiration for celebrating Easter and beyond, from N. T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope" (pp 255-257):

But my biggest problem starts on Easter Monday. I regard it as absurd
and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent,
pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a
little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week,
which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday… and then,
after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

All right, the Sundays after Easter still lie within the Easter
season. We still have Easter readings and hymns during them. But
Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh
with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival,
with champagne served after morning prayer or even before., with lots
of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder
people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we
don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to
live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies?
Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is
celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days
of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at
how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right
through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits,
well, maybe it’s time to wake up. That always comes as a surprise.

You can listen to the podcast here.