What is the central basis of the Christian faith? Paul wrote that if Christ has not been raised our preaching is in vain and so is our faith (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Let’s discuss the central tenet of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus.
Let’s look at Luke 24:1-12 and the testimony of eyewitnesses.
Luke 24:1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words. 9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Looking for Jesus
The women disciples went looking for the missing Jesus after his resurrection. They were at a loss because of the empty tomb. A couple of divine messengers pointed them in the right direction. “He is risen.” The women told the men disciples about their experience. Most of the men initially did not believe, thinking the women were talking nonsense. They did not look for Jesus. Peter was different. He ran to the tomb. Where do we look for Jesus? He tells us where he can be found today. He is with the hungry and thirsty, the foreigner and naked, the sick and imprisoned. Jesus is with his church and also out seeking lost sheep. Where are we looking for Jesus?
Was the resurrection just a metaphor for our social agendas, a resuscitation of a corpse or a myth? The central message of Christianity is that he is risen. Resurrection transformed Jesus’ body into something that is continuous with, but different from the body he had before death (1 Corinthians 15). His body was transformed like ours will be. The resurrection is a mystery, but we do know that if Christ is not raised, then our faith is futile. God has begun to form a new creation and we are included (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). What God promises to us is bigger than our greatest social agendas. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
The account of the empty tomb begins with five or more puzzled and perplexed women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women. The men thought this good news of his resurrection was nonsense. Resurrection is not a logical, scientific experiment. It is not something that we can reproduce in a test laboratory. Yet it is the basis of Christianity. It is something that we either believe or not. Certainly we are puzzled by it, but being perplexed does not mean disbelief. It simply means that we do not even have the same experience as those ancient witnesses. Yet, it is something that we believe in, an eternity beyond this life. We are people of the resurrection.
Witnesses do not die for what they know is a lie. People may die for something they do not know is a lie, but these were eyewitnesses of the events. Eleven of the twelve disciples of Jesus were martyred for their faith. They gave personal testimony. They did not recant even 40 years later. The Watergate conspirators could not keep their lie for 3 weeks because they knew it was not true. Folktales grow over generations, but the resurrection accounts were written down within the lifetimes of witnesses. We know the Nazi Holocaust was real because eyewitnesses were still alive when it was written about. They said it happened because they were there. The resurrection stories are testimony, not legend.
And so we confess part of the Nicene Creed that: On the third day He rose again in accordance with the scriptures; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.