May 23, 2023
It’s the Resurrection
March 21, 2023 | Russ Moe
“Are you a Christian?”
Mrs. Billy Graham contemplated the loaded question before the mixed group of journalists in Israel. The room of Muslims, Jews, and Christians froze in the tension as centuries-old accelerants of religious controversy readied to ignite. A foolish answer could detonate a chain reaction.
Ask ten people this question and you’re likely to get ten different responses. “I go to church.” “I try my best to do good.” “I’ve been a Sunday school teacher for ___ years.” “I read the Bible every day.” “My family has always been Christian.” “I’m an American,” are a few. All inclusive, non-offensive, politically correct molds form such responses. Is it a matter of opinion? Is the answer, “whatever it means to you?” Is there a definitive reply to this question?
Mrs. Graham’s response to the question is a lesson for us all. Emboldened by the Holy Spirit, she spoke with certainty. Her answer was well studied and thought through, well documented in Scripture and supported by centuries of history. No doubt it was forged by the passage, “but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man who asks a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
“Yes,” she said, “I believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead.”
It’s The Resurrection that sets apart Christianity from all religions and religion itself. It’s a matter of historic fact not religion. It’s true whether you believe it or not. It’s unique to our faith and fundamental to every aspect of it. It’s the only doorway to salvation.
The Apostle wrote: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:17). It’s this public confession that identified believers throughout centuries of history and cost countless martyrs their lives while at the same time securing their eternity. It’s what public water baptism depicts. It’s the watershed of eternity.
“Today you shall be with me in paradise,” said Christ to the thief. The thief partook no Sacrament. He indulged no ritual, tradition, or religious observance. He recited no creed, formula of sinner’s prayer, doctrine, or claim to a prayer life. He professed no church membership, religious heritage, or privileged lineage. No record of charitable service was pleaded. He demonstrated no excellence of life, morality, good works, righteousness, or a thousand other possible pieties. He represents the opposite of deserving, to make the point that: that’s not the point! It’s The Resurrection! “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” secured his destiny just as the Apostle Paul articulated (Luke 23:43).
Battlefield conversions, death bed confessions and eleventh-hour professions of faith will surprise us in Heaven’s population. The enjoyment of eternal life begins with “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Who you are, or what you’ve done is not the issue. Of course, rewards are a different matter and true repentance embodies sincere faith. But without The Resurrection these are vain, we are yet dead in our sins. Ephesians 2:5–6 says, “We have been raised with Him.” If we could somehow get the thief to speak at our church on the definitive aspect of his eternal destiny he’d say, “It’s The Resurrection.”
Over 500 saw Christ after His death (1 Corinthians 15:6). Ancient Roman documents back this up. Sadly, modern theologians don’t. “Christ only lives on, resurrected in the minds of devotees” redefines the event as non-literal. The other thief should speak in those seminaries.
The murder of God’s Son is the world’s crime. The punishment is paid in Christ’s death. The loss is repaid in His Resurrection. “Father forgive them [His slayers],” is possible only if Christ is raised back to life. It’s God’s answer to the petition. It proves the world’s forgiveness releasing us from the debt and justifying us “just as if we never sinned” (Luke 23:34, Romans 3:24).
The Resurrection validates the New Covenant Lamb’s blood as Holy and His
substitutionary death as accepted, just as heavenly fire confirmed the Old Covenant sacrifices. It proves Christ is God and not just a man. It vindicates His sinless life against the unbelief that crucified Him. It’s Heaven’s “Amen” to His message. There is no hope without siding with The Father’s raising of His Son. The other side separates us from His Father permanently.
The apostle rightly said, “If only in this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most miserable.” Then he added, “but Christ has indeed been raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:19–20). The literal, bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead is the bottom line of saving faith. Without the Resurrection, the blood of a murdered Son stains the world’s hands forever.
Today we are the witnesses. Like the early witnesses, we testify by personal experience, “Christ is alive.” The spearhead and final distillation of all my outreach conversations is always, “I literally talk with Him every day.” The Holy Spirit empowers that testimony.
In 1992, the presidential election campaign of “It’s the economy” helped Bill Clinton win the presidency. The slogan galvanized national focus on the most pertinent concern of the time. Today, I wear the Christian’s most pertinent concern on my favorite t-shirt. It simply says, “It’s The Resurrection …”.