The Resurrection of Jesus: An Inconvenient Fact
This Sunday, Christians around the world will celebrate Easter. Some prefer to call it Resurrection Day. Now most Christians – whether nominal or serious – just accept the holiday without much thought. But if they would examine the claims, most Christians would be shocked.
The basic premise behind Christianity is that humanity, and also by extension the universe, is flawed – the theological term is fallen – so flawed that there is no way any human could set himself right with a just, perfect, and holy Creator. If humanity is to be reconciled to the Creator, it must be the effort of the Creator Himself, since only the Creator is capable of effecting such as massive work.
Christianity's claim is that the Creator did come down to Earth, with the purpose of reconciling God to man, in the person of Jesus Christ, who is both man and God. His human nature would be the Son of God through a virgin; his divine nature would be God incarnate.
Jesus would absorb all the wrongs of mankind in Himself to clear out the account. The classic wording for this is that He (Jesus) paid the penalty for our sins. If one is more modern, and eschews the concept of retributive justice, then one could say Jesus absorbed within Himself all the consequences of man's wrongs, with the idea of setting it right.
Now, the idea of suffering on someone else's behalf is not new, but Christianity takes the concept a large step forward and makes this claim: death would not be able to hold Jesus, and He would come out of the grave. And this resurrection would be the signature that Christ indeed set things right between God and man. Indeed, He would more than pay the price for man's transgressions.
Many of us, who came out of nominal Christian homes, of whatever denomination, gave it little thought and just accepted it sort of vaguely – but if true, such a resurrection should stop us in our tracks.
No other religion makes this claim.
Mohammed did not claim to die for our sins, nor did he resurrect. In fact, Mohammed admitted that he had his own sins.
Hinduism offers mankind just the possibility of setting things right by endless reincarnations, with the idea that over time, we will finally arrive at perfection ourselves. The problem is that even if humans arrive at perfection, it does not do away with the bad karma accumulated from prior reincarnations. In fact, the hidden flaw of Hinduism is that each reincarnation only makes our problems worse with an endless accretion of bad karma.
Buddhism, which is an outgrowth of Hinduism, has the same fatal flaw.
But what about this Jesus? Was He like other humans in being sinful? Christianity addresses the problem by stating that Jesus was unique in His sinlessness, by virtue of the fact that He is God, and therefore He, Jesus, did not have our sinful nature. He is a rather unique case.
This is further amplified by an Old Testament (Tenach) prophecy, where it is stated that Jesus would bear the sins of others, not his own.
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. ...
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.
This is the famous "suffering servant" passage of Isaiah 53. Some have claimed that the passage refers to Israel (the Jewish people themselves); however, verse 3 notes that "[w]e [the Jewish people] did not esteem Him." Now, if the suffering servant were Israel, then it means that the Jewish people did not esteem themselves. Whatever the many virtues and flaws of the Jewish people, they do not generally lack for self-esteem. Without such self-esteem, they would not have survived the diaspora, but would have merged into the other nations. No, this passage is referring to an individual who would die for the sins of others.
The whole process is conditioned on this person coming out of the grave. If He did not resurrect, He would have been as sinful as the rest of us, deserving of death, and unable to pay for anyone else's sins. But, if He were the Son of God, He would be infinite in value, and His sacrifice could atone for whoever accepted it.
The fact is that if Jesus did not come out of that grave, then Christianity is pointless, despite what liberal preachers say. Christianity is not positive thinking or a good attitude. Either Christ came out of that grave or the whole religion is a fraud.
As Paul wrote, "[a]nd if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty" (1 Cor. 15:14).
But if Jesus did come out of that grave, then all of history changes. The ramifications are immense.
- Islam is false.
- Hinduism is false.
- Buddhism is false.
- Rabbinic Judaism – which rejects Christ – is incomplete.
If He came out of that grave, then He is the only way to God. Think about it: if we could save ourselves, why would God have even sent Jesus to die for us and then resurrect? We can't earn our way back to Heaven. Our good deeds will not save us.
Christianity, though producing a tolerant civilization, makes a unique claim. Not only is there only one God – both Judaism and Islam agree on that point – but the only way to approach that God is through His Son – which both Islam and Rabbinic Judaism deny.
I am not going to go into other points such as the Trinity, denominational doctrines, etc.
The first thing you have to do – if you have not decided it already – is settle once and for all: did Jesus come out of that grave?
If He did, then that is a very inconvenient fact for much of the world, including merely nominal Christians – but it is also the central drama of history.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish better in high school, lo those many decades ago. He runs a website about the Arab community in South America at http://latinarabia.com.