Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Crux of Christianity: Resurrection

"For Paul, the physical resurrection of Jesus is the essence of biblical religion. Without it, there is no Christian faith. If the resurrection did not happen in the way the original apostles say it did, then instead of being preachers of good news they become 'purveyors of lies.'


Jesus predicts not only his death but also his resurrection, which is an essential part of his message, though it does not take up a large part of his teaching. Resurrection is what he does (really what God does to him). It is an experience, like death, that he undergoes for the purposes of redemption.

The verb Jesus often uses for resurrection means literally 'stand up again.' In the Old Testament it is often employed to describe the Lord engaging in determined action. The Lord reassures the psalmist, 'Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise.' The imagery suggests the Lord is seated on his heavenly throne, then stands up to intervene, as in the past, on behalf of the afflicted. So David pleads with the Lord, 'Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help!' The verb is applied to human beings, rising from sleep, or from death. David's enemies say of him, 'A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.' David is as good as dead and will remain that way. But David renews his faith in the Lord and affirms, 'But you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!' Though David here probably means that he will recover from his sick bed to fight again, there is little doubt that he also believed in physical resurrection from the dead. Such a prospect is an almost unthinkable possibility, and in his more 'realistic' moments, the psalmist asks, 'Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you?' While to human view, resurrection is impossible, yet in faith he declares, 'I have set the Lord always before me; ... Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.'

The apostle Peter applies this text to Jesus, described as 'David's greater Son.' He does so in the first post-resurrection sermon ever preached, in Jerusalem, on the Day of Pentecost, seven weeks after the crucifixion of Jesus, in the same city, to prove from Scripture why the tomb of Jesus, just a mile away, was empty. Job has the same faith: 'And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.' The prophet Isaiah, after predicting the death of the Servant, states, 'After his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days.'

This is the scriptural background of all that Jesus says about resurrection" (Peter Jones, Stolen Identity: The Conspiracy to Reinvent Jesus [Colorado: Victor, 2006], 145, 148-149, italics original).

Michael Horton blogs on the resurrection as well.

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