When you read the Biblical accounts of the initial reactions to the news that Jesus had risen, then you encounter unbelief again and again. For example, Mary Magdalene saw the risen Christ, but thought He was the gardener. Similarly, the disciples, walking to Emmaus, who were joined by Jesus, and were walking and talking with Him, were kept from recognizing Him. And then there was Thomas, who refused to believe that Jesus had risen, even though the other disciples said they had seen Him.
How is it possible that these disciples, who had listened to Jesus for three years, did not recognize Him when He explained the Scriptures to them, concerning himself? How it was prophesied that He would die and rise again. This is a mystery indeed! The key line in those early accounts is simply this: “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him!”
As a pastor and preacher, I have learned that it’s foolish to try to explain a mystery. The Bible simply presents the resurrection of Christ as a fact! You can’t convince anyone to believe it by sheer argument.
Recently I read an article about Easter preaching written by a retired pastor. Based on his experience he found that many Christians believe that only the soul is immortal. Yet when we recite the Apostle’s Creed we say: I believe in the resurrection of the body! What exactly do you believe?
It becomes abundantly clear that our ‘spiritual ‘ eyes must be opened by the Lord. Either we believe Jesus rose from the dead, or we believe He didn’t. It has to be one or the other! The Apostle Paul expounds on this very thing in 1 Corinthians 15: 12-20. Seven times in these few verses Paul uses the word ‘if’. He is willing to consider what it means ‘if Christ has not been raised. For example, ‘if’ Christ has not been raised, says Paul, then preaching is in vain, faith is futile, forgiveness is a myth, and there is no hope of Heaven! That would be devastating would it not?
Over the course of my ministry I have met Godly people who feel that Christianity would still be good and valuable even if there was no resurrection, if only for this life. But the apostle Paul strongly disagrees when he says, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” How so?
Paul had put his life on the line for the sake of the gospel! Would he die to perpetuate a myth? If Christ has not been raised, then preachers are false witnesses! If that were the case I would have been better off continuing in the production of milk as a dairy farmer. This was the position of my non-Christian friends in the dairy industry. One of them expressed it in this way, “Are you going to ‘milk’ those church people for your livelihood now?” They were not impressed with my career change!
Easter expectations, what we believe concerning Christ’s resurrection, and therefore ours, will be revealed in the way we live! Do we think and act like worldly people who try to get as many things, and do as many things as possible, as if this life is all there is? Some of my Christian friends built a huge dream home as if that was the symbol of success! I know from experience how exciting it is to build a new house and to live in it for a while, but here’s the thing: the Lord has a mansion prepared for us, so why act as if the present is the only opportunity to experience this? Unless of course, we don’t really believe in a physical resurrection. Then maybe we do adopt the philosophy of ‘let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we might die! If there were no (is no) resurrection, we would be better off to make the ‘most’ of this life. However, if Christ has been raised, the first fruits of the resurrection, we must live for ‘then’ and not just for ‘now’.
Can you imagine putting your very life on the line for a fable, for something the disciples of Jesus made up? As I indicated in the beginning, no matter how much evidence is given to support Christ’s resurrection, and so ours also, it all comes down to the Lord opening one’s eyes to see, to believe, that Christ has indeed been raised. Praise God! I know that He lives!
Pastor Brent VanderHeide