the resurrection of the body

(This is part seventeen of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

The line of the Creed looks at something that was one of the core reasons I felt as though I could trust that Jesus was the Son of God:

“the resurrection of the body.”

Perhaps someone has told you that even if Jesus was not the divine Son of God, He still teaches us the best way to live; even if there is no Heaven, hell, or eternity, the way of Jesus is still the best way you can possibly spend this life before you die.

But is this true? Is that a Biblical claim or an attempt to diminish the submission that Christ rightfully claims from His followers?

It’s easy, in modern-day America, to make the claim that Jesus’ way is the best way to live, but think about that claim for a moment in light of the Church’s history. Would that claim work in India? Would it work at the underground churches in China? Would it work anywhere Christians are being persecuted today? How would that claim hold up to any of the churches that experienced heavy persecution by the Roman empire?

Paul would say that, if Jesus is not God and there is no resurrection, then we’re wasting our time. In fact, Paul says “if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Cor 15:19, NLT). The Common English Bible translates it like this: “If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else.”

In other words, if there is no resurrection we are the most pitiful people on earth. We’re wasting our time and should just go do whatever we want. All of Christ’s claims hinge on whether or not He was resurrected; because if He was not resurrected, then we won’t be resurrected. And, as Paul says, if our hope is only in this life then we are to be pitied.

Which brings us to the most obvious of all questions, “Is there good evidence for the resurrection of Jesus?”

I believe there is; I also believe that’s an investigation that Christians need to make for themselves, so as to strengthen their convictions and expand their ability to share their faith. Here are some recommended reads if you’re interested:

Online Articles:
Evidences for the Resurrection by J. Hampton Keathley, III
Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Christopher Louis Lang
Testimony of the Evangelists by Simon Greenleaf
Extra-Biblical Historical Evidence for the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus
Powerful Evidence For The Deity of Christ: The Greatest Sign – The Resurrection

Books (I’m sure there are dozens of options but these are some of the most popular):

The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus
More Than a Carpenter

Here’s a sermon you could watch if interested:

http://marshill.com/v/nrb7h5bxbr1d

Take a look at any of those resources if you’re interested; laying out the historical argument for the resurrection is far beyond the scope of this entry. However, I do think it’s important for Christians to examine why they believe in the resurrection with the hopes that it will deepen their faith and enhance their ability to share their faith.

But if we believe in the resurrection, how should this affect the way we live?

I think Dan & Barb Evans are an excellent example of how the resurrection can dramatically change the way we live. They have been in ministry around the world for 21 years with Cadence International, a group that specializes in ministering to members of the armed forces. I’ve watched them open their home and their lives to show the love of Christ to many people. They have had a profound impact on the lives of many people around the world (I found one great example here). It’s an honor to know them.

During the fall of 2009, Barb was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. For a while, we weren’t even sure she was going to wake up from her brain surgery, but by the grace of God she pulled through. Soon after, a prayer group was started on Facebook. It has over 650 members from all around the world. I only share that last bit of information to convey how far reaching their ministry has been. For the entire Evans family, it has been a long, hard fight but they didn’t stop ministering. If anything, they have done more ministry, through Barb’s battle with cancer, than ever before. Barb spent the last 19 months of her life knowing that her condition was terminal unless God miraculously intervened. She never lost the faith, but instead found refuge in God. Barb spent the last 19 months living her life to the fullest.

On Christmas Eve, Barb spoke very openly and honestly about her battle, her fears, her hopes, her ministry, and, most of all, her desire to glorify God through her struggle and to finish well. On March 7th, Barb breathed her last and went to be with Jesus. Connie and I went to Dan’s house that night to say goodbye to Barb. She looked so peaceful; no more struggle, no more pain, just glory with Jesus. I leaned over and, with a tear in my eye, whispered in her ear, “You finished well, Barb. You finished well.”

While I do grieve for those she left behind, I’m not sad for Barb. Why? Because there is a resurrection. Barb was able to finish well because she knew that there is a resurrection; she knew that, on the other side of death, true life was waiting. She knew that, through His death, Jesus conquered death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Barb knew that something far greater waited on the other side of her death.

But we’ll discuss that in depth with the next post.

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Building a Life Worth Living: Jornada del Muerto

I absolutely love this saying.  It means “dead man’s journey” or “Journey of Death.”
there’s a hollowness to living life solely for your own sake and your own happiness.  This is exactly what Paul was writing to the Romans about.  Losing your life to find it.  Now, I’ve heard many a hellfire and brimstone, good ole southern baptist preacher lay it down whilst preaching through Romans, but I always cringe a little at how wide and far they miss the heart of the matter – they just don’t get it.  For example,  this past week I was in a conversation concerning the military and the repeal of DADT, and how that fit in with my “Christianity”.    One of the people started quoting Romans 1 as a means to condemn homosexuality and “prove” that gays and lesbians were bound and destined for hell, the funny thing is, they turned to me expecting me to agree with them.    You see, what people fail to realize is the POINT paul was making.  We’ve become so wrapped up in “NOT DOING this or dressing like that or talking like him or …you get the idea”  We get so focused on our lists of things that we can’t do now that we are christians.  Wait what?  You there are things we absolutely can’t do as christians……NOPE!  Yeah, you heard me right, that’s why it’s called Grace.  You are FREE to do what you wish.  Here is where we come to the concept Paul was trying to convey.  Yes, you are free to chase after what you wish…to do what you want, God, knows what will satisfy you and what will bind you in chains.  If we are honest, its most often the things WE WANT that end up making us slaves.  I speak from the voice of weathered experience in that arena.
Romans 1:28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Now, just previous to this Paul spoke about men and women giving way to unnatural lusts. and here he puts that on the same level as people whom disobey their parents.  He’s saying, we are all Sinners, all of us filthy, depraved and wicked apart from the knowledge and love and grace and mercy of Christ Jesus.  Yes, we are free as christians, but what will you do with that freedom?
This is where I begin my journey of death.  I have known for quite sometime, years in fact, that I was called to the ministry; however, like I have always done when faced with a seemingly difficult path, to took the easy way out.  As an extremist, i do nothing half-way… I take everything to the absolute edge of reason and more often than not, jump off the edge into madness.  I arrogantly reasoned that I KNEW BETTER THAN GOD what my life could, would and should look like; so he let me have exactly what I had envisioned and all the consequences of the choices that i made.  THIS IS THE MOST LOVING THING he has ever done for me, apart from the WONDER OF THE CROSS!  I have learned more through my failings in running my own life and building this castle on the sand than I could ever have done had I always taken the RIGHT PATH.  There is almost no person, experience, group, place, hardship, pain, fear, etc., etc., that i cannot only sympathize with, but relate to because I myself have experienced it.  An, as HE has always done, he shows me in very real and very amazing ways, that held up against the way Jesus said we should live, the way I’m living mine becomes quite trivial and meaningless and His way looks intoxicating.
Dying…this idea has been on the forefront of my mind since my return from Iraq.  Most often not in a good way.  I’m not afraid of death, it doesn’t scare me or make me nervous.  In many ways it is comforting.  Crazy?  Not really.  When you think about it, it is by Death that we have Life.  Christ’s sacrifice of his own life for ours made it possible to for us to reconnect to him.  And, just as Paul said, “for me to live IS christ, and to die is gain.”  you can take this apart and look at it from several perspectives; first, the literal…for the Christian whose life is meant to mimic that of our Savior, which means bringing hope and LIFE to a broken and hurting world, living life means being Christ to the world and, when we die, we are simply relocating.
Then we can look at it in a much harder way.  Living for Christ, as Christ, through Christ and in Christ…knowing that whatever you do and wherever you go, he goes and does with you – cause that’s what He said he would do.  That’s when no matter how far we (I) run from Him, when I turn around, he’s right there with me…THINK ABOUT THAT THE NEXT TIME YOUR ALONE.  It’s the DYING part here that’s the hardest.  Dying to oneself is never easy and it certainly isn’t pleasant.  “Crucify the flesh DAILY, take up your Cross, and follow me.”  The Saviour is asking you to embark upon a journey, one that will be wrought with pain and suffering and hardship, one in which you will be reviled and hated and considered quite insane and one that is more fulfilling, more satisfying, more glorious and wonderful than you could ever possibly imagine.  Are you ready for the Jornada del muerta?

was crucified, dead, and buried

(This is part seven of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This entry talks about the second most important event in human history; the day that Jesus

“was crucified, dead, and buried.”

Once again, I’ll break it up into chunks and look at all three components of this line and why they matter.

“was crucified” – It’s been said that grace is free but it ain’t cheap. This event is exactly what that statement is referring to. Jesus, an innocent man, was crucified for sinful people. Jesus was brought before the crowds right before his crucifixion along with a man named Barabbas. Barabbas was a murderer, a violent man, a rebel (Mark 15:7). Pilate, who we discussed in the last entry, offered to let one man go: Jesus or Barabbas (Mark 15:9). It’s easy, at this point, for us to resent the murderous rebel who got to go free; for us to wish that Jesus had been set free. But I think at that moment all mankind was symbolized by Barabbas. The guilty rebel, with blood on his hands, was set free while the innocent Son of God was delivered to Roman soldiers to be scourged and crucified. I am Barabbas… and so are you. We should realize that we are the guilty murderous rebels that have been set free.What shall we do with this freedom that has been purchased on our behalf and given to us as a gift (Galatians 5:22)?

Next, Jesus was subjected to the most painful execution method in human history. The death of the Messiah was actually prophesied before crucifixion even existed (Psalm 22:16; John 20:20, 25), but that his how He died. We hear this all the time: “Christ was crucified.” We become numb to it. Yet, crucifixion was so horrible, a word was invented to describe it: excruciating. Excruciating means literally “from the cross.” That’s how painful it was. There are many people who do a better job of explaining this than I do. Here’s a link to the Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion that describes the physical pain our Saviour experienced for us. It was horrendous!

Sometimes crucifixion could last for days. Jesus was so weak from being flogged (Isaiah 52:14; Mark 15:15, Luke 22:63-65, John 19:1) and so dehydrated (Psalm 22:15; John 19:28) that He died quickly (Mark 15:44). Sometimes, to hurry the dying process the Romans would break the legs of the person on the cross. Jesus’ legs were not broken, which is important for several reasons. First, Jesus was the Passover Lamb; in John 1:29, John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” According to the Passover instructions, the sacrificial lamb was not allowed to have any broken bones (Exodus 12:46). Additionally, this was consistent with Messianic prophecies that described Jesus’ death (Psalm 22:17; John 19:31-36). Finally, after several hours, Jesus declared that His work was finished (John 19:30), and was…

“dead” – Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, and John 19:33 all agree that Jesus was dead. Some people have claimed that Jesus merely passed out and later woke up from His nap. Although medical science has progressed over the last 2,000 or so years, people back in Jesus’ time could still tell the difference between someone who was alive and someone who was dead. First there’s Luke; he was the author of the third Gospel and a doctor (Colossians 4:14). If anyone at that time could identify a dead body, it would have been a doctor. Another expert at identifying dead bodies would have been the Roman soldiers who professionally killed people (Mark 15:44-45). It was their job to take living bodies and turn them into dead bodies. Surely they would have been able to identify a dead body? Finally, it’s likely that anyone who witnessed Jesus being scourged, beaten, and then crucified, would have been able to realize He was dead because His body would have been mutilated; this also fulfilled prophetic Scripture (Isaiah 52:14).

“and buried” – After Jesus died, He was buried by Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43, 46). If Jesus had indeed fainted, it’s likely that without immediate medical attention He would have died in the tomb during the three days He was buried. Also, as Mark 15:46 mentions, a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance. It would have been impossible for Jesus, after His body had sustained so much damage, to move the stone. Jesus’ burial in a rich man’s grave also fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:9 (Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:43-46, Luke 23:50-53, John 19:38-42).

We find that there is compelling evidence that Jesus was certainly crucified, dead, and buried. Isaiah 53:6 summarizes these events best:
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”

Second Corinthians 5:21 tells us why He did this:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

We’ll explore these themes further in a later post…