Where’s the body?

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 | Filed under: Dimensions of existence, The Christian gospel, Uniqueness of Christ | No Comments »

The Christian faith is nothing without the resurrection of Jesus. If Christ was not raised, we might as well pack our backs now and, like many renowned atheists, end our lives prematurely: There is no hope, no purpose, no objective morality, and our faith is a monumental waste of time. So many today believe that Jesus’ resurrection was a fabrication, a magician’s trick, wishful thinking, pure fantasy, or irrelevant. As followers of Jesus, instead of bickering among ourselves over trivial concerns or embroiling ourselves in politics, we should be proclaiming the resurrection of Christ at every opportunity – because everything else in this world pales into insignificance. While the body of every other historical figure has rotted away, the body and person of Jesus live on!

Jesus of Nazareth was sentenced to die by an illegal court. He was flogged mercilessly and forced to carry a heavy wooden cross through the streets of Jerusalem. He was crucified by hardened soldiers for whom execution was clinical and routine. His death was witnessed by supporters and critics alike. A huge rock sealed his dead body in the tomb, and the place was guarded by Roman soldiers who, if they failed in their duty, faced the death penalty themselves. Jesus’ followers were in disarray, denied their Lord, and hid themselves from the public gaze. Then, to the amazement of all, the rock was found to be rolled away, the tomb was empty, and the shell-like body wrappings lay there like a discarded cocoon. The risen Christ appeared not only to his close followers in private but to over 500 people in public. He even appeared later to one of his fiercest critics, Paul of Tarsus.

The Jewish leaders, the Roman authorities, and Jesus’ many other opponents had every reason to prove that he was dead. A body would have ended the matter once and for all, but it was never found. If Jesus’ followers knew that he had never really died, they would have quietly walked away. Instead, mighty Rome itself could not contain the fervor of those eye-witnesses. The very real hope of their own resurrection, having encountered the resurrected Jesus, fueled that fervor, and they willingly endured suffering and death in their thousands – some hacked to death, others burned alive, and still others crucified like their Lord. These events are chronicled not only in the Christian scriptures but in other extant sources.

Despite every effort of mankind through the ages, two strong desires remain beyond our reach: to see the future and to conquer death. How might a being who exists outside of time and our three dimensions of space prove to us his existence? By documenting details of the future well in advance and by raising someone very publicly from the dead. These are the two principal proofs of the Christian faith: biblical prophecy and the resurrection of Christ. They demand an explanation, and we ignore their implications at our peril.

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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