Sunday, April 12, 2020

Responding to the Resurrection with Lifestyle Worship

Perhaps the most important question of the entire Bible is the question of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. To put it plainly: Did Jesus rise from the dead? If Jesus was crucified, in reference of history, and he died, and was placed in a tomb, and he simply stayed dead, then Christianity is nothing. But if Jesus was crucified, buried, but after three days he physically resurrected from the dead, then Jesus was really God on Earth. And everything he said and did matters infinitely.

Verified historical sources tell us that Jesus was a real person who was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Galilee. Historians also tell us that Jesus spoke, and lived, and was crucified under the Romans, probably around the age of 30-33. History also records that Jesus died, and was placed in a particular tomb, the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. History also tells us that the tomb was found to be empty. We will examine, briefly, several prominent views of the historical fact of the empty tomb, and how to explain it historically. We will then examine which view is most accurate given history. Then we’ll consider the positive evidence.

Jesus is mentioned as a historical person in multiple sources, such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, the Babylonian Talmud, and Lucian among others (Gleghorn, 2001).

But the New Testament scriptures are themselves more historically attested to than any of these sources, with 5,868 ancient Greek manuscript copies (Slick, 2008). The accuracy of these manuscripts when compared to one another are 99.5% accurate (Slick, 2008). The only differences between these manuscripts are minor spelling and grammar errors that don’t impact the meaning substantially (Slick, 2008). Therefore, I would make the contention, as is the general consensus in history, that the New Testament documents are historically reliable and outside historical sources prove beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus of Nazareth did exist, was crucified, and his tomb was found to be empty.

Now the real question is, did Jesus rise from the dead? The tomb was empty, that much is historically known. So how do historians explain the empty tomb? The most direct explanation would be that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. Christianity spread quickly after the crucifixion. In fact, each of Jesus’ disciples aside from John were martyred for their faith (Gertz, 2008). History records that each of them died proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead (Gertz, 2008). Why would they die for something that wasn’t true? In fact, there are historically recorded events in which Jesus appears to people after his death, including at one point when he appeared to over 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:6).

Let’s go into some further detail on evidence. Once again we can mention how Christianity rapidly spread from Jerusalem and into the ancient Roman empire, being preached by the same disciples who fled into hiding after Jesus was crucified. These same terrified disciples became as bold as lions to travel as missionaries across the ancient world when they encountered the resurrected Jesus. The example of the Apostle Paul is also telling. He encountered the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus road and he went from being a persecutor of the early church to one of its most ardent heroes (Galatians 1:23). Jesus appeared to over five hundred witnesses, and it was recorded by the apostle Paul that while he was writing his letter many of these people were still alive (1 Corinthians 15:6). He in effect invited readers to go and ask these eyewitnesses about when they saw Jesus. Jesus of course also showed himself to his disciples on the Emmaus road, along the sea of Galilee, and to James, after his crucifixion. Given the spread of Christianity from a few thousand persecuted Jewish Christians to being the most prominent religion in the world today, the empirical and historical evidence is strong that Jesus did in fact resurrect from the dead (Hackett & McClendon, 2017). Additionally, even today millions of people testify to the fact that Jesus has changed their lives. This all forms a cumulative case that we can indeed believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Given the cumulative evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, we can believe that Jesus is bodily resurrected, and is our true Lord, King, and Savior.

Therefore, how should we live? If Jesus is alive, what should we do?

Colossians 3:14-17 ESV "Put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Because Jesus Christ is real we should put on love. Love binds everything together. It unifies everything, and we are called to be part of the body of Christ, unified, at peace, and we ought to be thankful.

Because Jesus is here right now, with you in your home, You should be living out an attitude of gratitude. What are you thankful for today? I’m thankful for a warm house to live in. I’m thankful for safety. I’m thankful for my friends and family.

Zephaniah 3:17 ESV "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

Isn't it wonderful to know, totally know that God is with all of us right at this moment? He is with us. Always with us. He is not limited by space or time! He can be with all of us at the same time. He’s here in the USA, in Michigan with me. He’s with a persecuted Christian in prison in China! With you he has all the time in the world, he's not rushing off to deal with something else. Instead he patiently and attentively ministers to your heart, your mind, your intellect, and your very soul.

God rejoices over us with gladness.

God quiets us with his love, when we want to cry out in pain.

And God exalts us with singing.

1 Chronicles 16:29 ESV "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness"

We ought to respond to God in worship. Not because we're supposed to, but because we want to. Worship is transformative in that way. When I pray for a half hour, read the Bible in bed at night, attend studies, and go to church, my interest and wisdom grows. As a result I've sown good seeds, and a garden blooms in my heart. Let the garden bloom in your heart. Plant seeds, and months and years later you’ll see them bloom.

I was talking with a young man and he compared faith to Jesus Christ in believing in Leprechauns. I don't know any leprechauns who are worshiped by two billions Christians worldwide. And I don't know any Leprechauns that can cure hopeless drug addicts and turn them into serving, adoring Christians of powerful faith. I don’t know any leprechauns that are historically verified by multiple sources. I don’t know any scientific evidence that shows leprechauns are real. But I do know a God who made the universe from nothing. And I know a God who does the impossible.

My point here is that Jesus Christ can do the impossible in lives. For that reason and for so many others, he is deserving of our worship. Our worship is not simply singing or praising or prostrating before him. No. Our worship is a daily song, and it's sung by acts of worship. When you volunteer at a food pantry, you sing before God. When you share the gospel with a friend, you sing before God. When you play with your kids, you sing before God. When you give food to a homeless man you sing before God. When you smile to a stranger... when you give a hug... when you share a Bible verse... when you help those in need... It's all a daily song, throughout the week to your loving Maker.

Psalm 147:1 ESV "Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting."

So as we delight in this resurrection Sunday, let's remember to have an attitude of daily worship in action and thought to God Almighty. Recall what Jesus Christ did on the cross. And believe and know that he rose from death, by the power of God, and now sits, alive and well at the right hand of God the Father.

I'll leave you with this powerful description of the life of Jesus Christ to close out today, from James Stewart, Scottish theologian:

"He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men. Yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable, that the children loved to play with him and the little ones nestled in his arms.

His presence at the innocent joy of a village wedding, was like the presence of sunshine. No one was half so kind or compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red-hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break. His whole life was love. Yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees, how they were expected to escape the damnation of hell.

He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism, he has all of us self-styled realists soundly beaten. He was the servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully he strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away in their mad rush from the fire they saw blazing in his eyes. He saved others, yet at the last, he himself did not save.

There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels; the mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality."