If Christ Ain’t Resurrect, Then We Wasted Our Lives: A Post-Easter Blog
Yesterday was Easter, or as some Christians calls it, the Resurrection Sunday. It’s the day we remember the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I have decided to blog about it.
But is the bodily resurrection of Jesus true? I have consulted Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God. With the help of N.T. Wright’s scholarship, Keller convincingly answers this question. Let’s consider the following.
First Corinthians 15:3-6 says:
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
Some observations on this text include the following. First, Jesus was “raised on the third day,” which shows that the apostle Paul was referring to a historical event and not a symbol or metaphor.
Second, the apostle lists the eyewitnesses. Jesus did not just appear to individuals and small groups, but also to five hundred people, “most of whom are still alive.” These people could be consulted to verify the claims of Paul. Keller writes:
Paul’s letter was to a church, and therefore it was a public document, written to be read aloud. Paul was inviting anyone who doubted that Jesus had appeared to people after his death to go and talk to eyewitnesses if they wished. It was a bold challenge and one that could easily be taken up, since during the pax Romana travel around the Mediterranean was safe and easy. Paul could not have made such a challenge if those eyewitnesses didn’t exist.1 (Emphasis added)
Third observation is that Paul insists that he was faithfully recounting the testimony that had been handed to him. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received…” Keller notes that critical scholars from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have assumed the early Christians would have used a process for transmitting popular folktales that altered tales in the telling. However:
More recent anthropological studies show that ancient cultures clearly distinguish between fictional stories and historical accounts in transmission. Historical accounts were not allowed to be changed.1 (Emphasis added)
Keller adds that the accounts of the resurrection were “too problematic to be fabrications.” Why? Because some of the eyewitnesses (as each gospel states) were women. Women have such a low social status that their testimonies were disregarded as evidence in court. It was counterproductive for the church to recount that the first witnesses were women.
The only possible explanation for why women were depicted as meeting Jesus first is if they really had. N.T. Wright argues that there must have been enormous pressure on the early proclaimers of the Christian message to remove the women from the accounts. They felt they could not do so—the records were too well known.2 (Emphasis added)
The Empty Tomb and The Witnesses Must Be Taken Together
When the two are taken together, it becomes more “historically certain.” Keller writes:
If there had been only an empty tomb and no sightings, no one would have concluded it was a resurrection. They would have assumed that the body had been stolen. Yet if there had been only eyewitness sightings of Jesus and no empty tomb, no one would have concluded it was a resurrection, because people’s accounts of seeing departed loved ones happen all the time. Only if the two factors were both true together would anyone have concluded that Jesus was raised from the dead.2 (Emphasis added)
If Christ Ain’t Resurrect, Then We Wasted Our Lives
I hope you are convinced by now that the resurrection is true. But let us go further and understand why it needs to be true. Let’s look at what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:
14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
What the apostle says is that if the resurrection is not true, then we, Christians, have been deceived, for we have believed a lunatic who claimed that He will rise from the dead after three days but did not really rise at all. Therefore, we are “most to be pitied” than anyone else in the world. Ouch!
The Christian rapper Lecrae, in His song Don’t Waste Your Life, says it this way: “Paul said if Christ ain’t resurrect, then we wasted our lives!” If the resurrection isn’t true, then pastors leading congregations are wasting their lives. Church planters struggling to start a local church are wasting their lives. Evangelists sharing the good news, though without the resurrection it ceases to be good, are wasting their lives. Apologists defending the faith are wasting their lives. Missionaries-turned-martyrs have wasted their lives. And every Christian has wasted and is wasting his life. The Christian life becomes the wasted life!
Now, there’s a voice within me that shouts: “The resurrection must, should, and needs be true. Because I don’t want to waste my life! I don’t want to waste my life!” Never in my life has the resurrection so powerfully gripped me until these days. Never!
But I thank God because the resurrection is true, as we have seen from the Bible and the scholarly works of some godly men. We are not most pitiable among all people. We can be “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
So let us thank God for the resurrection…and that it is true!
1Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 204.
2Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, 205.