As Easter approaches us, so do numerous awkward attempts at its redefinition by scholars and writers. Why is that? Well, (chuckle) because no one could really believe the message of a Jesus who actually rose from the dead…can they? From the perspective of our enlightened, twenty first century scientific era, the story of the resurrection is quite impossible. We christians will never get any traction in this post modern world if we go around making such claims! Such impossible claims will make it impossible for the church to survive!
But will they?
In the face of such challenging questions we are faced with an even greater impossibility: despite its unbelievable claim, despite the mockery, despite intense opposition and marginalizaiton, the christian message of the living Jesus, not only survived, but actually spread like wildfire.
Just consider the context original boom of christianity – Jerusalem. If you know anything about the history of the Jewish people at that time they had a history of being incredibly racist and elitist in their religious beliefs. They held to their rabbinic code with utmost pride. The idea that Jerusalem could be the birthplace of a powerful religious movement which totally opposes the whole idea of works salvations, teaches that God became a man, died on a Roman cross, and is alive today is absurd. The message was deeply offensive against everything that the Jewish mindset stood for. And yet, it happened.
It sure did happen. In fact, it happened so powerfully that the boom extended into the next level of absurdity – it leapt with a massive impact into the poly-theistic, philosophical Greco-Roman world. It permeated its way all the way into Athens, Ephesus and Rome – to the places where the idea that a crucified Jew is Lord of the universe was utterly scandalous. Nevertheless, the message spread like wild fire to the point that in a few years it’s followers numbered in the thousands.
It seemed like by killing Jesus, the Jewish leaders had effectively ended a heretical movement in their midst. Hundreds of people saw Jesus publicly executed and his followers were scattered, broken hearted and confused. Some even returned to their previous occupations within a short few days²!
Yet within a month or so, seemingly out of no where – it came back with a boom that is impossible to explain. Despite the fact that hundreds saw him dead, hundreds were claiming that he is alive and that they were willing to stake their lives on it, that they were willing to subject their lives to his message and to commit to living a life that is radically different then anything that they had ever believed.
The impossibility of the resurrection is coupled with the impossibility of the spread of the gospel message. There is no gospel message if Jesus is dead. And yet the gospel is very much alive, even 2000 years later.
How do we explain away the impossible power of this impossible message? Very often, the reason people jump to rejecting or redefining the christian message is because they have not taken the time to first understand its essence.
The testimony of millions of those who have given deep consideration to the gospel is clear – that Jesus Christ is real. That this universe exists as a result of the real and undeniable involvement of a mighty God and that we have tried very hard to ignore him. And Jesus Christ is the one who opens the door. His message reunites us with a relationship with Creator for whom we exist. His life, death and resurrection gives us the hope and paves the way for us to be reconciled to God and to live our lives in sync with his grand narrative of why the universe came to be.
What will you do with the impossible story of the living Jesus this easter?
(1) 1 Corinthians 1:23
(2) John 21:3