For many years, I taught, Bible, theology, and leadership courses at the C3 School of Ministry in Atlanta. At some point during the year we talked about the resurrection. I always enjoyed asking this question: “What would happen to your faith if you woke up tomorrow morning and the top news story on all the networks was “The Bones of Jesus Discovered?”
How would it affect your faith if that was the top news story tomorrow? Somehow, scientists and archaeologist had irrefutable proof that they had located the remains of Jesus’ physical body. What would this discovery do to Christianity?
When I pose this situation to my Bible School students, I got mixed reactions. Some would want to argue about the evidence. How can we really know that this is a legitimate find? Others would say that it really doesn’t matter. Our faith goes beyond whether or not they have found Jesus’ body.
I would usually have one or two students who understood the importance of the resurrection. “If they find the body of Jesus,” said one young man, “true Christianity will have ceased to exist. Without the resurrection of Jesus, we really do not have anything to put our faith in.”
This guy knew his Bible. He was in essence paraphrasing what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15: 14-19: “And if Christ was not raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your trust in God is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God, for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave, but that can't be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still under condemnation for your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ have perished! And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.”
The resurrection is the event that Christianity hangs on. Without the resurrection, our entire belief system comes unraveled. We have nothing to put our faith in if Jesus did not walk out of his tomb.
The four Gospels present around three years of Jesus' public ministry. They record much of his teaching, healings, miracles, and interactions with people. What is fascinating is that the most of the rest of the New Testament, however, seldom mentions Jesus' public ministry. For Paul and the other New Testament writers, the story for them is Jesus' death and resurrection.
Don’t get me wrong. Jesus’ life story is incredibly important. Watching how Jesus lived, listening to what he taught, and following his example are important parts of our faith. Jesus showed us how to live. He came to put a face on God.
N. T. Wright’s excellent book, How God Became King, discusses in great detail the importance of Jesus’ life and ministry. The central focus of Jesus’ ministry was the Kingdom of God. This was the theme of his first recorded sermon. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
The kingdom was also the focus of much of Jesus’ teaching. Many of Jesus’ parables are prefaced by, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” See for example Matthew 13: 24, 31, 33, 44, etc. In other words, in each parable Jesus presented another facet of what God’s kingdom was like.
We could also mention the importance of Jesus’ profound message in the Sermon on the Mount. This has often been seen as the definitive message of what Christianity is. In many ways, this teaching in Matthew 5-7 encapsulates everything that Jesus taught during his three year ministry.
May we never forget however, that as important as Jesus’ teachings were and still are today, they are not what saves us. We are not saved by following and obeying Jesus’ teaching. We are saved through an encounter with the resurrected Jesus. In reality, it is only then that we can even begin to understand the real importance of Jesus’ message.
David and Annie are serving the Lord in Brazil. They are training leaders and helping plant churches. Your gift to their ministry will help them continue to have an impact in so many lives. Just click here to get involved. Obrigado!