Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Why the resurrection is so important

Yesterday, I mentioned that Jesus being the Christ and Jesus rising from the dead are essential aspects of Christianity, without which, you'd just have a different religion or no religion at all. Now I want to say why I think that.

Well, I guess I already said why I think "Christ" is essential. Christ is what Christianity is all about. But I also said it means something specific in a Jewish context. Now don't get me wrong. Jewish views about the Christ were quite diverse in and around the time of Jesus. Not all Jews were especting a Christ, some expected a Christ who would reign once Israel became a sovereign nation, others expected a Christ who would be instrumental in liberating Israel, and others expected two Christs.

Christ comes from the Greek word, christos, which means "anointed" or "annointed one." The Hebrew word with the same meaning is mischiac, or messiah. In Jewish tradition it could refer to a king, a priest, or a prophet. Most often, however, it referred to a king. Anointing was part of the coronation ceremony of the kings of Israel, so all kings of Israel were considered "anointed ones" or "messiahs." But the term wasn't limited to Israelite kings. It was also used of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the book of Daniel. (Yes, I realize that's a controversial claim.) It's even used of the Persian king, Cyrus, in Isaiah 45:1. Messiah, then, is basically equivalent with "king" in most cases.

The whole idea of a coming messiah in Jewish eschatology comes from a promise God made to Israel--that they would never fail to have a king seated on the throne of David. Shortly after the Babylonian exile began, the last of the Israelite kings was deposed, and God's promise seemed to have been broken. But rather than completely abandon their belief in YHWY or that YHWY had violated his promise or didn't make any promise at all, the belief arose that YHWY would restore the throne to David. And so you have countless prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to David in an eschatological sense. Ezekiel 37 is a good example. That's the vision of the valley of dry bones which, as God explains, is a symbol referring to the reunification of Judah and Israel. In v. 24, God says that David will be their king, and in the next verse it says David will be their prince forever.

That's basically the messianic hope. Although views varied on how it would actually play out in history, the basic plot is that either David himself or some descendent of David would come to rule over a reunited Israel free from foreign rule, and the kingdom would last forever.

With this in mind, it's perfectly understandable why Paul would say "Christ crucified" is a stumbling block to Jews (1 Corinthians 1:23). Jesus died without doing what the messiah was expected to do. He failed. He was just one of about a dozen other pretenders in the first century whose messianic pretentions ended in death. Most Jews even today, if asked why they reject Jesus as the Christ, will say the same thing. He died without fulfilling the messianic role.

The reason the resurrection is so important is because without it, the Jews are entirely right. If Jesus is dead, then he's not the Christ, and if he's not the Christ, then Christianity is not true. But if Jesus was raised from the dead, he may yet be the messiah.

But, a person might object, even if he's still alive, he hasn't fulfilled the messianic role. Quite so. If he hasn't fulfilled the messianic role, then why think he's the Christ at all?

That's a good question, and thankfully for me, I have two responses. First, imagine some descendent of David is born, and suppose his parents begin to imagine, "Do you think he might be the messiah?" Then they get up the next morning, and they notice that the world is as it was before. Would it be reasonable for them to conclude, "Well, he didn't do what the messiah was supposed to do, so I guess he's not the messiah"? Of course not. As long as he's still alive, there are things he has yet to do. Perhaps some day he will fulfill the messianic role. So he can't be excluded from being the messiah merely on the basis that he hasn't fulfilled the role yet. Only when he dies is his chance over. Since Jesus is still alive, he can't be ruled out.

Second, Jesus claimed to be the Christ. Now I know that some people disagree, but that's beyond the scope of this blog. Assume, for the sake of argument, that Jesus did claim to be the Christ. Now that, by itself, is not enough to establish that he is. After all, lots of people in the first century claimed to be the Christ. Josephus tells us that during the war with Rome, there were at least three people all claiming to be the Christ and fighting each other while at the same time fighting the Romans. But it seems to me that it would be an odd coincidence if, of all people to rise from the dead, it's this person named Jesus who claims to be the Christ--to be sent from God. If Jesus really did rise from the dead, I think that is proof to any reasonable person that his claim to be the Christ is true.

So the resurrection is important for two reasons. First, without it, Jesus isn't the Christ. He can't be the Christ if he's dead, but as long as he's alive, it remains to be seen if he fulfills the messianic role. Second, the resurrection serves at verification that Jesus' claim to be the Christ is true. Now we don't have to sit around and wait to see if Jesus fulfills the messianic role. Now we have reason to be confident that he will. Jesus is the Christ; the Christ fulfills the messianic role; therefore, Jesus will fulfill the messianic role. We're just waiting.

Man, I can see that I've opened up a whole can of worms that is going to require a whole bunch more blogs before I get it all out.


At 2/09/2005 8:39 AM , Blogger luke_d said...

concerning point #1: let's say that someone asked, between the time between when Jesus died and when he rose, "do you think he's the Christ?" At that point, then, I'd assume that he could still be, if he rose from the dead and fulfilled the messianic role. But then, wouldn't that be true of anyone who is alive or dead then? Couldn't any dead person simply not have risen from the dead yet, and once they do, they will have the opportunity to fulfill the messianic role?

concerning point #2: claiming to be the Christ doesn't then seem to be enough to me. However, at the end you say that if he did rise from the dead, then it would be proof to any reasonable person that he was the Christ. I'd be willing to say that I'd buy it then. However, someone I don't think that the point would necessarily have to be conceeded.

At 2/09/2005 9:56 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...


Concerning point #1, between the time Jesus died and he rose from the dead, I think the most reasonable conclusion anybody could've come to is that he was not the Christ. Holding out hope that the dead person might rise from the dead and be the messiah would be about like thinking we're all brains in vats, and the external world is an illusion. While possible, it is highly unlikely.

Concerning point #2, I agree with you that claiming to be the Christ is not enough, and I admited as much in my blog. What would convince me would be a combination of Jesus claiming to be the Christ, and then rising from the dead. Those things, together, would constitute strong evidence that Jesus' claim to be the Christ is true. Now of course, that isn't the only possibility, but it seems to me to be the most reasonable one.

Thanks for your comments.


At 11/06/2006 8:31 PM , Blogger drRic said...

Where have we all gone wrong? Having begun in the Spirit, do we now slip back into the flesh being deceived? We need to re-visit the scriptures right down to the Old testament prophecies up again to the New testament prophecies of Jesus Christ. There should be no doubt that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Messianic role down to every dot. What then is the definition of a "messiah"? I'm sure everyone has a different response, but will have a similar idea, but that should not even be the point. Why? Let's look at this crucial point: Jesus did not become a Messiah when he grew up nor was He one by a career search. He came as the Savior, the Light that lighteth up every man coming into the world; He came as that LIFE that consumed the fear of death. This was automatic. He was that very Light that would expose every dark thing. Just think for a moment about life in the past,and presently where we are right now. The Christ of God is still at work as we speak. Let's go back to the gospels of Matt,Mark,Luke,John. Let's look specifically at Matt.24 if I'm correct, John ch.3-5, and let's ponder on a few things. One of the first things we struggle with is: we have not picked up yet that Jesus Christ coming to the earth, doing miracles, being hated by the religious leaders,being crucified, rising from the dead, making disciples of the chosen was all a part of His Messiahship. Why did Jesus always make remarks of prophecies being fulfilled in the specific insignificant things he ever did? It was because of the unbelief of the disciples and the multitudes, and also because of OUR UNBELIEF even today as we speak. Jesus Christ was the ultimate Prophet. Did we not notice any of His prophecies in the New testament? He said that there would be wars, rumors of wars, people against people, nation against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms, droughts, earthquakes, economic collapses. He even warned those not to be deceived: false prophets,people who would leave the faith and fall prey to seducing spirits, knowledge would highly increase among men. Let's look around us today: What do we see from all that the Messiah has told us. Did that ever cross our mind that a Messiah warns and delivers people from danger? Why wasn't His kingdom of this world? One country could not contain His kingdom! This IS the kingdom that governs every kingdom, do we not see this? Look at Colossians 1:15-19, Ephesians ch.1-2, Philippians 2:9-11 and Hebrews 1:1-3 if I'm correct. GOD has placed Christ above every sort of thing and over every sort of ruler. Let's look at the huge issues facing different countries;nations fighting against nations; so many different faiths and religions;technology on the increase day after day; men killing eachother for the love of money;homosexiality and marital misfortunes are enormously on the rise; the world has somehow become so dangerous to live in. Do any of these things echoe the words of our Lord and apostles who taught what would happen during these "last" days? Even what Jesus has said about men's hearts failing them for fear is being fulfilled in what we speak about, namely "our questioning of Christ being the Messiah". Have we lost faith? It's no wonder Christ asked, "When I come, will I find faith on this earth?" Jesus Christ has warned that tribulations and times of deception would come. Now what we see everyone doing is trying to stop what has to be fulfilled. This makes me think way back to when they allowed homosexual marriage. It didn't surprise me. Ironically, I rejoiced, not because of that new bill of course, but because our Messiah was still at work. Did we get that? HE SAID THESE TIMES HAD TO COME TO PASS. I remember being bombarded at my workplace with people trying to get me and other people to sign a petition to try and overthrow the homosexual marriage bill, but I didn't see the point because I knew that my will was no match for GOD's will. If we think I'm being foolish, let's look at when Jesus had told the disciples that He must be taken and killed and Peter cried, "No, may that never be!" Let's hear what Jesus said, "Get thee behind me, Satan, for you are NOT MINDFUL OF THE THINGS OF GOD but of men!" It was natural and good for Peter to care so much for Jesus,not wanting Him to die, but that was NOT THE WILL OF GOD. Do we see this? At another time Jesus told Peter that He would deny Him, and it was natural and good for Peter to care enough to say that he would never deny the Messiah, but what happened when Peter was confronted with the prophecy of our Ultimate Prophet,Lord and Savior? He was denying Jesus but he was not aware of it until the cock crowed as Christ PREDICTED. Can we name one thing that has not come to pass concerning the words of our Savior? So, then what is our problem? Here's the initial problem: We're not following exactly what Christ has told us to do when these times come. To some of us faithless ones, He asks, "You are able to tell what weather it's going to be by looking in the sky, but you are not able to discern the SIGNS of the times?" What did Jesus instruct us to do when we seen signs of what He has told us by the Spirit and encouraged to be?
"Fear not", "Lo, I am with you ALWAYS,even to the end of this age", "My peace I leave with you", "In this world you shall have tribulation, but REJOICE FOR I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD", "Be of good cheer", "The one who shall ENDURE to the end shall be saved", "When you see such signs, LOOK UP FOR YOUR REDEMPTION DRAWETH NIGH", "I will not leave you as orphans, I shall come to you". Thank you Jesus for being our Messiah. As I've said, we need to look around us and see that every dimension of this world is running in the perfect will of GOD through HIS precious Son. Look at Philippians 2:9-11 and look at I Corinthians 12 and you will see that from Philip.2 that every knee shall bow and confess Jesus as Lord(nation, race,religion etc.) and that no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said none can come to Him except the Spirit of the FATHER draws him, and ultimately, Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I WILL DRAW ALL MEN ONTO MYSELF" Is He not the Messiah?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home