A few years ago I talked to Stephanie on a plane from Austria to England. At the time she was a college student and a traditional churchgoer. I say traditional because even though she went to church with her family on special holidays and a few other occasions, she didn’t really attend church. She carefully distinguished between what she did only as a tradition and what she actually believed.
She, like many others in Austria and around the world, believed that as long as you are sincere and do more good than bad, “God” would accept you after you died. I was searching for ways to show her beliefs differ from the Bible’s teaching. I went to the resurrection of Jesus.
Although Stephanie celebrated the resurrection of Jesus with her family each year, she had not considered its serious implications. All four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in the New Testament spend nearly half of their books focusing on the final week of Jesus life. They all include accounts of his sufferings and bloody crucifixion. All four tell that on the third day Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead.
Surprisingly, the Gospels include details to verify the nature of Jesus’ resurrection. Luke records Jesus calling his disciples over to touch him to prove that he wasn’t some phantom (Luke 24:39). Luke also describes Jesus eating a piece of broiled fish (Luke 24:42-43). John records Jesus’ interaction with Thomas. Thomas was a skeptic (not a believer at the time). Jesus told him to literally touch his nail scars and to put his hand in the spear hole in his side (John 20:27).
Another verifier of the accuracy of the Gospel accounts is that they record that Mary Magdalene was the first one at the tomb and the first to see Jesus alive again (John 20:1-18). In the ancient world, women were second class citizens. Their testimony wasn’t even permitted in the courts. If the disciples were trying to cook the books to make it look like Jesus rose again, this was not the way to tell the tale!
When you compare the scared disciples who ran away and denied Jesus before the cross, to the bold lions they had become after the resurrection, you must conclude that these men truly believed that saw Jesus literally alive from the dead. They all suffered and all but one died for the message’s truthfulness, according to tradition.
Okay, so the Bible teaches and even makes a reasonable case for Jesus’ resurrection. What does this have to do with the Stephanies of the world? Well, Jesus actually predicted his resurrection ahead of time. At least three times there are quotations of Jesus spelling out his future. He notes the scourging, mockery, crucifixion, and the resurrection (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34).
The fact that Jesus is alive changes everything. It proves that all that he said and did are real. No other religious leader said what Jesus said, and did what Jesus did. Some had similarities, but Jesus was unique.
So which religious leader is right? Jesus. Why? He backed it all up by rising from the dead.
Stephanie then suggested that we should give greater credibility to guys like magicians David Copperfield and David Blaine. But there is no comparison between modern magicians who do TV tricks and Jesus (especially in the resurrection!). I don’t think Copperfield can clear out any local hospitals by healing everyone––if he could, he’d be a real jerk for not having done so already!
She conceded the point.
The problem for Stephanie and for so many in our community is that they think they know about Jesus. She had had some religious instruction in her school. Right here in Georgia many have been to Sunday School or a Vacation Bible School at least a time or two. But, that is not enough. You must take the time to read the Gospels for yourself. Don’t just believe what you or your friends think sounds good––go to the sources.
She seemed surprised when I pointed out that Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus taught his own exclusivity. Supposedly sweet and understanding, Jesus taught that everyone who makes up another way to heaven is wrong! All those that choose to reject him for Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or any other religion will be judged for eternity. Stephanie, herself is in the guilty spotlight. Instead of following Jesus by faith alone, she had substituted religious tradition and trying to be good enough on her own.
How about you? Do you take seriously the implications of the resurrection of Jesus? All that he did and said are real and true. He calls you this very day to bow the knee before him. Stop trying to be good enough to earn God’s favor. Admit that you can never do so and receive his free forgiveness through the cross. Become his follower beginning today.
If you are already a believer, do you know a Stephanie? Do you know someone who has some religious tradition, but has never really got it about Jesus? Ask the Lord to make this Easter season like no other for them. On that plane ride, I challenged Stephanie to read straight through one of the Gospels. I hope the Lord has opened her heart to repent of her sins and believe the truth about him! May it be so for your friends as well. Have a Happy Resurrection Day this Sunday!
By John Crotts