“You have been saved by grace alone through faith…” (Eph 2:8).
Faith in what?, some might ask. Faith in the Easter story—that Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins, and most importantly, that He was resurrected from the dead. Those italicized words aren’t mine…in 1 Cor 15 Paul stated that if the resurrection is not true, Christianity is a farce and we Christians are to be pitied more than anyone (my paraphrase). The resurrection then is indeed the very crux upon which everything we believe rests.
For many years I have cherished the tradition in liturgical churches (including Anglican) of following the “Church calendar.” While Easter 2016 was nine days ago, the Church calendar tells us that we are still in the midst of the “Eastertide” season, which means that through May 8 liturgical churches will spend every Sunday talking about the resurrection and its application to our lives as if it were still Easter day.
So what does the resurrection mean for me? Many things, but its deepest meaning is rooted in the verse in Ephesians shown above. Here’s a story:
One day a few years before my father, who was an atheist, died, we had a conversation. He – again – was trying to dissuade me from my Christian beliefs. Somewhat exasperated he asked me, “What if you die and find out it isn’t true?” I replied, “Then I will stand before whoever I meet (assuming there is Someone on the other side) and declare with great conviction that I have believed in Jesus Christ, and as a Christian I have lived a rich full life, and if I had it to do over again I would make the same choice. Can you say the same thing, Dad?”
My father said nothing in return. Quite some time later, he made a statement to me that “I am closer than you think” to believing in Christ. God was working in his heart, no doubt of that, and I have hope that – because of the resurrection – I will see Dad again when it is my time to enter eternity.
You see, without the resurrection, there is no hope. For anyone. Jesus would be just another man, one of many with moral and ethical stories to tell but no definitive truth backing his words. Poet and author Paul Mariani said it well (in his book “Thirty Days,” Viking Compass, 2002), that without the resurrection, “what’s left over … is a Jesus closer to the great Confucian teachers or to Socrates, a tragic teacher in the rabbinical tradition. His narrative ends with the teacher crucified; his final words a cry of utter abandonment. End of story.”
Thus the resurrection is not just another detail…it is The Great Fact of Life. You can believe it, or not, but either way what was was, and what will be will be. I BELIEVE that unlike the venerated cultural philosophers of other eras, Jesus did not stay in the grave, He is alive today! I stake my life on that, as well as my life after this life. I invite you to do the same.