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Easter 2009 Historical Validity of Resurrection

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The Real Resurrection

There’s been a terrible trail of blood across America’s news for the last few weeks.

Five children, ages 7-16, killed by their father in their mobile home.

5 U.S. soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq.

A Yahoo engineer shot his two children, his wife, and three other relatives.

3 Police dead in Pittsburgh, gunned down by a man with an AK47.

4 dead in Oakland.

13 dead at an immigration center in Binghampton, NY.

I woke up Wednesday morning, and there on the front page of msnbc.com was news of another shooting in Temecula, CA.

A Sunday school teacher being sought in the murder of an 8 year old girl.

And then of course the murder of Nick Adenhart by a drunk driver Thursday.

Around 15,000 people a year killed in alcohol-related crashes in the united states.

In 2007, there were 19,700 murders/manslaughter in the Inland Empire. 

I know that you don’t want me to keep going. Now imagine yourself at a funeral – any of those tens of thousands of funerals just mentioned. And an American religious leader – like Episcopal Bishop John Spong, or Bishop Katherine Schori of the Episcopal Church USA – stands to speak. And they share with you the good news, that there is a story in the Bible that gives us encouragement and hope. It is the story about Jesus dying and rising from the dead. Now don’t make the disastrous mistake of thinking those things actually happened. Instead, see what a beautiful metaphor they are. Cast off your silly, outdated literalistic view of those things, and see how inspiring the story can be:

Let me quote Bishop Spong. Imagine yourself at a funeral – hearing these words about Jesus’ resurrection:

Easter with its story of the resurrection can also be transformed, I believe, and carried with us into a postexilic future. Yet before that is possible, the miracles of physical resuscitation, the angels who roll stones away from tombs, … must be dismissed for the legends that they are. But life that transcends every human limit is a powerful portrait. Death, which opens all things to new possibilities; love, which triumphs over hatred; being, which overcomes nonbeing—those are the truths to which Easter points, and those are the truths that emerge when God is met on the edges and at the limits of our finite humanity. That is what the stories of the resurrection are all about.

In the last century, there was a very famous theologian named Paul Tillich. He was quite concerned that you not make the terrible of taking the Bible literally, and believing that something like the resurrection actually happened. Tillich said this:

Nothing less than symbols and myths can express our ultimate concerns.

In other words, something factual and historic like the resurrection of Jesus couldn’t express your ultimate concerns. You need something better, like a symbol or a myth. So don’t be so foolish as to try to take the resurrection literally – free your mind, and experience the enlightenment of the metaphor of the resurrection. Amazingly, Tillich, Spong, and Schori would each describe himself or herself as a Christian.

As one Unitarian minister said “What if Easter were really about the ways that love can create new possibilities in even the most hopeless situation?”

Wouldn’t that be a blessing at a funeral? “From the made-up story of Jesus we can be inspired that love will create new possibilities in hopeless situations.”

No, that would not be a blessing. At my funeral, someone must say: “Jesus Christ, who is God, lived a perfect life, then died on a cross to bear the wrath of God for the sins of Tim Lovegrove. And then God raised Jesus from the dead, and when God raised Jesus from the dead, he was not raised to a normal human body that will die again, but he was the firstfruits of the true resurrection. He was the first one resurrected to a new kind of body, a new kind of existence that will never die. And so though Tim Lovegrove’s earthly body has died, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Tim will have a perfect, eternal body that will never die. God has been merciful to this sinner, and so this sinner can delight in the fellowship of God forever. Dead has been swallowed up in victory.”

TURN TO, READ I Peter 1:19-21 What kind of God do you put your hope in? The God mighty enough to deal the crushing blow of death to Jesus pouring out His wrath for the sins of men, and then raise Him from that very death. That’s the God I put my hope in.

TURN TO, READ Colossians 2:12-15 When we were dead in our sins, how did God make us alive? Together with Jesus, whom He made alive when he raised Him from the dead. If it’s a metaphor, no one told Paul.

TURN TO, READ Ephesians 2:4-7

TURN TO, READ Ephesians 1:18-21

TURN TO, READ II Cor. 4:14 Imagine yourself on your death bed. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, with days to live. And in the hospital room you upon your Bible and read II Corinthians 4:14. And you wonder, “What a beautiful metaphor, for how love can bring hope in any situation. If only it were true. Because if God didn’t really raise Jesus from the dead, then I suppose God probably isn’t going to raise me either.” What encouraging thoughts on one’s deathbed!

TURN TO, READ Romans 10:9

By the way, there is remarkable historical evidence for the resurrection. Work by Josh McDoweel, William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, and Gary Habermas have demonstrated powerful historical evidence for the resurrection. Those who view the resurrection as merely a metaphor don’t deny it’s historical reality because there is so little evidence: they deny its historical reality because it is not very modern to believe in something so unscientific as rising from the dead. These are fantasy and myths that fly in the face of modern science and human reason.

Can I suggest that death itself flies in the face of modern science and human reason?

It’s interesting that when an unexpected death occurs, people use the word “senseless.” It was senseless killing, a senseless death. Modern science and human reason can’t make sense out of man’s sinful nature, man’s lust for power, man’s thirst for revenge, man’s willingness to destroy the lives of those nearest to him or her.

The world may call it senseless, but the Bible has an explanation. There is a God who created everything that exists, and because he created everything that exists he is the ruler and owner of all things, including you and me. But we don’t like being told how to live. We tell God to leave us alone, because we know a better way to make life work. And in the very first family, man’s own way led to murder. And now here with thousands of years of scientific and philosophical and psychological advancements – and our news is packed full of incredible stories of death every day. Proverbs 16:25, There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. As Paul says in Romans 5:12, Death spread to all men, because all sinned. These deaths are not really senseless – they are exactly what God told us would happen when we chose our own way.

Into that dark picture comes the story of the resurrection – a metaphor about the power of love to triumph over difficulties? Give me a break. God sent His only Son Jesus, who is God. He really lived on this earth. He really lived perfectly God’s way – because we did not. He really died on a cross outside Jerusalem. He really rose from the dead. And now he really offers eternal life to those who will believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, turn from their own way, and turn to Jesus as Savior and Ruler. I Corinthians 6:14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Death is dead. Life has won. Christ has conquered.

Let us turn from our own way – the way of death – and let us turn to Him, our Savior, Master and Risen King.

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