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Resurrection! – Transformation

May 31, 2009

We are in week four of a study on the Resurrection of Jesus – the central event of Christianity. Without the Resurrection of Jesus, Christianity could not stand. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15:14-19 “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep [metaphor for death] in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (John 21:15-23)

Some do not believe that Jesus was resurrected; others believe his resurrection was not physical. We will seek the truth as we explore various aspects of resurrection and return to our study of the Gospel of John when we finish this study. After writting this post, I feel there are a few additional resurrection topics we must address, so in next week’s post we will look at the physicality of Jesus’ resurrection.

The primary source of my research is the Bible. The evidence for what the Bible says being true is extreme. The historicity of the Bible is well supported by events and people written about in other historical books, and by a staggering amount of archeological evidence, original transcript evidence and Messianic prophecy evidence. I also researched this topic using a book called “resurrection” by Hank Hanegraaff and other sources referenced in the book “resurrection”. If you wish to learn more about “resurrection”, the book is available for purchase at http://www.christianbook.com. Hank Hanegraaff heads the Christian Research Council. Thanks to Hank, our topic of study can be neatly arranged and memorized based on the acronym FEAT:

Fatal Torment
Empty Tomb
Appearances of Christ
Transformation

 

Transformation

John 21:15-23

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” John 21:15-23

 

Acts 2:22-36

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:

‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will live in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ [Psalm 16:8-11]

“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.’ [Psalm 110:1]

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:22-36)

 

Transformation

The resurrection of Jesus resulted in a few seemingly insignificant believers turning the world upside down in a few hundred years. This type of change in the hearts and minds of men and women is unprecedented in human history. Christians in the first century (and Christians today in certain parts of the world) are so utterly convinced of their eternal salvation based on Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice that they are willing to die horrible deaths rather than deny that Jesus is the Christ. It is inconceivable to think that the disciples of Jesus would be willing to die for what they knew to be a lie. This point is made very eloquently by Dr. Simon Greenleaf, the famous Royall Professor of Law at Harvard who wrote “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence” an excerpt of which follows:

The great truths which the apostles declared, were that Christ had risen from the dead, and that only through repentance from sin, and faith in him, could men hope for salvation. This doctrine they asserted with one voice, everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling terrors that can be presented to the mind of man.

Their master had recently perished as a malefactor, by the sentence of a public tribunal. His religion sought to overthrow the religions of the whole world. The laws of every country were against the teaching of his disciples. The interests and passions of all the rulers and great men in the world were against them. The fashion of the world was against them.

Propagating this new faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, they could expect nothing but contempt, opposition, revilings, bitter persecutions, stripes imprisonments, torments and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propogate; and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay, rejoicing.

As one after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor and resolution. The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience and unblenching courage. They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great facts and truths which they asserted; and these motives were pressed upon their attention with the most melancholy and terrific frequency. It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually rose from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.

If it were morally possible for them to have been deceived in this matter, every human motive operated to lead them to discover and avow their error. To have persisted in so gross a falsehood, after it was known to them, was not only to encounter, for life, all the evils which man could inflict, from without, but to endure also the pangs of inward and conscious guilt; with no hope of future peace, no testimony of a good conscience, no expectation of honor or esteem among men, no hope of happiness in this life, or in the world to come.

Such conduct in the apostles would moreover have been utterly irreconcilable with the fact, that they possessed the ordinary constitution of our common nature. Yet their lives do show them to have been men like all others of our race; swayed by the same motives, animated by the same hopes, affected by the same joys, subdued by the same sorrows, agitated by the same fears, and subject to the same passions, temptations and infirmities, as ourselves. And their writings show them to have been men of vigorous understandings. If then their testimony was not true, there was no possible motive for this fabrication.

 

The Twelve

As Greenleaf so wonderfully communicates, the Apostles were thoroughly transformed the Resurrection of Jesus. Peter, who denied Christ three times on the night Jesus was betrayed and was once afraid of being exposed as a follower of Jesus, was transformed into a man of great faith who died a martyrs death. According to tradition, Peter was crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same way Christ was crucified.

James, the half brother of Jesus who once hated everything his brother stood for, called himself “a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). James became a leader in the Jerusalem church, but in AD 62 was martyred for his faith. Eusebius of Caesarea describes James as being thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and subsequently stoned.

The Apostle Paul was also transformed as is illustrated by his letter to the Philippians:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11).

Peter, James and Paul were not alone in their transformation. As Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland points out, within weeks of Jesus’ resurrection, an entire community of at least 10,000 Jews were willing to give up the very sociological and theological traditions that had given them their national identity.

 

Traditions

Many traditions were transformed by Jesus resurrection. Among them were the Sabbath, sacrifices and sacraments. In Genesis, the Sabbath was set apart as a day of remembering and celebrating God’s work in creation (Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:11). After God’s people escaped from Egypt, the Sabbath was expanded as a remembrance of God’s deliverance (Deuteronomy 5:15). After Jesus was resurrected, the Sabbath became a celebration of the “rest” we have in Christ who delivers us from sin and death (Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews 4:1-11). In remembrance of the resurrection of Christ, Christians began to meet on the first day of the week (the day of the week that Jesus was resurrected).

For Jewish believer, the sacrificial system they had followed whereby they repeatedly sacrificed animals as a symbol of there atonement for sin, but after the resurrection of Jesus, followers of Christ stopped sacrificing animals. They recognized that Jesus died once for all and only his perfect sacrifice could save them from eternal torment. They had finally realized that the sacrifice of animals could never remove sin and only served as a frequent reminder of their sin (Hebrews 8-10). After his resurrection, Jesus became for them the “Lamb who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

In addition, the Jewish sacraments of Passover and baptism were transformed. The Passover had previously been a remembrance of God’s deliverance of the Jews from death when the death angel “passed over” their houses in the tenth and final plague that resulted in their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The Egyptian even was remembered with a Passover meal to remind them of the night that God had delivered them. After the resurrection of Jesus, the Passover meal became the Lord’s Supper in which the sacrifice of Jesus body and the shedding of his blood is remembered with a communion of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. Only the resurrection of Jesus can account for the remembrance of his brutal death on the cross. Without the resurrection of Jesus it would be at the least cruel and morbid to remember his brutal suffering on a Roman cross (See Resurrection! – Fatal Torment) with a memorial meal. We would not remember the death of John F. Kennedy that way.

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