Jesus is Risen! Unbelievable?
by Pastor Clarke
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died” 1 Corinthians 15:19 (NRSV).
You can blame my Easter sermon on a newspaper columnist. A few years ago I read a column in a well known paper in which the writer lamented that yet again the pastor had settled on saying nice things during his sermon. It seems he was tired of hearing positive and heart-warming things when what he really wanted to hear were reasons to overcome scepticism that Jesus rose from the dead. Interestingly, I get the impression from the New Testament that the sermons of the apostles leaned more toward convincing people that Jesus rose from the dead than toward giving a nice devotional thought for the day. For the early church Easter is central. It still is!
The sermon this Easter is not a nice one. Rather, as per the suggestion of the newspaper columnist we will be looking at reasons we can believe in Jesus’ resurrection in our sceptical age. I will be loosely following a framework laid out by Dan Grossenbach who in a recent edition of the Cold Case Christianity podcast suggested that all objections to the Christian faith fit within five basic questions which go by the acronym CHIPS.
- Is it comprehensible, that is, does it make sense?
- Is it historical, that is, did it really happen?
- Is this the correct interpretation? Are we really interpreting the data properly?
- Is it preserved properly? Can we put any trust in the Bible in the first place?
- Is it significant? Does this have any relevance to my life?
Normally this blog contains either a condensed version of the sermon (ie. the version some would rather I preach!), or one of the points. But for today, this is actually an expanded version. We will be looking at some of the following in greater depth during some of our upcoming Adult Bible Classes. So let’s get started!
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Does it Make Sense?
Is it reasonable to believe the Christian claim that Jesus rose from the dead? After all, in the experience of most of us, if not all of us, people don’t rise from the dead. So why should we believe that this one person, Jesus, did?
Is it even possible that someone might rise from the dead? If our starting point is that there is no such thing as the supernatural, that there is no God whatsoever, then our minds are likely already made up: of course it cannot happen. But if the door is open to the possibility that God exists, then we should be open to the idea that God could work a miracle. God could raise a man from the dead if he wanted to.
But just because it is possible that God could choose to raise a dead man (or woman) to life, does that make the resurrection of Jesus any more believable? If a friend told you that one of their relatives had risen from the dead after being dead for a day or two, would you believe them? I hope not! We are correct to be sceptical of such claims and usually a better explanation can be found, that someone was hallucinating for example. If such scepticism is to be commended then surely would we not be correct in applying such reasonable scepticism to the resurrection of Jesus?
Well, no actually. The thing to notice here is that it is a matter of context. If you are open to the existence of a miracle working God, there is still no reason to expect that he would grant that particular miracle for your friend’s relative. It would be reasonable to expect God to work as he normally does – by not supernaturally raising dead people to life, but rather letting what happens naturally, happen naturally. This is what we normally expect and we normally see no reasons for exception to this. Is there a reason for an exception in the case of Jesus?
Well, yes actually…
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