Monday, September 25, 2023
The Szare Szergi Monument is located in Ontario, just outside of the town of Barry’s Bay in the Madawaska Valley. Photo: RWN
Guest ContributionsOpinion/Column

All Christian preaching is useless if the Resurrection is not accepted

by Christopher Van-Lane

Today is Easter Sunday, also appropriately called Resurrection Sunday. It’s the day when Christians recall the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb, two days after His singularly brutal death by crucifixion on Good Friday.

As difficult as it is for some to believe because of the supernatural elements involved, Jesus’ bodily resurrection is in fact one of the most thoroughly documented events in all of human history. Though denial of Christ’s resurrection remains in vogue among non-Christians (and even, shamefully, among some liberal members of the Christian clergy), the apostle Paul confronts such denial head-on in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 15), where he points out that if Christ has not been resurrected bodily, then there is no salvation from sin, and therefore, the entire Christian faith is useless. In a pointed comment that could have been presciently directed at liberal clergy who deny the Resurrection, Paul adds further that all Christian preaching is useless if the Resurrection is not accepted. In other words, if no Resurrection, then no salvation–and, in truth, no real faith. It’s that simple. And Paul, a former persecutor of Christians who became an apostle following his own dramatic encounter with Christ, knew what he was talking about.

“Beloved” sculpture by retired cab driver Doug Hedemark. Photo: Taxi News

All four Gospel accounts attest that following His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, one of His women disciples, either alone or with several other women variously named in the Gospel accounts. He appeared to the twelve apostles shortly after–including to an overjoyed Peter, who had been desolate following his own denial of Jesus at dawn the preceding Friday.

The very first sign of Jesus’ resurrection, which occurred when Mary and the other women approached to tend His body early that Sunday morning, was the astounding sight of Jesus’ empty tomb, after a supernatural earthquake had rolled away the stone used to seal it. Arriving at the tomb, they saw the now-empty grave clothes and were greeted by one or two angels (depending on the Gospel account), who informed them that Jesus was not there, but had risen. The appearance of the angels proved fatal to the Roman soldiers assigned to guard the tomb, but was a source of unimagined joy to the women, who hurried back to inform the apostles what they had seen.

The four Gospel accounts differ slightly on Jesus’ first appearance to the apostles: Luke’s account says it happened when Jesus met His despondent apostles on the road to Emmaus; while John’s account describes Jesus’ sudden appearance later that Sunday inside a closed room. John’s account, significantly, establishes that the resurrected Jesus was no longer constrained by physical barriers.

Yet at the same time, Jesus still retained a physical body, as He proved during His encounter with a skeptical apostle Thomas inside that closed room. Thomas–presumably as devastated by Jesus’ death as the other apostles were–had declared he would refuse to believe Jesus’ resurrection unless he could touch Jesus’ wounds from His crucifixion. But when Jesus responded by inviting him to do exactly that, Thomas’ skepticism vanished: “My Lord, and my God!” Jesus further responded with an appeal for stronger faith: “Blessed are you who have not seen, and yet believe!”

We can deduce from these passages that Jesus’ resurrection body was still a physical body that even carried physical wounds–but now, since those wounds were now part of a resurrection body, they no longer hurt nor bothered Jesus. In this way, Jesus proved that He had conquered not only physical infirmity and physical wounds, but death itself. Jesus had taken away the sting of death, and given all those who follow Him the promise of eternal life. Jesus life’s work was now well and truly done.

A short time later, Jesus offered Peter–who still felt guilty over having earlier denied Jesus three times–a threefold chance to reaffirm his devotion to Him. When Peter did so, Jesus asked him to feed and shepherd His followers, both young and mature. In this way, Jesus prepared His apostles for their future leadership roles in what would become the Christian Church.

Shortly after this, Jesus gave His followers the Great Commission to preach the Gospel throughout the world. Then, at last, He ascended to heaven to be with His Father, but He kept His promise to send another Helper (Comforter), the Holy Spirit, to guide us in our lives as Christians. We continue to rely on the Holy Spirit to this day.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Hallelujah, what a Savior! Happy Easter, everyone!