I am writing in response to the article in the April journey on re-thinking Easter by Noel Preston. Rev Dr Greg Jenks is quoted as arguing that Mark’s gospel “draws on cultural myths of the ancient world to recount a story of a ‘Divine/Crucified Hero'”.
First, I wonder why Journey would promote such a story, taking up almost half a page and complete with photo! I should add that I had difficulty finding any other real focus on the Easter story in that issue of Journey which was, presumably, the Easter issue!
The Uniting Church has lost a lot of members over the issue of homosexual leadership, but that is nothing to what will happen if the crucifixion and resurrection are denied or rethought!
Although I realise that those who promote these ideas tend to have a low view of Scripture, nevertheless I think it is important for the sake of the rest of us to have a look at what the Bible has to say about the resurrection.
Paul takes up just that issue of what it would mean if there were no resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. He argues very strongly that if Christ is not risen our preaching is useless and so is your faith, because you are still in your sins.
If Christ is not risen what is there to preach? The Bible is full of events that did not happen, Christ himself is a liar and the central focus of the Gospel no longer exists. In fact, we have a crucified Saviour without the seal that establishes that He was indeed the Son of God.
If Christ is not risen, then forgiveness of sin is an impossibility because only Christ as the risen Son of God could be the perfect sacrifice and hence the means by which our sins are forgiven. Only Christ as the risen Son of God could be the perfect high priest pleading for each one of us with God. Only Christ as the risen Son of God can sit at God’s right hand as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
It is also important to acknowledge that the resurrection of Christ was very real to the first century Christians and is central to the New Testament. We are told that He presented himself alive by many convincing proofs over a period of forty days (Acts 1: 3). He appeared to Mary Magdalene weeping at the tomb, to the two friends walking to Emmaus, to the disciples inside a locked room on two occasions: once when Thomas was present and once when He was not. He also appeared to the disciples at the Sea of Galilee and at the time of the Ascension.
For the early church, the resurrection was central to their teaching and preaching.
Peter’s sermons on the Day of Pentecost, and at the Beautiful Gate, and before the rulers of the temple, and his first sermon to the gentiles all had the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ as their primary focus. Stephen’s defence before the high priest also focused on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Paul also continually emphasized the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Examples include his sermon on Mars Hill (Where he talked about the resurrection but not the crucifixion.) and his defences before Felix and Festus
And what of those many Christians who claim to know Christ walking with them in their daily lives? Because of the resurrection, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God and that we no longer need to fear death because He will be with us.
In the words of one of the Gaither hymns:
“Because he lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
And I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives.