“If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” (Paul – 1Corinthians 15:14)
Christianity is founded upon a miracle – the fact that a dead man came back to life.
If we understand the apostle’s words correctly, He is plainly telling us that the only thing that gives our faith any real meaning and purpose is the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Though Jesus death was necessary and essential… without the fact of His resurrection, His sacrifice meant nothing.
His death only has meaning IF He didn’t stay dead. Or, in other words, the resurrection gives full validation to Jesus’ sacrificial death. His death was effective to deliver us from sin (and its consequences) because He came back to life.
The apostle held the same view… “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.” (1Cor. 15:17)
Early Christianity proclaimed the gospel… that Jesus died for our sins AND that He was raised to life again. They are a matched set. We can’t have one without the other. It is the revelation of a risen Savior that legitimizes the death of that Savior.
But how can we know that Jesus truly came back from death?
First, there is the empty grave. Each of the four gospels gives us eyewitness testimony of what happened on that first Resurrection Day. For most of us, that is all the proof we need. But there is more proof available. Even the Jewish authorities did not deny the empty grave – they just came up with the story that the disciples stole the body (Mt. 28:13). Bottom line: Jesus was entombed. But three days later, He wasn’t there anymore. The grave was empty.
Second, a risen Jesus appeared to many disciples. In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, the apostle Paul mentions that the living Jesus appeared to Peter, the rest of the disciples, to James, to 500 brothers at one time… and even appeared to him. What is significant is the effect that these appearances had on those who saw Jesus alive and well. They were transformed! Once timid and cowering – they were filled with an undeterrable conviction and zeal. They went from hiding in fear… to fearless. Something changed that changed them forever! The apostle tells us that it was the appearance of the resurrected Jesus.
Third, those who did not believe… became believers – because of Jesus’ resurrection. The Bible tells us that even Jesus’ brother, James, did not believe that He was the Messiah. But upon seeing the risen Jesus, personally, He not only became a believer… He eventually became the leader of the early Church. James also died a martyr’s death for what He believed – all because of faith in a risen Savior.
And the apostle Paul, himself, a staunch opponent of Christianity became a believer after… (you guessed it!) His encounter with a risen Jesus (1Cor. 15:8-9; Acts 9)! How is it a man who had everything going for him, suddenly changed directions to pursue a course he once violently opposed? There is only one legitimate reason!
Lastly, each of us can experience this risen Savior today! The same power that transformed every person who believed in Jesus way back then, still exists today. The same Jesus Who was real and alive then… is real and alive now – waiting for each of us to turn to Him and receive what He is freely offering us.
Sometimes the only way to truly know something… is to know Someone!