Article by Pastor Josh Farmer originally published in April 9th, 2016 Faith Forum of Curry Coastal Pilot used by permission
The resurrection is the most significant aspect of salvation. Without the resurrection, the crucifixion would have no significance. The only reason we know that Jesus Christ saved us from our sins on the cross is because he defeated death in the resurrection. Jesus demonstrated his power and authority through his resurrection from the grave and only God has the power to overcome death.
If Jesus was not raised form the dead, then Jesus' ministry, message and claim to being the messiah would be insignificant, and death would remain a very real threat. So the question is this: How do we know that the testimonies of the early Christian church leaders are true? How do we know that Jesus was raised form the dead? The answer remains within the reactions of the early Christians and the disciples of Jesus.
Jesus was not the first to claim to be the messiah. In fact, scripture presents the names of two men who claimed to be of significance in Acts Chapter 5. During the apostles' trial, Gamaliel addressed the Sanhedrin and mentioned Theudas and Judas the Galilean. Both of these men spoke well, gathered disciples and demonstrated credibility and authority. Both of these men were arrested, put on trial, crucified and were buried. When these two men were arrested, their disciples became afraid and they abandoned their leaders and scattered.
When we examine the events surrounding Jesus' ministry and death, we observe similar occurrences. Jesus spoke wisely, gathered disciples, demonstrated credibility and authority, was crucified, died and was buried. His disciples, in fear of persecution and death, abandoned Jesus and scattered. In fact, of the 12 disciples, Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to authorities, Peter denied Jesus three times during Jesus' trial and Thomas would not believe that Jesus rose from the dead unless he saw Jesus for himself and touched his scars. Eight of the remaining disciples fled and hid when Jesus was arrested. Only John remained with Jesus and stood next to Mary when Jesus was crucified.
The reactions of Jesus disciples and followers are not surprising. They are exactly what would be expected under these circumstances. However, what is not expected is their actions three days after Jesus' brutal death on the cross.
After only three days, all of the disciples and hundreds of Jesus' followers gathered together and began a movement that proclaimed Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. Suddenly all fear of persecution and death, which originally caused them to scatter when Jesus was arrested, disappeared and they boldly preached to the ends of the known world the salvation of Jesus Christ, even in the face of a very real threat of torture and death. In fact, all of the 11 remaining disciples, except John, were brutally martyred for their testimony to the resurrection and messiahship of Jesus Christ. Not only that, but hundreds of Jesus' followers faced this same fate because of their testimony. So what changed?
What is even more compelling, is the fact that the greatest apostle of them all was a man named Paul who, before he encountered the risen Christ, devoted his life to destroying the Christian faith and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Paul, who was named Saul before his conversion, was considered to be a great persecutor against the Christian church in Jerusalem. Acts Chapter 8 says that he "ravaged the church and entered house after house, dragging off men and women and committing them to prison" (ESV) But, for some reason this Christian-killer and extreme skeptic of the testimony of Jesus Christ suddenly shifted his philosophy, theology, passions and emotions, and became equally devoted to spreading the testimony of Jesus Christ to the ends of the known world. What changed?
The questions that we now face are these: What did the disciples, the followers of Christ and the apostle Paul experience? Why did these experiences create such a dramatic change in philosophy? And how did their experiences cause such courage, drive and passion in their lives that they would face persecution, torture and death in order to testify and proclaim that Jesus Christ is the son of God? What changed?
The only explanation for their actions is an encounter with the resurrected Jesus Christ. The resurrected Jesus Christ would render fear and death irrelevant. The resurrected Jesus Christ would initiate a movement that would rapidly spread throughout the world. The resurrected Jesus Christ would provide courage, drive, passion and purpose in these early Christians' lives that would be worth the sacrifices they endured. These early Christians demonstrated the truth of their testimonies through the sacrifice of their lives. We know that their testimonies are true because only an encounter with the resurrected Christ would create the passion and conviction in which these men and women lived their lives.
Jesus is risen, death is defeated, fear is obsolete, salvation is here.