In the time of Jesus Christ, in the time of Apostle Paul, and in our time, there are people who do not believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. They have many reasons for believing this. In the time of Jesus, the Sanhedrin was divided between Pharisees and Sadducees. One group believed in the existence of a spirit, angels, and resurrection; the other group opposed the existence of all three and so could not believe in Christ’s resurrection. They even took additional steps to ensure others did not believe it—the gospel of Matthew tells readers that Roman soldiers were paid to spread the news that Jesus did not rise from the dead, but his disciples stole his body.
In one of his defenses for this faith, Paul states that he is being condemned only because he preached the resurrection of Christ. During the Enlightenment, philosopher Denis Diderot wrote that even if the whole city of Paris believed in the resurrection of Jesus, he would not. But our commitment to not believe is sometimes not enough. When a British man started to write a book to disprove the resurrection at the beginning of the 20th century, he ended up writing Who Moved the Stone, which is one of the best works on the resurrection of Jesus.
Theologian Miroslav Volf wrote that sometimes we Christians are so worried about defending God that we do not listen to those in opposition. Whenever he listens to atheists who say they do not believe in God, he asks them about their systems of belief and how they find hope in their lives. He found that very few of them are very satisfied with their beliefs or have taken their positions all the way to their logical conclusions.
So, I took Volf’s advice and carefully read an article written by someone who does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Consequently, he does not believe that there will be any resurrection for humanity. As I read the article it reminded me of King Mufasa from The Lion King, who told his son that the animal world continues the preservation of their order through their consumption of one another. The king of the lions believed there was nothing after life; their only purpose was sustaining future generations.
This article concluded that a person who does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of those who believe should do their best with the givens of life. They should build positive experiences and create memories, because that is all that we will have. The experiences are for the person passing through this world and the memories will be for those who traveled with us to remember what we have done on this earth. When life ends, this writer believes that the only thing left will be memories. Some people will have greater impact in this world—Napoleon affected more people than a regular guy by the name of Nate.
But those of us who believe in resurrection can look forward to not just the experiences of this world, but the certainty of the next. Apostle Paul is challenging the Corinthian believers at two levels: one is to make sure they are certain of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the fact that His resurrection is unique—he rose no more to die. Second, Paul wants them to understand that the resurrection of Jesus is not only for this lifetime, but it challenges believers to think beyond this life.
One of the sad things we hear these days is that people are dying alone from the coronavirus and its complications. Not only did they die alone, but no one came to claim their bodies and they were buried in common plots in New York City and other places. But the Scriptures can give us some words of comfort in the midst of this tragedy. In the story of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man, we are told that when the poor man died, the angels carried him to the bosom of Abraham. The other comfort comes from the words of Jesus Christ when he says that He, the risen Christ, will never leave nor forsake us. In Matthew 28 we are told “and lo, I will be with you until the end of the world.” When this world as we know it is coming to an end, we shall be with Jesus for all eternity. It is the crucified, buried, risen, and ascended Christ who makes that promise. Thus, we can sing with confidence along with the writer of the hymn, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”