Many aspects of the Christian message are hard to accept because they defy human logic. Take the claim in the Apostle’s Creed about Jesus that “on the third day he arose from the dead.” At the Orangeville Canadian Reformed Church we believe that this is true.
Evidence: A shoddy cover-up
As Christians, we have only one way of proving what we believe. We prove things from the Bible, for our starting point is always that the Bible is the true and reliable Word of God.
In the Bible it states clearly that Jesus was crucified on a Friday and died. He was put into a tomb, as was the custom at that time. The leaders of Israel remembered that Jesus had said during his life that “after three days I will rise again.” That is why they asked that soldiers be put by the tomb to guard it (Matthew 27:62-66).
All these precautions did not help much. On the following Sunday morning, two angels came down from heaven. The soldiers all ran away. The angels rolled away the large stone that covered the tomb, showing it was empty. Jesus had risen!
In order to keep this news from spreading, the soldiers were bribed to say that Jesus’ “disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep” (Matthew 28:13). Clearly this was a cover-up! If it was true that Jesus’ body had been stolen while the soldiers slept, the soldiers would have been put to death for neglecting their duty.
More Evidence: Appearances of Jesus
All the gospel accounts all tell of various appearances of Jesus. He was seen first by some women who came to visit the tomb early on that Sunday morning. On that very same day he then appeared to the disciples. In Luke 24 we read an extensive story of how the Lord Jesus began to walk alongside two men travelling home from Jerusalem. They were sad because Jesus had died. Only after a long conversation with them, did they realize they had been speaking with the risen Jesus! In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul sums up the times Jesus showed himself to his disciples, mentioning that at one time he appeared to more than five hundred people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:4-8).
Does it make a difference?
It seems incredible that a dead person would rise from the dead. Would the Christian message not gain more credibility if this part was toned down? The apostle Paul, however, stressed that the whole Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of Jesus rising from the dead. He wrote that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (I Corinthians 15:14). A little further he wrote that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (I Cor. 15:17).
You see, if you do away with Christ being raised from the dead, you have no Christian faith anymore. Then Jesus Christ will become just like so many other religious teachers. These teachers have gained many followers, but, they are just that, teachers, and dead teachers at that. Everyone who follows those teachers also dies sooner or later. Jesus did not just come to be a great teacher. He came to make payment for sins, so that those who believe in him might escape death. It is exactly by becoming alive again that Jesus showed he had made payment, that he conquered death, and that those who believe in him also will escape death.
Here we touch on one key aspect of the Christian hope: being raised from the dead just as Jesus was raised from the dead! The Christian idea of salvation is not escape from the body but the full restoration of life, which includes the undoing of death. By rising from the dead, Jesus showed he has brought restoration of life through his victory over the grave.
The Living Saviour and Worship
It is not hard to understand that you have a different relationship with someone who is dead than with someone who is alive. You may have fond memories of someone who is dead, but there is no interaction anymore. With someone who is alive, there can be vibrant communication. So it is for the Christian. Christians don’t speak about a Lord Jesus who was, but about their Lord Jesus who is a present reality! As living Saviour, he can be approached in prayer. There is an intensely personal aspect to knowing Jesus as Lord.
This fact also shapes the worship of the Christian congregation. It comes together not so much to remember past events or wise sayings. Believers reflect on what is written in the Bible in the awareness that these are the actions and words of a living God. That means in personal devotions, there is personal communication. Further, in the weekly worship where the believers come together, there is a dynamic relationship between the believers and the living Lord. The Christian faith is not merely about a set of ideas, but it is about a living Saviour, given by a living God. In worship, that living Lord communicates through his Word especially as it is preached, and the believers communicate through their songs and prayers.
As members of the Orangeville Canadian Reformed Church, it is our greatest joy to begin each week worshiping our living Lord. As has been the practice for many centuries, we come together on the very day the Lord Jesus arose from the dead, the Sunday. In the weekly worship services the voice of the living Lord Jesus Christ continues to be heard through the preaching of the gospel. Every burdened, troubled, contrite heart that comes to hear will not go home disappointed for through the preaching they hear that they are at peace with God through the living Lord Jesus. We invite you to come and join us in the worship of the living Lord.