PDF of Study Guide available HERE.
The resurrection solves one of history’s greatest mysteries. The fact that Christian churches exist is a phenomenon that defies logical explanation. The reason they exist gives everyone a reason to strongly consider putting their faith in Jesus.
The reason Christianity exists is compelling in spite of the scandals, your view of the Bible, or your church experience.
Why is it that Nero, an emperor of Rome, is known primarily for killing Christians and not being emperor? Why is it that Caesar Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, who made Rome an empire and reigned for 40 years, is rarely mentioned outside of history books except for every Christmas? And at Christmas, he is not the hero of the story, but a footnote to another story.
The answer to these questions and others is why you should consider or reconsider putting your faith in Jesus.
All Movements Have Things In Common.
They have a charismatic leader with a new or seemingly new message that appeals to something going on in the culture. When they die, their followers pick up the burden of leadership and keep their teaching alive. The Prophet Muhammad died in 632 of natural causes. However, his family and friends carried on with his teaching. They went on to conquer the Arabian Peninsula, the Holy Land, North Africa, and Spain.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in 1968, but the Civil Rights Movement continued. Other leaders picked up the mantle and spread his teachings.
One would assume that this was the case with Jesus. Surely others took the message that He lived and taught and carried on after He was executed.
But That Was Not The Case.
No serious historian embraces that theory. That’s why it is a mystery. The first problem was that Jesus’ message didn’t advocate liberation or revolution. It wasn’t unique. His teaching of love was based on the Old Testament. And, the newer aspects of his teachings were impractical: pray for enemies, and pay your taxes (to your evil overlords). It wasn’t appealing.
The second problem was that Jesus’ message centered on Jesus. He never called on his followers to trust in his ideas. He instructed his followers to trust in HIM. It wasn’t his ideas that got him into trouble. It was who he claimed to be. For example, He said this to Lazarus’ sisters…
John 11:25 (NLT) Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.
And, to his apostles:
John 14:9 (NLT) … Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?
He did not come to leave his followers with a collection of insights and parables to pass on to the next generation. He went too far for that to be the case. He claimed too much. He made too much of himself. And, He allowed others to make too much of him.
The Movement Died With Jesus.
Why? Because Jesus claimed to BE the mission and the message from God. Without Him, there was NO mission or message. When Jesus died, no one believed his message or claims. The movement died with him.
Even before he died, his followers scattered. Peter denied knowing Him on the eve of his crucifixion. Peter quickly reversed from “You are the Christ!” to “I don’t even know him!”. Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark all share the same account. There were no heroes. No one stood with Jesus. That’s why we believe their accounts. If they had made this up, somebody would have been a hero. Somebody would have been faithful.
You see, Messiahs don’t die. The Son of God can’t be killed. You can’t crucify “the resurrection and the life.” The mystery of history is this: how did we go from that scenario to one 300 years later when the emperor of Rome declares Christianity legal and even becomes a Christian nation? The answer has nothing to do with what Jesus taught. Easter solves the mystery.
John 20:1-2 (NLT) Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 2 She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
Can you see that no one immediately assumed that Jesus had resurrected? Not even His closest followers expected Jesus to resurrect from the dead. Luke further confirms this.
Luke 24:11 (NLT) But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.
Even Peter and John did not believe… until they did.
John 20:3-8 (NLT) Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. 4 They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6 Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 7 while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. 8 Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed
The Message Of The Early Church Was The Resurrection Of Jesus.
Jesus’ followers didn’t reengage because of something Jesus taught. Jesus’ followers re-engaged because of someone they saw – Jesus. Luke carefully recorded what happened next. Jesus’ followers went into the streets of Jerusalem and began to proclaim a message. It wasn’t “Love one another”, the parable of the Good Samaritan, or blessed are the (fill in the blank). They proclaimed that Jesus had risen from the dead. Peter shouted to the crowds!
Acts 3:15 (NLT) You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact!
Acts 2:38 (NLT) Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ solves Easter’s mystery. More importantly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ resolves another great mystery: What do we do about our sins? How do we resolve our past? The resurrection of Jesus Christ clarified the point of his crucifixion: forgiveness of sin.
If you will take Peter’s words above to heart, you too can be forgiven, release your past, and discover a glorious future.
Adapted from Northpoint Ministries