What if?
This past weekend (if you are a Christian), we celebrated the centerpiece of our faith…of why we believe what we believe. Jesus is alive…he is risen! We spent the weekend with my family. Therefore, we attended their Easter service which was filled with beautiful music. Unfortunately, that meant that we did not attend our regular church. So, I thought I’d go back and hear the message from this past weekend. If you’re interested in listening, click HERE. I also thought I’d re-share this song by Nicole Nordeman (I shared it last Easter as well – one of my favorites).
Jesus said some pretty radical things during his short time on earth. If he were to show up on one of our popular late night talk shows (60 minutes, Jay Leno, Conan, etc.), we’d probably think he belongs in the looney bin. For those of you that are trying to figure out why you’d even want to follow Jesus, it’s not for his teachings…there were a lot of great teachers. If it were his teachings, then why did the disciples flee when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56)?

So what has kept Christianity alive for the past 2000 years if it wasn’t his teachings? It has everything to do with the resurrection and it is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions.  For example, if you were to visit:
  • Abraham’s tomb, (the founder of Judaism – the oldest religion), you would find it occupied. Died in 1900 BC.
  • Buddha’s tomb, (the founder of Buddhism) you would find it occupied. Died in 483 BC.
  • Mohammad’s tomb, (the founder of Islam) you, along with thousands of other pilgrims who visit everyday would find it occupied. Died in 632 AD.
But Jesus rose from the dead…and if you were able to find his tomb, you would find it empty. It is  exactly for this reason that the disciples came back to the very town in which Jesus was arrested and crucified to proclaim the message that Christ is risen. And from that point forward, the disciples went out to spread the word…and in some cases, perform miracles in the name of Jesus Christ (example: Acts 3: Peter heals a lame beggar).
Acts 3 RS
Over time, the disciples were told that they could share the teachings of Jesus, but warned not to speak his name: Acts 4:17 “we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” In response, Peter and John replied (Acts 4:19-20) “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” They were released, but we find that each of the apostles died proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection (source).
  • Matthew: suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia. He was killed by a sword wound. 
  • Mark: died in Alexandria, Egypt after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead. 
  • Luke: was hung in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost. 
  • John: faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. He was miraculously delivered from death, then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. He was the only disciple to die peacefully. 
  • Peter: was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to died in the same way that Jesus Christ had died. 
  • James: was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When he survived the fall, he was beaten with a club. 
  • James the Great (son of Zebedee): was ultimately beheaded in Jerusalem. Interestingly enough, the Roman officer who guarded James watched as James defended his faith at trial…he later knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.
  • Bartholomew (also known as Nathaniel): was a missionary to Asia and was witnessing in what is now known as Turkey. He was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip. 
  • Andrew: was crucified on an ex-shaped cross in Greece. Even on the cross, he continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until his death.
  • Thomas: was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the sub-continent. 
  • Jude: was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. 
  • Matthias (the apostle chosen to replace Judas): was stoned and then beheaded. 
  • Paul: was tortured and then beheaded by Nero in Rome. Prior to his death, he endured a lengthy imprisonment, which he used to write many of the letters we now find in the New Testament.
Again, I’m not sure that these apostles would have died so graciously for Jesus had he just been a good teacher…they died because they witnessed his death and resurrection. His resurrection validated his teachings. 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 says,
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”
With all that said, I would have loved to personally witness Jesus’ resurrection. I think it’d be easier for us all to believe if we’d also been there…but we weren’t. Regardless, he rose from the dead and validated that he was in fact, the son of God. Now it’s up to use to believe that Jesus died for us (me – insert your name) and that he came back so that we could have life…and a relationship with the Father. I can trust in that…can you?