God’s People, part 161: Risen

Read John 20

“The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee,”  (Luke 24:5-6, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 161: Risen.

I believe in God the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to hell[i].
On the third day he rose again,
And sitteth at the right-hand side of the Father,
From whence He shall come
To judge the quick[ii] and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost[iii],
The holy catholic[iv] church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting. Amen.

Resurrection-Risen-HandThe above is the Apostles’ Creed, where the basic doctrines, the essentials if you will, are laid out for every believer to memorize, recite, and know. It is a measure, a rule, for all the faithful to know and to profess. This short creed helps the faithful, devoted believer to keep from straying off of the path of orthodoxy. It keeps people in line with the tradtional Christian faith as passed down from the Apostles onward.

Make no mistake, this creed was not written by the apostles; however, it bears witness to the apostolic faith. By apostolic faith, I mean the faith passed down from the apostles to all Christians throughout the millennia. Here are the core, essential tenets of the faith as outlined in this simple creed: Belief in God the Father, who created the heavens and the earth; Belief in Jesus Christ the Son, who was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary; Jesus physically suffered under Pontius Pilate, He physically died, and was buried; during the two days he was dead he went to the place of the dead. His death was final. He was really dead.

On the third day, he was physically resurrected from the dead, and now sits at the right-hand side of God. This creed affirms the Holy Spirit, the holy universal church, the ongoing communion of all the believers (aka saints), the forgiveness of sins, the physical resurrection of the body that will happen when Jesus comes again, and the everlasting life that comes through a life of faith in Christ. What’s more, it affirms the Holy Trinity, a most sacred and holy doctrine, rooted in both Scripture and apostolic tradition, that is not to be trifled with nor dismissed.

I recapitulate the Apostles’ Creed because it affirms the topic of today’s devotion: Jesus’ bodily resurrection. As was mentioned in the last devotion, it is important to avoid falling into heresies of the past. One of the biggest ones was the denial of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. There are other big ones too, however, this devotion (as did the previous one) deals with the the physicality of Jesus’ suffering, death, burial and resurrection. Why were the Apostles adamant about such physicality? Because it was getting denied at every front.

The Jewish authorities, along with the Romans, were declaring that one of Jesus’ disciples took the body out of the tomb and hid it in order to claim that Jesus “rose from the dead”. Thomas, one of Jesus’ apostles, initially refused that Jesus ACTUALLY rose from the dead. The Gnostics and other such groups claimed that Jesus was merely spirit and thus was never on earth PHYSICALLY, let alone died and rose again. Time and time again, people have tried to dismiss the awesome, scandalous, and mystifying apostolic claims.

Today, we see nothing different. Today’s self-interested deniers of Christ’s physical resurrection do so for a variety of reasons. Some are atheists, often driven by modern scientific understandings of the natural world, who do NOT want to believe that God exists, much less Jesus Christ. Others may not be atheists, but are equally skeptical for modern scientific reasons. Others, more egregiously, are supposed believers in God and Jesus, but are afraid that the doctrines are antiquated and are caught up in the same scientific understandings found in this modern era.

There are a whole host of reasons why people deny Christ’s resurrection and, subsequently, the resurrection of the dead; however, there is ONE reason why they should not: the Apostles witnessed the resurrection with their own eyes and gave up their lives to proclaim it. I do not know people who would die for a hoax or a prank. The only reasonable explanation for their actions is that they REALLY believed what they saw.

That does not PROVE that the resurrection happened; however, it gives one a GOOD REASON to have faith and believe. But it does come down to faith. Will we believe in the Christ whom death could not conquer, or will we deny the Christian claim and, subsequently, the power of God in Jesus Christ? The challenge for us is to not be enslaved by modernity which will become ancient in its own due time; rather, let us hold true to the classic faith which has, and will continue to, stand the test of time.

“Paul the apostle recounted that Jesus appeared to more than 500 of His followers at one time, the majority of whom were still alive and who could confirm what Paul wrote.” – Josh McDowell

Lord, help me to hold fast to my faith and to witness to the apostolic Christian faith in you with all of my heart. Amen.

[i] or the place of the dead, that is Hades, or Sheol. This does not mean the place of eternal torment and suffering known as hell.
[ii] or the living
[iii] or the Holy Spirit
[iv] universal

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