This past Easter, Jason Micheli, a self-proclaimed "tamed cynic," cited these words from the New Testament to say that, if the Gospel proclamation of Jesus' resurrection isn't true, the teachings of Jesus are meaningless.
Especially when it comes to Jesus’ teachings, I said, we’re off the hook if Jesus has not been vindicated by God through resurrection.Micheli got pushback from people in his congregation. As he tells it, he was told, "But you don't have to believe in the Resurrection to be a Christian. You can be a Christian by following Jesus' teachings." (This is something people have always said, but today even more.)
Micheli's response to the pushback:
Yeah, well, not really.He has a point.
Never mind the irritating fact that if Jesus was not raised from the dead then there’s nothing transformative and death-defeating about his teaching. It just got him killed. Death had the last word (and still does).
If God did not raise Jesus from the dead, then God did not vindicate Jesus’ life, his way of life.
So then there’s nothing special about them, they lead only to crosses.
If Jesus wasn't raised from the dead, then all He taught about the new life, the power of surrender to God, and His being "I AM," Yahweh, God come to earth is nonsense.
The resurrection demonstrates that everything Jesus taught--about God, about love, about sin and repentance, about love and redemption--is true.
Jesus without a resurrection reduces Jesus to the status of a delusional crank and His teachings, inextricably linked to His death and resurrection, utterly false, unworthy of anyone's attention or allegiance.
People who claim to follow Jesus, based on the testimony of the Gospel writers in the New Testament, but reject the truth of their testimony about the Jesus' resurrection are guilty of a self-indulgence, the only purpose of which is to justify themselves on the bases of their own virtue. They try to square the circle: They'll take Jesus, but not the claim over their lives by a Savior Who tells us that, apart from the grace He imparts, we have no virtue, only death and separation from God. A Jesus Who does not rise leaves us as dead in this world as in the next: dead in our vanity, in the futility of our living, and in our death-dealing sins.
As Micheli puts it:
To dismiss the Resurrection claim, which the evangelists believed whether or not you do, is to call them liars.It all comes down, Micheli says, to trust. If we're willing to trust in the validity of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' ethical teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, he says, then we must also trust the thing on which all four of the gospel writers agree, that after being crucified, Jesus rose from the dead.
And if you think the evangelists liars about the climactic turn in their testimony, why in the world would you trust their prior testimony about the words and deeds of Jesus?
The disciples, after all, didn’t simply convert from one religion to another; they lived- suddenly- as if they inhabited a totally new world.
It's only when we trust in Jesus' resurrection that we can say that we follow Jesus.
Read Micheli's entire wonderful post.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]