For the first time in decades, I am not employed as a professional religious person during the Easter season. I am taking full advantage of the opportunity to journey with Jesus from this new (for me) vantage point. I find that now, more than ever, I believe what the New Testament says about Jesus of Nazareth. Now, more than ever, I know that Jesus is alive from the dead. There is nobody like Jesus. Nobody can do what Jesus can do.
Paul put it this way in 1st Corinthians 15:3-8. “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, He was seen by more than 500 of His followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw Him.”
You may recall Paul’s story. This ascending Jewish leader was given legal authority to arrest and severely punish Christ’s followers wherever he could find them. He was credentialed and empowered to wipe out the Jesus movement before it got out of hand, and it was working like gangbusters until he ran into Jesus. On the road to Damascus, a bright light shut him down. He was blinded by this light but he heard a voice speaking to him, a voice self-identifying as the very Jesus he was persecuting. Days later, the pugnacious troubleshooter was actively converting people to the same Jesus whose following he had been trying to exterminate. The rest of Paul’s life was made quite difficult because of his insuppressible faith in Jesus Christ, but those difficulties did not deter him. Christ was alive in Paul, and Paul had to advance the cause of this Christ.
Centuries later, I believe what the New Testament says about Jesus because little derivative resurrections continue popping up all over the place. I believe Jesus is alive from the dead because those New Testament stories are consistent with my own story. Somebody even wilder than me has been unleashed in me. The character and the behavior of this Somebody resonates with the Jesus we read about in the New Testament. This crucified and risen One keeps delivering me from my greatest enemy – myself. This crucified and risen One keeps lighting up my darknesses. This crucified and risen One keeps killing my self-destructive nature and producing extraordinary new life where that old nature used to wreak havoc. This crucified and risen One keeps loving the hell out of me. There is no other viable explanation for my ongoing miraculous transformation. I know who I was and what I was capable of before I started saying “yes” to this crucified and risen One.
I also believe Jesus is alive from the dead because those New Testament stories are consistent with the stories of other people I know, people whose stories I trust because I’ve had a front row seat. There is no other viable explanation for their ongoing miraculous transformations.
The Jesus we read about in the New Testament is worth trusting and following today. The old hymn entitled “He Lives” says it well. “You ask me how I know He lives. He lives within my heart.”
Grace and peace,
Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com)