Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

All of Christianity hinges on the answer to this question. If there was no resurrection, there would be no Christianity. So what transformed 11 scared and dejected disciples into fearless ambassadors? It was Jesus’ return from the dead and subsequent ascension into heaven. There were over 500 witnesses to Jesus’ return to life after being crucified dead and buried.

Was he really dead? The Romans made no mistakes when they killed someone. They were experts at the art of death. So when a soldier wanted to hasten the death of a man who had already endured a terrible whipping and was bleeding from wounds in his hands and feet, an upward thrusting spear through a lung and into the heart would do the trick. So certain of his death were the soldiers that they didn’t break the legs of Jesus. That was the usual way Roman soldiers finished a crucifixion. They knew that once a man could no longer support himself with his legs, he would suffocate since he could no longer breathe. The soldiers also knew that Jesus wasn’t coming back to claim his robe, so they gambled to determine who would get it.

To ensure that Jesus would stay dead and that his disciples would not try to steal his body and claim he came back from the dead, the tomb was sealed and soldiers were tasked with guarding it. To fail in the task of guarding the tomb, the guards risked execution.

Yet, three days later, Jesus appeared to his disciples, to several women, to two men walking on the road to Emmaus, to a doubting Thomas and two others. Jesus was definitely dead and he was definitely resurrected.

His disciples witnessed his ascension into heaven. So yes, Jesus is definitely alive. It is his power and authority that holds every atom in the universe together. One day Jesus will return to earth just like he left it to rule and reign as King of kings. Given the events of these times, it could be soon. Are you ready? (see Matthew 25: 30-35)

What’s good about Good Friday?

What’s good about Good Friday?

There is nothing good about Good Friday until you see it from God’s perspective. Jesus didn’t have to give himself up to be crucified on a Roman cross. He didn’t have to die. However, he loved you and me so much that he chose to die in our place so that we would not have to suffer the punishment for our sins.

Throughout history, God sought to bring sinful mankind back into relationship with himself. That relationship had been broken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-24). So God established a plan for restoration, a restoration that began with the setting apart of Abraham’s family and concluded with the death and resurrection of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

To understand the restoration process, we need to understand the concept of a blood sacrifice as atonement for sin. That goes back to the time when man rebelled against God and the perfect creation he made for human beings. This sacrifice was codified by God when he set apart the Israelites and provided them with guidelines for living. That law included a system of sacrifices to atone for different sins. Among the sacrifices were those of animals without blemish, signifying perfection. (Leviticus 22:20) These sacrifices had to be repeated over and over since people kept sinning against God.

Through the death of Jesus, God provided a once-for-all way, for the sins of men and women to be atoned. In the New Testament, we read that John the Baptist recognized Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) This is a reference to the perfect, sacrificial lamb that was called for in the Old Testament law.

Another John, the disciple of Jesus, who wrote an eyewitness account of the three years he spent with Jesus, explained the ultimate sacrifice that was made by Jesus, the Messiah. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) This made Jesus the ultimate sacrifice —satisfying for all time the requirements of God’s justice.

The apostle Paul wrote that “Christ died for our sins, according to Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3) because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This simple statement of fact reminds us that our personal sin, our rebellion from God, has us heading to judgment and eternal separation from God.

However, we do not have to suffer throughout all eternity.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross shows the depths of God’s love for us. (Romans 5:6-8) But it is through his resurrection that we can see God’s triumph over death. When we acknowledge that we are sinners deserving of death and accept the gift of Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf, we can be set free of the condemnation of sin and begin a journey that will culminate in everlasting life in the presence of God. Read more in the answer to the question: How does one become a Christian?

Why was Jesus riding a donkey called a “Triumphful Entry”?

Why was Jesus riding a donkey called a “Triumphful Entry”?

Triumphal Entry is the name given to the entry by Jesus into Jerusalem a week before he was put to death and resurrected from the dead. He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey as crowds of people cheered, waved palm branches and shouted “hallelujah.” They were excited about the possibility that the eagerly anticipated Messiah was coming to save the people.

For many, this surely was the fulfillment of a 500-year old prophecy:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

Zechariah 9:9

Almost 600 years had passed since a king in the line of David sat on a Jewish throne in Jerusalem and many were eager for the promised Messiah, or Anointed One, to lead an overthrow of the oppressive Roman occupation. Many also were hoping for an overthrow of the equally oppressive religious leaders who imposed a strict regimen of impossible-to-adhere-to rules and regulations.

As the crowd spread garments before the man they thought would be their physical deliverer, they also waved palm branches and shouted,

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Matthew 21:10

The word Hosanna means save. What the crowd was saying was “save us from the physical and spiritual oppression that controls our lives. Lead us in a rebellion that will set us free.” The people did not understand that the kind of rebellion that Jesus would lead was not going to be a physical one that would provide temporary freedom, but a much more significant spiritual rebellion that would provide eternal freedom for all mankind.

Christians today celebrate Palm Sunday to remind us of that Triumphal Entry of King Jesus who, within a week, would turn the world upside down by allowing himself to be killed for the sins of everyone, and to rise from the dead to provide assurance of eternal life to those who accept the sacrifice Jesus made on their behalf.

If you would like to learn more about how you can become intimately connected to God and truly understand his purpose for you, please go to our Next Steps page.

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

It depends on what you mean by celebrate. There may be little harm in drinking green beer, eating corned beef and cabbage, and dancing an Irish jig, but a better celebration would be remembering who Patrick was and what he did for God.

Most people know that March 17th is a day for celebrating Irish national heritage and a man who is said to have rid Ireland of snakes. Many may assume because the title of Saint* precedes his name he was a religious fellow, but few know the real story of Patrick and the role he played in bringing Christianity to Ireland.

Patrick’s story begins sometime in the 5th century. From some of his writings we glean a story of a boy who was raised during the Roman occupation of the British Isles. His father may have been a church leader and a minor community official in Scotland or Wales. When Patrick was a teenager, he was captured by Irish marauders and sold into slavery in Ireland. There, he spent 5 years tending sheep and using his solitude to pray and sing and develop a close relationship with God. He also mastered the Celtic language that became vital for his missionary work later in life.

He escaped from slavery, returned to England and began formal study. Later he traveled to Auxerre in present day France and studied religion under St. Germain. Eventually he was promoted to the priesthood. He believed that an angel told him that the pagan people of Ireland were calling out for his return. With the blessing of the Pope in Rome, he sailed for Ireland and began telling the Druids of the true God and redemption bought at the cross by Jesus. Legend has it that he used the three-leaf shamrock to help explain the Trinity. Legend also says that he drove the snakes from the island, though scientists tell us that there were probably no snakes on the island since the end of the previous ice age.

It is not the legend we celebrate, but rather Patrick’s boldness and fearlessness in preaching the Gospel among a very hostile, pagan people. His missionary efforts led thousands of non-believers to give up their idol worship and become followers of Christ. By the time of his death at the end of the 5th century, the majority of Celts had become Christians.

So Christians and Irish Christians in particular, have good cause to celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day, because they are celebrating the life of a man that God ordained and commissioned to carry His good news to a spiritually dark corner of the world.

*Ironically, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and one of the world’s best known saints has never been canonized by the Catholic church and therefore is a saint in name only.

What is Lent?

What is Lent?

In the years immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus, believers began engaging in a time of focus on their sin and God’s forgiveness of that sin in advance of the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Over time, the church standardized 40 days (not counting Sundays) as a period of reflection and called it Fortieth or Lent. Like the Jewish celebration of Passover when celebrants remove yeast and all foods containing yeast, Lent was a time of removing certain foods or pleasures so one could concentrate on God.  

Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, began as a time of eating a final big meal before the forty days of fasting, prayer and restriction of pleasures. As with many traditions, Mardi Gras became secularized and became a day for overindulgence, superstition, and debauchery.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, and in many church traditions it is a time when Christians gather for corporate confession and individual repentance. At the end of the service, priests, pastors, or church leaders place ashes, in the sign of the cross, on the forehead of believers while saying “from dust you have come, to dust you will return.”

This is a reminder that one’s physical body is temporal, while the spirit is eternal. Therefore, a Christian is asked to reflect on his or her relationship with God and possibly set aside a habit or a pleasure for 40 days to help one focus on Jesus, his sacrifice on our behalf, and on his commands to worship God and love and serve others.

If you don’t yet know this Jesus whose death brings life to all who believe, please read our post, How Does One Become a Christian.

Should Christians Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Should Christians Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

While it is hard to argue against love, Christians should ask themselves, “what makes this day special?”

 

Modern society has so commercialized this day that people are often caught up in the “obligation” to buy something or act in some way as to show their love for someone else. People get hurt when they feel that they haven’t been sufficiently recognized or “loved” or when the object of their affections doesn’t reciprocate. Many who don’t have anyone with whom to share a love, end up feeling “left out” when they see those around them celebrating something they lack.

Are these reasons to not celebrate Valentine’s Day? Probably not, but as in everything a Christian does, he or she should ask, “Is what I’m doing honoring God?”

History is fuzzy with respect to how Valentine’s Day came to be a special day honoring love between a man and woman. Some suggest that a Christian Saint was tacked onto a Roman celebration of a god of sex. Others recall a legend that dates to the third century when Claudius, the emperor of the Roman Empire, banned the practice of marriage. He theorized that men sent to war would be less effective fighters if they were concerned for spouses they left behind. The edict of Claudius flew in the face of Christian teaching that saw marriage as a sacred vow between a man and woman that mirrored the covenant relationship between Jesus and his bride, the church. A Christian priest named Valentine secretly held marriage ceremonies for young couples. He was caught, tortured and killed for disobeying the emperor, but he is said to have sent a love note just before his death—the first “Valentine.”

Through the centuries, that priest was declared a saint by the church and his legend grew and became a reminder of the importance of the sacred institution of marriage. So, there is some justification for a Christian to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but God reminds us that loving him is more important than one’s love for any human. It is nice to send a card or bring flowers and box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day, but is vastly more important to show one’s love of God every day of the year.

God set the standard when he gave the 10 commandments to the Israelites after they left slavery in Egypt.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Exodus 20:2,3

This love as summarized by Moses in Deuteronomy:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:4,5

Jesus quoted these words, affirming the importance of love both of God and each other:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

If you would like to better understand how you can appreciate true and abiding love a love that so great that God sent his son Jesus to die in your place for your sins so that you can know a love that will last through eternity, we invite you to read our blog post: How does one become a Christian?