Here is the watershed of human history where the misery of the race is transformed into grandeur. Here the kerygma, the proclamation of the early church, was born with the cry “He is risen.” We can view this event as a symbol, a lovely tale of hope. We can reduce it to a moralism that declares, as one preacher put it, “The meaning of the Resurrection is that we can face the dawn of each new day with dialectical courage.”
The New Testament proclaims the Resurrection as sober historical fact. The early Christians were not interested in dialectical symbols but in concrete realities. Authentic Christianity stands or falls with the space/time event of Jesus’ resurrection. The term Christian suffers from the burden of a thousand qualifications and a myriad of diverse definitions. One dictionary defines a Christian as a person who is civilized. One can certainly be civilized without affirming the Resurrection, but one cannot then be a Christian in the biblical sense. The person who claims to be a Christian while denying the Resurrection speaks with a forked tongue. From such turn away.
The resurrection of Jesus is radical in the original sense of the word. It touches the radix, the “root” of the Christian faith. Without it Christianity becomes just another religion designed to titillate our moral senses with platitudes of human wisdom. The apostle Paul spelled out the clear and irrefutable consequences of a “resurrectionless” Christianity. If Christ is not raised, he reasoned, we are left with the following list of conclusions:
- Our preaching is futile.
- Our faith is in vain.
- We have misrepresented God.
- We are still in our sins.
- Our loved ones who have died have perished.
- If all we have is hope, we are of all men most to be pitied.
These six consequences sharply reveal the inner connection of the Resurrection to the substance of Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus is the sine qua non of the Christian faith. Take away the Resurrection and you take away Christianity.
Who Is Jesus?