Denny Burk: The strangest thing about the Christian faith is not our views on sexuality or politics. Those things are not even our most controversial of claims.
The strangest thing about us is what the apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:
3 that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
To be sure, that Jesus died is not the controversial part. Even unbelieving pagans agree with the death of Jesus as an historical fact. They don’t, however, agree with the meaning of his death—that it was a vicarious sacrifice “for our sins” to reconcile us to God. But they do agree that he was dead and buried. No great dispute there.
The controversial part is the second half, “he has been raised.” Why is it strange? Because dead bodies don’t come back to life. It just doesn’t happen. But eye-witnesses like Paul say that it did in fact happen in Jesus’ case. Jesus was dead. Really dead. Violenty dead. Indisputably dead. And yet he was “raised.”
The blood that had stopped flowing through his veins began flowing again. The heart that had stopped beating for days started beating again. The brain that had ceased all functioning except for the coagulation of decaying blood began working again. The smell of rotting flesh became the smell of new and incorruptible life.
But perhaps the strangest thing about what we believe is contained in the words “has been.” The wording here is crucial. There are four verbs in these verses, all of which are simple past tense except for one, “he has been raised.” Whereas Jesus’ death, burial, and appearances happened once upon a time, it is not so with his resurrection. He “has been” raised—the perfect tense—which indicates past time with ongoing results.
Think about what this means. It is not merely that Jesus came back to life 2,000 years ago. It is that Jesus is alive in a physical body right now. To say that Jesus “has been raised” is to say that the blood is flowing through Jesus’ veins right now, that his heart is beating right now, that his mind and thinking are at work right now. At the heart of our confession is the belief that a formerly dead Jew is alive in a body right now and seated at the right hand of his father right now.
And one day, this formerly dead Jew will return to reclaim what is his. And the same power that brought him back to life will bring his people back to life as well. And we will live—resurrected, incorruptible, immortal, and whole. Jesus is the “firstborn” from the dead, and that means that he will bring us forth as well (Col. 1:18).
So, yes. The strangest thing about us is this. Jesus Christ has been risen from the dead. He is alive now and will appear again to reassert his rule over his broken world. And when he does, all the sad things will come untrue. He will wipe every tear from every eye (Rev. 21:4). This is the best news in the world, and it is for anyone who will have it. You just have to believe right now.