Saturday Sermon: What made Jesus different?
Who hung from the cross: a good teacher, liar, lunatic or Lord? Many moderns today will present us with the argument that Jesus was a great teacher, a sound moralist willing to die for his convictions, but he was, in the end, simply a man. Yet there was something different about his death. He didn't stay dead.
The fact of the resurrection confounds this question and doesn't enable the moderns such an easy answer. C.S. Lewis argues this point this way, "A great teacher does not show lunacy by claiming to be divine. Nor does it make sense that a liar in the backwater of the Roman Empire would affect human history with the magnitude that no skeptical historian can ignore or really deny."
Because of the resurrection, there can only be one answer to this question of who hung from the cross that day: Jesus, the Lord. This is the answer that his children need to be assured of and able to defend.
Why is this so important today? It is on the resurrection of Jesus that everything else about him rests. Anyone could be hung on a cross. In fact, many were. But his death and resurrection point to the fact that he has power beyond the realm of human understanding. Because of his resurrection, men have willingly laid down their lives for the faith for centuries. Who would have guessed such an outcome for merely a great teacher or moral man, let alone a liar or a lunatic?
Justin Martyr wrote of this fact in the second century AD saying, "Nobody believed deeply enough in Socrates to die for his teaching. But for Christ even uneducated men have made light of fear and death." That Jesus was able to shape events in this world with a power from beyond all human control is a testimony to his origin.
Jesus' true identity defines us as his people. His actions, namely his death and his resurrection, validate the promises of God and they ensure our faith, without which, as Paul says, there would be no hope. And since the scriptures say we are raised with him, this is also an equally powerful testimony to the destiny that awaits each of us as we live in him to do his will.
As we live before a watching world, we have been given the opportunity to proclaim Jesus as Lord with clarity and conviction in contrast to others who simply want him to remain a man.
To believe these things actually occurred is crucial for the church today. It is in this message that we need to be able to stand firm. It is the assurance that Jesus is Lord that will empower us. The evidence is there, but more than that, the faith that God gives convicts us of its truth. Who hung from the cross that Good Friday? Who was it that rose Easter morning? The answers to these simple questions reveal who you are and how you will live.
Mike Singenstreu is pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church.