Sunday School: The Resurrection

EmptyTomb

As Pascha nears we will contemplate the Resurrection, the witness to it and the key arguments against it.

Our Holy Faith teaches us Jesus, suffered, died and rose in accordance with God’s plan. Christ’s entering into our suffering was half of the story. The story of man’s redemption didn’t end with Christ’ suffering and death, even if we choose to focus on His Death as the perfect sacrifice. It ends with Christ’s triumphal Resurrection, the conquering of death, His ascension and His reigning at the right hand of the Father and eventual return as ultimate Victor. This is what motivated the Apostles, disciples and early Christian martyrs to give everything – even to the point of dying to bring even us the full Gospel, the “good news” of His death and resurrection.

So while it’s true that seeing Jesus’ sufferings helps us bear our own, there’s the added boost that we know all this suffering is temporary. All will be made right some day and then we will have joy that we cannot even imagine now. “O Death, where is thy sting? Grave, where is thy victory?” – 1 Corinthians 15:55

God raised Christ up putting an end to the agony of death since it was impossible for him to be held in it’s power. It was impossible because He was the righteous God-man and had given himself over in perfect love to God the Father. Not only did Jesus surrender his immortality and die on the cross, he rose with supreme authority over the whole realm of the dead. He burst out of the prison of death, breaking the chains and locks of all those held in captivity and carrying the keys of the prison with him.

Think of the triumphant icon of Christ standing over the gates of Hades and death, gripping Adam’s and Eve’s wrist in one hand while their other is outstretched in supplication. Look closely, you will see little keys and broken locks strewn about in the darkness around a prostate and bound Hades. Each of the keys is the key of death and Hades for each one of us. Hades is not destroyed – it is still there – but its power to bind people is gone. There are no chains, no locked doors. If only we raise our hands in supplication and longing for Jesus Christ, He is there to lift us from the grave. “…By death He trampled death…” we sing the hymn of victory!

Without the bodily resurrection, Christianity is a cruel hoax and our Faith is useless. Christ’s Holy Resurrection is a new experience of grace in the world. It was a completely, stunning, and shocking revelation.

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The Case Of The Empty Tomb

My good friend Joe Heschmeyer will soon be abandoning the United States in order to complete his final seminary studies at the North American College (NAC) in Rome.  Given the recent World Cup defeat of the England at the hands of the Italians, I take this as an extremely personal betrayal.

Fortunately for Joe, I’ve decided to forgive him and post the talk he gave recently on the subject of the Resurrection:

If you’d like to see the rest of the presentation and read his notes, they’re available here.

“They did not kill him”

One of the major points of divergence between Islam and Christianity is that, in addition to denying Jesus’ divinity, Islam asserts that Jesus did not die on the cross. We find this assertion in Surah 4 of the Qur’an:

Just in case you don’t read Arabic(!), here is the English translation:

[They said] “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah”… [But] they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them… Rather, Allah raised him to Himself – Surah 4:157-158, Sahih International

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You Only Live Once (YOLO)

(In case you’re not up-to-date with how the kids speak today, you can learn about YOLO here)

The Sadducees

I’ve been leading a Bible study group through the book of Acts. Last night the question of the Sadducees came up…

Who were these guys?

Well, at the time of Jesus, within Judaism there were a number of different sects. These were groups of Jews who had their own particular beliefs and practices. We encounter some of these different groups in the New Testament.

The main groups at the time of Christ were as follows:

1. The Pharisees
We encounter the Pharisee party regularly in Scripture. Their focus was upon holiness and the study of the Old Testament. I’ll do a post on them in the next few weeks.

2. The Zealots
These were the political revolutionaries. They wanted a military revolution and the expulsion of the Romans from Israel.

3. The Essenes
Until fairly recently we knew little about this group. We know that they had many practices which we typically associate with monasticism: asceticism, poverty and abstinence. We also know that the Essenes practised ritual bathing. It is believed by many that the Essenes produced the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Finally we come to the group in question, the Sadducees:

4. The Sadducees
The Sadducees were a wealthy group, fairly small in number, who mostly lived in Jerusalem and were closely associated with the Temple.

They were the aristocrats, holding positions of  influence, particularly in the Jewish Council (“Sanhedrin”). Because they held power, they were more accommodating and accepting of the occupying Roman force since the Romans provided stability to the status quo.

While the Pharisees gave authority to oral tradition, the Sadducees did not. Not only that, but the Sadducees ultimately restricted themselves to the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers). It appears that they also had some kind of denial of angels (Acts 23:8). Finally, they also denied the afterlife and the resurrection (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 23:8).

The Sadducee party was effectively destroyed in AD 70 when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Romans. Many were slaughtered. Without the Temple or the political support of Rome, the Sadducees effectively ceased to exist.

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