At the end of this post I will share the trailer of an up and coming religious themed release by Columbia Pictures. Called Risen, this film centers on the efforts of a skeptic to disprove the resurrection of Jesus during the first forty days after the event. The film will release both in the USA this month, and in the UK shortly.
I’m sure you agree that the trailer looks professional, and the premise is fascinating. It addresses the most important question anyone will ever ask: “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?” It is only the answer to that question that gives the Christian hope, even when we grieve.
Personally, I am really looking forward to watching this movie and pray it may help many on their own faith journeys. At this point I don’t know how the story ends: does the skeptic believe or does he find a reason not to? Either way, this film will make us all think.
The resurrection lies at the core of Christianity. With Easter beginning to loom large, we do well to begin to turn our thoughts to it already.
I love the way the movie uses the tagline “The Manhunt That Changed The Course of Human History” to express the idea of searching for Jesus: either to find his body, or to meet the risen Jesus. It is that search that defines the journey of Christian faith. Fascinatingly the question of Jesus’ body is also quite important to Muslims, as they believe he never died and instead was bodily raised to heaven. That makes the issue of what happened to Jesus’ body crucial to billions of people.
In fact this question of Jesus’ resurrection is so critical that when I was writing my book on the resurrection I proposed a definition of a Christian, that although I’d not seen it expressed in this way before would be accepted by almost everyone who would claim the word Christian worldwide:
“A Christian is someone who believes in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, and lives in light of the implications of that event.” Raised With Christ, Page 20
As the movie rightly highlights, it really does matter what happened to the body of Jesus.
In relation to the film, I was asked with some other bloggers to share my own story of faith, with a focus on the resurrection. I’m more than happy to do so, because there is no more important thing we can do than to tell our story. Ironically I think I was asked soon after I posted on here urging us to ask God to send such opportunities our way. Be careful what you pray for!
For me I grew up in a Christian home believing the resurrection was true. But like many Christians for some reason my focus was on the cross. Somehow the cross can seem literally more crucial and the resurrection becomes a mere afterthought.
But such a path is a dangerous one. It is in the study of and meditation on the resurrection of Jesus that the true power of Christianity is released into your life. If the resurrection is neglected, that flow of transformative power is greatly reduced. A shallow, hollow Christianity results, which might focus on sin, guilt, punishment, and forgiveness, but can be severely lacking in hope, and spiritual motivation.
So as I look back on my Christian life it is a sad cycle of believing in the resurrection, but most of the time taking it for granted and never really focusing on it.
But there are many times in my life when Jesus has taken me back to his resurrection. It’s kinda important to Him! One verse that is at the core of such a challenge to me is the Apostle Paul’s passionate cry,
“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection,” (Philippians 3:10)
In my teenage years I also remember the apologetic work of Josh McDowell and others being crucial to me in this regard. I became quite familiar with the arguments for and against Jesus’ resurrection. Years later I would summarize and express these arguments in a chapter of Raised with Christ. Every Christian needs to be able to articulate these points, not just so they can aim to persuade others but as an antidote to doubt, burnout and depression in themselves.
I have had many periods of my spiritual life where I became less “alive” and alert than I should have been. Periods where I have even wrestled with certain doubts. Periods where frankly I was lacking in enthusiasm for God. In all honesty I have been coming out of one such period over the last few months.
But each time this happens to me, ultimately it is for the same reason. It’s not really about over work, although that certainly doesn’t help. Instead it is about me losing attention on the resurrection. There is no surer way to begin along a journey that leads towards an increasing sense of spiritual death than to neglect the resurrection.
One such occasion happened a few years ago now. I tended at the time to have a bit of a pattern to my years: by December I was worn out, I enjoyed a Christmas break, then in January I often took a break from blogging, and tried to recharge spiritually. This particular year, my recharging process wasn’t working. January was long over, spring had arrived, and I was still nowhere good spiritually. I was still going to church but inside a degree of death had taken ahold.
I took a phone call from the pastor of our church asking me if I would like to preach that Easter Sunday morning. I realized things were worse than I thought when my first thought was “Oh, no I will have to preach the gospel again, how boring!” So, I said I would pray about it, and my tone of voice probably had my long-suffering pastor already beginning to think again about who to invite! That night I prayed a half-hearted prayer, but then at about 3 am I woke, sat straight up in bed and heard a voice in my head say, “Adrian, preach on the resurrection!”
I immediately set about with renewed zeal to study, and I soon realized that Jesus’ resurrection is a massively neglected core foundation of our faith. I couldn’t find many books on the subject. Later on I discovered the young Spurgeon had complained about the lack of resurrection focus in preaching and books in his day, and as a result determined to put the resurrection at the heart of his preaching. As a direct result of this he knew remarkable blessings and many became Christians. It became clear to me that throughout his ministry Spurgeon focused on the resurrection in a way that is sadly lacking today. Soon I knew somebody had to write a book about the implications of the resurrection, and I knew it should be me.
Oh, and by the way, in the process I found much joy, a renewed understanding of the vital place of the resurrection, and enthusiastically preached the full gospel message that Easter Sunday.
I hope I remember to keep focusing on the resurrection in the future. I pray you will too.
Here is the trailer of Risen.
You can pre-order tickets for when it releases in the USA Feb 19.