"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith...For we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."
1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (NIV)
"What's the one thing that would make you lose your faith?" A friend asked me one afternoon.
I had been a Christian for a matter of months, something this friend of mine found amusing. I had no answers. I barley even had questions yet.
"I don't know" I said sheepishly, "I guess that's what faith is. Clinging on no matter what."
"It sounds like you don't really have a strong foundation to rest on then" he scoffed as he got up.
I went home knowing he was right, I'd only read fragments of scripture so far. I had no idea how the Old Testament related to the new, and I didn't know why Jesus came to die, I just believed that he had. As I lay in bed that night thinking of our conversation I couldn't help but focus on his parting remark over all the other questions my mind was bursting with. Nothing can stand without a foundation, whether it be a house, a statement or a belief system. Everything has a foundation. The question that kept me up until dawn that morning was, "what is mine?"
Years later I scrolled across a National Geographic article on the excavation of the supposed tomb of Jesus. When I clicked on the article, I froze.
"What if this is the real tomb, and they find a body inside?"
If that was indeed where Jesus was buried and there was unmistakeable evidence that his body still lay there, Christianity would have no ground to stand on. Whether Jesus lived and died would be meaningless if he didn't rise. He, and the many prophets before him, would have been liars.
It's true that even if there were a body in this tomb, getting an air tight case for identifying a 2,000 year old corpse would be quite a feat, but that wasn't the point. The significance of the resurrection appeared to me, seemingly out of thin air, for the first time. This was the foundation without which we would have no faith.
Many people, myself included, sometimes fall into the trap of seeing a foundation as a weakness. If you depend completely upon one idea, one building block, then surely your building is easily torn down. All you have to do is destroy the cornerstone! That's true, but what of the strength of the stone?
A Plan Before Time
"For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life."John 5:36-40 (NIV)
What makes this foundation strong is that it was not an accident or a bandaid that God slapped on to the human condition to make up for a mistake.
The seed of the woman prophesied to defeat the serpent in Genesis 3:15, the healer of our wounds in Isaiah 53:5, the Lion of Judah mentioned in Jeremiah 31:31 that would bring a New Covenant to Israel, all of these people who lived centuries before Jesus knew that the Messiah would come and die for the sins of the world and then rise. According to John 5:36-40 Jesus knew this. He was not unaware of his purpose.
A Willing Savior
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus, knowing full well why he came, went willingly to the cross. Although showing fear in the garden of Gethsemane, he was completely and freely obedient to the will of the Father (Luke 22:42). What was the joy that was set before him? The ushering in of the New Covenant that would "fulfill all righteousness". He did not go reluctantly like a goat baying on the alter, he approached the cross with the silence of a lamb, knowing all that the prophets had spoken and whose vessels they were.
Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.
Galatians 3:19 (NIV)
"I did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it" he once said. In his life, death and resurrection he accomplished all the impossibilities that the law required of us. His arm was not twisted, for he and the father are one, and therefore so is their will.
A Foundation Fulfilled
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV)
With joyful reverence we must look at the empty tomb and see the completion of all that was spoken by the prophets for thousands of years. We must feel their desperation for the messiah as they relate what they have heard from God. To understand is to feel the racing heart of John the Baptist as he cries "Behold! The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!", for he above all the spiritual elite of his time knew the divine crescendo had come to bring God's promise of salvation given to the first humans. Our foundation is one that has been laid through centuries, and realized in the resurrection of Christ. He has fulfilled the law, canceled our separation from God and given us power over death through his holy spirit.
Go forward trusting in this foundation, for it was not laid thoughtlessly. It was placed and built upon by the Creator of the universe.