The Don: The Story of One Grand Miracle

“One is very often asked as present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who ask it say, ‘freed’ from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or at least the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would be no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they are only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals. But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, which is uncreated, eternal, came into Nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing Nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left. There may be many admirable human things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian.” —C.S. Lewis, The Grand Miracle

No Mere Resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33)

We are all born Sadducees denying the Resurrection. Dead men don’t believe in the Life. The Sadducees want to discredit Jesus and they don’t believe in resurrection. They want to make Jesus look foolish for believing in resurrection. They want belief in resurrection to look stupid and thus for Jesus to look stupid. They just don’t realize how synonymous their goals are. “I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).” One way Jesus could have replied to their inquisition was, “I move that we suspend this debate for a few days. Then I will present you with conclusive evidence.”

Just as the previous passage in Matthew wasn’t about taxes, this one is not about mere resurrection. It isn’t about simply learning that there won’t be marriage in heaven or that when God enters into covenant relationship with someone, that covenant is forever, therefore the person God is in covenant must be forever (Matthew 12:32). There is no such thing as mere resurrection unto life. There is the Son’s resurrection, and those who are immersed into it. All resurrection is about Jesus. Scripture is God speaking, to you (Matthew 22:31). Here God is saying, “See my Son? He is never discredited. Resurrection is true. Learn this in My Son.” If you are a slow student, don’t worry. God will repeat Himself loudly when the next week begins on Easter morn. “[Jesus] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:4).

We are born dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). We are born dead men who try to discredit the Life. We are Sadducees who try to murder the Life. The dead cannot ultimately murder the Life, but the Life can raise the dead. The Life died that the dead might live. This is because His death was ours and His resurrection is ours. You will be as resurrected as Jesus is, for His resurrection is yours.

Matthew 17:1-13 & No Gory, No Glory

We want the figure of a god, without the diet and exercise. When it comes to our salvation, to being godlike, we want to do it on our own, and we don’t want to do that much. We want glory, with none of the pain. We are spiritually health conscious in a way, but we want a quick, easy, and cheap fix. Gives us a pill, give us a surgery. What we will not do is really sweat or really work. We will not sacrifice our diet of sin. The diet of religion is both lazy and sinful seeking less than perfection. It is lazy because it seeks less than perfection. It is sinful because it seeks less than perfection. Its seeks to enjoy sin with minimal consequence. It does not truly seek to be holy as God is holy.

Physically, in our age of dieting, many try to delude themselves. Its funny how many articles are written as if it is some secret that diet and exercise are the key to health. There is only one way for health to get deep into your bones. It takes work. Our spiritual health likewise involves work. Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).” But be careful. Our salvation is something we work out, it is not something we work for. No drug we manufacture can bring about our salvation, and all our work, even our best work is also futile. We’re not simply spiritually flabby. We’re dead. We couldn’t sweat enough “good,” we couldn’t bleed enough “payment” even if we wanted to. Any sweat is already only our due, and all our blood is the debt we already owe. We need unequaled and unobligated sweat and blood.

Our salvation is no sweat-less labor; no bloodless surgery. A laparoscopic procedure won’t suffice. Flesh must be rent wide open. Blood must be spilt. To give the dead life, The Life must die. Then, and only then, do our eating habits change, for we have an appetite for the Bread of life. Then, and only then, do our work habits change, for we love to do good works unto God’s glory through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of the fall there is only one way to glory, and that is through the gory. For us to go up, God must descend, further down than any.

The transfiguration is framed by a lot of cross talk (Matthew 16:21-28; 17:9, 12, 22-23). Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone this vision until after He is resurrected. The glory light they have seen will only be properly understood when illuminated by a dark cross. The transfiguration is not so much a flashback to Jesus’ eternal glory, as it is a flash-forward to his resurrection glory, and the cross comes first. No gory, no glory. He takes our part, that we may take His.

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” -Philippians 2:8-11

1 Corinthians 15:12-28 & If I Don’t Rise, Jesus Didn’t

The Corinthians were affirming Jesus resurrection, but denying their own. Paul says you can’t do this. You would think that you could. Imagine you are about to appear before a judge for sentencing. The judge has the power to pardon at will. Just before you are sentenced the judge’s son, with whom he has no tiff, comes before the judge to be sentenced for the same crime. You reason that if the son is pardoned, there might be a chance for you, but if the son is not pardoned, you haven’t got a prayer. That is how you might expect Paul to relate Jesus’ resurrection and ours. But Paul flips it. Imagine the son is pardoned. It would take some gall to exclaim, “If I’m not pardoned, then your son wasn’t.” That is akin to what Paul is arguing. He isn’t saying, Jesus was resurrected, so there is a chance for you. He is saying that if you don’t burst some sod with a new bod, then Jesus is rotting in a grave.

You might expect Jesus’ resurrection and yours to relate to one another like a tree trunk and branches. In some ways they do. Our resurrection blooms out of His. But Paul says that our resurrection and Jesus’ relate more like a husband and wife than a trunk and branches. If the trunk falls, the branches fall, but if the branches fall you can still have a trunk. But with a marriage, if either party dies, the marriage is dissolved. If Jesus is didn’t rise we won’t. If we don’t rise, Jesus didn’t.

Why is this so? Lets go back to court. When could you say with confidence to the judge who pardoned his son, “If I’m not pardoned, then your son wasn’t?” What if you were tried as a single entity? This is what happened in Christ. Jesus rep work didn’t end on the cross. Jesus didn’t fly solo from the grave; He led a host of captives. Jesus didn’t rise independently. Jesus wasn’t a lonely acorn busting potting soil in some individual’s hobby hothouse. He rose as the firstfruits of a greater harvest of a huge field. His resurrection and yours are part of the same event. Further, Paul says, Jesus is the second Adam. He represents a new humanity. His resurrection was the beginning of new creation. The rest must necessarily follow.

How sure can you be that if your body is under dirt that God will begin cultivating the earth to make it new by ripping you out of her? As sure as you are the Jesus is risen. The degree of faith you have in the risen Christ is to be same measure of faith you are to have in your resurrection. Further, it is the very same faith.

Matthew 12:38-45 & No Show On Demand

Jesus, unlike many entertainment corporations today, does not offer a show upon demand. When the Pharisees ask for a sign it further reveals their attitude toward the miracle Jesus has just performed (Matthew 12:22, 25). It reveals their attitude toward all of His miracles, their attitude toward Jesus himself. The Pharisees do not need a new sign, they need new hearts, for they cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

And yet Jesus promises them a sign. What does Jesus mean that He will give them no sign except the resurrection? He has give them many signs, and He will perform many more. If we look at some instances of the apostolic preaching of the resurrection where this “evil and adulterous generation” is also mentioned I think we will see what Jesus means (all emphases mine).

[T]his Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.  – Acts 2:23-24

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.  – Acts 3:13-15

For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead,

[B]ecause he [God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”  – Acts 17:31

[Jesus] and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,  – Romans 1:4

The resurrection is the vindication of Jesus. It shows the wicked and adulterous generation to be wrong in their opinion concerning Jesus. They kill Him, God raises Him from the dead. And still today the resurrection is the sign that all doubters, skeptics, agnostics, and atheists have to deal with (toward understanding and using the apologetic strength of the resurrection I recommend beginning with The Reason for God, specifically chapter 13).

So to all who ask, “Why on earth doesn’t God do something? Why doesn’t He prove Himself?” We reply that God has indeed on earth done something; in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ and everything in between, God has indeed on earth done something. To those who ask a sign to validate our message I love the reply of Calvin. When Roman Catholics contended that their miracles authenticate their message, and then asked where the reformers miracles were, Calvin replied:

In demanding miracles of us, they act dishonestly. For we are not forging some new gospel, but are retaining that very gospel whose truth all the miracles that Jesus Christ and His Disciples ever wrought serve to confirm.

Doubters, skeptics, agnostics, and atheists don’t need new signs, they need their eyes open to the signs that are.