Everything in Christianity hinges on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sociologist Rodney Stark, PhD, told me yesterday that no one in human history made the impact of Jesus Christ. The absolute axis of the Christian faith rests on the resurrection. In Gospel narratives we observe the behavior of the closest followers of Jesus before His resurrection: timid, afraid, vacillating. Afterward, they are transformed, unstoppable, and authenticate their faith by their own martyrdom. Peter was audacious enough to stand in front of thousands in Jerusalem during the festival of Pentecost and boldly proclaim. Fifty days earlier, he could not stand up to a young girl who questioned him regarding his association to Christ. Life transforming? No question. How else do you explain it?
More than anyone in history, Jesus is controversial. On our film journey, Cristie Jo and I have listened as He has been both vilified and praised – certainly not ignored. Everyone knows who He is … the top leaders of atheism, agnosticism, secularism, sociology, and humanism. To some, Jesus is an expletive (interestingly, we don’t swear using the names of other religious figures), and yet to many others, Jesus is worshiped and adored. Stark confirmed to me, as I have been told, that one of the largest Christian populations in the world is in China, a communist nation – he wrote an entire book on that subject. How did Jesus defy obscurity after two millennia? Easter Sunday, Jesus draws a bigger crowd in America than the Super Bowl, hands down!
I asked one of the brightest thinkers in the world, British theologian N. T. Wright, author of The Resurrection of the Son of God (740 pages!), why Jesus was so unique and why the resurrection was so important. He spoke about Jesus in a manner, I must admit, I have never heard before … one of absolute familiarity. Candidly, I left the interview wanting to know more, much more, about Jesus.
“1 Corinthians 15 is extremely important first because it includes the very early testimony which has already become kind of a formula. Paul says you know what the gospel was, the Messiah Gnostic says according to scripture was buried, raised on the third day according to scripture and was seen. And Paul is there quoting a formula which he knows the Corinthians will recognize and which he knows the other apostles too will have preached the same thing. But then Paul goes on to explain it and it’s one of the longest sustained arguments that he writes anywhere and it’s a very carefully structured argument and it has fulfilled the ancient scriptural prophecies and Paul is quoting several of them. And in particular it has launched new creation. 1 Corinthians 15 is really working with Genesis 1 and 2 in saying as in Adam, but now selling the Messiah. So that what’s happened is the beginning of new creation and that’s the only way you can understand it.”