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Focus Verses: Acts 25:18-21
18 When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. 19 Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. 20 I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. 21 When Paul made his appeal to be held over for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar."
The veracity of the resurrection story has always been at the heart of the Christian message. To accept that message is to accept the resurrection of Jesus. Luke's frank account of Paul's testimony before Festus and Agrippa illustrates this. Festus understood that Paul's entire message and worldview hinged on his claim that "a dead man named Jesus" was now alive. Such a claim was seen to be a threat by the Jews of his day, and as superstitious by the Romans.
Paul did not make this claim and expect people to make a blind leap of faith. He reasoned with them, gave testimony, and made a case for why he believed that accepting the resurrection of Jesus was perfectly sensible.
Response and Action:
I must grapple with the claims of Jesus' resurrection. Everyone who encounters the message of Jesus must deal with this incredible claim. It may seem threatening, unreasonable, or anti-intellectual to believe such a thing, but it must be faced head on. If Jesus is dead, then Christianity is also dead. If he is alive, then Christianity is alive.
The hope of transformation and new life offered by Christianity is dependent on the resurrection of Jesus being factual and historical. I must give serious and careful consideration to the resurrection claims of Christianity. I will not dismiss it out of hand. Is it reasonable to believe such an amazing thing? Is there enough evidence and/or substantive testimony to make faith in the resurrection an honest and reasonable choice? I believe there is. Even as a believer, I will continue to scrutinize and think about this central claim of Christianity. I will encourage others, both Christians and non-Christians alike, to do the same.
O God, I believe that, for my sake, Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. I believe that he suffered death, was buried, and rose again, in accordance with the scriptures. Help me, like Paul, to think clearly about the resurrection and to have reasons for what I believe. Help me to be able to discuss the resurrection in clear and reasonable ways with others who are wrestling with whether or not to believe. And most of all, O Lord, transform me and teach me to live through the resurrection power of Christ. It's in his name that I pray, Amen.
Spiritual Formation Verses: Romans 8:10-11
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
by N.T. Wright