If you will think about it, there is one premise that the entire Christian faith can be boiled down to, and it is this: A dead Jew came back from the dead, so we do whatever he says.
There is a lot of craziness in the Christian faith. Love your enemies? Do good to those who hate you? Turn the other cheek? Walk the extra mile? What kind of sense does that make? None at all. But this dead Jew came back from the dead, so we just go with it.
Everyone else in the world says that if you wish to move up in the world, you must look out for yourself. Don’t be afraid of a little self-promotion. Make the most of every opportunity to impress others with your importance and worthiness. Don’t be afraid to step over people who happen to be in your way when the situation calls for it. But Christianity runs completely contrary to this; if you wish to become great you must humble yourself and seek to serve everyone. This would not be worthy of even a moment’s consideration–except for that dead Jew who came back from the dead.
In Christianity we actually believe that you must eat somebody’s flesh and drink their blood in order to have life. Freaks you out, doesn’t it? And what’s even stranger, this flesh and blood doesn’t even look like flesh and blood at all. The flesh looks like little round wafers or fingertip-sized crackers, and the blood looks like red wine (or grape juice in those places where it is believed that the consumption of alcohol is sinful). But the guy who told us to do this died and came back to life, so we just go with it.
A lot of people talk about what a great moral teacher Jesus was and how the heart of his power lies in the things which he said. If you truly believe this, then go to present-day Israel or Palestine and travel around saying the things which Jesus said. Tell people to love their enemies and do good to those who persecute them. Tell people that if they have mustard-seed-sized faith, they can pick up mountains and move them into the sea. See how far you get. Anybody out there want to sign up for that gig? I didn’t think so.
You see, the only reason why anybody paid any attention to Jesus was that he did enough miraculous signs for people to realize that he was somebody special whom they would probably do well to listen to. When he fed the equivalent of an entire small town on five loaves of bread and two fish, people sat up and took notice. When he raised a man from the dead, an awful lot of people were convinced. Not everyone, to be sure, but enough that even his staunchest opponents said, “Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:19)
Then he died and came back from the dead, and now a goodly portion of the entire world has heard about him.
A dead Jew came back from the dead, so we do whatever he says. That’s what we believe in a nutshell.
Paul sums it up like this:
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve….And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:1-5,14-15)
Liberal theologians in the previous century, and many in the mainline Protestant denominations even to this day, believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not necessarily a historical fact, but more importantly it is something which happens inside our hearts. This was an attempt to make the Christian faith more marketable to the intellectual and scientific elites of the previous century by stripping it of its more outrageous components. But this course of action is doomed to failure, because if that dead Jew did not come back from the dead, then our whole faith is completely and utterly useless. Paul said so himself.
Yes there is a lot of craziness in the Christian faith, and a lot of things that just won’t make sense no matter how hard we try to understand or explain. But we just need to go ahead and own it, because that dead Jew came back from the dead. And if he didn’t, then the whole thing is completely useless anyway.