Thoughts for this blog had been ping-ponging in my brain for several weeks before I discovered and read a book, Living Life Backwards, by David Gibson. The book may be the most practical study of Ecclesiastes I have ever encountered. Living Life Backwards is a reminder to live every day with the realization that every birth ultimately ends in death.
Today, I offer the challenge of believing backwards—starting with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and working backwards through our belief system.
Let me put it this way, have you ever struggled with the concept of a universal flood that blanketed the entire earth while Noah’s family and lots of animals enjoyed a ride in the first sea-going vessel ever built? Or, how about Jesus feeding thousands of people with a small boy’s lunch? Is that an easy sell to a skeptic?
Then there’s Peter, defying the Law of Gravity by strolling across the Sea of Galilee. That doesn’t fly in the physics lab at the university. And for that matter, neither does the Red Sea parting while an entire nation passed through on dry land.
Perhaps you or someone you know have struggled to accept these suspensions of natural laws—otherwise known as miracles. You want to believe, but the stories seem so untenable in our modern, scientific world. If so, I suggest a different starting point for constructing your personal belief system? Consider the nature of Christ and His resurrection. If I accept Christ’s resurrection, I can also accept other miracles in Scripture. I can build my belief system in reverse by starting from the resurrection and working backwards.
Two profound miracles serve as bookends to Jesus’ earthly life. They are like stakes driven deeply into the soil of conviction—or anchors securing the ship of faith in the face of severe storms of doubt. I am writing to professing believers—followers of Jesus—and sincere seekers who may struggle when critics challenge them about accepting seemingly absurd miracles.
However…if I truly accept the historical evidence supporting Jesus’ resurrection, I can also accept Him multiplying a boy’s lunch. After all, everybody knows dead men don’t rise again. Death is the terminal event of every life. There are no exceptions, barring a supernatural miracle.
If I believe that Jesus was miraculously conceived in the womb of a virgin, then I can accept He wasn’t just another average man. He was unique. One of a kind. He was both God and man, deity and humanity existing in one person. Therefore, as the Creator God, Jesus could most certainly suspend natural laws, walking on the very water He had created. He could reverse the effects of diseases. As the giver and sustainer of all life He could even defy death.
Maybe it all boils down to this: Do I really believe Jesus was the Son of God living in a human body? To deny Jesus came in real flesh, according to John, is to be a follower of the antichrist (1 John 4:1-3). The choice is pretty stark: Either I believe or I am not a Christian. And yes, it really is that simple.
But since I do believe that the eternal God “became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” I can also accept other miracles recorded in the four Gospels, including the resurrection.
In fact, the resurrection of Jesus is the game-breaker. Either Jesus literally, physically walked away from the sealed tomb or we have been following a myth, and Christianity that has no credibility. But if Jesus rose from the dead and walked among friends and skeptics, then everything else in the gospel story falls into place.
Some scholars claim the resurrection may be the most easily supported of all miracles in the Bible. Consider this: there were numerous eyewitnesses—over 500 saw the resurrected Christ at the same time. Several witnesses claimed they had seen, touched and even eaten with the resurrected Christ. Even more affirming, many were willing to die rather than deny what they had witnessed. People seldom, if ever, are willing to die for a lie. We just don’t. We love life and despise pain too much.
There is another problem for skeptics: the empty tomb and the missing body. To claim that the women, overwhelmed by grief, went to the wrong tomb is more difficult to sell than the truth. Did Peter and John make the same mistake? Why didn’t the soldiers guarding the tomb deliver the body? All Jesus’ critics needed in order to stop a rumor was to produce the corpse.
But they couldn’t.Because there wasn’t one.
That’s because the living Jesus Christ was out walking, teaching, and eating with His followers.
The stone was too large for the women to move even if they could sneak past the soldiers. The burial cloth was lying undisturbed but empty, like a butterfly’s cocoon. The linen cloth that once shrouded Jesus’ head was folded neatly in the corner—evidence that this was not a grave robbery. The Roman seal and the soldiers could not prevent the inevitable.
Millions of people all over the world and down through the millennia have heard the story, considered the evidence, and chosen to believe. One such witness stands out. Saul, one of the greatest skeptics who had dedicated his life to stamping out the myth of Jesus’ resurrection had a traumatic encounter on the road to Damascus. Struck blind and hurled from his mount in an explosion of radiance, Saul heard a Voice. When he asked who was speaking, the Voice said, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.”
In that instant, Saul became a believer in Jesus. He did a 180, and began passionately preaching the very Good News he had once opposed with all his might. No amount of persecution and hardship, no matter how severe, could dissuade him. He was left for dead after being stoned. Flogged and chained in prison, he continued to proclaim Christ. Facing execution in Rome, he couldn’t be silenced.
Having witnessed the resurrected Christ, Paul now lived his faith system backwards. He jettisoned everything he had once believed and valued. Since encountering the living Christ, none of it mattered in the least. Everything and anything his enemies threw at him rolled off like water on a duck’s back.
The same can be true for you and me. Once we accept the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ all the pieces fall into place. We can embrace any and every miracle we encounter in the pages of the Bible.
The resurrection changes everything.