Three Days and
at the Tomb
How Did Jesus Die?
Cain's Wife and the
Penalty of Incest
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THE NECESSITY OF JESUS' RESURRECTION
by Arthur C. Custance, Ph.D.
Why should the preaching of the Gospel seem so foolish? In writing to the Corinthians Paul said that preaching Christ crucified was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:23).
I suppose that it was a stumbling block to the Jews because the idea of their Messiah ending up as a criminal before men and accursed in the sight of God (Galatians 3:13) was completely foreign to everything that they had anticipated. Even the disciples found this difficult to contemplate in anticipation and to adjust to in retrospect -- until the reality of the Resurrection changed the whole picture for them. Yet why should it seem so foolish to the Greeks?
The fact is that many religions of the Old World expected a sacrifice to be made on behalf of their devotees -- and often a human sacrifice -- so that the Crucifixion per se was not such a surprising thing. Yet Paul's words are certainly true, that the Greeks somehow or other viewed what Paul preached with amusement and unbelief. But I wonder whether it was the Crucifixion in itself that they found foolish. In speaking before Agrippa (Acts 26:6-8) it seems rather clear that the "incredible thing" was not so much the Crucifixion, but rather the Resurrection.
The concept of sacrifice is, after all, common to human idealism in a large part of the world and always has been, quite independently of the Christian message. When the Lord said, "Greater love hath no man than this that a man should lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:3), He was appealing to an idealism which was very widely shared by most free men. I think it is safe to say that although various cultures have lacked appreciation of virtues like honesty, love, unselfishness with respect to possessions, and so forth, so that there are very few universally accepted values, all cultures without have admired courage, and especially the supreme example of courage which we witness when one individual lays down his life for another. A few have thought such self-sacrifice is silly. (1) To my knowledge all cultures recognize it as bravery.
So I think in the final analysis that even today -- perhaps one ought to say more especially today -- the really surprising and challenging element in the Gospel message is not so much the sacrifice that was involved, but the Resurrection.
I should not want to be misunderstood here, because without this sacrifice there could be no salvation for man. Nevertheless, without the Resurrection the sacrifice would have been ineffective. This is true from the historical point of view, from the theological point of view, and from the experiential point of view. It is true historically, because, but for the fact of the Resurrection, the Church, as the continuing body of believers who proclaim the truth in each generation, would never have come into being. It is true theologically, because the Resurrection was the proof, the validation of the efficacy, of the acceptability to God of the sacrifice which the Lord Jesus had made of Himself: it was needed to complete it. And it is true experientially in that the whole foundation of the new life of the child of God personally is the indwelling presence, the reincarnation, of the resurrected Lord in the heart and life of the believer.
When one reflects upon the matter, one wonders whether evangelism isn't in some ways "selling itself short." The fact is that the New Testament probably tells us more about the Resurrection than it does about the Crucifixion. The Resurrection is declared to be the whole basis of our salvation, both now and in the future, i.e., in three important ways. Jesus said, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19). Of course, He meant at the same time, Because I die, ye shall live. Nevertheless, experientially, the new life results from His resurrection. Paul said (in Acts 13:37-39) that our forgiveness is predicated upon the fact that He whom God raised again "saw no corruption." And when writing to the Romans, Paul proscribes what might seem like insufficient grounds for being saved (in the absence of reference to the Lord's death), namely, that confession with the mouth that Jesus is Lord and faith in the heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9), guarantees salvation. In the light of these things one wonders perhaps whether we are neglecting to proclaim a very important, indeed fundamental, part of the Gospel. Is it possible that by over-emphasis on the Crucifixion and neglect of the Resurrection we are actually distorting the truth?
Arthur C. Custance was born in England in 1910 and died in 1985. He moved to Canada in 1928.
Dr. Custance held a Ph.D. in anthropology and an M.A. in oriental languages.
His Ph.D. work was primarily completed at the University of Toronto but was granted at the University of Ottawa following a move to Ottawa to direct the Human Engineering Laboratories of Canada's Defense Research Board.
While in Ottawa he completed the university's course in medical physiology.
His research centred on the problem of heat regulation in humans under stress.
His reports on this research have been published in a number of scientific journals.
Dr. Custance was a Member Emeritus of the Canadian Physiological Society and a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute.