There are certainly few people left who still doubt the existence of Jesus almost 2000 years ago; but there are many who believe that this historical Jesus is in any case quite different from the Jesus of the Bible. This opinion is often held, even in certain theological circles. I am always amazed at the "courage" or "frankness" of people who, after so many centuries, want to know better about the historical Jesus than, for example, the Church Fathers, who still lived close to the apostolic age, had partly still known the apostle John.
They agreed in their writings with the reports of the gospels. On the other hand, the advocates of such a different historical Jesus do not have a uniform image of Jesus among themselves, but almost as many different images of Jesus as there are persons who hold this opinion, which speaks for the lack of evidence for their opinion. But this does not prevent them from expressing their opinion aloud, and they often find followers among people who "do not like" the biblical Jesus with his claims.
Quite a few see in Jesus – depending on the focus – an idealist, philanthropist, pacifist, socialist, humanist and whatever else there is to be found in designations that are quite honourable. But as soon as it is about Jesus' claim to be the Messiah, Son of God, Redeemer, this Jesus becomes for many the "stone of offence" over which they stumble. And even fewer people are convinced of this man's resurrection!
Here, too, the reactions are different. Some make it easy for themselves and explain the resurrection as an invention of the first Christians. Because "cannot be what must not be". They don't even try to explain how a small group of people lying on the ground, completely shaken and crushed in their Messiah hopes (Luke 24:17+21; Mark 16:11+13), threatened with disintegration, suddenly changed into a group with radiant hope, with certainty of salvation, with courage (by an invention?).), how this group was willing to put their lives to use (for an invention?) and set in motion something that has shaped the history of mankind to this day (because of an invention?). How do these people explain such a change? Only psychologically? (Acts 4:13+19-20; 5:29).
Others tried explanations ranging from deception to deception; there was talk of an apparent death of Jesus, of a kind of catalepsy that later disappeared, and then Jesus left the land; some declared that a deputy had been executed in Jesus' place; the crucified man was not Jesus at all, and what else there is to explain (Matthew 27:62-64; 28:11-15). Unfortunately, there are also people who call themselves Christian, who value Jesus as a human being, but do not accept the resurrection of Jesus. For such people Paul actually sums things up:
1st Corinthians 15:17-19 But if Christ is not risen, then your faith is void ... if we alone in this life have hoped for Christ, then we are the most miserable of all human beings
For Paul the resurrection is the "sine qua non", that is, without it there is no Christian faith. It is a touchstone and hope at the same time. Without the resurrection you are still dead in sins and transgressions (Ephesians 2:1), you live without God and hope, only towards physical death, you have no answer to the question of the meaning of life. But Paul was allowed to say triumphantly:
1st Corinthians 15:20 But now Christ is raised from the dead ...;
He could, verifiably for his contemporaries, cite a whole series of witnesses to the fact of Jesus' resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5-8), not mentioning the women who saw Jesus first because their testimony was not considered conclusive at that time. But of course they could also testify to the resurrection in a private conversation. Therefore there are scholars who hold the view that historically no event is as well witnessed as the resurrection of Jesus for everyone who sees and hears will.
Angels were the first to witness the resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24:5-6). His way of resurrection was different from the resurrections previously reported in the Bible; therefore it could also be said that he was the firstborn of the departed (1 Corinthians 15:20); this expression leads to the conclusion that others will participate in the equality of His resurrection (Romans 6:5). The certainty of Jesus' resurrection has for you and for me first of all the effect that Paul pointed out to the Corinthians:
1st Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be firm, unshakable ...!
What's the matter with you? Because of the resurrection, which Paul discussed in detail during one chapter, the resurrection, which made him himself from a persecutor of Christians to a convinced banner bearer of Jesus Christ. The power of Jesus' resurrection carried him constantly (Philippians 3:10).
In our everyday lives, we will be repeatedly exposed to temptations and doubts; our faith is attacked by all sorts of powers, and may sometimes be shaken. Then we may remember with confidence: Christ, our Lord, has risen from the dead! He has truly risen! And we gain new courage and firmness, are strengthened to strengthen others! Jesus lives, and he assured us: I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me will live, ... because I live, you too will live (John 11:25-26; 14:19).
Our work for Jesus is not in vain: because he lives! Our life has a meaning: because he lives! When we read and discuss the Bible together in a small circle of two or three (Matthew 18:20), he is there: because he lives! (By the way: He is there, even if the "faithful and understanding slave," the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses, disapproves of this kind of independent Bible reading.
If you are dejected, if your feelings are in the cellar, if you perhaps see no way out: Go to him, because he lives! Even if we don't always feel it: He is alive! He is the living Lord (Matthew 28:18-19); you are safe in his hand (John 10:28-29), for he lives! Even if violence and malice, injustice and terror seem to increase in the world, do not resign: Jesus lives and he is the Lord! He is risen! Therefore we have a truly good message to proclaim! This is what we are sent to do! It is the gospel! Therefore do not be discouraged, whatever may happen to you; do not fall victim to depression, do not sink into sadness, do not perish in suffering: Jesus lives!
So the resurrection of Jesus can and should have an effect on our personal life. But it also has spiritual effects. There is the assurance of our own resurrection:
2 Corinthians 4:14 ... because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus ...
The resurrection is also the foundation of Christian rebirth, as Peter shows in 1 Peter 1:3. At this point he makes the connection between the two quite clear. We could only be born again through Jesus' resurrection. If Jesus had not resurrected, there would not have been a rebirth for any human being, there would not have been a single Christian.
There were many great men in the history of mankind, philosophers, scientists, artists, humanists, educators, philanthropists, etc.; but all of them were finally subject to the words of Psalm 146:3-4; their good plans, their best intentions, faded away with them. But Jesus is risen; he lives and is Lord. By the effect of the same power that Jesus brought back from the dead, we too are, as it were, already resurrected in him (Ephesians 2:4-6). This is why Paul writes:
Colossians 3:1 If you have now been raised with Christ, seek what is above ...
What's up there? Christ and what belongs to him. And where Christ is, there is life; and we seek life! That is natural for a person. Who then wants to continue his old life far from God, in sins and transgressions (Romans 6:1-13)? Christ set us free through His death and brought us to life through His resurrection; therefore we should also want to live for Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). And even if we stumble, we have a custodian because Jesus lives! (1 John 2:1-2).
The connection between justification and resurrection is also made clear in Romans 4:25: ... which was given up because of our transgressions and was raised up because of our justification. Through Jesus' sacrifice, believers are justified before God (Romans 3:24; 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Justice by grace through faith (Romans 10:10). This gives us peace with God (Romans 5:1). And for the sake of our righteousness, he was raised, or rather, his resurrection made our justification possible. Through the resurrection of His Son, God confirmed His earthly work as complete, completely sufficient for the salvation of believers. He said yes to Christ's work, as it were, just as in Christ all God's promises have become yes (2 Corinthians 1:19-20). That is why we may stand before God with frankness, through our mediator Jesus Christ, who is risen, who lives for you and for me, and we for him!