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(From an article in the Austin {Minn.} Daily Herald by Pastor Stephen Kurtzahn of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.)

A group of biblical scholars that calls itself the “Jesus Seminar” met just before Lent started this year. The participants cast their ballots and decided that Jesus of Nazareth really didn’t rise from the dead on the first Easter. Last year they voted on the Virgin Birth of our Lord. Ninety-six per cent of the Seminar participants do not believe it ever occurred. Before that the Jesus Seminar voted on the words of Christ attested to Him in the Gospels. They decided He never said most of them.

What we see in the Jesus Seminar is the height of human arrogance. How dare people sit in judgment of the God who made them! Lest these biblical “scholars” alienate the faith in their own denominations, they explain away the resurrection of Jesus like the make-believe TV preacher at a make-believe TV funeral. You’ve heard it before, I’m sure: “Our beloved Sam was a good man, and although we lay his body in the grave, he will live on in the memories.” The resurrection of Jesus is described by such modern theologians in the same way: Jesus lives on in the hopes and dreams of His followers. What we have here, though, is nothing more than an outright attack on the very essence of the Christian faith.

“There is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Even the apostle Paul had to contend with those in Corinth who denied that Jesus ever rose from the grave on Easter. The Holy Spirit countered such heresy in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. Pay very close attention to the inspired and inerrant words of the Spirit through Paul: “. . . If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain . . . if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:14-19).

But now Christ is risen from the dead! The angel announced to the women at the empty tomb early that first Easter morning: “He is not here, for He is risen, as He said” (Mt. 28:6). The physical and bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus is vital to our Christian faith because: 1) It proves to us that Jesus is God and man in one person; 2) It proves that His sacrifice to pay for our sins was acceptable to the heavenly Father and we are now reconciled to God; 3) It proves that we, too, shall rise from our graves on the Last Day.

The Gospel lesson in many churches for the Sunday after Easter is from John chapter 20, the account of “doubting” Thomas. After Thomas witnessed the living Christ with his own eyes, after he saw the risen Jesus with the nail prints in His hands and the spear mark in His side, this disciple fell on his knees and confessed: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28). As the living Christ comes to us through the Means of Grace — through His Gospel in Word and Sacraments — may we also fall on our knees and confess with our own lips, “My Lord and my God!”

He lives, all glory to His name!

He lives, my Jesus, still the same.

Oh, the sweet joy this sentence give,

“I know that my Redeemer lives!”