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Sermon Excerpt: What if Christ had not risen?  Mark 16:1-8 by Frank Schaefer

Just imagine we only had the original Gospel of Mark in our NT bible. That’d be a pretty frill--less Easter celebration, don’t you think? Now, even in the original version of Mark though you still have the empty tomb and the promise that the disciples will meet up with Jesus again.

But, this whole thing made me ponder an interesting question: what if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead? Would it still be possible to believe in him as our Savior. What would it be like to talk about a Savior who died and didn’t rise from the dead in a physical sense? Could we still consider him a Savior?

Well, I suppose there are religions whose founders did die and stayed that way, like Mohamed, Buddha, and Abraham, and these religions still live on. I guess, a belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus is not absolutely necessary for the theology of salvation through the cross—Christ could have still died an atoning death for your and my sins--forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God would still be in place even without a belief in the resurrection.

But would the Christian message still be the same? No, I’m sure there’d be something missing. Had Jesus not been raised from the dead, he would have been defeated by the evil powers of this world. The victory would be on the side of the devil, on the side of the corrupt Sanhedrin, and on the side of the gruesome Roman oppressors.

How could we sing “Victory in Jesus,” had he not been raised from the dead? Clearly, a messiah that was condemned by the highest court, a messiah executed by the state -- crucified in shame and agony, does not a victory story make.

Even the original gospel of Mark is clear on this: the tomb was empty, no body to be found. And though there are no reports of appearances by Jesus in the original version, the angel does tell the disciples: He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

That brings me to another question: why didn’t Jesus appear to the whole world? Why just to a few select disciples and followers? Why not rub victory in the face of his accusers and murderers? Why didn’t he march into the Sanhedrin and say to Anas and Cephas, the high priests “I’m back.” “You thought you got rid of me? Well, think again. See and believe!”

And why didn’t he march into Pontius Pilate’s place and say to him and the Roman soldiers who mocked, tortured and killed him: “prepare to die you wicked brood of vipers.” . . . Click here for the full manuscript and all other resources