Summary: Without the resurrection, nothing about Christianity makes sense. But with the resurrection, Christianity is the only thing that makes sense of life.
I stand before you today, on this the holiest day of the Christian year, to declare that the Christian religion is utter nonsense. A huge mass of inconsistencies; a conglomeration of all that is absurd, ridiculous, incomprehensible, contradictory, unbelievable, incredible, and patently false. Allow me to highlight just a few of the ridiculous statements made by its founder, Jesus of Nazareth:
"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." - Luke 9:24 (NIV)
"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave." -- Matthew 20:26-27 (NIV)
"Blessed are you who are poor . . . . Blessed are you who hunger . . . . Blessed are you who weep . . . . Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man." -- Luke 6:20-22 (NIV)
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." -- Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)
Not only that, but the followers of Jesus behave in ways that make no sense at all:
"[The religious authorities] called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ." -- Acts 5:40-42 (NIV)
This kind of behavior was not unusual. Over the centuries many Christians have been tortured and killed, some even torn to pieces by wild animals, simply for refusing to renounce their faith. Even today, in many parts of the world, Christians are routinely persecuted and killed. What sense does that make? What good does it do to maintain your religious beliefs if they are going to get you killed? Wouldn’t it be better to change religions and live? How can you do anyone any good if you’re dead?
Only the resurrection can make sense of these teachings and this kind of behavior. Without the resurrection nothing about Christianity makes sense.
· Before the resurrection, Jesus’ own disciples didn’t understand Him.
"But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it". - Mark 9:32 (NIV)
"But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it." -- Luke 9:45 (NIV)
"The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about." -- Luke 18:34 (NIV)
"Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them." -- John 10:6 (NIV)
This is a common thread throughout the gospels; the twelve disciples, who were with Jesus for three years, who listened to his teaching, who observed his miracles, who watched his life day in and day out - it is the consistent witness of the New Testament that prior to the resurrection these twelve men had only a very hazy idea of who Jesus was and what He was doing. They are continually misunderstanding His actions, misinterpreting His teaching, asking questions which appear to us to be incredibly dense and dull-witted.
There are two possibilities. Either that Jesus had, by a stroke of incredibly bad luck, chosen as His disciples the twelve most clueless men in Galilee; or, that something was missing: a key that would unlock the meaning and significance of Jesus life and teachings. That thing is the resurrection
The resurrection makes Christianity make sense.
"After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken." -- John 2:22 (NIV)
"At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him . . . ." -- John 12:16 (NIV)
But it wasn’t just the disciples’ understanding that changed. There was also a dramatic change in their behavior. The resurrection changed everything. Before the resurrection, they were spineless cowards who scattered when Jesus was arrested, choosing to save their own skin rather than remain loyal to their Master. Peter emphatically denied that he even knew Jesus. None of the Twelve even asked for his body to bury it (it was Joseph of Arimethea). But after the resurrection, they became bold and courageous; they willingly suffered arrest, harassment, torture and execution.