For 1500 years, Europeans were so sure that all swans were white, that the term “a Black Swan” became a metaphor for something that did not and could not exist. But then, in 1697, a European explorer discovered black swans along the coast of Australia, and that discovery reshaped a piece of reality for everyone living in Europe! Something that Europeans were sure did not and could not exist, actually did exist!
The resurrection of Jesus created just such a Black Swan moment for the Greek World. When the Apostle Paul walked into a city like Corinth and began to preach that Jesus had died for them on a cross, that he was buried for three days, and that he stood up again in a physical body and conquered death, his Greek listeners were confronted with a Black Swan — because Greek philosophy had taught for 400 years that resurrections did not, could not, and should not happen!
The people of Corinth didn’t have a problem with Jesus dying for their sins. That made sense to them. And they could accept that Jesus had an eternal soul that continued to exist apart from his body when he died. Aristotle had figured out that men possessed immortal souls 400 years before Paul ever showed up. What the Greeks at Corinth struggled to accept was what that a dead man could stand up again in a real body — or that he would want to!
Pain, suffering, death and disease are experienced by anyone who has a body — and escaping these universal struggles is the quest of anyone who has a soul. The Greeks believed that their bodies held their souls captive in a prison of pain, suffering, death and disease, and therefore, to a Greek, the only way to escape these universal struggles was to escape the body, through death, and live on as an immortal soul. The Christians at Corinth were so sure that a resurrection could not and should not happen, that they began to factor the resurrection out of their faith, as if it was a non-essential. They wanted to keep the part about Jesus forgiving their sins, and they wanted to keep the part about their soul living on with God after death. But they wanted to dismiss the part about their bodies being resurrected by Jesus at his return.
But the truth of Christ’s resurrection and the promise of ours is not the appendix of Christianity, it’s the heart of Christianity. Our fallen bodies are not the ultimate problem; our fallen souls are the ultimate problem. Our souls are infected with an ancient virus called sin, and this sickness of the soul has been passed on from one generation to the next since Adam and Eve. Pain, suffering, death and disease are not the ultimate problem; they are the symptoms of the ultimate problem. And so, if you want to escape pain, suffering, death and disease, the answer is not to get rid of your body; the answer is to get rid of the virus of sin that is infecting your soul and is causing these symptoms!
And here’s the good news: that’s exactly what Jesus came to do! He came to heal our souls and to redeem our bodies. He died on a cross to free us from our sin, and he rose from the dead to free us from pain, suffering, death and disease! The resurrection is not the appendix of Christianity that can be cut out and discarded — it is the heart of Christianity, and removing it from your faith is a fatal mistake! The Bible puts it like this:
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith….If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 17-19).
If resurrections do not and cannot happen, then Jesus did not raise from the dead, and that means his tomb houses both a dead man and a dead religion. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then preaching is a bunch of empty words, the apostles are frauds, Christianity is bogus, and our loved ones who have died are still lost in their sins! If there is no resurrection of the dead, then every believer in Jesus Christ is a hopeless fool to be pitied by the undeceived!
But, of course, the resurrection did happen, because Sin and Death are Siamese twins: they are forever linked to each other, as cause and effect! The Bible says, the soul that sins (cause) will surely die (effect). And that’s why Jesus couldn’t just be the Lamb of God that takes away our sin — he also had to be the resurrection and the life, who makes us stand up again and frees our bodies from pain, suffering, death and disease.