Jesus gave his life on the cross, thus providing the ultimate testimony that he believed everything he taught. If he was not firmly convinced of his teaching, he could easily have recanted to save his skin. If he had had some doubts, there might have been some sign of waffling as he stood before Pilate. There was no waffling.
Jesus was so convinced of the truth of what he preached that he was willing to die for it. But this, in itself, is not sufficient reason for us to follow him.
Over the centuries, people have accepted martyrdom for all sorts of wrong-headed or foolish causes. They may have been convinced that they were right. But they were wrong.
What ought to convince us of the truth of what Jesus taught is that not only was he killed for saying it, but that God raised him from the dead. The resurrection is the complete vindication of the truth of Jesus' preaching. Truth cannot be conquered by death.
St. Paul knew this well. "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain," he wrote. "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15.14, 19).
The resurrection is the guarantee of the truth of Christ's teaching. It proclaims that Christ's death has lifted us out of our sins.
Whether to believe in the resurrection is the ultimate question that every human being must face. Rejecting the resurrection means rejecting the Gospel. Faith in the resurrection leads one to the obedience of faith.
The resurrection was not shown on worldwide TV. There were no direct witnesses to the event. Even if there had been, many people would still doubt. "Maybe Jesus was not really dead in the tomb," some would say. "Maybe the apostles stole his body and put an imposter in his place," others would proclaim.
If one chooses to doubt, one will always find "reasons."
But we believe Christ did rise from the dead. We believe this not because we believe everything we are told. Rather, we believe for good reasons, especially the otherwise inexplicable witness of the apostles.
We believe for reasons, but we ultimately believe because we have faith. Such faith is the source of our salvation.
"If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved," Paul wrote to the Romans (10.9).
Those are precious words. To believe in the resurrection is already an act of obedience. It is to say that my opinions will never measure up unless they are in full accord with the Gospel. It is to say that I want the truth even if it means changing my life entirely. It is to say that I am contingent and Jesus is the cornerstone.
Where are we to find the truth of Jesus today? We find it first in Scripture, which "is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3.16).
But Scripture is subject to the conflicting interpretations of 10,000 churches. Even before there was a canon of Scripture, Paul pointed to the lasting foundation – "the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Timothy 3.15).
Jesus really is "the way, the truth and the life." We have the resurrection as the guarantee of that.
How we respond to the resurrection – with obedience to the truth or rejection of it – lays out our path to eternity.