In the 2012 AFC Divisional playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens trailed the Denver Broncos 35 – 28 with only 43 seconds left to play. On third down and three, on their own 23 yard-line, Raven’s quarterback, Joe Flacco, launched a desperation pass to wide receiver, Jacoby Jones. Jones retrieved the 70 yard, game-tying touchdown pass, in the final seconds of regulation tying the game and sending it into overtime. The Ravens won the game 38–35, in double overtime. Talk about a game-changer! Without the Flacco to Jones reception, the Ravens would never have made it to Superbowl XLVII where they beat the San Francisco 49’ers, 34 – 31.
Most of us have a “game-changer” in our own personal histories. Most of mine occurred in athletics when I was growing up. Regardless of the event, a game-changer has the same meaning for all of us– your team is loosing and “out of the corner” a miraculous turn-around occurs. An over-the-top, unbelievable act of physical prowess which changes the momentum of the game, and eventually the victor. What once was hopeless is turned-around. Defeat is turned into victory, and the missteps and missed plays are all forgotten. Victory, oh how sweet the sound!
What about the Scriptures? Imagine that first Resurrection Sunday, 33 A.D. Jesus was crucified on Friday afternoon, prior. Grief and sorrows filled the hearts of His followers, whether near or far from the cross. When they heard Jesus utter, “It is finished,” from the cross all was lost. Jesus was dead. The hopes, dreams, and life-plans of His small band of followers had all changed — in less than 24 hours. With the horrifying crucifixion of Jesus, the eleven were afraid for their lives, and huddled in a small upper room where they believed themselves to be safe. It was likely the same room they had been in the night before when Jesus had donned a towel to wash their feet. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane later that night that Judas, one of the twelve, betrayed Jesus with a kiss, meant only to point the Roman soldiers to Jesus. It was dark, you see, and even in darkness, evil needs help to find its way.
On the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion, early in the morning, the disciples were awakened by the sound of loud banging on the door. Had they been discovered? What if it were the Temple soldiers? Would they be crucified as their Lord had been? Seconds must have seemed like hours as they hesitated before opening the door. It was Mary Magdalene whom Jesus had delivered from demons. “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.(John 20:2 NASB), she declared. The disciples were confounded. Two of their number, John and Peter, ran to the tomb to see for themselves. Neither of them saw Jesus– but they did see the empty tomb. What had happened to the body? Before this day was over, they would know. This same Jesus would stand before them, resurrected by the power of God. Jesus was alive!
The resurrection of Jesus crucified was a game-changer. It sparked a fire in the hearts of these eleven men that not only changed their lives but also the course of history. Christianity was born that day from eleven fearful men who were empowered by the Holy Spirit to spread the good news that Jesus was alive to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Christianity is now the largest religion in the world with estimates of 2.2 billion in adherents. This game-changer has not stopped changing lives; in fact, the Resurrected King of Kings will continue to do so until even death is under His reign (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only a game-changer– it is everything to Christianity. Without the resurrection, the cross has no meaning. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, yes, but His death would have been that of an innocent victim at the hands of a stronger power, hardly a first or last-time event in human history. The cross and resurrection are either two steps of one divine plan or they are irrelevant in human history– the both of them. The cross and the resurrection have power, together, because each validates and vindicates the other, according to the foreordained plan of God:
this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:23-24 NASB)
Without the resurrection, the cross is only an instrument used in a crime against an innocent man. Conversely, without the cross, the resurrection is an unbelievable event, no doubt, but to what end? What purpose? To what witness? Everything fails for Christianity if the cross is not a precursor to the resurrection, according to the promises and plan of a good, holy and just God:
which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, (Rom. 1:2-4 NASB)
Without the crucified Jesus risen up, there is no atonement for sins. In fact, we are still in our sins, and still separated from God by our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17) . Without the crucified Jesus risen up, our faith is worthless, it is a deception, one so great that not only have we been deceived, but also. all those whose spiritual lineage can be traced back to the original eye witnesses of the risen Jesus. In fact, we would have believed a lie and testified to the world that this lie was a truth, and we would have done so as representatives of the one true God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2). “Of all men,” says the Apostle Paul, if Jesus be not risen, “we are most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
But Jesus has been risen. And how can I say so? Because He has been raised up in the hearts of His followers. I can testify to what I know and have experienced myself (Read more). I am born-again by the power of the resurrection, the Spirit of Christ that lives in me, God’s game-changer, and by Him I know life everlasting. There are many evidences of the resurrection (read more); but the greatest evidence is the life of Christ that is within the human heart. That would not be possible without the atoning power of Jesus crucified and the resurrected Christ who lives in the hearts of those forgiven of their sins and saved by His atoning blood.
What about the Qur’an? How does the Qur’an erase the game-changing power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? This is precisely the challenge Allah faced; and, as the Qur’an states, “Allah is the best of schemers.” The plan to elevate Muhammad over Jesus went this way. In 621 A.D., the year Muhammad migrated from Mecca to his new headquarters in Medina, the testimony of Christians was that Jesus had died on the cross, had risen on the third day, and had ascended to heaven where He sat at the right hand of God. In order for Muhammad to be greater than Jesus and acclaimed to be the “seal of the prophets” (the last prophet whose message trumps all those gone before, including Jesus), the divinity of Jesus had to be supplanted by the prophethood of Jesus. That is, if Jesus’ nature was changed from Son of God to prophet of God, then Jesus and Muhammad were equals.1 Both were, therefore, messengers of Allah sent with the same message; but Christians changed the message of Jesus by declaring Him the Son of God. Muhammad came to bring the corrected message. Here are some of the strategic steps the Qur’an takes to strip Jesus of His divinity:
– Jesus was not the Son of God but the son of Mary; and, He was a prophet of God (not the Son of God).
- Qur’an 19:35. [This is] a statement of the Truth about which they are in doubt: it would not befit God to have a child. He is far above that: when He decrees something, He says only, ‘Be,’ and it is.
- Qur’an 3:45 – 49. The angels said, ‘Mary, God gives you news of a Word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, who will be held in honour in this world and the next, who will be one of those brought near to God. 46 He will speak to people in his infancy and in his adulthood. He will be one of the righteous.’ 47 She said, ‘My Lord, how can I have a son when no man has touched me?’ [The angel] said, ‘This is how God creates what He will: when He has ordained something, He only says, “Be”, and it is.
- Qur’an 5:46. We sent Jesus, son of Mary [not “Son of God’], in their footsteps, to confirm the Torah that had been sent before him: We gave him the Gospel with guidance, light, and confirmation of the Torah already revealed— a guide and lesson for those who take heed of God.
– Jesus was not crucified but someone who was made to look like Him was:
- Qur’an 4:156-159. and because they disbelieved and uttered a terrible slander against Mary, 157 and said, ‘We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God.’ (They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him—158 God raised him up [ascended to heaven] to Himself. God is almighty and wise.)
– Christians misinterpreted Jesus as the Son of God; He was a prophet/messenger (just as Muhammad):
- Qur’an 4:171. People of the Book [Jews and Christians], do not go to excess in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth: the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His word, directed to Mary, a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers and do not speak of a ‘Trinity’—stop [this], that is better for you—God is only one God, He is far above having a son, ….
The Tomb of Muhammad is called the “Green Dome” and is located in Medina. Muhammad’s grave is in the Green Dome. Among the other graves inside the Green Dome, and the one placed immediately next to that of Muhammad’s is an empty grave. It is reserved for Jesus. According to Islamic prophecy, Jesus will descend from heaven, kill the anti-christ, and declare Islam to be the only true faith. All Christians will be required to convert to Islam or be killed. Crosses from churches will be removed and churches will be converted to mosques. All pigs will be killed (for some reason Islam associates pigs with Christians because we do not consider them unclean as Jews and Muslims do). After forty years, Jesus will die and be buried next to Muhammad, hence the empty grave awaits him.
Amazing: in Islam there is no resurrection but there is an empty grave. The empty grave was the problem the Jews had in the first century, also. Actually, it was the women who first discovered the empty tomb (John 20:1-2); but they refused to ignore it. Mary Magdalene was the first to learn that the grave was empty because the body of Jesus had been resurrected (John 20:15-16). We might say that Mary was the first to discover that the game had been changed! Jesus was not dead. He was risen! Have you discovered that?
Oh death where is your sting? Praise God. Jesus is risen.
Jesus come quickly.
- The Qur’an actually states that Jesus was a Muslim as were all the prophets before Him, beginning with Abraham. [↩]