Pastor Bo: The unifying power of Christ’s resurrection

We're told in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."

To say that society was fractured and hateful would be an understatement. Political divides, religious divides, socioeconomic divides, the world had it all. But in a demonstration of divine wisdom, Jesus, rather than picking one united faction of that divided world from which to choose his followers, chose instead to call people from across the spectrum of that fractured society to make up his disciples.

It must have been as fun for him as it was bewildering to others.

The G-man, to me, was one of his most interesting choices. Matthew, the same one who wrote the gospel of Matthew, was a tax collector by trade. He was a Jew who worked for the hated Romans and made his living by squeezing his fellow Jews. The New Testament calls them Publicans, and they were so hated that the very word became the most insulting of slurs. But if Jesus was going to choose Matthew as a disciple, he would surely have to be very careful not to pick any overtly anti-government men to follow him; that would not be a good mixture.

Enter Simon the Zealot. With roots tracing back to the time of the Maccabees, the Zealots were super-strict in all matters of religion, prone to violence and desirous of overthrowing any civil authorities who infringed on their theocracy. He would have utterly hated, oh, let's see ... Publicans.

Things did not get much better when Jesus brought fishermen into the fold, at least four of them. For starters, they were from Galilee, meaning they mostly rubbed shoulders with Gentiles day by day. Combine that with the fact that they were hot-tempered and had very short fuses, and you have a potential recipe for disaster, especially among "more respectable people." One of those more respectable people, by the way, was Nicodemus, a member of the famed Sanhedrin, one of the most powerful and well-connected men in the nation. He also became a follower of Christ, spoke up for him against others in the Sanhedrin and even helped another politically powerful man, Joseph of Arimathaea, bury the body of Jesus.

But it wasn't just men. There seems to have been a rather significant number of women who were followers of Christ as well. And like the men, they were a really hodgepodge group that had a lot of reasons to not get along with each other, or with the men. Two of them, Mary and Martha, were sisters. Those two were as different as night and day, with their differences eventually leading to Martha calling out her own sister publicly and asking Jesus to chide her. These were two very well-off ladies, living in a pretty nice place called Bethany just outside of Jerusalem and seemingly with a respectable background, yet contributing to the merry mess that was the followers of Christ. Another Mary who followed Christ, though, was radically different from them. Mary from Magdala, nearly 100 miles up north in the "bad section of town," had been possessed by seven devils before she met Christ, who cast those devils out and set her free. Things said about her in the New Testament hint at her possibly being "for hire" as well before she got saved. Those ladies were really different.

Peter denied Christ three times, while John went with Jesus all the way to the cross. Nathanael said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" when Jesus himself was from Nazareth.

You say, "Isn't it amazing how well Jesus got them all to get along?" And the answer to that is "Bahahaha! No." For his entire ministry, the disciples fought with each other over who was the greatest, rebuked Jesus himself when he said something they did not like and generally behaved like the Bad News Bears of the theological world. And then Jesus later brought Saul of Tarsus into the fold, a man who had actually killed many of the other followers of Christ. He later became known as Paul the Apostle. Some of Jesus' half-brothers, who had once tried to get him killed, also became disciples.

Something happened along the way. Neither the tremendous preaching and teaching Christ did, nor the amazing miracles he performed, nor his transfiguration, nor even his death for all of them and all of us was able to unify these wildly disparate people. But by the time Paul put pen to parchment, the followers of Christ were absolutely on the same page.

Mind you, they still had some issues to deal with along the way, but the G-man and the zealot and the Galilean fishermen and the Sanhedrin superstars and the Bethany Belles and Magdala mess and the many who were now getting saved from among the priests who had brought about the crucifixion of Christ and the former Christian murderer and the half-brothers were the most unlikely thing: a unified body of believers.

The resurrection is what made it happen. Hundreds of very different people saw the risen Christ, and they then went and told the world. And the resurrection of Christ is still what unifies the crazy conglomerate that is the church. Just in ours alone, it is what produces worship services with the Hawaiian pianist and soloist followed by the country-as-cornbread duet followed by other music just as good and just as different, the black ushers and deacon, the Alabama redneck trustee, the Puerto Rican/Lebanese/French pastor, the Mexican junior church leader and his Costa Rican wife and the very old factory workers and the very well-to-do business owners praising God alongside the people who spent a while living in a tent.

Nothing has the unifying power of the resurrection of Christ.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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