The Reason for the Resurrection

The Reason for the Resurrection

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von Buseck12 Minutes

Messianic myths are found in nearly every culture on earth. In many traditions of classical antiquity, a savior comes to earth and good triumphs over evil during a last judgement, followed by the salvation of the world. Since the release of the Superman movie in the 1970s, an endless stream of superhero films have built upon the messiah myth and brought it firmly into the mainstream of society.

For an atheist who was also teacher of literature and philosophy at Oxford University, the ultimate conclusion regarding the messiah myth was a shocking awakening that unfolded over years. Though raised in the church, C. S. Lewis had abandoned faith during his college years. At the same time, he was fascinated by legend and myth – specifically the ancient literature and songs of Scandinavia and Norse mythology.

The pursuit of these legends intensified for Lewis an inner longing for something more than the routine of day-to-day life – what he would later call “joy.”

In 1916, Lewis was awarded a scholarship to Oxford, but his studies were interrupted only months later when he was drafted into the British Army. Along with many of his friends, he was soon shipped off to France to fight in the First World War. He would write to a friend that the horrors that he witnessed in this war, coupled with his unhappiness at school and the early loss of his mother led to his pessimism and atheism.

Writing about his time of grappling with God in his book Surprised by Joy, Lewis would admit to being paradoxically “very angry with God for not existing” and “equally angry with him for creating a world.”

Through Myth and Legend

Lewis’s eventual return to God was ironically tied to his love for myth and legend.

In 1925, he was elected a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford University. As he read to prepare for classes, he noticed the multiple references to the messianic myth in literature from across the world. Surprisingly, the more he read from different philosophical schools, the more he was attracted to the thinking of those who just happened to be Christians.

“…those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory my sympathy ought to have been complete … all seemed a little thin; what as boys we called ‘tinny.’”

On the other hand, he found himself influenced by the writing of Christian thinkers like George MacDonald and G. K. Chesterton. At the same time he started coming into close relationships with other committed Christians at Oxford, most notably J. R. R. Tolkien.

Even when he sought solace in the company of other atheists, he often found evidence to the contrary. In one poignant moment – a conversation that would prove to be a turning point in his thinking on the reality of God and Jesus – a fellow atheist made a remarkable statement that stopped Lewis in his tracks.

“Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good,” Lewis later wrote in Surprised by Joy. “‘Rum thing,’ he went on. ‘All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. … It almost looks as if it had really happened once.’”

This was the catalyst that moved Lewis from an atheist to a theist. But he was not yet a Christian. That transformation again occurred slowly over time.

Then one Sunday morning in September of 1931, Lewis took a stroll with two colleagues, J. R. R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson, at a place called Addison’s Walk on the campus of Magdalen College. Having begun their conversation the night before, talking about metaphor, myth, and Christianity, they now moved on to the concept of sacrifice. Lewis shared the experience in a letter to a friend:

“Now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn’t mind it at all: again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself … I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose ‘what it meant’.”

“Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.”

Why the Resurrection?

The longing that Lewis felt as he studied the Norse mythology is the same emotion that grips us when we watch a great superhero movie. As we thrill to the adventures on the movie screen, we think to ourselves, “We are made for more than this.” And we are!

You and I were placed on this earth by a loving heavenly father for a purpose. We are created in His image and likeness for greatness. As a result, every human being has an inner drive that points us back to our Creator. That is why so many religions and cults exist around the world. Mankind is searching for God like a guided missile seeks its target.

And God wants to be found.

But we human beings have a problem called sin – and deep down, everyone knows it. A brief glance at daily headlines, or a simple review of human history makes this dilemma plain to see. Human beings are fatally flawed.
This is how the Bible describes our condition:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 ESV)

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10 ESV)

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear (Isaiah 59:2 ESV)

Because God is perfect, He can have no sin in His presence. So without some sort of redemption, our sin separates from our Creator. As the apostle Paul writes to the Romans, “For the wages of sin is death…”

This scenario seems quite hopeless.

But then Paul gives us the answer to our dilemma – and it is in the form of the Messianic myth. “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23 ESV).

Paul also declared:

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:21 NLT)

Jesus Christ is a real historical figure who lived in First Century Israel. He was the son of Mary and Joseph. He was a carpenter and a rabbi. He was falsely accused by the Jewish religious leaders. He was taken before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate – an actual historical figure who condemned him to death.

Jesus was led by the Roman soldiers to a hill called Golgotha, or “The Place of the Skull” just outside of Jerusalem. There He was placed upon a cross, His hands and feet nailed to the wood. For the next three hours, He slowly bled to death. During that time, all the sins ever committed by human kind were placed upon Him – for “the wages of sin is death”. Jesus became the actual sinless and spotless Lamb of God, just like the one the Jews had used in their Passover meal since the time of Moses.

It was the actual Messiah myth being played out for all the world.

Because Jesus was the Son of God, as the spiritual child of Yahweh, He was the only person on earth who was able to live a sinless life. Because Jesus was the Son of Man, as the physical child of Mary, He qualified to die as a man for all of mankind.

It was the story that brought wonderment to C. S. Lewis as a boy, and brought humility and gratefulness to his heart as a man. It was the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself for the redemption of all humanity.

Three days later, just as it was foretold, Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead and ascended to heaven – and through this earthshaking event, He consummated the salvation of all mankind.

Just as Lewis finally realized, the doorway to an eternal relationship with our Heavenly Father is through Jesus Christ. He declared of Himself:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:6 NASB).

This true myth is the reason for the Resurrection!

Would you like to walk through the doorway that Christ has opened to the Father?