The resurrection of Christ is the great boost that a weak faith needs:
There are ten accounts of people being raised from the dead in the Bible. Jesus is the most famous example of this of course, but the other nine are no less miraculous. I just read the account of the first case of this recorded in Scripture. My daily reading has me back in 1 Kings, and in 1 Kings 17 we read about the Widow of Zarephath. Verses 17-24 tell us about this resurrection:
After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
There is much that can be said about this passage. What we read in verse 22 (“And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah”) certainly should encourage all of us as we pray. God does hear the prayers of his people. Of course he may not always answer them in the way that we prefer, but he is attentive to our cries.
The role of faith
What precedes the account of the child raised from the dead is also worth quickly noting – it concerns the issue of faith. I say this in part for some more or less personal reasons. Just last night I was thinking about the fact that I feel that I do not have such a great faith. With all that is happening in the world, as well as things more close to home, it is easy to get overwhelmed.
With two years of Covid and lockdown mania, and who knows how long with cancer in the family, it is easy to get discouraged. I can so easily tend to focus on my circumstances rather than on my God. So as I was praying last night, I asked God to help me increase my faith. ‘Lord I believe – help my unbelief’ (Mark 9:24 ).
So let me return to 1 Kings 17. There was a drought in the land at the time, so things were quite dire for the folks living there. And what I read this morning in verses 8-16 of this chapter certainly caught my attention:
Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.
Wow, what faith she had. Imagine doing what Elijah asked of her, when she and her son were on the verge of starvation. What faith she displayed, even when everything around her looked quite bleak and impossible. And there would be so many other biblical characters in the Bible who also displayed great faith when circumstances seemed to weigh against things.
Just think of Noah – he was told to build a great ark because a great flood was coming. Most folks would have thought he was nuts. But he did it anyway, strong in faith. The faith ‘hall of fame’ in Hebrews 11 tells of many more great saints who had great faith when it looked like everything was going against them.
So we too need to have faith. As I just told a friend, it is not a case of having great faith in God, but having faith in a great God. The God who can raise Jesus from the dead is the God we serve. The Easter message gives us all tremendous hope in hopeless times. Knowing that Christ is alive and we will one day be united with him should help us all as we struggle with a weak faith.
Let me finish with a few quotes about Easter and the resurrection:
“Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.” Martin Luther
“Christ the Lord is risen today, Sons of men and angels say. Raise your joys and triumphs high; Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply.” Charles Wesley
“Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor.” Charles H. Spurgeon
“We are adopted into God’s family through the resurrection of Christ from the dead in which he paid all our obligations to sin, the law, and the devil, in whose family we once lived. Our old status lies in his tomb. A new status is ours through his resurrection.” Sinclair B. Ferguson
“The truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of gospel truth. The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns and without which none of the other truths would much matter. Without the resurrection, Christianity would be so much wishful thinking, taking its place alongside all other human philosophy and religious speculation.” John MacArthur
And this from the end of a “Q&A” show at the Sydney Opera House during the “Festival of Dangerous Ideas” in November 2013:
Questioner from the audience: What dangerous idea has the greatest potential to change this world for the better?
Peter Hitchens: The most dangerous idea in human history and philosophy remains the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and rose from the dead and that is the most dangerous idea you will ever encounter.
The compere: Why dangerous?
Mr Hitchens: Because it alters the whole of human behaviour and all our responsibilities. It turns the universe from a meaningless chaos into a designed place in which there is justice and there is hope and, therefore, we all have a duty to discover the nature of that justice and work towards that hope. It alters us all. If we reject it, it alters us all as well. It is incredibly dangerous. It’s why so many people turn against it.
For further reading
There would be many thousands of books on the resurrection, certainly of a more religious and devotional nature. But the 15 volumes I offer here are more academic and scholarly, dealing with theological, historical and apologetic aspects of the resurrection.
Allison, Dale, The Resurrection of Jesus: Apologetics, Polemics, History. T&T Clark, 2021.
Ankerberg, John and John Weldon, The Passion and the Empty Tomb. Harvest House, 2005.
Baggett, David J. ed., Did the Resurrection Happen? A Conversation With Gary Habermas and Antony Flew. IVP, 2009.
Copan, Paul and Ronald Tacelli, eds., Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment? IVP, 2000.
Craig, William, The Son Rises. Moody Press, 1981.
Davis, Stephen, Risen Indeed. Eerdmans, 1993.
Davis, Stephen, Daniel Kendall and Gerald O’Collins, eds., The Resurrection. Oxford University Press, 1997.
Geisler, Norman, The Battle for the Resurrection. Thomas Nelson, 1989.
Habermas, Gary, The Resurrection of Jesus: An Apologetic. Baker, 1984.
Habermas, Gary and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Kregel, 2004.
Ladd, G.E., I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. Eerdmans, 1975.
Licona, Michael, The Resurrection of Jesus. IVP, 2010.
Quarles, Charles, ed., Buried Hope or Risen Savior? B&H, 2008.
Wenham, John, Easter Enigma. Paternoster, 1984.
Wright, N.T., The Resurrection of the Son of God. T&T Clark, 2003.