"If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain and you are still in your sins. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." - 1 Corinthians 15:17,19
Most folk, Christians and non-Christians alike, would agree the Resurrection is the most outrageous claim made by the gospels and Paul.
I think the more outrageous claim is that Jesus continued to be hailed as the messiah after his death. After all, Jesus had not done what people generally expected the messiah to do: He had not achieved a sweeping victory against Rome; he had not restored the Temple. Worse yet, he died like a common criminal on a cross.
No one would argue that such a person could be the Christ. When messiahs failed and died, such as Judas the Galilean in 6 AD or Simon bar-Giora in 70AD or bar-Kochbar in 135AD, the first order of business among their followers was to find a new messiah. But Jesus' disciples didn't do that.
Because they were innovative, tradition-bucking, spiritual pioneers driven by collective hallucinations and wishful thinking? Because they were anxious to be crucified themselves?
No. Because something dramatic and totally unexpected happened that changed everything; something so powerful and wonderful they risked their lives proclaiming it to anyone who would listen. That's the only reason we know anything about Jesus today. That's why our faith is not in vain.
Sure the resurrection is outrageous, but it's even more outrageous to make the case for Christianity without it. Go be resurrection-like today and do something beautiful and outrageous for God. It won't be in vain.
Alleluia! now we cry, to the Lord immortal,
Who, triumphant, burst the bars of the tomb's dark portal;
Alleluia! with the Son, God our Parent praising,
Alleluia! yet again to the Spirit raising.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.