Dr. Ronald Goetz, Professor of Theology and Religion at Elmhurst College wrote in the Christian Century, “Let’s begin by agreeing that we Christians can’t agree on what happened on Easter morning. Certainly resurrection faith does not [my emphasis] require belief in the resurrection of a corpse! But it does require faith in the empty tomb!” That is the kind of double talk that liberal theologians have been using to deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Karl Barth, often considered the premier Lutheran theologian of the 20th Century, was asked in 1990 by Christianity Today editor, Carl Henry, if the resurrection of Jesus was an event that would have been regarded as news in the same sense that the man on the street understands news? Barth was upset with the question and asked sarcastically, “Did you say Christianity Today or Christianity Yesterday?
Which would the apostle Peter say is more important? That Jesus lives in our hearts? Or that Jesus really truly physically rose from the dead? Was our Lord’s resurrection from the dead a real event, like other news, that could have been photographed and reported? Or, is it a case of wanting something to be true even though it’s not, just a superstition that modern Christians can dismiss? What would the apostle Peter say?
Three times Peter had denied even knowing Jesus. The sight of Jesus dying on a cross was a sight Peter wanted to erase from his mind but could not. His sins had led to Jesus’ crucifixion. He could not run from His conscience. He needed more than a “Jesus lives in my heart.” He needed a Jesus who had truly risen from the dead. How relieved Peter was when the living Jesus spoke those beautiful words of forgiveness, “Feed my sheep.”
Thus Peter could write, “Baptism now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as the appeal of a clear conscience through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Pet 3:21). Only Jesus’ real, bodily, physical resurrection, God’s announcement that He has accepted His Son’s sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, could give Peter a clear conscience.
What do we do when a guilty conscience will not give us peace? We return to our Baptism. Because baptism joins us to the living Jesus, it assures us of the forgiveness of our sins even if our conscience accuses us. God’s forgiveness of our sins is as real as the greatest event in the history of the world, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.