Every Easter, people ask why Christians persistently believe in Jesus' Resurrection (when they aren't asking if Jesus was a zombie). Wouldn't it simplify things to set that bit of the Jesus-story aside and focus our energy on his moral teaching?
The Resurrection of Jesus has proven one of the hardest pieces of the Christian story for men and women throughout history to swallow. For example, when Paul talked to the Athenians about the Resurrection, the Bible records that "some of them sneered."
And sneering never goes out of fashion.
A little Google searching could find a dozen reasons why Jesus had to be more than a teacher. And the Resurrection will play deeply into many of them. I would encourage you to check them out ... as well as 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, a stirring passage on this theme.
But for me, as I've been thinking about this connection between Jesus' teaching and resurrection, I've been moved by something else.
When people link Jesus' teaching and resurrection, they note that Jesus taught his return from the dead. A good teacher wouldn't teach falsehoods. So, Jesus was either a bad teacher (and still dead) or a great teacher (and very much alive today).
But there's another element to the story.
Someone believed Jesus when he taught his return from the dead. Many someones. And these men and women ... mostly uneducated, mostly poor, mostly desperate ... these men and women trusted Jesus. They trusted him enough to leave jobs and families, to risk their lives and reputations. His death crushed their hopes. And they died, most of them violently, at the hands of mobs and emperors.
Trusting Jesus was either a very wise or a very foolish decision.
A great teacher is someone you can trust.
You can learn a lot from liars and cheats, from abusers and swindlers and bozos. I'm not saying that trustworthiness is a character trait of every teacher or that your best teacher was marked by trustworthiness. Some of us have PhD's from Hard Knocks University and you may never have had a great teacher.
The world is full of good teachers.
Great teachers are rare.
They're rare because trustworthiness has more to do with who you are than what you know. And most teachers become teachers because of what they know.
For Jesus to be a great teacher, he had to be trustworthy. For him to be the greatest teacher, he had to be completely trustworthy.
I could never trust a teacher who took advantage of the uneducated, the poor or the weak. I couldn't trust a teacher who set into motion - for no reason - a path that would lead his followers to death and disgrace. I wouldn't trust a teacher so deeply misunderstood by those who knew him best, loved him most and suffered in his name.
No, Jesus was either a great teacher or is still dead and not worth trusting.
Would you consider someone a great teacher if you didn't trust them?