When my son was 7 years old, he asked me a memorable question, “Dad, what’s the most important thing you know?” While I don’t recall what I said, I have been thinking about this question ever since.
The conclusion I have come to stems from what Paul said to the church at Corinth: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
In other words, the most important thing to know is that Jesus died, was buried and rose again on the third day. This is more important than any other piece of knowledge in history, science, psychology or religion.
Why is it so important? Consider three reasons. As we will see, how we answer this question has more implications for this life and then next than any other question.
First, if Jesus has risen, we know that God exists. The resurrection of Jesus is clearly a miracle. It is not the claim that Jesus rose naturally but that he rose supernaturally. Thus, it follows that the natural world is not all there is. There is a cosmic Being with power over life and death. The God Jesus believed in is real.
Second, if Jesus has risen, we know which religion is true. Jesus is the only major religious figure who claimed to be God and who corroborated that claim by resurrecting. If this account is true, then we know that Christianity is uniquely true among all religions. It tells us that prophets who contradict the message of Jesus are mistaken and that Jesus is Lord of the universe. And it means that we can know God personally (John 17:1-5).
Third, if Jesus has risen, we know there is life after death. If Jesus really died for three days and came back, then we know that life continues after the grave. This life is not all there is. Thus, we should live our lives in light of eternity.
But this is not all that stems from the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus has risen, then we can grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), God has sent the Holy Spirit to empower believers (Acts 2:32-33), we can experience freedom from the consequences and power of sin (Acts 13:37-39) and we will all face God’s judgment (Acts 17:31).
Honestly, what is more important than this? Advice for investing well, building good relationships, and how to succeed at a job all matter. But are they as important as the identity of Jesus? After all, what we think about the identity of Jesus informs the value we place on money, relationships, and success.
Next time a young person asks me the most important thing I know, here is what I will say,
“Jesus is King of the universe, and he made you with a purpose. We know this because he lived, died, was buried, and then rose on the third day. The God who made the world, and raised Jesus from the dead, wants to be in relationship with you so you can experience the truly good life.”
If you want to know who Jesus is, start by reading the Gospel of John. If you are interested in considering the evidence that he rose from the dead, check out the updated Evidence that Demands a Verdict (co-written with Josh McDowell).