During seminary, I led a small group of teenage high school boys. Among them was a kid named Rob. He was a sophomore, and to put it mildly, he epitomized the image of the archetypal 15-year-old adolescent teenager.
He stood about 5 foot 4, and weighed about a buck – at least that’s what he claimed. He wore braces; had acne; he smelled. His hair was always disheveled. Honestly, he was the runt of the high school pack.
But he grabbed my heart the first time I met him.
Rob was a precocious little guy. I think he both suffered and thrived from little man syndrome. He often spat off sarcastic remarks, strung together with a creative variety of expletives. He frequently tested my patience. I was never sure if I wanted to laugh at Rob or punch him. I am sure that most of the kids and leaders in our crew felt the same, as well.
Yet, he drew me into his life through his deep empathy for others. I have yet to meet a high school student with the kind of compassion that he had for a total stranger. He is an exceptional person, including his quirks and all.
One afternoon about a year into our friendship, he asked me to meet with him after school. There, he and I shared our first real heart to heart. He asked me many questions about faith and life. I asked him tough questions in response. Nothing was off limits. Toward the end of our conversation, Rob admitted to me that he was on board with Jesus and willing to make sacrifices to his lifestyle that reflected his decision to follow Jesus.
As a Pastor, as a Christian, I celebrate that! I was thrilled for Rob!
But just as I was getting ready to end our conversation and leave the restaurant, he told me that he could not wrap his mind around one thing. At this point, I thought, hit me. We’ve come this far, what could you not understand? So he replied, “I cannot get past the resurrection. How does a guy raise from the dead, even if Jesus is God? I can get past the miracles and the other stuff, but prove to me that it happened.”
To which I responded, “Rob, listen. It’s easy. I can prove to you that the resurrection happened because…” And that’s as far as I got… Literally. I stopped at the word ‘because.’ I sat there for a good 30 seconds looking for something – some nugget – some tidbit - that I could tell him… but I couldn’t. He wanted me to prove with empirical, post-Enlightenment, scientific data that the resurrection happened. How does one prove that? What would have been a sufficient response for a sarcastic, too-smart-for-his-own-good 15-year-old kid? I could not prove to him the resurrection any more than I can prove it to you or anyone of us can prove it to one another.
Yet, ironically, our faith hinges upon the truth and reality of it.
The resurrection is the proof in the pudding. It validates the work of God all the way from the beginning of creation through the climax of his redemptive effort in Jesus. The resurrection is the reason why you and I do what we do. It is why we enjoy community and worship and hope! Without the resurrection, Christianity is a moral philosophy and Jesus is an insignificant historical figure. But with the resurrection, everything changes.
Our faith hinges upon its truth and reality. While I was unable to satisfy Rob’s question from a few years ago, I have since come to realize that he was in fact asking the wrong question. Proving the resurrection is not the point. Rather, we ought to ask: what would my life and our collective community look like if the resurrection was true?
QUESTION: What youth ministry questions have stumped you along the way? and how did you respond?