I am on the schedule to teach our ladies Sunday school class on Easter morning. Naturally, the lesson is on the resurrection of Jesus. Since my schedule is rather full next week, I started studying this week. I feel fortunate to have the chance to teach this lesson because the resurrection is my favorite subject and the linchpin of the Christian faith.
I have often debated which is the most important event in the life of Jesus, His birth, death or resurrection. The cross is seen as the symbol of Christianity. History tells us lots of people died on crosses and none of them has impacted the world like the cross of Christ. It is the resurrection that gives meaning to the cross. The resurrection is the proof that Jesus was truly the Son of God. And that brings us back to the virgin birth. If God was not the father of Jesus, then He was just a man like all other human beings; the virgin birth was a lie and his death had no redeeming value. BUT Jesus rose from the dead proving that He was indeed the Son of God and as such His death provides a way of redemption for all who will believe.
And there is the catch. Redemption hinges on faith, believing in something we cannot see or explain by the laws of human logic or science. For some people that is too much to accept. How do you convince someone who does not believe the Bible is God's Word that what it says is true? I've had an unbeliever tell me that the men who wrote the books of the Bible just wrote what they knew at the time or had been told; the Gospels were written by His followers who of course were biased; there is very little evidence to support the resurrection.
I maintain the unbelief is more because people don't WANT to believe than the lack of evidence. I could list more evidence but consider these:
- The body of Jesus was missing. If the Jews could have found it, they could have stilled the preaching of Jesus' resurrection that filled Jerusalem. But they could not.
- Jesus' body wasn't stolen. Neither the Romans nor the Jews had a motive for stealing the body. Ah, you say, the disciples stole it. Then explain the matter of the Roman guards, and the disciples' initial disbelief when the women brought them the news early that Easter morning.
- If the disciples had stolen the body, you wouldn't expect them to risk their lives preaching about the resurrection. People don't die for what they know is not true. But the disciples put their lives on the line, and nearly all were eventually martyred for their faith. They certainly believed it.
- The church mushroomed in size in Jerusalem. Followers of Jesus in the city of Jerusalem grew from a few dozen to thousands upon thousands soon after Jesus' resurrection. Everyone knew what had happened during the crucifixion and believed the resurrection was true even if they didn't want to admit it. When Jesus walked with the two men on the way to Emmaus, they asked, "Are you a stranger in Jerusalem? How could you not know what happened?"
- Contemporary documents refer to the event. Thallus the Samaritan, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny contain references to Jesus. Jewish historian Josephus writes about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. They knew something had happened.
The resurrection of Jesus is actually more plausible than any other explanation. There is no evidence to prove it is NOT true. The resurrection is the heart of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection, there is no purpose in living and no hope for the future. It is the assurance that death is not the end. Jesus, whom the Father raised from the dead, gives me eternal life. Ultimately, our bodies, too, will be raised from the dead. The fact of the resurrection is why we celebrate Easter.