April 1, 2023
Jesus Lives! We hear and proclaim this declaration every Easter but how does it affect our lives? Isn’t this something that happened long ago? Why should it matter today? In today’s jaded world, these are legitimate questions.
So much of our world is filled with empty sentiment and cheap slogans. Why should this be any different? The Apostle Paul, however, reminds us of what is at stake, “…If Christ has not been raised then your faith is worthless….” (1 Corinthians 15:17). In other words, our faith, all that we believe of God and His forgiveness, would be a sham, fake, being less meaningful than cat videos or smarmy memes on the Internet. Add to this the worldly way we sometimes live, is it any wonder so many in the world dismiss Christians as kooks, hypocritical moralists or simply irrelevant? We Christians have work to do!
The resurrection of Jesus is the authenticator of Christian faith. It is literally the living proof that the Gospel believed by Christians and the love relationship with God that Christians have is in fact, real. The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is highly plausible, having confounded skeptics with the empty tomb over centuries even to this day. There certainly are skeptics today who tout theories of a stolen body, wrong tomb or some other conspiracy but they all prove in the end to have less plausibility than the fact of a risen Christ. With Jesus risen we have proof that His divinity is real, that He is indeed the author of life, that death cannot hold Him. Thus we also have proof that Jesus is active in our lives today, that He hears our prayers and is involved in answering our prayers in accord with His perfect will. Ultimately, then, we know that our own resurrection is real, that just as Jesus rose, so shall we.
Skeptics throughout history have challenged the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus but there are compelling answers to the challenges of skeptics. The best cases against the resurrection of Jesus fall into the categories of biblical criticism (are the manuscripts actually from the authors?), the swoon theory, the wrong tomb theory and the stolen body theory.
Biblical critics would argue that the manuscripts we have are too far from the time of Jesus, that He was mythologized over a 300 year period into a divine figure and was merely a man. John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg and Robert W. Funk are among the most notable scholars with this opinion. They, however, concede that the Apostle Paul wrote the Epistle to the Philippians within a generation of Jesus’ death and in the second chapter of that epistle is a hymn (Philippians 2:1-11) that explicitly describes the divinity of Jesus. Add to this the fact that there are over 5,000 extant manuscripts from the first through the fifth centuries comprising the New Testament, the argument against the Bible becomes less plausible then the recognition that what we have is in fact from the Gospel writers themselves. Modern and ancient scholars underscore this point.
Notions of Jesus somehow surviving are contradicted by the inherently fatal wounds, including the spear through His side into His heart. The wrong tomb theory falls apart with all the authorities able to show the right tomb but they had no other grave to show His body, not even a mass grave. The stolen body theory is contradicted by the guards at the tomb not being punished had they let the body been stolen. We are left with competing theories, and a resurrected Jesus has the best evidence. The problem, of course, is that we would then have to concede that the supernatural power of God is real but that is exactly the point.
Thus Easter proves God is real, that He acts in this world, that Jesus has divine authority and proved all that He taught about Himself. No wonder Easter is the Holiest day in the Christian year, even more than Christmas. Happy Easter everyone!