Easter Sunday is the day Christians remember the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I have always preferred to call it “Resurrection Day,” but I don’t get to make the calendars either. This year of 2018 it occurred on April 1.
However one may designate the day, its importance is supreme in Christianity. It is a requirement of the Christian faith to believe that Jesus actually physically in material reality and history rose from the dead.
The Scriptures Require the Resurrection
The Resurrection is required for Christian faith and salvation to exist according to the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul wrote of this:
…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 1 Corinthians 15:14-17 [ESV]
Paul says it all depends on the Resurrection of Christ as a fact. If it is not, our faith means nothing, and we will die in sin. Why? Because only the sacrifice and victory of God the Son was great enough to cover the sin of the world and allow His grace to work. And because only God could conquer death.
Jesus’ Words Required the Resurrection
The victory is over death and Jesus conquers that enemy when He rises in glory. His victory is also a vindication of His own words. The angel at the empty tomb declares such to the women.
He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Matthew 28:6 [ESV]
The Resurrection happened as He said, according to Jesus’ own words in many places such as; Mark 9:31,10:34, Luke 18:33, and 24:46. Thus the teaching of the Bible itself and the word of Jesus Himself declare the necessity of His rising from the grave. It is necessary for these declarations to be true that the Resurrection was a real, historical event.
The Resurrection is Required to be Real
Jesus act of physically rising from the dead must be a real event in history or it is bereft of meaning. The entire plan of salvation hinges upon it. Moreover, the Lordship of Jesus depends upon it. He made astounding claims for Himself before dying on the cross, and these must be accounted for, as C.S. Lewis notes:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
One cannot claim Jesus was good unless He actually rose from the dead. He was a deluded fool or an evil deceiver if there was no rising. His teachings are powerless to save without a real resurrection, for then He was not the LORD who is capable of granting salvation.
The Historical Reality of the Resurrection
The first key piece of evidence attesting to the reality of the Resurrection is the lack of a body in Jesus’ tomb. The Jewish leaders had heard Jesus speak of rising from the dead, and it was they who requested a Roman guard be placed at the tomb entrance. Those leaders did not believe Jesus would rise, but rather anticipated that His disciples might steal the body. (Mat. 27:62-65)
Yet, on Sunday morning when the women arrived at the tomb, the guards were unconscious and the rock was moved revealing an empty tomb and angels with a message that Jesus was alive and had risen! His body was gone, and the tomb remains empty today.
This fact has disturbed many critics who have tried to explain away the empty tomb. Some have suggested that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, but merely ‘swooned’ and was revived by the cool air of the tomb. It is not feasible medically that Jesus could have survived the flogging and crucifixion, as I highlight in my previous piece.
Attacking the Reality of the Resurrection
However, even if Jesus had survived and awakened in the tomb, how did the stone get moved? How were the guards overcome? There are no natural explanations for these events.
Other atheists and leftist theologians theorize that the disciples either experienced a non-physical risen Christ, or that they simply lied to perpetuate a fraud. Yet, those expanations are nonsensical.
The explicit testimony of the disciples was that they witnessed Jesus in the flesh. And, this was not simply 12 men, but over 500 people who saw Him alive, as Paul wrote in his first letter to 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 in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 [ESV]
If this was not the real physical Jesus, it was an impossibly large mass hallucination. Moreover, the possibility of a fraud is almost non-existant since such a large number of people would have to be in on the scam.
Finally, the fate of the apostles is strong evidence for the reality of the Resurrection. As far as we know, all the 12 apostles except John died a martyr’s death. John himself was sent into exile. None ever denied the reality of the risen LORD Jesus even while suffering horrific deaths.
No one dies for what they do not believe is absolutely true. No one suffers torture for a lie, unless they are deluded themselves. As followers of Jesus, we can be assured of the full reality of His Resurrection, and of our salvation through faith in Him.
The question for the reader is this: Are you assured of your place with Jesus? Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? He invites us all to embrace His grace and a relationship with a Risen, Living LORD.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001
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