First, let me get my cards on the table. I am a Christian. I believe that I am a sinner by nature and by choice. I believe that I can do nothing to earn God’s favor or love and that my sin gets me physical and eternal death and separation from God. I also believe that Jesus lived a perfect life, fulfilling all of God’s laws that I could never fulfill, doing the things I could never do and not doing the things I do all the time. Jesus lived perfectly, but died in my place to forgive my sins. He was beaten, mocked, and murdered on the cross on a Friday and on following Sunday, he was raised from death to life and he lives.
I believe that.
That’s what we celebrate at Easter. It has nothing to do with the celebration of winter being over, bunnies, eggs, spring being here, etc., or whatever else Easter is.
And if the resurrection is true then it means something. It means something BIG.
But did the resurrection really happen? Jesus Christ is the most known person in the history of the world. He has been on more magazine covers, been the theme of more debate and conferences; you can’t go to a continent or a country without some information being known about Jesus.
And that is because something happened.
Something happened on that Sunday in Jerusalem. Non-Christians believe many different things about what happened, so let’s look at what those ideas and theories are.
Jesus’ follower’s hallucinated his resurrection. This theory says that the disciples experienced something like PTSD that they imagined Jesus. It may not be to hard to think that one person could hallucinate Jesus, however, it is hard to imagine that for nearly 40 days after the resurrection, nearly 500 plus people were still hallucinating about Jesus physically walking around his hard to believe. Especially that those people after so long were hallucinating the exact same thing makes this theory seem absurd and laughable.
Jesus didn’t actually die. This theory (called the Swoon Theory) has been pretty popular throughout the years. It says that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, but that he was passed out on the cross, that through the paid he remained alive but unconscious and was placed in the tomb, sealed up, and then on Sunday, after regaining life, came out.
But, Mark 15 emphasizes the nature of Jesus’ death. That he pierced in the side, with blood and water flowing from his side, that he was taken off of the cross and placed into the tomb; these are points of emphasis that are to say that he was actually dead.
Moreover, if Jesus didn’t actually die and he was placed in the grave, why would the disciples worship him as one who conquered death and was the Victor of Life? Non-Christian writer David Strauss wrote “It is impossible that a being who had stolen half dead out of the sepulchre [tomb], who crept about weak and ill and wanting medical treatment… could have given the disciples the impression that he was a conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of life: an impression that lay at the bottom of their future ministry.”
They would have bandaged his wounds. They would have needed to given him great care, not worship him as the giver of Life.
The Disciples Stole His Body. Again, this theory goes against what scripture tells us what happened. This theory says that the disciples acted outside of who we know them to be. They were young cowards. The moment that they got some part of who Jesus was right, the next minute, they were asking him who would sit on his right side in heaven or rebuking Jesus for saying that he would die and be raised (in which Jesus responded by calling Peter “Satan”). Speaking of Peter, we see that as Jesus was on trial, he was asked if he was associated with Jesus in anyway and he denied him! 3 times!
The disciples were scared, young cowards who were morons and the theory is that they somehow got past the guards, stole his body, plotted to show him to 500 people and pass him as Jesus.
But in reality, after they experienced “whatever happened on Sunday”, they were filled with boldness and and life, even against the people that killed Jesus.
Peter, who denied Jesus, boldly preached to the people that killed Jesus that not only did they kill him, but that he was raised like he said he would be. When they told him to stop, he said no. Later in his life, he would be crucified upside down and even still, he only proclaimed one thing: Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.
All of the disciples faced terrible deaths and yet, none of them would turn over their stories. John, who wrote the book of Revelation, was boiled alive and he didn’t die so they exiled him to Patmos. He didn’t turn around his story.
The Cross and Resurrection are a legend. Another theory that says that the cross and resurrection are like myth and legend. But the account alone in Mark 15:40-16:8 is too detailed, filled with names and accounts of historical people and events that happened not for people to simply, “believe” but for them to ask and discover it for themselves. Mark was written 40-45 years after the events happened (roughly the relationship to the first walk on the moon) so this account is well within the lifetimes of the Mary’s and James, Joses, and Salome who are all there. This is to show that the resurrection was a historical fact.
Paul is writing to a church in 1 Corinthians 15 and he lists people who have seen Jesus resurrected and he says that there were 500 people besides the disciples and his family that they could ask.
Because that is how the resurrection came to be known. “I’ve experienced it.”
“It changed me.”
“I saw Him.”
“Go ask [insert name] about it.”
If you go to court today and I have 1 witness against you, it is your word against their word. You may go to jail for the crime you committed, you may not. But if I have 500 witnesses against you, you’re going to prison. Done deal.
So, if the Resurrection is true, if it is what happened, that means three things:
1) What the Bible says about sin has to be real. If the punishment of sin is death and Jesus went to the cross for you to pay for your sin and gift you a relationship with God that he had, then he was raised as the first one to prove what he said was real. He was right. If it is historically real, then what he says about life with God has to be real.
2) What Jesus says about himself has to be real. This is what Jesus says about himself: The only way to the Father is through me. I bring life, abundant life to my people. To come to the Father, you must come through me by faith. Not by doing, but by believing.
3) A Transformed life begins now. Jesus didn’t wait to come back resurrected. He came back to the people that he was with so that they could experience Resurrection now. No waiting. And that can happen with you too.
You don’t have to wait to get better. You don’t have to wait until you have your relationships all worked out. You don’t have to handle your addiction. Jesus offers resurrection and a transformed life starting now. And Salvation isn’t like other world religions with a list of things for you to do.
You don’t have to do anything to be saved and experience Resurrection and life transformation.
Because salvation happened on a cross and was seen in an empty tomb.
We put our faith and trust in that.
Romans 10:9-10 says that if we believe that, we will be saved.
But only if the Resurrection is true.