Easter Sunday reminds us that that Jesus has come, the resurrection has started, and we are on the path to the new heavens and new earth. There’s a lot to look forward to, as well as the hope today that the power of the resurrection has invaded our world (our churches, our lives), and that our labor in the Lord is “not in vain.” Why am I full of hope? Because I believe Jesus rose from the dead, and is the first installment of the resurrection to follow, for all who believe. Why do I believe in the resurrection? I have six reasons that I find compelling:
1. The empty tomb. It was open, the stone rolled away. There was nobody there. The grave clothes were left intact. The women could not have gone to the wrong tomb. They saw where He was laid to rest two days before. John and Peter came and saw. No body was ever produced. No martyr’s grave for veneration exists.
2. The eyewitnesses. There were many who saw the empty tomb and saw Jesus himself. No one was expecting a resurrection and they had a hard time believing it until they saw Him. Most notable was Thomas, who steadfastly refused to believe until he touched the nail prints. Jesus came to him, invited him to touch, and the famous response: “My Lord and my God!” He was seen by over 500 people.
3. The rise of the church. Messiahs don’t get hung from a tree, a normal Jew would assert. Saviors don’t get crucified, a normal Greek or Roman would reason. Unless he was crucified and then bodily raised from the dead. How else do we account for the rapid rise of the church, at first largely composed of Jews and then increasingly populated by Gentiles? The rise was rapid, steady and continued through local and empire wide persecutions.
4. The change of the Sabbath day to the Lord’s Day. The Sabbath was a Jewish cultural and religious institution, a sign that marked them as belonging to God from their inception as a people. It was the seventh day of the week, a sacred day of rest and worship. For the early church, mostly Jewish, to change the day of worship to the first day of the week is nothing short of revolutionary. Something revolutionary had to happen to bring about a cultural and religious change of this magnitude.
5. The conversion of Saul. Saul, who was renamed Paul, was of pure Jewish heritage, well-educated in and obedient to Jewish law, a Roman citizen, and convinced Christianity was heresy. His zeal for God led him to persecute the new faith. We find him a few years later preaching Jesus as Messiah and “glorying” in the Cross of Christ. For a Jew, to whom the Cross was an object of curse, and for a Roman, to whom the Cross was reserved for the worst of criminals, to glory in this Cross would be one of the absurdities of history, unless the crucified one rose from the dead, proving He was Messiah and Lord.
6. The resurrection’s effect on me. I used to live for self, with ambitions for personal fame, influence and wealth. Not today. My life direction (to serve Him), purpose (to be used of Him), and priority activities (Bible reading, prayer, teaching and serving others), can only – only – be explained by the influence the resurrected Christ has worked in my life.
I am indebted to the writings of many on this subject, most recently those of N.T. Wright, namely The Resurrection of the Son of God, and Surprised by Hope. I recommend them.
He is Risen.