My faith hinges on the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, my faith fails. This is not a conclusion I reached quickly or lightly. After years studying philosophy and theology, I came to believe the resurrection is the foundation for everything I believe is true. For your Easter reading, I have distilled years of studying and thinking about the resurrection into about 700 words.
A few years after I converted to Christianity, I took a self-study class on the proofs for God and the Christian faith at a local seminary. At that time, I believed that Jesus was resurrected from the dead because the Bible said so. But, I couldn’t defend what I believed or explain why it was important. I wanted to answer two questions: 1) what proves the resurrection? and 2) what does the resurrection prove?
In response to the first question, I found two compelling facts supporting the resurrection. The first is that the early Christians were talking about Jesus’ resurrection within two months of it happening. See Peter’s sermon in Acts chapter 2. People were still talking about the resurrection decades later. Paul says in his letter to the church at Corinth that, after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to over 500 people, most of whom were still living at the time of his letter (I Corinthians 15:3-6). The Jewish leaders knew that Jesus’ followers were claiming that he had been raised from the dead. To disprove the claim, they only needed to show people his body. But, they couldn’t produce his body or explain where it went, even within days of the resurrection. Instead, they told the guards at the tomb to lie and tell people they were over-powered by Jesus’ followers, who stole the body, and moved it someplace else. Why the disciples would have done that is beyond me. It is completely out of character for who they were and what they believed about Jesus at the time. The second reason I believe the resurrection happened is that the people who saw the resurrected Jesus went to their death believing and declaring that he was alive. Some of them died horrible deaths and, if they had recanted and admitted to stealing the body or lying about seeing Jesus alive, the Jewish leaders would have used that confession against the church. For more on this, I refer you to A Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, which was also made into a movie in 2017.
Jesus started talking about what would be proved by his death and resurrection early in his ministry. In John 2, when he chased the money lenders out of the temple, the religious leaders asked him for a sign demonstrating that he had authority to do what he did. Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:13-21). On another occasion, when the Jewish religious leaders asked Jesus for a “sign” to prove his teaching that he was God, Jesus said that none would be given except the “sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” Matthew 12:39-40 and 16:1-4. As I studied what the resurrection proves, I came to see the resurrection as the ultimate validation of Jesus’ teaching. It is God’s stamp of approval on everything Jesus said and did.
Jesus’ argument was simple:
- When I die, only God can restore my life.
- If God restores my life, as I predict he will, he is validating everything that I have said about Him and about myself.
- If there is no God, or if I have not represented Him accurately, I will stay dead.
It is this simple argument that cemented for me the importance of the resurrection. As the Apostle Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor 15:14).
I love Easter. Because he is risen, I can say, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.”