This seems like lunacy today, just as it did then. We often think that we’re a more advanced, enlightened culture than those in the past. But when you read the Bible, you realize no one was interested in believing it then either. But they had a problem, the facts were against them.
Here are the facts. On Easter morning, the tomb was empty. It was empty despite the fact that it was guarded by Roman soldiers; and as much as the authorities might have wanted to they couldn’t haul out Jesus’ rotting corpse because there wasn’t one to haul out.
Additionally, there were many eyewitnesses to the resurrection. One of the historical documents from the early church, 1 Corinthians, tells us that not only did the apostles see Jesus risen but that at one point after the resurrection 500 people saw him at one time. This was a letter to a whole church, a public document written somewhere between 15-30 years after the resurrection, and what St. Paul is basically saying is, “all these people who saw Jesus raised from the dead are still alive. You don’t have to trust me, you can go ask them”. He’s all but daring the readers to check the facts. He couldn’t do that unless most of these people were still alive.
Furthermore, there are the disciples changed live. This may be the greatest proof for the resurrection. When Jesus was arrested, his closest followers all fled and hid. How do these men who ran for their lives and hid end up preaching that Jesus is the savior of the world and telling everyone that he rose just weeks later? They saw the Jesus who said “I will die for all the sin and rebellion that you see, reconciling you to God if you place your faith in me and then rise from the dead to prove that I’ve paid the penalty”, risen. Apart from that, there is no logical reason to preach the gospel. Who suffers and eventually dies for something you know is a lie?
Everything about Easter says with one voice, it happened. Some will tell you that Easter is simply a symbol for death and renewal; that there is a circle of life, after death comes new life and after loss there is always gain. They point to nature, and say, “See the lesson of Easter, after winter there’s spring. From the death of the acorn comes a new tree. Therefore, we need to realize that there is always hope”. The problem is that this doesn’t line up with reality. Reality is that, as Tennyson wrote “Nature is red in tooth and claw”. In nature the strong eat the weak. The Easter bunny is a meal for the Coyote. The argument that Easter is just a symbol does an end run around your intellect, and is of little hope when you find yourself staring at a lost loved on, or a child in the ER.
But the Christian view of Easter is that God entered into the world, and changed history in the most counterintuitive way, he died on the cross as our substitute, and proved it by rising, and if you place your faith in Christ everything about your whole existence is changed. Your past is changed, your present is changed, and your future is changed. Everything changes. In the good and especially in the bad. In those moments of sorrow and hardship you can know there is hope because of what Christ did for you.
This Easter, my invitation to you is go to a church and hear about what God has done through Christ. He lived the life you should have lived, and died the death you should have died, and then he rose to show that everything is changed. I will be speaking about the death and resurrection of Jesus at First Baptist Church of Medfield, our service begins at 10:30am. I know there are many other churches that will be doing the same. Wherever you go, take the time this Easter to learn about what God has done for the world through the historical event that we celebrate as Easter.