It’s Not Only Chocolate Bunnies
This familiar greeting will be spoken throughout the world, yet few grasp its meaning.
For some Easter is a day for buying clothes or enjoying family—picnics, coloring eggs, baskets stuffed with candy, chocolate bunnies, and yellow marshmallow chicks.Yet Easter is the world’s holiest Christian celebration—the resurrection of Jesus. Executed as a criminal on Good Friday, Jesus was buried in a heavily guarded tomb. On Sunday, the body was missing. Throughout history evidence has convinced people that Jesus, killed on the cross, was once again alive.
An itinerant teacher who never wrote a book or traveled more than 70 miles from his hometown and was executed as a criminal is the foundation for the world’s largest religion. People in every country have celebrated his life and followed his teachings for 2,000 years. More books have been written about this lowly carpenter than anyone in history.
One fact explains this phenomenon: Jesus conquered death. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If Jesus Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our faith is useless . . . But the fact is Christ has been raised from the dead.” 1 Corinthians 15:17,20. Countless martyrs have gone to their deaths on the basis of these words.
Skeptics claim such a belief is irrational, wishful thinking, or a myth. So which is it: fact or fantasy?
Thousands of years are difficult to condense, but here are a few reasons why we celebrate Easter and believe Jesus came back from the dead.
- Jesus is an historical person who died at the hands of professional Roman executioners. They were well-trained, experienced, and made no mistakes when it came to killing.
- Jesus was buried in a tomb secured with the Roman government’s seal and guarded by an elite group of Roman soldiers. If any failed in his task, the entire unit would be executed.
- On Sunday the body was missing. The tomb was empty.
- It is suggested those who claimed the body was missing went to the wrong tomb. However, at some point someone would have led the religious leaders, Roman investigators, and curious citizens to the guards and the proper tomb.
- Some state the followers of Jesus attacked the Roman guards, stole the body, and proclaimed Jesus was alive. But this is the same group that had fled upon Jesus’ arrest and denied knowing even him. How could they generate such courage after his humiliating and dream-shattering death?
- One creative theory states Jesus did not die, but fainted because of his ordeal. Refreshed by the tomb’s cool air, he pushed aside the two-ton stone, overcame the Roman guards, and ran to his disciples on nail-pierced feet. Despite his weakness, he persuaded them he was their victorious King who had conquered death. Such a scenario is the last refuge of desperate skeptics.
- After his crucifixion, Jesus appeared to many hundreds of people in numerous situations over a period of 40 days. He persuaded even the doubters.
- The disciples of Jesus, who scattered at his arrest and were defeated by his death, became courageous believers. What changed them? They encountered the resurrected Jesus.
- The church established by Jesus grew rapidly, starting only six weeks after his execution, in the very city in which he was put to death. The primary claim of this church? Jesus is alive.
- The enemies of Jesus, still active in Jerusalem, could not disprove the claims of his resurrection. They could not display the body or dispute the evidence.
- The fact of the resurrection is recounted by numerous contemporary authors. One may attempt to disparage the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, and other biblical authors, but dismissal of their first century accounts demands more than displeasure with their conclusions.
- Extra-biblical sources report the events, including the late first century Jewish historian Josephus: “Jesus . . . was the Christ. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross . . . he appeared to them alive on the third day.”
- Many who set out to disprove the Bible’s resurrection claims became convinced of the empty tomb. Lawyer Frank Morrison records his journey in Who Moved the Stone? Prolific author Josh McDowell’s conclusion: “I am not able to explain away an event in history—the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
- Throughout history, lives have been dramatically changed by the evidence of the living Jesus. Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, John Adams, Michael Faraday, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, hardly intellectual lightweights, became convinced. Today, people in every country attest to the reality of the resurrection.
Famed Harvard law professor Simon Greenleaf wrote, “According to the laws of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history.”
The founder of every religion has died and was buried. His grave is occupied. Only of Jesus is it said—with convincing evidence—his grave is empty.
Think about it: Jesus is alive.
--Tim Philibosian is the president of Rivendell,
an organization that analyzes cultural trends
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