1 Corinthians 15:17
“And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.”
As we prepare to celebrate Easter Sunday, it is only fitting to give serious thought to what we are celebrating, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Think about it, the Christian faith depends on the reality of the resurrection. If Jesus did not raise from the dead, then as Paul says, our faith is useless.
In his book, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, author Josh McDowell does a tremendous job of explaining the truth and uniqueness of the resurrection. Allow me to provide you with a few of the key points. Also, while I am not usually one for quotes, this post is an exception given the nature of the writing.
To begin, consider that only four of the major world religions are founded on a personality: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. Of these religions, only Christianity claims a risen Savior. Therefore, if the resurrection did not take place, than Christianity is worthless.
As McDowell explains, “The meaning of the resurrection is a theological matter, but the fact of the resurrection is a historical matter; the nature of the resurrection by Jesus may be a mystery, but the tomb is a matter to be decided upon by historical evidence.” With this in mind, consider Wilbur Smith’s statement, “Let it simply be said that we know more about the details of the hours immediately before and the actual death of Jesus, in and near Jerusalem, than we know about the death of another one man in all the ancient world.” The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is likely the most scrutinized event in all of human history.
So how can we know that it really happened? The reaction of the followers of Jesus as well as the Jews both provide significant evidence.
In regards to the followers of Jesus, as William Lane Craig explains, “Without the belief in the resurrection the Christian faith could not have come into being. The disciples would have remained crushed and defeated men. Even had they continued to remember Jesus as their beloved teacher, His crucifixion would have forever silenced any hopes of His being the Messiah. The cross would have remained the sad and shameful end of his career. The origin of Christianity therefore hinges on the belief of the early disciples that God had raised Jesus from the dead.”
Further, as J.P. Moreland expounds, “The disciples had nothing to gain by lying and starting a new religion. They faced hardship, ridicule, hostility, and martyr’s deaths. In light of this, they could have never sustained such unwavering motivation if they knew what they were preaching was a lie. The disciples were not fools and Paul was a cool-headed intellectual of the first rank. There would have been several opportunities over three to four decades of ministry to reconsider and renounce the lie.”
As great of evidence as the disciples reaction to the resurrection was for its historical basis, equally important was the reaction of the Jews.
According to McDowell, “The silence of the Jews speaks louder than the voice of the Christians.” Moreover, “The church was founded on the resurrection, and disproving it would have destroyed the whole Christian movement. However, instead of any such disproof, throughout the first century, Christians were threatened, beaten, flogged and killed because of their faith. It would have been much simpler to have silenced them by producing Jesus’ body, but this was never done.”
Additionally, as William Lane Craig further explains, “When therefore the disciples began to preach the resurrection in Jerusalem and people responded, and when religious authorities stood helplessly by, the tomb must have been empty. The simple fact that Christian fellowship, founded on the belief in Jesus’ resurrection came into existence and flourished in the very city where he was executed and buried is powerful evidence for the historicity of the empty tomb.”
Without question, the Christian faith depends on the resurrection, a reality that we can be certain of. As you celebrate this Easter, may the historical truth of Christ’s victory over death bring you great joy!
* McDowell, J. (1999). The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Chapter 9. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. ISBN 0-7852-4219-8.