Happy Easter! They really should teach this in school. Not to promote religion, but for knowledge and learning. Get past speculation and deal with facts, both real and circumstantial. The proof points are substantial. ◊
Every year at Easter time, the case for the Resurrection of Christ is questioned. There are many people today light and loose with primary facts around history and religion. Unfortunately, many in our culture have tried to neuter Christianity and its most significant celebration, Easter.
Fortunately, they’re failing. Though de-emphasized by a growing segment of a distracted public, you can’t really ultimately keep Truth down. It’s getting out there.
The Easter Story
Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was killed on a Friday afternoon (Good Friday) by the Roman government with the cooperation of the Jewish religious leaders who feared an uprising and wanted it thwarted. The men were so blinded by their own power and self-preservation that they missed the most amazing life before them.
The entire Bible speaks in real and symbolic terms about this coming God-Man: the seed of Abraham, Son of Man/David/God, Lamb of God, Lord, Jesus, the Christ, coming as the final sacrificial solution and thus the hope and savior of the entire world. Not just for the Jews but for all of the nations, even all of humanity.
He was buried but rose from the dead on Sunday, on the 3rd day (Friday sunset ended Day 1 in the Jewish calendar). Easter is the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. “He is risen, indeed!” This fact is documented in the New Testament and fundamental in explaining the birth and explosive growth of Christianity in 1st century Jerusalem shortly after this amazing manifestation of God’s love and restorative plan for His creation.
This Christ-following Christian faith ultimately overwhelmed the Roman Empire by the 3rd century and today is the acknowledged faith of a third of the world’s population.
In his best-selling book, The Case for Christ1, Lee Strobel, former-atheist-journalist-turned-Christian, highlights 5 key pieces of circumstantial evidence that proves Jesus rose from the dead. Here they are:
- The Disciples Died for Their Beliefs – After the crucifixion, the Jesus movement was all but stopped in its tracks. But the followers of Christ then went from utter discouragement, depression and fear to world-changers claiming to have seen Jesus, the Messiah of God, alive after death. With no ulterior motives, they spent the rest of their lives proclaiming this news. Even unto death. Yes, some zealots may die for their heartfelt beliefs; but no one will die for what they know to be a lie. The first disciples were in position to absolutely know the truth about the resurrection. The post-resurrection life-change in all of them is significant.
- The Conversion of Skeptics – There were hardened skeptics (like James, brother of Jesus) who didn’t believe in Jesus before his crucifixion, and others who were dead-set against Christianity (like Paul, a Jewish Pharisee and eventual writer of most of the New Testament), who dramatically turned around and adopted the Christian faith after Jesus’ death. What caused this? By his own pen (see Galatians) he says he saw the risen Christ and heard Christ appoint him to be one of his followers.
- Changes to Key Social Structures – Centuries of social habits and structures gave the Jews their national identity. These were passed down through their children and celebrated in synagogue meetings every Sabbath to reinforce rituals and preserve their society. But less than 2 months after the crucifixion, over 10,000 Jews in Jerusalem are following Christ and claiming that he is the initiator of a new religion. They also began to move away from their long-held Jewish sociological and theological underpinnings: 1) no more animal sacrifices necessary, 2) no more reliance on the Law of Moses, 3) no more Saturday Sabbath, these Christians would worship on Sunday because that’s when Jesus rose from the dead, 4) God was not just monotheistic but the one true God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and 5) they now pictured the Messiah as one who died for the sins of the world rather than a political leader to save them from Roman oppression. How does this happen? Paul writes that over 500 people saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion (see 1 Corinthians 15). Good news spreads fast.
- Communion and Baptism – Jesus’ death and resurrection were now being celebrated through new practices and holy sacraments like communion and baptism. These new rituals highlight Christ’s victory over death and one’s identity with Him/God and a newness of life.
- The Emergence of the Church – Within 20 years the fast-growing Christian church even reached Caesar’s palace in Rome. This new religion, started by a ragtag group of people whose primary message was that a crucified carpenter from an obscure village had triumphed over death, overcame a number of competing ideologies and, as stated, eventually overwhelmed the entire Roman empire. Scholar J.P. Moreland notes that it was so successful that today we name our children Peter and Paul and our dogs Caesar and Nero!
Certainly, although circumstantial, what other explanation or evidence could there be but that the Resurrection was true and really happened?
Beyond Circumstantial Evidence
And yet, there’s actually significantly more evidence that goes way beyond circumstantial. If you explore Strobel’s book and others that dig into this topic, you will find substantial concrete evidence around the eyewitness accounts, documentary proof, corroborating evidence by those outside the faith, medical and scientific evidence around the proof of death via crucifixion (nullifying any long-dismissed “swoon” theories), missing body evidence, and even statistical evidence when analyzing the identity of Jesus as the prophetic fulfillment of Biblical promises.
There’s really little excuse today for not understanding or acknowledging the substantial body of scholarly research and analysis that has been conducted around the most significant event in human history – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If you’ve studied it, you have to deal with it and its implications for you and your life and that of your family. If you’ve not studied it, you have to ask yourself, why not? If you’re only lightly aware of the facts and “believe” or perhaps “do not believe” but are perpetuating misunderstanding and mixed facts in your discussions about a topic you know little about, you might consider getting Lee Strobel’s book as a starting point for your re-education.
In fact, he started his analytical journey as an atheist and ended up an evangelistic Christian overcome with the evidence that he found. And that’s quite a testimony in itself!
Happy Easter! Do you really believe in the resurrection of Christ?
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. – Galatians 1:11-12
1The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998.