It’s Easter which means we have bunnies, chocolates, tulips, egg hunts…and an empty tomb? When I was in Belgium, I was conducting an interview on the street as to what Easter was about and I met one man that knew it was about all of those items listed in my list above…except he truly didn’t know about the Resurrection of Jesus.
As you are having conversations with family and friends on what is the importance of what this Holiday means to those who are outsiders of Christianity, this time of year reveals the potent truth of who Jesus was and what He accomplished. The Resurrection is the most significant event that identifies that what we believe, Who we pray to and what we are living for is real.
The Bible says it best,
“12 The message we preach is Christ, who has been raised from the dead. So how could any of you possibly say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no such thing as a resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.[j] 14 And if Christ has not been raised, all of our preaching has been for nothing and your faith is useless.” I Corinthians 15:10-14
So this asks the question, can we have confidence in event 2000 years ago?
Here are some quick facts as to why the Resurrection is the best account of who Jesus truly was:
Fact 1: We know Jesus died on the cross
There is no scholarly debate about this. Why because a number of different writers in the Bible make the claim throughout the Scriptures, obviously. We have extra-biblical Christian writers like Ignatius and Clement of Rome who spoke about Christ’s death. We also have non-Christian writers like Tacitus and Josephus at the end of the first century who claim Jesus came and died on the cross. Like the CNN of their day, they talked about it and recorded it in their history books. Tacitus, himself, writes this about Christ’s crucifixion and what happened below:
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus….”
Not to mention the Christians wouldn’t make up the messiah was crucified. The cross was a symbol of shame, disdain and rejection in the modern Jewish/Roman world. To be crucified on a cross would have been shamed by the gods of the day. So to glorify such an event wouldn’t have helped in their “Jesus Will Make Your Life Awesome “PR Campaign.
Fact 2: The tomb was empty
First, the tomb was discovered by women. In that culture, a women’s testimony was considered worthless. Unfortunately, they weren’t educated like men were back in the first century. So this begs the question why women would have discovered an empty tomb? This doesn’t help the credibility or the probability that it was a valid event. Also if you read that the religious leaders tried to claim that the disciples stole the body. Why make that up? Because the body was gone and the tomb was empty. There was no logical explanation as to where the body went. Jesus grave back then wasn’t a hole in the ground but a cave with a massive stone in front of it and it was guarded by soldiers day and night. Before the famous “3 days and He rose,” the religious community had an idea that the disciples might try to “fake Jesus resurrection.” So the made sure that didn’t happen. See what one of the eye witnesses and one of Jesus disciples, Matthew, says below:
“62 The next day, the day after Preparation Day for Passover, the chief priests and the Pharisees went together to Pilate. 63 They said to him, “Our master, we remember that this imposter claimed that he would rise from the dead after three days. 64 So please, order the tomb to be sealed until after the third day. Seal it so that his disciples can’t come and steal the corpse and tell people he rose from the dead. Then the last deception would be worse than the first!”
65 “I will send soldiers to guard the tomb,” Pilate replied. “Go with them and make the tomb as secure as possible.” 66 So they left and sealed the stone, and Pilate’s soldiers secured the tomb.”
It wasn’t fake. The disciples, the soldiers and many others saw and heard of Jesus resurrection.
Fact 3: Jesus appeared to people
Jesus appeared to Paul who was persecuting people. Jesus appeared to over 500 people and so many others. See the reference below from Paul’s testimony in his letter to the Christians in Corinth who were also doubting if the resurrection was real:
“He was buried in a tomb and was raised from the dead after three days, as foretold in the Scriptures. 5 Then he appeared to Peter the Rockand to the twelve apostles. 6 He also appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at the same time, most of whom are still alive as I write this, though a few have passed away.7 Then he appeared to Jacoband to all the apostles. 8 Last of all he appeared in front of me….” 1 Corinthians 15:4-8
Fact 4: The disciples were willing to die.
The disciples and many Christians faced horrible deaths because of their beliefs. Some were crucified like Christ, some were left to die on an island by themselves, some were lit on fire, some were fed to lions, some were covered in tar, etc. We know you can believe a lie and essentially be “sincerely wrong” about someone. That’s why Jesus brother, James is intriguing. Even his own brother didn’t believe but was convinced…and died for his belief. Let’s be honest, convincing family is hard because they know you most. But James, who was up close and personal on someone claiming to be the Messiah, was willing to suffer and die for Christ reveals the authenticity of his own conviction that Jesus was who He says He was.
It’s been shown historically that James was leader of the apostles in Jerusalem. James remained the leader of the Jerusalem church until his death around A.D. 62. This is the account of his martyrdom according to Hegesippus (a 2nd century Christian about whom little is known), which is quoted in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, vol. II, ch. 23 (A.D. 323). James death is paraphrased as being led to the top of the temple by the Pharisees, letting the people know exactly what happens to those who dare to believe in Jesus. They climbed the temple as the people shouted, reached the top, and threw James from the pinnacle of the temple.
It didn't kill him. He rose to his knees and began to pray for them. The Pharisees on the ground began to stone him as he prayed, while those from the roof rushed down to join the execution. All because James believed a con-man, a lie? No. Even though they were threateded with death they still believed.
For these reasons and many more, you have a good case to share with others that Jesus really did die and rose again.