For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (ESV)
“He Lives! (I Serve a Risen Savior)” – chorus:
“He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives! He lives, salvation to impart.
You ask me how I know He lives?… [Crescendo … drum roll … ] He LIVES … [dramatic pause] … within … my … heart!”
I know a lot of people love to sing that song at Easter, and I suppose I’m one of them, but that last line bothers me.
Yes, Jesus lives in my heart, and in the hearts of all who believe that He died for them, paying the price for their sins and rising again to life, just as He had promised He would.
Yes, we believe it, and we’d love for others to believe it.
But “He lives within my heart” is hardly a compelling argument for convincing the skeptics. I wouldn’t have a problem with the statement, except that there is such a huge amount of evidence for the Resurrection that is a lot more objective and logical, which could elicit more than an eye-roll from the as-yet unbelieving. (When my daughter was little she could just as easily have said that Santa, the Easter Bunny, or Barney lived within her heart.)
When the congregation is singing, “You ask me how … I know He lives …?” I want to jump in and shout: “Look at the evidence!”
The resurrection of Jesus is the most well-documented event in ancient history! What millions celebrate today, 2000 years later, was written down by historians who interviewed eye witnesses, as well as writers who were eye witnesses themselves. With all the enemies the Christian movement had from the beginning, no one was able to refute what these witnesses said. After all, Jesus was seen by over 500 men (and probably some women and children, too, though in those days they weren’t counted.). If Jesus hadn’t been raised, all His enemies had to do was produce the body and they would have saved themselves the hassle of arresting, imprisoning, torturing, and killing those pesky people who insisted that He was alive.
The best news of all is that in 2019 we can still enjoy the benefits of the atoning death of Jesus. When He cried, “It is finished!” on the Cross, He was saying our sins were “paid in full!” To confirm His declaration, at the moment Jesus died, the curtain in the Temple in Jerusalem was torn from top to bottom. This was the curtain that sealed off the “Most Holy Place” from everyone except the High Priest, who could only enter once a year. The tearing of the curtain symbolized the opening up the way between God and Man. If we accept Jesus’ death as payment for our sins, we are declared innocent and can now approach our heavenly Father freely as his children.
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, what did happen?
Here are some theories about what happened that day that turned the world upside down (or right side up, depending on your perspective):
Theory 1: “The disciples stole the body and made up the story that Jesus had risen from the dead.” This was the original rumor, spread by the soldiers who had fainted upon seeing the Angel of the LORD at the Tomb. They could have paid with their lives for “falling asleep on duty,” but the chief priests, not wanting word of the Resurrection to get around, promised they’d keep the soldiers out of trouble if they would spread this lie. (Matthew 28: 11-15)
But when you think of it, who would have believed the soldiers’ story? Why in the world would a band of scared-to-death men, who the day before had been hiding from the Romans, want to stir up that much trouble? At Jesus’ arrest, all the disciples except Judas had fled, but then after that third day, they were willing to face persecution and death – for a hoax? You’d think at least one of them would have caved under torture. After all, who wants to be crucified upside down for the sake of a prank?
Theory 2: “Jesus didn’t really die, He just swooned enough to fool the Romans … and the physician that signed His death certificate.” This is perhaps the most popular explanation among skeptics, though I can’t imagine why. The theory is that Jesus survived a Roman scourging (itself tantamount to a death sentence), hanging on the cross for hours, and being buried for three days without food, water, or medical attention, and then somehow healed up enough to roll away a two-ton stone, overcome the armed Roman guards, and declare Himself the risen Lord. … okay …
Theory 3: The women went to the wrong tomb. And that means so did Peter, John, and the others. In fact, the real tomb of Jesus has yet to be found, but when it is, we’ll find His body! … Uh-huh …
Theory 4: The 500-plus people who saw Him alive were all having identical hallucinations … for 40 days. (Seriously?)
“HE IS RISEN!”
And have a wonderful Resurrection Day!
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for sacrificing Your life as payment for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and have the life we didn’t deserve. We recognize Your sacrifice! We rejoice in Your Resurrection! We marvel at Your amazing love for us! May we live in celebration of You every day of our lives, in Your name, amen.