And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. … If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. – Paul, 1st Corinthians 15
Easter (at least the Western Easter) is this coming Sunday. Knowing that, I’ve been thinking about the resurrection of Jesus for a few days. Of course, I also happen to be reading NT Wright’s new book about resurrections and what happens after we die. Good timing, I guess.
The Resurrection, is of course where the whole defeat of Satan, evil and death happens. If Jesus had stayed dead, then Christianity never would have happened, the Disciples would have gone back to their day jobs, and some of us would be Jewish, and the rest would be heathens. That’s what Paul is really saying; if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we’re all fools, wasting our time believing in a future that ain’t there.
As NT Wright talks about in Surprised by Hope, until Jesus actually did it, no one expected the Messiah to resurrect before the one and only future resurrection of the dead. The theories about the disciples faking the resurrection are therefore ridiculous; they simply would never have dreamed that this was to happen.
The resurrection of Jesus changed everything. As Wright wrote a few years ago:
Christianity began as resurrection movement. As I have already remarked, there is no evidence for a form of early Christianity in which the resurrection was not a central belief, as it were, bolted on to Christianity at the edge. It was the central driving force, informing the whole movement. In particular, we can see woven into the earliest Christian theology we possess—that of Paul, of course—the belief that the resurrection had in principle occurred and that the followers of Jesus had to reorder their lives, their narratives, their symbols, and their praxis accordingly (see, classically, Rom. 6:3-11).
There are still many people who disbelieve the whole resurrection thing, as if it is beyond credulity. However, the historical case for the resurrection is quite good; in fact, noted atheist-turned-deist Anthony Flew has stated that he finds the evidence for the resurrection “compelling.” So much so, in fact, that he has asked NT Wright if he can join him for one of the stops on his “The Resurrection – Fantasy or Fact?” tour. Flew stated,
“I am very much impressed with Bishop Wright’s approach, which is absolutely fresh. He presents the case for Christianity as something new for the first time. This is enormously important, especially in the United Kingdom, where the Christian religion has virtually disappeared. It is absolutely wonderful, absolutely radical, and very powerful.”
Is it wrong to expect proof of the resurrection? I don’t think so; remember Thomas needing to see for himself. We tend to think of Thomas as having little faith, but recall that Jesus had already appeared to the others; they had their proof. Jesus never chastised Thomas, but obliged him as well.
We, of course, have not had that kind of advantage, but neither are we left with no proof; the historical testimony is “compelling,” even 2,000 years later.
The Resurrection of Jesus is not a problem, it is possibility. The possibility of the Resurrection is not that it is possible to have happened; it is what is now possible because it happened. The hope that we have as Christians is right here. And, it doesn’t matter if Easter used to be a pagan holiday, or if the correct anniversary should be some other day. It’s not the day that’s important, it’s the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death and opening up a whole new way to live.
Easter – the Resurrection – is something that we should celebrate and live every day.
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
– Bill & Gloria Gaither