There are some who will say that the earliest followers of Jesus never believed in his bodily resurrection from the dead, but that this belief in the resurrection really began much later after the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire in an effort to gain superstitious control over the multitudes sometime in the fourth century AD. Is this correct? No. The fact is the Christian movement began with the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus right from the start, sometime around AD 33. Although some will dispute this claim, most Bible scholars believe that the resurrection of Jesus was understood as a bodily resurrection and not simply a spiritual resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, the apostle Paul writes: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” The bodily resurrection of Jesus is the gospel message Paul had been taught, and the teaching he quotes in these verses is what he accepted within three years after Jesus resurrected from the dead, which is when Paul converted to Christ. Jesus himself spoke of his resurrection, the early church preached it, and that is why Christians must embrace it.
The New Testament Gospels emphasize the bodily nature of the resurrection of Jesus. He could be touched (Luke 24:39), his crucifixion wounds were visible (John 20:20, 24-28), and he ate food (Luke 24:41-43), which disembodied spirits cannot do. Furthermore, Jesus’ body was absent from the tomb where he was buried (Luke 24:22-23). The bodily resurrection of Jesus, including prophecy that God’s Holy One would not be abandoned to the grave, forms the basis of the early church’s preaching (Acts 2:22-36), teaching, and historic claim. The resurrection of Jesus became the central tenet of our Christian faith, and it is essential to Christian, Biblical understanding. The resurrection of Jesus is not merely poetical or spiritual, made-up ideology, psychology, or philosophy; rather, the resurrection is rooted in historical fact.
God in Christ became human, died to save humans, and literally rose from the dead to give life to humanity. And now, Jesus lives as both Savior and Lord over all creation, and he will return to raise humans bodily from the dead to judge them and to establish a new heaven and earth which is no longer impacted by sin and its consequences of suffering and death.
Is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important? Yes-siree! You cannot be a Christian without it. Happy Easter! and by that I mean Happy Resurrection Sunday!