Dr. Craig Hazen, a professor at Biola University, notes in his lectures and writings that the Christian faith hangs on a single thread: Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. When asked, “Wouldn’t it be better to say that the Christian faith hangs on MANY threads, one of which is the resurrection?” he responds with, “Not if you want to be in agreement with the Apostle Paul, who writes, If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 15:19 says that without the resurrection, those who believe in Jesus Christ are to be pitied more than all people.
Why would this be such a big deal to Paul? Sean McDowell, in his book GodQuest, notes that without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we would be left without three very important things regarding our spiritual life. First, it would mean there is no Messiah who would fulfill the Old Testament prophecies that the Messiah would die for our sins (Isaiah 53:7-8) and that God would raise him from the dead (Psalm 16:9-10). Second, it would mean there is no eternal life, because Jesus proclaimed that because he would resurrect, we would be resurrected as well (John 11:25-26). If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, we won’t be either. That leads to a third thing we would be without: we would have no hope. Without the removal of our sin, we cannot have a relationship with God. Paul says that it would do us no good to follow someone who lied about who he is, and we would just be a bunch of fools to follow him.
One of the most convincing reasons to believe that the resurrection really happened concerns the fact that the tomb ended up empty three days after Jesus’ body was laid there. We know from the Bible and from history that Jesus died, and that he was buried in the tomb of a man named Joseph of Arimathea. We know that Joseph had a giant stone rolled in front of the entrance, something that would have been customary to do (Matthew 27:57-60). And, then, at the request of the Jewish religious leaders, Pilate sealed the tomb and posted soldiers to guard it so that nobody could steal the body of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-66). All of that, yet, three days later the tomb was empty; the body was never found.
Did the disciples somehow steal the body despite all of Pilate and the Jewish leaders’ precautions? If that is the case, then why did the disciples go immediately into hiding, fearful for their lives, after Jesus was crucified? Why were they so despondent and chagrinned, going back to their regular jobs eventually? Why did they not immediately start preaching Jesus’ resurrection, if they had stolen the body for the purpose of perpetuating a lie about Jesus rising from the dead? And why would they then suffer and die by persecution for something they knew was a lie…if they had stolen the body? They not only preached the resurrection of Jesus, they suffered for it because they saw him alive three days after the crucifixion. They were prepared to go to prison, to be flogged to within an inch of their life, and even to die…all for a fairy tale? No.
It is reasonable to believe the resurrection of Jesus actually happened. All that the enemies of Christ and of the disciples would have had to do to immediately quash the Christian movement was go to Jesus’ tomb, drag out his decaying body, and parade it through the streets of Jerusalem. Nobody would have followed Christ after that. But they couldn’t do that, because Jesus resurrected and the tomb was empty. It still is!
Happy Easter, and Happy Resurrection Day.