This past Sunday, Christians all over the world celebrated Easter Sunday–the resurrection of Jesus three days after he was crucified roughly 2,000 years ago. Think about that. The resurrection of a person from the dead. Jesus is not the only person to be reported to rise from the dead–in fact, Jesus is reported to have raised several people from death back to life. Jesus’ followers also are reported to have done this on occasion. But, even so, for 2,000 years, Christians have celebrated this specific account of a resurrection from death back to life.
Why? Because something specific, special, and unique is said to have happened here. The salvation of the world. The defeat of principalities and powers. The inauguration of the age to come.
And it hinges on first the crucifixion of God-in-the-flesh and continues in the resurrection of a person from death back to life. It’s no wonder why so many people, Christians included!, struggle with this story. It is an immensely unlikely turn of events.
Yet, the way the story reads, apologists have been quick to point out seems to lend credibility to the story. Consider these couple of points:
- Jesus first appears to the women who approach the tomb on what became that first Easter morning. In the ancient world, the testimony of women would not have held much sway in any public forum.
- The body of Jesus, said to have been protected by Roman guards, was not able to be produced to quiet these rumors of a resurrected Jesus.
- The disciples as well as hundreds of other eye witnesses are either directly identified (in the case of the apostles) or referenced (in the case of the groups of hundreds).
Christian apologists utilize these points, and others, to support the historical resurrection and to refute any claims that the resurrection was a hoax or elaborate conspiracy. The followers of Jesus were steadfast in their message that Jesus had resurrected and they quickly began a worldwide campaign to share this amazing news with not only those of Jewish heritage but also the Gentiles all around the Roman world.
So, this week, as we continue to celebrate Easter and to consider its’ effects on us after all this time, take a moment to read this passage in 1 Corinthians 15.
Here, Paul shares an elaborate discussion on the resurrection of Jesus and what hope it provides for followers of that same Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus, Paul says, is a signpost, or the first fruits, of what God is doing in the world. That all of creation is being raised to new life. That sin and death no longer have a foothold in this world because the Kingdom of Heaven is coming into this world to bring about a new reality. Even that the bodies that decay and grow old and feeble will be remade in this age to come.
And Paul also includes a statement of extreme interest (aren’t they all?). Paul says in verse 14 that if Christ has not been raised that Paul’s preaching to them and their faith is useless. He continues in verse 19 to say that if the hope we have in Christ is only in this life, then we have a pitiable faith.
Once more, we see that the early followers of Jesus were adamant and dedicated in their faith in the resurrection. There was no doubt that what had happened on that first Easter was something so life-altering, world-changing, only-explainable-by-the-resurrection kind of event that they could do nothing other than to completely change their very lives, through and through, to account for what had happened in Jesus.
And so, this week, for us as followers of Jesus, my encouragement is to do the very same as those early followers. To change our very lives, through and through, because of these events. To be confident that what we celebrate this week is no illusion. It is the moment when all of history turns, and the age to come begins to invade this one.
He is risen. He is risen indeed.