By George Bowers
Easter is truly the highlight of human celebrations. Whereas Christmas celebrates a birth and Good Friday a death, only Easter is the celebration of a human resurrection from the dead! And the one who rose promised that same power to all who believe and follow him. What a joy to know that death is not the end of our existence and that eternal blessings await those who follow death's victor!
Everyone has a birthday and everyone eventually dies. These truths are as certain as tax season. But the resurrection of Jesus is what makes him truly unique. Muhammad's bones are in Medina, those of Confucius are in Shantung, and the cremated remains of Buddha are in Nepal. But Jesus' tomb is empty! Although some religions claim a type of spiritual resurrection of their leader, only Jesus has risen bodily from the dead and appeared alive before many eyewitnesses. Many brilliant scholars have set out to disprove Jesus' resurrection only to return as believers because the truth is inescapable!
Some claim Jesus didn't really die at all, but merely swooned on the cross. Yet John records clearly that blood and water flowed from his side indicating the separation that takes place only after death. The Romans were professional executioners and they were smart enough to know if someone was dead or not. Their own lives would be required if they failed to kill the condemned. Even if he had swooned after having been brutally beaten and then mercilessly crucified, how could a half-dead man push an enormous rock aside, whoop all the guards, and walk off?
Others have claimed his body was stolen, but if so, by whom? If the Jewish leaders had stolen it, they would have simply produced it to kill the early church. If his disciples had stolen it, they would have needed to overcome the armed soldiers stationed at the tomb to keep that very thing from happening. And even if they did, why did every one of them die as a martyr or a prisoner for claiming he was alive? Many will die for truth, but few will die for what they know to be a lie. Certainly one of them would have told the truth to save his own neck if that were so.
The post resurrection appearances of Christ also bear powerful witness to his victory over humanity's worst enemy. In one instance, he appeared to over 500 people at the same time. Whereas one or two people could certainly hallucinate and envision something, for that many to see the exact same thing is beyond comprehension. The fact that no one of that day and many since have not been able to present a plausible solution as to what happened to Jesus' body or to refute the claims of his resurrection continues to be some of the strongest evidence. Even some of those same Romans and Jews became believers themselves because they could not escape the truth.
I'm so thankful for his doubting disciple who demanded to see Jesus' wounds before believing. Thomas stood in our place regarding our doubts and disbelief and Jesus gladly demonstrated his authenticity when asked.
Just as we trust those who witnessed the Civil War to give us more accurate information than someone who was born later, so we rely on those who were there to witness Jesus' resurrection. For us to think that we are more informed 2,000 years later than they is nothing less than historical arrogance. If you doubt or disbelieve, I challenge you to look at the facts. Objectively examine eye witness accounts and the impact his life, death and resurrection have had, and continue to have, and then draw your own conclusions.
Undeniably, there is a measure of faith required. Faith in the eyewitnesses, faith in those who recorded and copied the texts, and yes, faith in God. But in this case, our faith does not have to be blind or stupid. It is solidly supported by historical evidence and corroborates fully with what God's prophets had declared would happen ever since Genesis 3. Jesus himself predicted his own resurrection on the third day.
Finally, I know Jesus lives because he lives in my heart. You can doubt and disbelieve if you wish, but I know what I've experienced as do millions of other born again Christians. If you have some question about Jesus' existence today, hunt one of us down and have a conversation. We'd love to tell you about him. And if you know him already, celebrate his resurrection! For not only did he rise from the dead, he promised resurrection to each of his followers as well! Because he lives, we too shall live!
Resurrection blessings, George
George Bowers is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, "Wit and Wisdom of the Woods." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.