Easter is the most important day in the year and the message of Easter the most important message we must share. It is the most challenging message the world will ever hear.
Jesus spoke often of His death, but never once did He speak of His death and not reference His resurrection. Read Mark 8:31. The Cross was necessary to provide salvation, but the resurrection was essential if that provision was to be available to us. If Jesus had not risen as He said He would, everything else He said would be open to question.
The message of the resurrection is either the most important event in all of history or the most horrific deception ever fostered on mankind. If Jesus died and was raised from the dead, then all who believe in Jesus have the assurance that they too will be resurrected. If the accounts express only the false dreams of the early Christians, millions of Christians who staked everything on those reports are, in the word of Saint Paul himself, the most miserable of all people. Read I Corinthians 15:17. The resurrection is at the heart of our faith. If it never happened, then everything else we say falls apart
What evidence is there for the truth of the resurrection? First, it is clear Jesus really died on the Cross. The beatings Jesus received in Pilates palace would have weakened Him sufficiently to ensure He could not have survived a crucifixion. The Roman soldiers, trained in death, verified He died. The embalming process guaranteed He died.
Since He was dead the only way to come to life again was to be revived as Lazarus was, or be resurrected to life. A revival to life meant in time one would die again. A resurrection was a return to a permanent life that death could never again touch. Jesus was resurrected to a life that would never end. The descriptions given of His post-resurrection appearance and doing things, like walking through closed door and coming and disappearing at will, testify to the fact that Jesus was not merely revived to life. He was resurrected to a new and glorious body.
The resurrection is key to the message of the church. What evidence is there that Jesus was resurrected? There are 3 proofs that verify beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus was resurrected.
The first evidence is the empty tomb. Matthew 27:51-61 details the burial of Jesus. His body was placed in the tomb and a stone that might have weighed a ton rolled in front of the entrance. A Roman guard of 16 soldiers was stationed to guard the body. They added a Roman seal that meant certain death to anyone who broke it.
And the body was gone. There is no way to explain the empty tomb apart from a resurrection. The Romans would never have taken it. The guards risked death for losing a body they were called upon to guard. The last thing the Romans wanted was a story of a Messiah that would disrupt Roman rule and peace. They did not move it.
The Jews would never have moved it. They did not want the story of Jesus being the Messiah to go any further and the idea of a resurrection would fuel that belief. If they had taken it, they certainly would have displayed it to prove Jesus was not alive.
Some suggested Jesus’ Disciples took His body to perpetrate the rumor that He was the Messiah. But those Disciples were no match for the Romans. They would never have attempted to take the body from them. They were so scared they were hiding in a locked room. Attacking the Romans was not an option.
The tomb was empty and the only reasonable way to explain that is that it was empty because of a resurrection.
A second evidence that Jesus is alive is the testimony of those who saw Him following that resurrection. Paul detailed some of those appearances in I Corinthians 15:3-6. There were at least 515 individuals who saw Jesus alive. Can you imagine a court trial today with either side providing over 500 eyewitnesses to prove their case? That would be a no brainer for the jury.
An empty tomb and 500 plus witnesses should settle the case. Jesus died but did not stay dead. The third evidence is the changed lives of the Disciples who saw Him alive. It was not by accident that the Gospels detailed the response of the Disciples to the arrest and death of Jesus. When Jesus was arrested, they scattered in fear. Peter, who followed for a while, finally denied he knew Jesus and ran away. Only John dared to approach the crucifixion itself. The Disciples were so afraid of what might happen to them they rushed to an upper room, locked the door and hid out. Then Jesus appeared to them. Everything changed. This group of wimps suddenly became men of great courage who boldly stood up to angry mobs and Jewish leaders determined to silence them. They declared they had no other choice but to speak of Jesus. Absolutely nothing but the reality of Jesus’ resurrection could transform them that way.
It got more dramatic. According to history, every one of the Disciples, with the exception of John, died a horrible death for their faith. Want to know how easy it would have been to avoid an excruciating death? All they had to say was “We made it all up. He is dead.” But they refused to say that because they knew He was alive just as He had said over and over again He would be.
The fourth evidence for the reality of the resurrection is the countless lives that have been changed as down through the centuries millions of individuals have committed themselves to Jesus because they were certain He died for them and was alive. When they made that commitment, He transformed their lives just as He did the Disciples.
Jesus is alive. The next question is even more important. So what? Does His resurrection have meaning to us today?
Because He lives. we can have constant fellowship with Him. You cannot fellowship with a dead Savior, but He is not only alive but has promised to never leave us. Jesus can be with us 24/7.
Because He lives, He can intercede for us with the Father. Read Romans 8:34.
Because He lives, we have a power to victoriously live the Christian life. We are called upon to be different, but we are not left to live that life on our own. Read Romans 6:4,
Finally, in I Corinthians 15 Paul gives us probably the most important truth when looked at from an eternal perspective. The Bible teaches that Jesus’ resurrection was the first but because of His resurrection God will provide a resurrection for all who believe in Him as Savior.
We have 100% confidence that Jesus really was raised from the dead and given a new, glorified body. We know He was the first to be resurrected and all who believe in Jesus will share in the resurrection. Because He lives, we can have fellowship with Him. Because He lives, He intercedes for us in heaven. Because He lives, we have His power to live each day as He would have us live. The resurrection is a fact of history relevant each day until we join Him in glory.