I personally and deeply love times of celebration. I enjoy special days that we set aside to rejoice. Easter is one of those special occasions. Sometimes I am asked questions such as: Is it okay to have an Easter egg hunt or to give gifts and have an Easter bunny at Easter? My response to that is simply, it depends on how you use those things. What are you celebrating? If you are using those things as a part of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, then by all means embrace it. The same can be said for Christmas and Santa Clause. I love this time of year when things begin to come alive. The snow is melting, flowers are soon to peek up out of the ground, and there is an inner joy and excitement as the season begins to change. I love seeing the children get excited about the Easter egg hunts and the candy hidden in the eggs. I love the sound of family and friends gathering around the dinner table. If it were not for the resurrection of Jesus, none of those things would be possible. Because Jesus is alive, we have reason to celebrate. Because Jesus is alive, we can enjoy the passing of the dead of winter and the entering into the new life of spring. Because Jesus is alive, there is the hope of salvation, the abundant life, and the hope of heaven. There are two basic things surrounding the resurrection that we should consider: the historicity of the resurrection and the hope found in the resurrection. The study of the resurrection will give us a greater confidence in what Christ has done for us and a far greater reason to rejoice!
The Historicity of the Resurrection. A student at the University of Uruguay asked Josh McDowell, ‘why can’t you refute Christianity?’ Josh McDowell responded with, ‘For a very simple reason, I am not able to explain away an event in history – the resurrection of Jesus.’ When we look at all the evidence to back up the resurrection of Christ we can come to two basic conclusions; either the resurrection is one the most amazingly wicked and deceptive hoaxes that could ever be fathomed in all of humanity or it is the most remarkable fact of history. There are those who will attempt to attack the fact of the resurrection by stating that the Bible is not reliable. I, for one, believe the Bible is reliable and is the inspired Word of the living God. However, to deny the resurrection of Christ is to deny the most widely known fact in all of history. It has been said that there is so much proof supporting the resurrection in history than there is for any other event in history combined. When considering the historicity of the resurrection, there are four basic facts that must be observed. 1. Jesus died by crucifixion. There are both Christian and secular sources that point to the fact that Jesus died on the cross. The Christian sources include all four Gospels, and Paul’s letters. We also see the criteria for proving a fact: there was multiple and independent testimonies, there was a very early testimony, there was also testimony from those who opposed Christ. Even those who opposed Christ would not deny the fact the Jesus died on the cross. There are also many secular sources that record the events surrounding the death of Jesus on the cross. Those historical sources are, but not limited to: Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, The Talmud, and a letter found at the British Museum called the Mara Bar Serapion. These are just a few of the secular sources that speak of the death of Christ and there are countless others. 2. The empty tomb. The fact that that tomb that Jesus was placed in was empty three days after His death on the cross is undeniable. There are a couple of points to consider here, one is the Jerusalem Factor. It would have been impossible for Christianity to survive and expand in Jerusalem if the body was still in the tomb. If those who opposed Jesus and the birth of Christianity could have located the body of Jesus then Christianity would have died. The truth is; they could not locate the body of Jesus because it simply was not there. They could not deny the fact that the tomb was empty! Some 2,000 years later, still, no one has been able to come up with the body of Jesus. Another point to consider is the Enemy Attestation. Read Matthew 28:11-15. Here we find the soldiers who guarded the tomb being paid to tell people that the disciples stole the body of Jesus. There are Roman documents that suggest that the tomb of Jesus was in fact empty. One of the greatest proofs for any event in history is when those who are the enemies cannot deny the historical fact. Because they could not deny what took place they had to resort to lying and covering the truth. Another thought to consider is the fact that of the testimony of women. The unanimous account of the first witnesses at the tomb makes the event too problematic to be legendary. All four Gospels say that it was women who saw the empty tomb first. During this time in history, women were thought of to be of no value. If the story of the resurrection of Jesus was just a legend, those who told the story would certainly make the first witnesses as men. There was no doubt pressure on the early church to change the story to include men as the first witnesses but they could not due to the overwhelming evidence that it was the women who found the empty tomb. After spending a lifetime sifting through the evidence, Sir Norman Anderson, one of the greatest legal minds of all time, who lectured at Princeton, was offered professorship for life at Harvard and served as Dean of the Faculty of Laws at the University of London concluded,
“The empty tomb, then, forms a veritable rock on which all rationalistic theories of the resurrection dash themselves in vain.” In other words, it is impossible to deny the empty tomb. 3. The founding of the Christian faith. Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. There is evidence that the early church had a creed even before Paul came on the scene. That creed is quoted by Paul in these verses. This creed is believed to have been written by those who were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. The entire Christian faith was founded on the resurrection of Jesus. Without the resurrection of Jesus there would be no Christianity. 4. The transformation of the disciples. There is no doubt that the disciples of Jesus were changed as a result of the resurrection. Think about it. Why would so many disciples die for a lie? They’re lives were radically changed in such a way that they boldly proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus knowing that they could be killed. Many of those who gave their life for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus are recorded in the book of Acts. There are many others down through the years that have given their life for the cause of Christ. The fact of the resurrection is still transforming lives today, which may be the greatest proof of all.
The Hope found in the Resurrection. Now that we have established the historical accuracy of the resurrection of Christ, our attention now should be on what the resurrection means to us today. Because of the resurrection we have hope. This is a hope that is unlike anything you may have known. This ‘hope’ that we refer to is a ‘confident expectation.’ In other words, because of the resurrection we now have a confident expectation in Jesus. Notice three areas of hope that we are given. 1. The Hope of Salvation. Since Jesus rose from the grave, we now have confidence that what the Bible tells us about salvation is true. Look at Ephesians 1:11-14. Through Jesus we have a guarantee. Salvation in Christ would be impossible apart from the resurrection. Because He is alive, we are given a way of salvation, a deliverance from the chains of sin and hell! All those who surrender to the resurrected Jesus will be given eternal life in heaven! 2. The Hope of Abundant Life. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came to give us life and life more abundant. Because of the resurrection we can have a full and complete life. We can embrace life and enjoy life. If Jesus was not alive, there would be no reason to live. There would be no joy and no hope. But, because He is alive, we have a reason to celebrate and to live! 3. The Hope of Heaven. Because Jesus is alive, all who believe in Him will one day live with Him forever! Read Revelation 21-22. Look what we have to look forward to! “What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see.” Jesus is alive and one day we shall see Him!
If you have never given your life to Jesus, you have no hope. You can never truly experience life until you know Jesus. He died for you. He conquered the grave for you. Now, you must believe. You must give your life to the one who gave His life for you. When you do, then you will have a reason to celebrate!