He is risen! He is risen indeed!
I taught Sunday School on this topic today, so I shall give the basic facts. These are the facts that are agreed to by those who are scholars of the field in the study of the NT.
#1-Jesus was crucified and died
#2-Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea
#3-The tomb was found empty
#4-The disciples claimed to see the risen Lord
#5-The early church rose in Jerusalem.
Each of these can be readily defended. I will instead look briefly at the counter-responses.
#1-The Romans/Jews stole the body.
Why would any of them do this though? What motive could they have? Neither one of them was too crazy about the early Christian movement and would have gladly done all that they could to end it early. They never did. The earliest polemic even (Matt. 28:11-15) assumes that the tomb was found empty.
#2-The Disciples stole the body.
Why would they do this though? They were in a state of panic and fear. Stealing the body would not be to their advantage. Also, why would the ones who handed down to us the greatest system of morality ever be the most immoral of all in deceiving us. Furthermore, 11 out of 12 died hideous deaths that could have been prevented by recanting. (John died in exile.) There’s no basis for them stealing the body.
This is probably the weakest of all. First off, the disciples had to be in the proper frame of mind for a hallucination. If they were even in that, they would have had visions of Jesus in Abraham’s bosom and not walking around with them. SEcondly, the visions were shared but hallucinations are not. Thirdly, even if there were hallucinations, that does not explain the empty tomb so this has to work with another theory which is just as improbable.
This one makes me laugh. The disciples would have made sure that they’d visited the right tomb and the Jews and Romans would have gladly pointed them to it.
This theory states that Jesus had an identical twin separated from him at birth who came into Jerusalem, saw his twin being crucified, came up with the idea to steal the body and then appear to his disciples as the resurrected Lord.
Friends. When people come up with theories like this to avoid the resurrection, it actually convinces me further.
This one says that Jesus never died. Strauss killed this one though centuries ago. If Jesus had somehow survived the horrors of Crucifixion, which the American Medical Association says he didn’t, and survived the tomb and came to and somehow pushed away a huge stone and overcame Roman guards and made it to his disciples, they would not have seen him as a victorious conquerer over death. They would have got him a doctor.
Note in all of this that the Gospel accounts do not have to be seen as inerrant or infallable. Just documents stating the beliefs of what happened. There’s also the 1 Cor. 15 creed found in 1 Cor. 15:3-7 and I urge looking up this one and reading about it and how even some of the liberal scholars date it to within one year of the events, far too early for legends to creep in.
So what difference does it make?
Because I live, you will live also. (John 14:19) Because Jesus rose, we will live like he lives some day. Not physical life, though it will be, but the quality of life is what is spoken of. We will live as Jesus lives. We will be spotless and pure in a community of love. Jesus bids us to come and live. We die so we can live.
Death itself works backwards because of Christ as Aslan said in the Chronicles of Narnia. What is to come then? A concept that I have written about before. The resurrection of the cosmos to a place of perfection beyond what it ever was before. Romans 8 is quite explicit on this.
I also told my class about how we are made in the imago dei, the image of God. That image is being refined in us. We are slowly becoming like the one we were meant to be. We are becoming the reflection of the nature of God so that when he looks at us, he sees nothing that does not reflect him.
Our general leader’s comment at that sums it up well.
“I have a long way to go.”
Don’t we all? We can rejoice today though because Christ died so that we might reach that point and spend eternity with him. Because he lives, we will live also.
He is risen!
He is risen indeed!