It is hard to fathom Easter is this weekend. First of all, where did March go? Second of all, I honestly thought winter would drag on FOREVER! Seriously, I wanted to call winter a cab and send her home. (She was beginning to embarrass herself.) But I digress… spring is here!
Breathe in the pollen my friends. Find your favorite café and eat al fresco. Rejoice in color! Flowers are blooming …I can’t even get upset over seasonal allergies because I’m so stinking happy that spring is here! All I want to do is sing with the birds and take glamour shots in fields of wildflowers. Did I mention I am so over winter?
As Easter approaches, I can’t help but think back to my childhood and the big question: What would I wear to church on Easter Sunday? While my parents didn’t have a lot of money back then, one thing was certain, I was wearing a new frilly dress on Easter (gloves and hat included.) The Easter dress decision for this Texas girl was akin to the Academy Award dilemma for Hollywood stars….what to wear… what to wear…what to wear?
Now as a grown woman with a daughter of my own, I still get excited about Easter dresses. I’ve had Sydney’s picked out for a few weeks now! But the fashion dilemma aside, a greater question looms before us: Do we actually believe in what we all get dressed up to celebrate? Simply stated, do we believe Jesus is alive? Do we believe He defeated death and conquered the grave? The Bible is clear… without the resurrection, there would not be a Christian faith.
This weekend we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But let’s back up a little bit and see how the whole redemption story unfolds. As Christians we believe that God became a human being. Unlike other world religions that believe we try to earn our way to God. The Bible declares that God came to us. (John 1:14) Next we believe that He lived a perfect, sinless life. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15) But this is where it gets good …and personal. We believe that this man, Jesus, who was fully God and fully man willingly chose to die a sacrificial death for us. He died in our place, as our substitute. His death on the cross was payment for our sin (past, present and future) so that through His death we would have life.
We not only believe that He died on that cross, but the hallmark of our faith is that three days later He defeated death and rose from the grave fully alive. (Walking, talking, cooking, laughing… ALIVE! ALIVE! ALIVE!!) This truth is the bedrock of our Christian faith.
A few years ago I led a tour of Israel. I had the honor of teaching about Christ’s resurrection at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, the location where many scholars believe Jesus was buried. On a blistery cold morning, I shared seven facts about Jesus’ resurrection from Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict – historical proofs that He is alive! As we prepare to worship the Risen Christ this weekend, I pray these seven facts embolden your faith and help you answer the biggest question of all—Do you really believe Jesus is alive?
SEVEN PROOFS FOR THE RESURRECTION
“Raking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ.”
– Brooke Foss Westcott, British Scholar
FACT #1: THE BROKEN ROMAN SEAL
When Jesus was buried the Roman officials ordered the tomb to be sealed (Matthew 27:62-66.) Jesus’ body was not stolen in the night as some would speculate. Why? Because the people feared the power and authority of the Roman Empire.
“The consequences of breaking the seal were extremely severe. The FBI and CIA of the Roman Empire were called into action to find the man or men who were responsible. If they were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. People feared the breaking of the seal. Jesus’ disciples displayed signs of cowardice when they hid themselves. Peter, one of these disciples, went out and denied Christ three times.”
– Josh McDowell
FACT #2: EMPTY TOMB
The early disciples did not go off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ was raised from the dead. Rather, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were teaching was false, the falsity would be evident. The empty tomb was “too notorious to be denied.” Read the Bible… no one debated the apostles when they declared Jesus was alive. Even their opponents believed this was truth!
“The resurrection could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.” – Paul Althaus
FACT #3: LARGE STONE MOVED
On that Sunday morning the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of the one and a half to two-ton stone that had been lodged in front of the doorway. All the Gospel writers mention it. Those who observed the stone after the resurrection describe its position as having been rolled up a slope away not just from the entrance of the tomb, but from the entire massive sepulcher. It was in such a position that it looked as if it had been picked up and carried away. Now, I ask you, if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around the sleeping guards, and then roll the stone over and steal Jesus’ body, how could they have done that without the guards’ awareness?
FACT #4: ROMAN GUARD GOES AWOL
Many would argue that the body of Jesus was stolen because the Roman guards assigned to watch the tomb fled the scene. This argument doesn’t add up! In Roman culture, if a guard failed to obey an order they would face death. The fear of their superiors’ wrath and the possibility of death meant that they paid close attention to the minutest details of their jobs. One way a guard was put to death was by being stripped of his clothes and then burned alive in a fire started with his garments. If it was not apparent which soldier had failed in his duty, then lots were drawn to see which one would be punished with death for the guard unit’s failure. Certainly the entire unit would not have fallen asleep with that kind of threat over their heads. Dr. George Currie, a student of Roman military discipline, wrote that fear of punishment “produced flawless attention to duty, especially in the night watches.”
FACT #5: GRAVE CLOTHES TELL A TALE
In a literal sense, against all statements to the contrary, the tomb was not totally empty–because of an amazing phenomenon. John, the disciple, looked over to the place where the body of Jesus had lain, and there were the grave clothes, in the form of the body, slightly caved in and empty–like the empty chrysalis of a caterpillar’s cocoon. That’s enough to make a believer out of anybody. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes–undisturbed in form and position.
FACT #6: JESUS’ APPEARANCES CONFIRMED
When studying an event in history, it is important to know whether enough people who were eyewitnesses were alive when the facts about the event were published. If the number of eyewitnesses is substantial, the event can he regarded as fairly well established. For instance, if we all witness a murder, and a later police report turns out to he a fabrication of lies, we as eyewitnesses can refute it.
“What gives a special authority to the list (of witnesses) as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. Let’s take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial, and place them in a courtroom. Do you realize that if each of those 500 people were to testify for only six minutes, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand testimony?”
– Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi, professor of history at Miami University
FACT #7: DISCIPLES’ TRANSFORMED
The most telling testimony of all must be the lives of those early Christians. We must ask ourselves: What caused them to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ? Had there been any benefit from their total allegiance to this “risen Christ?”
As a reward for their efforts, however, those early Christians were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking. Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message.
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses to the fact.”
– The Apostle Peter, Acts 2:32
While these seven proofs are historical, factual, and compelling; the greatest evidence I can share is my own redemption story. I call myself a Redeemed Girl because the living Christ rescued me! I know Jesus is alive because of my personal relationship with Him. I’ve tasted and experienced the living Christ and I know the Bible is true! Jesus redeemed my life from sin and darkness and has given me His light, love, joy, peace, strength, power, wisdom, and truth.
I’m alive, because He lives.
For Further Study: Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell