So a dead guy walks out of his own grave…

14 Mar

Ah, Easter. Chocolate bunnies and a risen Lord…maybe not in that order. Like a Christmas sale in late October, I’m trying to beat the rush by posting about the significance of Easter now instead of two weeks from now. The resurrection of Jesus is the historical truth claim upon which the entire Gospel hangs. Don’t believe me? Just ask the apostle Paul:

14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 cor 15:14, 16-19)

It’s easy to think of Jesus’ resurrection as a story from the Bible, but it’s important to know it as a fact of history. Believing in the historical reality of Jesus emerging from his tomb is not only critical for your faith, but critical for your evangelism. The resurrection reorders reality by proving that God has intervened in history and affirming that Jesus’ claims were true. Believing in the truth of the resurrection has innumerable consequences of which I’ll highlight two that have impacted me personally.

I have no idea what eggs have to do with the beginnings of the Christian faith...

I have no idea what eggs have to do with the beginnings of the Christian faith…

The resurrection power…in me!?

The same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead resides in the believer (Rom 8:11, Eph 1:18-19). This is an outstanding truth which should revolutionize our faith. For me, the truth of the power of the Spirit in me was never more evident than when I was at my lowest.

Several years ago I was dealing with the consequences of personal sin: I felt repentant, but my desire for things to magically return to normal outweighed my desire for God. As I studied the resurrection academically, the truth of Jesus’ triumph over death began to spill out of my brain and into my heart. I knew that not only did I need God more than I needed things to be “ok” I also had access to the Holy Spirit who resurrected Jesus and this power would enable me to humbly submit to the Lord and overcome my obstacles. This process wasn’t immediate but it was sparked and sustained by the realization that there is an immense power indwelling me; all I had to do was access it.

Yes, I DO believe that Jesus is the only way…

Christian exclusivism (the claim that Jesus is the only way to God) rubs people the wrong way. How can we possibly be so arrogant!? My answer is that Jesus is the only figure in history to come back from the dead, and this is verifiable (see below).

Our Gospel presentations focus on salvation, the forgiveness of sins, as they rightly should. The earliest sermons recorded in Acts did the same thing, but to prove their claim they pointed to the resurrection of Jesus. We mention the resurrection as well, but not usually not as evidence – it’s more a “this crazy thing happened too, and that’s part of it.”

Believing not only that the resurrection happened, but that it’s the best explanation of how the church formed gave me the confidence I needed to approach people who I formerly thought off limits. Instead of hoping that I could answer the questions of the skeptics, I began routing all of my conversations back to the resurrection of Jesus. I found that most people had not even considered the possibility that the story of Easter had roots in history. When I began to make the case that Jesus resurrection actually makes more sense than the leading theories in academia, it surprised people enough to listen a little longer. Some of them were so intrigued that we met regularly to discuss the historical evidence, and the likelihood of a miracle like this. I don’t believe anyone has ever been argued into the Kingdom, but I do believe reasoned dialogue can help people overcome hurdles of doubt.

But I don’t have a Master’s degree in Apologetics…

That’s ok – all you need to do is familiarize yourself with a few facts, and I’ll give you a head start. If you want to learn more check out the suggested links at the bottom of this post. The most critical aspect of the following assertions is that the majority of scholars – skeptics included – will agree that they can be considered historical facts.

1)      Jesus died by Roman crucifixion

2)      The message of the resurrection was central to the preaching of the church from it’s very beginning

3)      The disciples were transformed from shocked grievers into bold proclaimers based on experiences of the resurrected Jesus

4)      Skeptics James and Paul (Saul) converted to Christianity based on experiences of the resurrected Jesus.

 

There are more, which make the case more compelling – but these will do. The swoon theory, the twin theory, the conspiracy theory, the legend theory, and the hallucination theory are all undone by these simple historical details. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with them and understand why historians consider them “facts” even though the information comes from the Bible.

Go ahead and crack open a plastic egg this Easter, I’m hoping for starburst jellybeans and Reese’s pieces. While you do – remember that you’re celebrating a real thing, a fact of history: the resurrection of Jesus. Let this truth wash over you and transform your own spiritual journey; then go into your world and boldly proclaim the truth and pray that it transforms others as well.

Additional Resources

Short video featuring Dr. Gary Habermas

Top 10 resurrection myths

Succinct article expounding on the ‘minimal facts’ approach

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5 Responses to “So a dead guy walks out of his own grave…”

  1. amphomma March 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    Our son is memorizing Acts 9:1-22 for a school speech event, and going through this story verse by verse is showing us the power of Jesus’ resurrection: how else could the most zealous persecutor of the early believers in Jesus do a complete 180-degree change, and become one of the most bold and prolific defenders and spreaders of the Good News?!?

  2. Nick March 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    You make a wonderful statement about the certainty and centrality of the resurrection to the Christian faith, thank you! But, PLEASE, do us all the favor to drop…run away…flee from the associated, yet completely irrelevant pagan imagery – eggs, bunnies, etc – these frivolous trappings are distractions (and you know this, your caption says so, but you still included the picture!) – distractions from the glory of the power of God and the transforming faith that Jesus displayed, when He laid His life down, secure in the knowledge that the Father would raise Him up again…THIS is the faith expected from all who would call on the name of Christ for salvation, in hopes that we will be raised up with Him.

    • stevewimmer March 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

      Thanks for commenting. I’m not going to be telling any of my kids about any bunnies – but I think the egg tradition isn’t necessarily pagan (and even if it’s origins aren’t strictly Christian it can be repurposed)…one easy way to explain why eggs might be tied in is that although it appears like a stone, something living comes out of it (i.e. jesus from the tomb). This seems like one of those traditions that we can take or leave as long as we point towards the resurrection and God’s glory as the only reason for celebrating anything at all on the day called easter.

  3. Navaneeth March 14, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Yes Jesus resurrected, but is he the only one that did? History says no. You claim Jesus resurrection to be a fact and quote the bible to prove it. Similarly there have been other ‘God’s’ even before Jesus’ death that have died and risen and have been documented in that particular religion’s book just like the bible. There is no special reason to believe Jesus is the ‘ONLY’ one and the ‘ONLY’ way more than it is to believe in any other religion. Why are you a christian? because you were born in America. If you were born in Asia or Africa etc., the chances that you would be following a different religion is very high.

    • stevewimmer March 16, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      I’m pretty sure there are Christians in Africa and Asia. Similarly, I was not raised a Christian, and even if I was – that would not impact the truth of the Christian worldview. The truth content is what matters. The Bible is a reliable ancient document. I’m not arguing that the resurrection is true because the Bible claims that it is – I’m arguing that early Christians believed the resurrection was true…and the best explanation of that fact is that the early Christians were right. There are no HISTORICAL accounts of any person resurrecting from death, though there are some mythological accounts. The Gospel accounts are written as factual (sighting eyewitness testimony) which cannot be claimed for some of the other ‘resurrection’ stories.

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