Easter is the most important date on the Christian calendar. The reason is obvious. Although the virgin birth of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas is miraculous and although the sinless life of Jesus is essential to our Christian faith, without the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus, His virgin birth and sinless life is meaningless. But because Jesus arose, Easter gives significance not only to His unique birth and life, but also to our lives, and to all who place their faith in Him as well.
But what if Christ didn’t arise? How do we know He did? In 1 Cor. 15:14, 19, 32 Paul informs us that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 32 … If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” So, if Christ has not risen from the dead, according to Paul, which is according to God, then we are wasting our time and lives as Christians and ought rather to go out and party hearty and do as we please!
But praise God! Christ did arise! We know this primarily by the evidence of the empty tomb of Jesus that can’t be explained away, although many have tried throughout the centuries with various, flimsy theories. The two most prominent of these theories is that either someone stole Jesus’ body or that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, He swooned or appeared dead, but later awoke in the cool of the tomb, and escaped and lived out the remainder of His life in anonymity.
Regarding the stolen body theory, if Jesus’ enemies took the body, whether Jewish leaders, Romans, or others, then they would have produced the body when Christianity began to spread, thus ending the new religion and growing lie. But it didn’t happen. If friends stole the body, why would Jesus’ closest disciples die martyr’s deaths (all of them did but John) for a lie? You may be deceived and give your life for a cause that is not legitimate, but rarely if at all will you die for a known lie.
Regarding the so-called swoon theory, according to Scripture (John 19:34) a Roman soldier stabbed Jesus in the side with a spear, causing blood and water (fluid around the heart – pericardial effusion) to flow out, thus demonstrating Jesus’ death. Furthermore, four Roman soldiers were assigned to each crucifixion. These men were skilled executioners. In ancient Rome, if a Roman soldier took a criminal off the cross before he was dead, the Roman soldier had to take the criminal’s place on the cross.
There are additional difficulties with the swoon theory. If Jesus survived the cross, how would He have escaped the grave clothes? (approximately 75–100 pounds of linen wrappings would have suffocated Him). How would Jesus have walked and used His hands? He was flogged mercilessly before the crucifixion. 5-7-inch wrought iron nails were driven through His wrists and ankles. His shoulders were most likely dislocated, and He obviously had a severe loss of blood. How would Jesus have moved the huge stone (perhaps as much as 2 tons), got past the posted, crack Roman guards in His weakened condition, and escaped without notice?
There is no way to explain away Christ’s resurrection with any credibility. It happened! And because it happened, we as Christians have eternal life and a tangible hope now and forever. Because of Jesus’ resurrection and our faith in Him, my past and yours is forgiven, our present problems can be managed in Christ’s strength, and our future is secure in Heaven.
Because of the reality of the Resurrection, Easter is the most important date on the Christian calendar. Don’t forget it, appreciate it, and celebrate it…along with celebrating the one who made it all possible…Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.
Your friend and pastor,