As you know this is the month of Easter. It is the most important celebration event on the Christian calendar. Purpose for living, hope for the future, and security for eternity rises or falls with this date. If Jesus Christ arose as the Bible declares, then as Christians who have placed our believing trust in Jesus, we have eternal life now and forever.
But how do we know Jesus actually, bodily rose from the grave. We have no photographs of such. No one was there over two thousand years ago to have a selfie made with Jesus after his resurrection. Some believe the resurrection of Jesus is false, being a hoax fabricated by Jesus’ disciples for profit, and thus never really happened. Others believe Jesus’ resurrection is fictional, being nothing more than sheer mythology. So how do we know Jesus’ resurrection is factual? There are at least 3 primary reasons to believe in Easter.
- There were eyewitnesses who testified that Jesus rose from the dead, whose lives were radically changed, and whose testimonies are recorded in the New Testament (Lk 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1-3).
- The day of worship for Jewish believers changed from the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10). Only a momentous event like the resurrection of Jesus, which occurred on Sunday, could have changed that.
- Jesus’ grave remains empty and theories explaining away his resurrection don’t hold water. There have been at least seven theories proposed to explain away the empty tomb and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus:
Spirit resurrection theory – This theory proposes that only Jesus’ spirit returned from the dead, but not his body. But Jesus is recorded as saying in Lk. 24:39 (NASB): “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Furthermore, the concept of resurrection in the Jewish mindset was a bodily resurrection.
Hallucination theory – This theory proposes that the followers of Jesus so longed for him after his death that they hallucinated his appearance. But the disciples and women who went to the tomb were convinced Jesus was dead (Matt. 16:1-3, 11). Furthermore, how could over 500 people (1 Cor. 15:6) have the same hallucination at once? Psychologists say that 500 people having the same hallucination at the same time about the same thing would have been a greater miracle than the bodily resurrection of Christ.
Wrong tomb theory – This theory proposes that the disciples went to the wrong tomb, found it empty, and wrongly concluded that Jesus had risen. The Gospels, however, tell us that the location of the tomb was clearly known by many. The two Mary’s knew (Matt. 27:61; Mk 15:47; Luke 23:55). The disciples knew. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus knew. The Jewish religious leaders knew. And the Roman guards guarding the tomb knew.
Mistaken identity theory – This theory proposes that the disciples mistook for Jesus someone who looked like him after Jesus’ death. But would everyone make the same mistake over and over again? Hardly!
Savage dogs’ theory – This theory proposes that wild dogs ate the discarded remains of Jesus. Sometimes victims’ bodies in Jesus’ day were left hanging on the cross or just publicly discarded to become the prey of birds and beasts, and sometimes bodies were put in common graves where savage dogs could dig them up & drag them off. The Jewish historian Josephus said that leaving bodies unburied was exceptional in Roman Palestine and would have unsettled the local Jewish population and their relationship with the Romans. Furthermore, leaving Jesus body on the cross would have upset Jewish officials because of Sabbath observance (Jn.19:31-32). Thus, the likelihood of such was minimal, and if it had occurred, the finding of Jesus’ body would have been easily discovered.
Swoon theory – This theory proposes that Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but rather swooned, or passed out, and was mistakenly taken down from the cross, appearing to be dead, and then he revived in his tomb, and later escaped. Some Muslims contend that Jesus escaped the tomb and fled to India where he lived out his life .There is a shrine in Srinagar, Kashmir in India that supposedly marks the real burial place of Jesus according to these Muslims. It is highly unlikely, however, that Jesus could have escaped the cross alive for at least 5 reasons: First, 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, that Roman soldier would take the criminal’s place on the cross. Second, if Jesus survived the cross, how would he have escaped the grave clothes? (75–100 pounds of linen wrappings and spices that served to perfume and cement to the body would have suffocated him). Third, how would Jesus have used his hands and feet after 5–7-inch wrought iron nails had been driven through his wrists and ankles? Fourth, how could Jesus have moved about after his shoulders had been most likely dislocated and he was suffering from a severe loss of blood, caused not only by his crucifixion, but also by the severe flogging he received prior to the crucifixion? Fifth, how would Jesus have moved the huge stone that sealed his tomb (perhaps as heavy as 2 tons), got past the Roman guards in his weakened condition, and escaped without notice?
Stolen body theory – This theory proposes that Jesus’ body was stolen by either his enemies (Romans, Jewish religious leaders) or his friends (the Disciples, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus). If Jesus’ enemies stole the body, why would they not have produced the body when Christ was preached? If Jesus’ friends, of which every single one of his disciples insisted to their dying breaths that they had physically seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead, stole his body, don’t you think that one of them would have cracked before being beheaded or stoned? None did. Men will give their lives for something they believe to be true; they will never give their lives for something they know to be false. People will not die for a lie.
Of all these proposed theories, the swoon and stolen body theories (the latter was the original attempt to discredit Jesus’ resurrection where in Matthew 28:11-15 the religious officials paid the guards a large sum of money to lie and say that the disciples stole the body while the soldiers slept) are the most highly touted to explain away the resurrection of Jesus, but all of these theories clearly lack any credibility. As such, with the evidence considered, there is only one alternative: Jesus bodily and historically rose from the dead by the supernatural power of God (1 Cor. 15:3-8)!
Because Jesus is risen (Lk. 24:6), we as Christ-followers have purpose for living, hope for the future, security for eternity . . . and a job to do: to tell people with our lips and our lives the life changing significance of Easter. It’s our life mission. Let’s get to it!