Just saying, what if Jesus really did rise from the dead? What if the Gospel accounts are true? What if the eyewitnesses were right? What if a dead man came back to life as literally as he predicted?
If Jesus rose from the grave, then he is who he claimed to be — the light of the world, the friend of sinners, the King of kings, the Lord of all. If he rose from the dead, he is Emmanuel, God in flesh appearing, who clothed himself in humanity to destroy death by death and to free us all from its grip. If he rose from the dead, he is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the resurrection and the life. Death is not the ultimate reality nor the grave the final resting place, if Jesus rose from the dead.
If Jesus rose from the dead, everything else he ever did was right and everything he ever said was true, including his teachings about heaven, hell, sin, judgment, death and everlasting life. His ethical system was flawless and His values were absolute — if Jesus rose from the dead.
If he rose from the dead, the rest of the Bible is true as well, and our lives have ultimate meaning and perpetual purpose. If the resurrection occurred as claimed, God has a master plan for his children, who can now enjoy every day as though it were Easter and each sunrise knowing it’s not our last. We serve a risen Savior and we should love him with all our hearts through both time and eternity, if Jesus rose from the dead.
Now… about that word “if.”
Many of us are skeptics by nature, and that’s as it should be. Our minds need evidence as much as our hearts need hope. Faith isn’t a shot in the dark but a reasonable choice of the mind. The New Testament writer Luke understood that, ending his Gospel by describing the resurrection appearances of Christ and beginning his book of Acts by saying of Jesus, “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive” (Acts 1:3).
As a historian Luke investigated everything carefully from the beginning. As a physician he understood the medical realities of life and death. As a scholar he weighed evidence and sifted facts. As a biographer he knew the difference between truth and deception, and he was convinced beyond doubt Jesus returned to life.
Furthermore, Luke’s accounts are collaborated by Matthew, Mark and John, who differ in their details just enough to show they were writing without collusion.
Additionally we have prophecies of the resurrection given in advance. Jesus publicly claimed he would rebuild the temple of his body in three days, a point used by his enemies to ridicule him at his trial, though in so doing they preserved his words for posterity. The Old Testament prophets also foretold the death and resurrection of the Christ. Take Isaiah 53, for example: “Though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.”
Then there are the eyewitnesses — hundreds of them according to the Gospels and epistles — who, having seen the risen Christ, were instantly transformed.
Consider the remarkable change that marked the disciples. On Friday they were broken men and spineless cowards. On Monday they were ready to face prisons, whips, stocks, snarling beasts and death itself; and not for a moment for the rest of their lives did any of these men lose their nerve, deny their faith or change their story. They willingly suffered shame and pain and a martyr’s death to tell the world of a risen Savior.
And don’t forget this: The tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was truly vacant on Easter morning. No one in Jerusalem disputed that. The followers of Christ didn’t deny it, nor the Romans officials, nor the deployed soldiers, nor the Lord’s enemies, nor the crowds packing Jerusalem at Passover. It was openly acknowledged by all, for “this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26, KJV).
To deny the resurrection, one has to explain how the body of Christ disappeared beneath the noses of well-trained guards who secured the tomb on pain of death yet allowed a ragged band of frightened fishermen to creep in unnoticed, break the Roman seal, roll away the massive stone, enter the cave, hoist a corpse onto their shoulders, stumble out, race from the precincts and dispose of the body without anyone noticing.
It’s also significant that the resurrection of Christ completes the logic of Scripture as though every book of both Old and New Testaments were planned accordingly. It’s so woven into the warp and woof of the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation, that nothing in Scripture makes sense without it. Nor, to be honest, does anything in life.
There is a step of faith involved in accepting the reality of Easter and the identity of Christ; but it’s a rational step rather than a speculative leap. The Apostle Paul once posed a simple question to King Agrippa and his royal advisors: “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” It’s not incredible but wonderful, not fantasy but fact.
A couple of years ago I tried to explain this to a friend, an aging atheist, as we walked through the park. Returning to our cars, he looked at me and said, “You’ll never convince me. You might as well not try, though…” he added with a pause, “in a way I hope you’re right. I would like to think there is something beyond the grave.”
There is something beyond the grave, my friend — because Jesus rose from the dead.
Author, ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’