A series on miracles. A series of miracles. Each one different: dead raised, sick healed, the water turned into wine, storms stilled. But each one the same – pointing us to the identity of the one who held the power to perform it. Each miracle intended to reveal that Jesus is not simply another prophet or teacher, but the Son of God, God incarnate.
The greatest miracle of all is the one we celebrate each year on Easter, the resurrection. The resurrection proves Jesus is who He says He is. But how do we prove the resurrection?
Well, first, His body was never found. For years, then decades, centuries, even millennia, scholars and atheists would have been glad to put an end to this story of a resurrected savior. All they needed was a body. But in spite of armed guards and a stone weighing more than 3,000 pounds in front of the tomb, no body could be found. Because that body rose from the dead and walked the earth, and then ascended to Heaven.
And then there’s the Disciples and other followers of Jesus. They had given up their lives to follow Jesus, believing He was the prophesied Messiah and expecting Him to establish a kingdom. (Which He did, but not the earthly kingdom they hoped He would establish to overthrow the Roman Empire.) After the crucifixion they scattered. They went into hiding. They had already given up much, and they now feared for their lives. But once Jesus appeared to them (Luke 24:35) all that changed. They emerged from hiding and boldly proclaimed the message of Jesus and the news of His resurrection.
There are also eye-witness accounts. More than 500 people are on record as having seen the resurrected Jesus. If someone sets out to prove a sequence of events true, he looks for an eye witness. In the case of the resurrection, eye witness testimony is so plentiful it would take days and days to comb through it all.
So with the truth of the resurrection, and therefore the identity of Jesus not in doubt, what does it all mean?
Well, we can believe Jesus is who He says He is because of the resurrection.
The resurrection isn’t just the signature event of Christianity. It is that, as prior to the resurrection Christianity didn’t exist. But it’s also the hallmark event of human history.
To whom did the resurrected Jesus first appear? He first appeared to two women. That’s a game changer. That upsets some cultural norms. In that culture, women weren’t valued as equal members of society. Their testimony wasn’t considered legally relevant. But Jesus didn’t seek to show Himself to someone society saw as relevant. He didn’t operate that way.
When He appeared to His Disciples, he deconstructed more cultural beliefs. Thanks to the proliferation of Greek thought, the disciples did not immediately recognize Jesus as a resurrected person, with flesh and bones. They reverted to the popular thinking of the day as taught by philosophers from Aristotle to Alexander the Great: the belief that when a person dies, their spirit is free to roam. The Disciples initially thought Jesus was nothing more than a freed spirit, not a resurrected King. He dispelled that thought quickly when he asked them for food – spirits don’t require the nourishment our human bodies require!
And then he reminded them of what they already knew. He walked them through the prophecies from scripture that foretold His coming, His life, His death, and His resurrection. He brought them to the most important point, that because He is the fulfillment of the prophecies, He is here to offer forgiveness from sin and repentance.
The resurrection is the key to understanding Christianity. Without the bodily resurrection of a crucified savior, Jesus’ followers would not have proclaimed the gospel, would not have offered salvation and eternal life to those all over the world. Many of Jesus’ followers, and all of the Disciples died painful deaths because of their efforts to share the gospel. Many were imprisoned. Choosing to share the story of Jesus didn’t provide any earthly gain, as a matter of fact, it brought about much loss and suffering. And yet, it spread. These people would not have gone through that suffering for a lie, they would not have died or faced prison time to spread a story of a resurrection that didn’t happen. Maybe Chuck Colson, Former White House special counsel during Watergate, a convicted felon, and born-again Christian said it best:
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
But because there was indeed a risen savior, Jesus’ followers did share their story, enabling the Christian faith to spread throughout the known world and providing for it the foothold it needed to persevere for all of time.
The resurrection is the hope of all who follow Christ. It proves to us the power of our God. It enables us to trust Him for all things in this life. And more importantly, it tells us that this life is not all there is. It guarantees that those who believe, who place their faith and hope in Christ, who trust in Him to deliver them to eternity, will experience a spiritual and a physical resurrection. It assures us that while we get small tastes of His goodness and glory in this life, that the best is indeed yet to come. It promises an eternity of joy unspeakable. And that promise is available to everyone. To all who believe. It requires only that we move our trust from self to Christ, moving our souls from death to life.