Today is Easter Sunday.
Today, Christians the world over celebrate the most important event in the history of the world — Jesus Christ’s rising from the dead. It is the the hinge event of the Western world. Before Jesus’ death and Resurrection, we talk about B.C. but after he rose from the dead, dating changes to A.D. It is a singular event.
I’ve had conversations with people of varying degrees of skepticism and the question inevitably comes up, “So what would it take for you to believe in the truth of Christianity?” I’ve gotten a great many answers but they all rhyme. Each one is a variation on the theme of “I would have to have proof of something absolutely miraculous.” More than once, my reply has been, “Um, a man who was scourged, crucified, DIED, had a big-assed spear shoved into his dead body, was wrapped like a mummy in pounds of linen strips, and sealed in a rock tomb before returning to life then stepping out of said tomb triumphantly three days later to begin 40 days of teaching during which time he was seen, felt, heard, smelt, and maybe even tasted by over 500 people before ascending to Heaven in front of hundreds of eyewitnesses isn’t miraculous enough for you?”
To this day, I’ve never had anyone say, “Yes.” They either stare a hole in the ground at their feet or they smile (or smirk) and say, “but that couldn’t happen.” EXACTLY! That’s why it’s called a MIRACLE! Unfortunately, the Resurrection is not only the most important event in history, but also the most ridiculed event in history as well. To adherents of other religions, including atheism and its current priestly triumvirate of Dawkins, Harris, and the late Hitchens, the idea that a man could — and did — rise from the dead is mythology akin to Prometheus being bound in the Caucasus Mountains or Odin and his offspring riding down the Rainbow Bridge from Asgard to fight Ragnarok.
I’ll tell you a truth about myself. I’m one of the worst Christians you will EVER meet. My life seems to be falling apart sometimes. I suffer from anxiety disorder and bouts of severe depression. I am not a poster child for the overcoming life of joy the Bible teaches we can have. In my dark periods — and they come more often than I feel capable of dealing with sometimes — I have wrestled with doubts. Does God really exist? Is there life after death? Where do we come from and where are we going and a thousand other questions that make me walk the floors of my home night after night. But, in my darkest nights of the soul, I return to one thing — the Resurrection accounts, and in those moments of soul-searing agony, one compelling and unanswerable detail has nailed me to my faith in Christ as surely as He was nailed to a Roman cross.
If Jesus of Nazareth did not raise from the dead, where is His body?
The founders of other religions of the world are accounted for. Gautama the Buddha was cremated and containers of his ashes given as relics to shrines. Confucius is interred in Qufu, China, his hometown. The Mohammad lies beneath the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina. Not only are they accounted for, no other religion even claims their founder 1) WAS God and 2) BODILY rose from the dead. Several, especially the more esoteric ones would have us believe their founders or other holy men “transcended” or rose “spiritually.” In any event, a body eventually gets buried, burned, or otherwise disposed of.
But wither the Carpenter of Nazareth? Where are the remains of He whom Pilate, a Roman provincial governor not prone to flights of superstition, named “REX IVDAEORVM” ? Where is the body of The Christ, the Holy One, the Son of God?
First, Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who died on a real cross at a real point in time in the very real and verifiable Roman province of Judea in or about 33 AD. Forget about “the search for Jesus” or “the historical Jesus”. We have the Gospels and they say He lived. We have Josephus and Philo and they say He lived. Still people want to dispute Jesus’ existence. To them I say, was Julius Caesar real? Prove it. Less material exists mentioning the would-be Roman emperor than mentions Christ by a magnitude of ten yet no one doubts Caesar’s life and deeds. Why must Christ’s life be called a myth? If we are going to play these reindeer games, let’s all play by the same rules for all historical persons.
So, where is His body?
The Resurrection DESTROYED the Roman Empire. Because the majority of the first Christians were Jewish, it made Jews, sadly, a cast out and hunted people. Logic dictates that if either the Romans or the Jews had knowledge of the location or were in actual possession of Jesus’ body, as soon as Christians like Peter started preaching in the streets, these men would have gone to a tomb, carted out Jesus’ body, unwrapped it and said, “Here is your ‘Savior'”. Does anyone think for a moment Christianity would have survived such a revelation? Would Peter and the other Apostles have bothered to die such horrible deaths as they did FOR SOMETHING THEY KNEW WAS A LIE?!
No. Christianity would have come to a swift end because our entire reason for believing rests on a BODILY RESURRECTED Jesus Christ. If Jesus was really just a “great teacher,” the movement his followers started at his command would have died in the cradle, not lived to become the largest religion in the history of the world.
But it didn’t.
Through reading I have settled on two unassailable facets of Roman life. First, the Romans were excellent record keepers. Second, the Romans were excellent killers. The Romans in Palestine who crucified Jesus didn’t “misplace” the body and they didn’t take Jesus down “alive” from the cross so that He “got better” then showed up later on. I don’t have the time or space to shoot those two arguments against the Resurrection as full of holes as they deserve to be, but luckily others have done that yeoman’s work in my place. My suggestion is to start with the thin book by Josh McDowell titled More than a Carpenter if you want to start exploring the arguments over the centuries around Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I must warn you, though, before you undertake such a journey. Many extremely passionate and intelligent men have set out to debunk Christianity’s claim that Jesus rose from the dead. None have succeeded and many have become believers and followers of Christ in the process.
Love y’all and Happy Easter.
Why are you seeking the living among the dead? He is Risen, just as He said He would.