The Truth Of Easter

      Today we celebrate Easter.  While the cultural celebration often includes hidden eggs, family gatherings, going to church (even for many non-Christians), at the heart of it all is the claim that Jesus Christ predicted his own death, died, and then walked out of his own grave.  That is quite a claim.  A declaration that eventually was believed by billions of people.  But is it true?  This is the crucial, fundamental question.  Let me be blunt, if it is true, then everything Jesus claimed is accurate.  If it is true there is real, substantial hope in the face of death.  If the resurrection is fact, then God really can do anything and no situation is hopeless.
      I grew up in a strong Christian home but when I went away to college I went through a season of doubt and uncertainty.  It was not enough for me to believe in Jesus just because my parents did.  Therefore, I began examining different worldviews and truth claims.  What I found is that Jesus towers above everyone else.  For me, there were many reasons, but resurrection was the key.  Buddha and Muhammed were still in their graves; while Jesus was not.  Jesus himself said that the resurrection was the premiere sign that was offered as his ultimate credential. 
     I am going to use the acrostic T.R.U.E.  to give you a glimpse of the evidence for the truth of the resurrection.  Massive books have been written on this subject but I hope this article will whet your appetite to dig in for yourself if you have doubts. 
     T. is for TOMB.  The tomb of Jesus was empty.  People knew where it was.  The skeptical could go examine it.  The tomb, that had been secured because Jesus’ enemies remembered his claim that He would rise again, was now unoccupied!    The enemies of Jesus did not deny that the tomb was empty.
     R. is for the RADICAL CHANGE of the apostles.  All of the apostles abandoned Jesus when he was arrested.  They were filled with cowardice.  Their most outspoken leader Peter, the one who claimed that he would be loyal even if everyone else abandoned him, denied that he knew Jesus three times in one night.  Peter had given up everything to follow Christ, but when it came down to it, he gave into his fear and abandoned his Lord and friend.  In contrast, after the resurrection, Peter is a changed man.  At the opening sermon of the new era he preached the most brash message possible.  He told the crowd that they had killed their long-awaited Messiah.  He refused to back down when threatened and beaten.  The coward became unstoppable.  Courage oozed from his pores.  He had seen that death did not have the last word.  Jesus had conquered death itself and Peter was never the same.  History tells us that decades later he died for his belief in the resurrection of Jesus. 
      U. is for UNLIKELY WITNESSES.  I love that Thomas the skeptic was in the inner circle.  When told Jesus had come back, Thomas said he needed to touch the wounds.  When the Risen Christ appeared to him, the encounter ended with the skeptic on his knees before Jesus calling him “My Lord and My God.”   Then there is James, the half-brother of Jesus.  The Scripture is clear that James did not believe in Jesus’s claims about himself during his ministry.  Yet after the Risen Christ appeared to him James believed. Seriously, what would it take for you to believe that your half brother is the Son of God?  For James it took a resurrection.  Then there is Saul who became Paul.  Saul hated the church.  He pursued and persecuted the early church.  He did everything in his power to stomp out the church.  He wanted Christians to be jailed and killed.  After seeing the Risen Christ, Saul becomes a devoted follower.  This is a stunning shift.  Just curious, have you ever tried to change someone’s mind in a Facebook debate?  How did that work for you?  And yet Saul completely changes the course of his life.  He goes on to become Paul, the early church’s greatest missionary.  He endures five excruciating whippings of 39 lashes, was beaten with rods three times, and was once stoned and left for dead.  Yet he never wavered in his belief that Jesus rose from the dead.           
     The church, a community built on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, did not start decades after the crucifixion of Jesus in a far-away place based on some legend.  It started in Jerusalem shortly after the death and resurrection.  People could visit the empty tomb and talk to the eyewitnesses.  All the enemies of Jesus had to do was produce the body, which would have squashed the movement.  But they could not because Jesus was using it again (with an upgrade).  In addition, today there are billions of people who have stories of the difference Jesus has made in their lives.  He has transformed racists into agents of racial reconciliation.   He has restored broken marriages and helped people break powerful addictions.  The stories are endless and I count myself among them.  While I have never seen the Risen Christ, I know Him, follow Him and have been changed by Him.  It is hard to articulate, but the reality and power of the resurrection can change anyone. 
      Like Thomas, I invite you to investigate the claims of Jesus.  My hope is someday you too will  acknowledge Him as “My Lord and My God.”
Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church