by RJ McCauley
Around two thousand years ago, the greatest event in history occurred on what would have been a typical Sunday in Palestine. The Jewish people would have been ending their weekend celebration of the Passover festival by looking back at what God did for their forefathers through the Exodus in the Old Testament, hoping that God would deliver them once again. The Romans would have been ruling the region and collecting taxes from the people to appease Caesar and strengthen their empire. Yet, this Sunday was not a typical Sunday. It was the third day after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ when He rose again from the dead, validating that He was the promised Messiah who would come to forgive us of our sins and give us eternal life. The resurrected Jesus ushered into history a new way and new hope of salvation, even as much to make his disciples and other followers began praising God by spreading the message, “He is risen!”
By His work, Jesus Christ changed the historical-theological landscape. Jesus proved to the Jewish people that He is the true Passover and the final Exodus that provides atonement for our sins and delivers us from death. Jesus demonstrated to the Romans that He is the King of Kings, and is greater than Caesar because He rules as Lord and God with a peace that leads to eternal life. This event brought forth a holistic change to the course of human history, as the message of the resurrection promised divine redemption and everlasting hope to a fallen world.
Every year, Christians celebrate such redemption and hope over throughout the Easter season. It is a pivotal time to remember the gospel. For Christians, Easter is a time to worship Jesus Christ for his sacrifice, for delivering us from the enemy, and giving us the gift of eternal life. Similar to the importance of worshiping Jesus on Christmas for his supernatural birth as the promised Messiah, believers worship Jesus as the promised Messiah on Easter for his supernatural work on the cross and over the grave.
According to Jeff Cate, Professor of New Testament at California Baptist University, the resurrection is critical to the Christian faith. Cate explains that without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity would not be true, and skeptics would have every reason to question Scripture. “The resurrection of Jesus is at the core of Christianity. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul uses four verbs to describe his summation of the gospel that Christ died, was buried, was raised, and was seen. Paul argues that if there is no resurrection, we are still in our sins, and that he would be a fool for preaching a message that was not true.”
Cate assures that although we cannot absolutely prove the resurrection took place (since we were not there to witness the event), passages such as 1 Corinthians 15 provide evidence for the resurrection. “When it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, we must look at the certainty of Jesus’ death, the early accounts of Jesus’ burial, the empty tomb without Jesus’ body, and the eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. All of these point to the reality of the resurrection.” Cate is referring to the resurrection accounts that are mentioned at the end of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All of these accounts are spoken in the passive voice, meaning they were written to emphasize the historical-theological significance about the identity of Jesus Christ. It also provides an evangelistic and apologetic (defensive) response to anyone who questions the resurrection. These realities can give believers confidence that the evidence for the resurrection is contained in the burden of proof within the New Testament. The testimony of the resurrection makes or breaks the Christian faith, so it is important to know all of the facts that substantiate the story of Easter.
Not only is the Easter season a time to go to church for worship and to take a moment to examine our faith, it is a time to draw closer to God through personal reflection. The New Testament consistently teaches that Jesus Christ vanquished sin, defeated the enemy, and conquered death. Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins. Jesus’ burial and resurrection crushed the enemy’s power over believers and delivered them from the grave by promising eternal life. Christians should personally reflect on the victory over sin, the enemy, and death. Cate mentions, “Ever since the early church fathers, believers saw the resurrection as something important because of persecution. Those who would be persecuted might ask, ‘Is it worth it? Does anybody know? Does God really care about me? Does my death make a difference? Is my death just meaningless?’ They could look at the example of Jesus, who too died an innocent death, and see how God raised him from the dead. This would give them hope that they would be raised in the future resurrection like Jesus was raised.”
No matter what difficultly or trial believers may face, the resurrection promises victory over such adversity. In light of the current Christian persecution in the Middle East, it is evident that the Easter season brings an immense hope because of victorious conquest Jesus Christ has provided over death itself. When believers take time to reflect on the hope of Easter, they do not have to be afraid of such things because death has been defeated.
Cate suggests that there are several things we can do to remember Jesus during the Easter season. “I guess if I had to say one thing for Christians to do is to read the story for yourself. Read the passion narratives of the four gospels that talk about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Specifically, read the farewell discourse in John 13-21 which are some of the last words of Jesus before His death.”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event of history because it ultimately fulfilled the promise/plan of God that was proclaimed throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. The resurrection validates and confirms the promises of salvation. As 1 Peter 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The resurrection validates the identity of Jesus, and confirms His word is true. The resurrection gives Christians a living hope because on the third day, Jesus victoriously rose again from the dead, giving to everyone victory over sin, the enemy, and death.
He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.