Easter is over. Perhaps for many, it now time to start Spring cleaning, prepare for gardening, tune up mowers, and enjoy the warm weather shedding a few of extra winter pounds. However, what took place in Jerusalem, what we now call Easter was the real beginning of the Christian movement as Jesus walked on earth for 40 days giving his followers “many convincing proofs that he was alive.” (Acts 1:3)
We should take note of the fact that Jesus needed to convince people he was alive. No one expected Jesus to rise from the dead. Despite the fact the Gospel writers record that Jesus predicted his death and resurrection, no one was at the tomb waiting for Jesus to rise. Everyone knew the dead do not live again and they all knew Jesus was dead. End of movement and hope.
The women who showed up on Easter morning were there to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. Nicodemus and Joseph had been in a hurry when the buried Jesus and the women felt they could and should do better. Why did they come early the next morning? Because Jesus was dead.
When the women saw the stone rolled away, they didn’t ‘think resurrection. John records that the women said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.” Not Jesus Lives! Interesting isn’t it that at first, they thought someone had stolen the body just as the apostles would be later accused of doing. Mary Magdalene, mistaking Jesus for a gardener, asked him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Not have you seen Jesus? I know he must be walking around here somewhere.
The disciples are recorded as believing that what the women reported was “nonsense” and didn’t believe them. After all they were only women. ( A point I will return to.) Even Peter and John, who ran to the tomb, didn’t get it. John confesses the even after seeing he “still did not understand” it all and Peter left the tomb “wondering” what had happened. Why, because no one expected a resurrection. First century people understood dead and understood dead people don’t get up and leave the tomb.
The Bible records that over the next 40 days Jesus appears to many people convincing them he is alive. He meets with a couple walking on the road to Emmaus, appears to the disciples hiding behind locked doors, makes another appearance to the disciples because Thomas missed the first meeting, meets privately with Peter and James, his brother, and many, many, more. Paul records he even meet with a crowd of 500. Why, because no one expected a dead man to live again. Just like you and I would have been, everyone needed convincing that he was alive and that he was Lord and God.
Maybe you also need some convincing. The following are logical arguments that have convinced others of the truth of the resurrection:
• Romans knew how to kill. There is no possible way Jesus didn’t die on the cross.
• The tomb is empty. No doubt about it. The followers of Jesus lost track of where the tomb was. It was not a shrine. Jesus was not there. No one counters the proclamation of the resurrection by producing a body.
• The story is told in an “embarrassing manner.” Women are key witnesses, (Remember I told you I would return to this.) and apostles look stupid. If you make up a first century lie you don’t tell it like this. It is told like this because it is true.
• The story is told and placed in Jerusalem. If it were not true this is certainly the place where the it was easiest to prove a lie.
• The disciples were willing to change a significant religious belief, Jesus is God, and die for such a belief. Something significant had to happen for them to do this. Like Easter.
Belief in Jesus is very personal and offers hope of eternal life and the personal peace of forgiveness and love that can’t be found anywhere else. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
The writer is a retired pastor and member of the Global Methodist Church.