“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” – Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:13,14
While Good Friday represents an unprecedented act of selfless, sacrificial love, the resurrection is the event around which all of Christianity revolves. Jesus’ identity and credibility, as well as our faith, hinge on the validity of His rising from the dead on the third day.
If He defeated death and rose again from the grave, Easter is a celebration of our Savior and the eternal life He offers. If He didn’t rise, Paul says, our faith is useless.
Dr. David Frederick Strauss, a skeptic, describes Easter this way: “The resurrection is a touchstone, not of only the life of Jesus, but of Christianity itself. It touches Christianity to the quick and is decisive for the whole view of Christianity.”
Christian apologist, Josh McDowell agrees. “Everything that Jesus taught, lived, and died for,” he writes, “depended on one thing: His resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the crux of the Christian faith.”
While they are both historical events, the resurrection of Christ requires more faith than the crucifixion of Christ. Anyone can be executed. But raising oneself from the dead has never happened before or since. There is a description of the resurrection in Scripture, with the testimony of eye-witnesses. But it still comes down to a point of choice: deciding whether or not to believe He rose from the dead.
If the tomb was empty on that Sunday morning following the crucifixion, what does it mean? The answer: everything.
A.W. Tozer puts it like this:
Let us be confident, Christian brethren, that our power does not lay in the manger at Bethlehem nor in the relics of the cross. True spiritual power resides in the victory of the mighty, resurrected Lord of glory. The power of the Christian believer lies in the Savior’s triumph of eternal glory! Christ’s resurrection brought about a startling change of direction for the believers. Sadness and fear and mourning marked the direction of their religion before they knew that Jesus was raised from the dead – their direction was toward the grave. When they heard the angelic witness, ‘He is risen, as He said,’ the direction immediately shifted away from the tomb.
The effect on us today is similar. Without the resurrection, we are left to endure this life alone and make our way, weak and staggering, toward our own graves. With Jesus Christ risen (“He is risen, indeed!”), we turn from a doomed existence, toward a life of hope – both now and in eternity.
Either He conquered the grave and opened the doors of heaven for us by rising from the dead on that first Easter Sunday, or, as Paul puts it, “we are of all people most to be pitied.”
What do you believe?