If the resurrection is a false narrative, then an uneducated carpenter and a few ignorant fishermen have accomplished the greatest scheme in the history of the world.
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:14
What was it about Jesus that compelled His apostles to endure imprisonment, beatings, persecution and even death in His name? Fifteen years later, James would be imprisoned for preaching the gospel and ultimately beheaded. His brother John, would continue to preach this same gospel, despite the risk.
Would it make sense to continue to proclaim a truth that you were not convinced of, knowing that it would cost you your life? Yet John would continue to tell the story of the resurrection for nearly another fifty years. Ultimately, he would experience exile on the Isle of Patmos for continuing to affirm a risen Christ.
During that time, John witnessed one of the greatest antagonists to the faith, Saul of Tarsus, reverse course. His name was changed to Paul and he proclaimed Christ all the way to his own imprisonment and death. Paul wrote, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He believed in the power of the resurrection.
John, the last living apostle saw each of the Apostles follow his brother James in death. Like Paul, Peter met his fate under Nero. History tells us that Peter was crucified upside down, believing himself unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
Tradition reports that Thomas shed his doubt and carried the gospel to India where four soldiers pierced him through with swords. Don’t you recall his initial lack of faith? He would not believe until he saw the prints of the nails in His hands and the piercing in His side. Then he fell at his feet and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” Having witnessed the risen Lord face to face certainly emboldened him for death. He never doubted the resurrection again.
Matthew, some claim, was stabbed to death in Ethiopia. Josephus reports that James the Less was stoned and clubbed to death in Syria. Simon was slain in Persia. Why would they so willingly give their lives for a gospel they knew to be untrue?
Would these men have died for a faith they knew to be fraudulent? Or were they compelled by something they knew to be true. Before his death, John wrote convincingly, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:1-3)
The eyewitness testimony of those who saw the resurrected Christ was so powerful that the church grew rapidly. Just fifty days after Passover, three thousand men and their families placed their faith in a risen Savior and were added to the church. Despite persecution and martyrdom, the church has always thrived and continued to grow. Today there are over 2 billion believers worldwide. Still persecution cannot undo faith in a risen Savior. Fox News reports that 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016. They gave their lives knowing that death is not the end.
A learned man by the name of Gamaliel gave what was perhaps the best counsel that had been given by a Pharisee in that day. “And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
In the two millennia since, we know that this work has not come to nought. Though countless attempts have been made, it has never been overthrown. Instead, Christ has had a more profound affect on this world than any other man who has walked on the face of this earth. Our calendar is dated by His birth. Great universities have been established to advance His teachings. There is not an educated man around the globe who says, “Jesus who?”
John Adams proclaimed that our nation was founded upon the principles of Christianity and none of his peers questioned him. Every president from George Washington to Donald Trump has been sworn into office with his hand laid firmly upon the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result, this nation has done more for the good of the modern world than any other nation or all nations combined.
How is all that possible from three years of ministry from an uneducated Carpenter and a few ignorant fishermen, unless He was more than a carpenter. Indeed, He was and is the Son of God, crucified in the flesh and risen again! His death, burial, and resurrection continue to inspire millions and provide eternal life to all who will place their faith in Him.
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” 1 Corinthians 15:14-20
May your celebration of the resurrection be filled with joy and hope!