Can you believe Easter Sunday is this weekend? I honestly thought winter would drag on FOREVER! Seriously, I wanted to call Winter a cab and send her home. (She was just starting to embarrass herself.) But I digress. Spring is here! Set your toes free from the prison of closed toe shoes and let your pedicure shine…it is sandal season! Breathe in the pollen my friends, find your favorite café and eat al fresco. Rejoice in color! The grass is growing, flowers blooming, birds chirping…I can’t even get upset over seasonal allergies because I’m so stinking happy that spring is here! All I want to do is sing with the birds and take glamour shots in fields of wild flowers. Did I mention I am so over winter?
As Easter approaches, I can’t help but think back to my 1980s glory days, to that BIG QUESTION every little girl faced about this time of year:
What to wear to church on Easter Sunday?
(Old school Polaroid picture of me with my little brother circa the early 80s.)
While my parents didn’t have a lot of money back then, one thing was certain…I was wearing something pretty and frilly on Easter Sunday (gloves and hat included.) The Easter dress decision was dramatic and akin to the Academy Award dilemma for Hollywood Stars. What to wear… what to wear…what to wear?
Women everywhere shopped for pretty spring dresses and we celebrated FINALLY getting to wear white again (does that fashion rule still apply?) Somehow along the way, plastic eggs, marshmallow baby chickens and patent leather shoes eclipsed the significance of the celebration. So fashion aside, a greater question looms before us:
Do we actually believe in what we get all decked out to celebrate on Easter Sunday?
Simply stated, without Easter there would not be a Christian faith. On this day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But let’s back up a little bit and see how the whole story unfolds. As Christians we believe that:
- God became a human being. Yep, we believe that the same God who breathed out stars took on the form on his own creation and became human (John 1:14) Just let that little nugget of truth somersault around in your brain for minute. That’s just scratching the surface.
- Next we believe that He lived a perfect, sinless life. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15) Now this is where it gets good …and personal.
- We believe that this man, Jesus, who was fully God and fully man willingly chose to die a sacrificial death for us. He died in our place, as our substitute. His death on the cross was payment for our sin (past, present and future) so that through His death we would have life.
- We not only believe that He died on that cross, but the hallmark of our faith is that three days later He defeated death and rose from the grave fully alive. As in. walking, talking, cooking, laughing, ALIVE! ALIVE! ALIVE!!!! These truths are the bedrock of our Christian faith.
Have you ever thought about what you believe?
Last month Redeemed Girl Ministries toured Israel. I had the honor of teaching about Christ’s resurrection at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. The location that many scholars believe was the place where He was crucified and buried. On a blistery cold morning, I shared seven facts about Jesus’ resurrection from Josh McDowell’s book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict. As we prepare to worship the Risen Christ this weekend, I pray these seven facts embolden your faith and help you answer the biggest question of all—Do you really believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
SEVEN FACTS ABOUT THE RESURRECTION
“It is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ.” Brooke Foss Westcott, British Scholar
Fact #1 THE BROKEN ROMAN SEAL | Matthew 27:62–66
The first obvious fact was the breaking of the seal that stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire. When Jesus was put in the tomb the Jewish authorities asked the Romans to set guards and a seal over the tomb to secure the body. “The consequences of breaking the seal were extremely severe. The FBI and CIA of the Roman Empire were called into action to find the man or men who were responsible. If they were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. People feared the breaking of the seal. Jesus’ disciples displayed signs of cowardice when they hid themselves. Peter, one of these disciples, went out and denied Christ three times.” –Josh McDowell
FACT #2 EMPTY TOMB | John 20
The Disciples of Christ did not go off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ was raised from the dead. Rather, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were teaching was false, the lie would be evident. The empty tomb was “too notorious to be denied.” Paul Althaus states that the resurrection “could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.”
FACT #3 LARGE STONE MOVED
On that Sunday morning the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of two-ton stone that had been lodged in front of the doorway. All the Gospel writers mention it. Those who observed the stone after the resurrection describe its position as having been rolled up a slope away not just from the entrance of the tomb, but from the entire massive sepulcher. It was in such a position that it looked as if it had been picked up and carried away. Now, I ask you, if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around the sleeping guards, and then roll the stone over and steal Jesus’ body, how could they have done that without the guards’ awareness?
FACT #4 ROMAN GUARD ABANDONS THEIR POST | Matthew 28:11-15
Scripture tells that Roman soldiers guarded Jesus’ tomb. What is mind-boggling is that this elite military unit fled from their post. They left their place of responsibility. How can their attrition he explained, when Roman military discipline was so exceptional? The fear of their superiors’ wrath and the possibility of death meant that they paid close attention to the minutest details of their jobs. Certainly the entire unit would not have fallen asleep with that kind of threat over their heads nor abandoned their post. Dr. George Currie, a student of Roman military discipline, wrote that fear of punishment “produced flawless attention to duty, especially in the night watches.”
FACT #5 GRAVECLOTHES TELL A TALE
The Apostle John was the first to the empty tomb. What he discovered solidified his faith. In a literal sense, against all statements to the contrary, the tomb was not totally empty–because of an amazing phenomenon. John looked over to the place where the body of Jesus had lain, and there were the grave clothes, in the form of the body, slightly caved in and empty–like the empty chrysalis of a caterpillar’s cocoon. The clothes were not rumbled up as if the body had been moved. The grave clothes were still in the exact shape of the body…without the body in them. That’s enough to make a believer out of anybody. John never did get over it. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes–undisturbed in form and position.
FACT #6 JESUS’ APPEARANCES CONFIRMED | 1 Corinthians 15:6
Christ appeared alive on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter. When studying an event in history, it is important to know whether enough people who were participants or eyewitnesses to the event were alive when the facts about the event were published. To know this is obviously helpful in ascertaining the accuracy of the published report. If the number of eyewitnesses is substantial, the event can he regarded as fairly well established. For instance, if we all witness a murder, and a later police report turns out to he a fabrication of lies, we as eyewitnesses can refute it.
“Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi, professor of history at Miami University emphasizes: “What gives a special authority to the list (of witnesses) as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, ‘If you do not believe me, you can ask them.’ Such a statement in an admittedly genuine letter written within thirty years of the event is almost as strong evidence as one could hope to get for something that happened nearly two thousand years ago.” Let’s take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial, and place them in a courtroom. Do you realize that if each of those 500 people were to testify for only six minutes, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand testimony?”
FACT #7: DISCPLES’ TRANSFORMED
The most telling testimony of all must be the lives of those early Christians. We must ask ourselves: What caused them to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ? Had there been any visible benefits accrued to them from their efforts–prestige, wealth, increased social status or material benefits–we might logically attempt to account for their actions, for their whole-hearted and total allegiance to this “risen Christ.” As a reward for their efforts, however, those early Christians were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking. Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message.
(Seven Facts from Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict)
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses to the fact.”
The Apostle Peter, Acts 2:32
DO YOU BELIEVE?
Bono, the lead singer for the band U2 was asked in an interview about his faith in Jesus. The interviewer pinged questions at him about Christ’s deity, life and resurrection.
My favorite moment in the interview was Bono’s response when asked if he actually believed in a bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Bono said, “Yes! I believe Jesus was resurrected from the grave. I don’t have a problem with miracles. I am one.”
At the heart of Christianity lies a miracle–the greatest miracle of all time.
- Why is it so easy for us to get wrapped up in the Easter traditions and not marvel at the message?
- Which of the seven facts encourages your faith the most?
Marian Jordan Ellis, RGM Founder & President