We tend to think of distant historical events as less vivid, and therefore less real than events we have witnessed or experienced firsthand. On the contrary, they are as real as our morning cup of steaming coffee.
But the resurrection has the disadvantage not only of being an ancient event (and therefore less vivid to our minds), but also unique in the history of the world, and therefore testing its believability.
So how do we know if the resurrection actually happened?
Some dismiss it out of hand, simply because they believe it couldn't have happened. Things like that don't happen. They start with the preconception that supernatural events aren't possible, and since the resurrection of Jesus must be supernatural, it therefore didn't occur. It's just a story.
But what if it did? How would we know? There is way.
If I were to ask to you prove that you attended a worship service at Redeemer's on Easter Sunday, how could you do it?
Evidence of your attendance might be a dated receipt from the coffee bar or from our Resource Center. Or you might interview those who saw you there or sat with you and worshiped. You might show the notes you took during the sermon, lending credence to your claim that you had been present. You might even cite a dramatic change in thinking and behavior that others noticed, dating to that weekend when you heard about Jesus being raised from the dead. Taken together, it would constitute a formidable case that any jury would accept as convincing: you were there.
This is precisely the kind of evidence that the New Testament cites for the resurrection of Jesus. People witnessed his death. Two individuals laid him in their own tomb, and rocked the flat stone down the gutter, slamming shut the opening of the tomb. But within three days, guards testified that the tomb was open and the body gone. Many men, women, young and old, saw him, some interacting with him, talking with him, eating with him, walking along a road with him. He was seen by individuals, as well as in groups as large as 500 at one time. Meeting him who had been raised, lives where forever changed.
Luke, a first century physician and New Testament author, explained that Jesus showed himself to be alive after death by "many convincing proofs" (Acts 1:3). The word used in the Greek language (in which Acts was written) refers to legal evidence that would stand up in court, eyewitness testimony and proofs that impartial judges would accept. In other words, Luke believed that Jesus came back from death––not a near death experience, but from the grave. And for very good reasons.
IT REALLY HAPPENED!
Upon cardiac arrest, followed by no circulation of oxygenated blood, a person has about twenty seconds before loss of consciousness; with ten minutes, the brain is irreparably damaged; with 30 minutes, the brain dies. Life as we know it is over. There's no coming back from that. Yet, Jesus did.
What happened on Easter Sunday changed everything, because it really happened. Jesus was raised from the dead.
The passing of time perhaps has made the event less vivid in many of our minds, but not less real. The only thing that has changed is time. And time never erodes the reality of an event that happened. It happened, and it behooves us to ponder it, what it means, and how it has and should affect us on the other side of it.
Jesus is really risen from the dead!
How does that affect you?