He is risen!
He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
St. Paul tells us, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." 1 Cor. 15:17. St. Paul places all his chips on this one historical fact, Christ was raised from the dead. The apostles, the Jews, the Roman government, everyone's reaction to Christ's resurrection was the same, "No way!" That's how it is with news such as this, but it is true. Christ is "The Way" in a "No way" world.
Just consider how people react when they hear unbelievable news. You won the lottery? "NO Way! Let me see the ticket."
A friend gets engaged to be married, "No way! Show me the ring."
When a team wins the Superbowl they raise the trophy showing their "No way" victory.
In our world we want proof for those "No way" moments. Raise the trophy. Show the ring. Physical proof. So what would be the physical proof of Jesus' resurrection? If that event is our victory, then where is the proof? If according to St. Paul, Christ's resurrection is the proof of our Christianity, what do we have to show for it?
We Christians should be able to "make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…" 1 Peter 3:15. We should have a few points of proof for Christ's resurrection. It was a historical event. It really happened. Why do you believe The Civil War was a real historical event? Some of you may have been alive then(tongue in cheek), but none of us has seen the actual battles. We have personal testimonies and letters that tell us, this event happened. Or what about landing on the moon?
There will always be those who deny such events, even when the proof says otherwise. We aren't going to argue anyone into the faith, the Holy Spirit is the only one who works conversion. However we can give folks something to consider in regards to the proof of Christ's death and resurrection.
One way in which we know Christ's resurrection happened is because the enemies of Jesus could not produce a body after the resurrection. All other leaders of various religious movements have shrines where their bodies are laying. These shrines are monuments to their success. However the success for Christianity is that there is no shrine, there is no monument to Christ. Now there are many bodies of various people that are “missing” but the difference is that no one else claims to have risen from the dead. Jesus told his disciples and the Jews that he would rise in three days.
The enemies of Christ acknowledged that the tomb was empty that Easter morning. What they had to do though was come up with a reason. The reason…the guards fell asleep. The very ones who wanted Jesus dead were also in charge of guarding the tomb. The Jews who demanded Jesus be crucified asked Pilate for Roman guards. Pilate refused because the Jews had their own temple guard.This would also explain why in Matthew 28:11 after the resurrection, the soldiers went to the chief priests and not Pilate. The chief priests could protect the Jewish Temple Guard from Pilate's discipline to a limited extent, but they could not protect Roman soldiers from discipline. The role of the Roman government was to make sure Jesus was dead and that they did. Pilate still had a vested interest in maintaining his ability to have reliable guards for the Temple, but not to the extent of an official Roman soldier. The body was missing, both the enemies of Christ and the disciples attest to this.
Another point to consider is the simplicity of Jesus' resurrection. The account given to us in The Bible shows us that the account of his resurrection was not encumbered by typical folklore of the age. What this means is that the account given to us by the apostles was pure, it wasn’t made up or embellished in order to increase credibility.
Certainly you have heard of the “Missing Gospels” (like the Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, etc.) that always seem to make the news around this time of year. These “missing gospels" present differing accounts of Christ's resurrection and they are different than what we have in The Bible. In these accounts there are sensational details that reflect the age in which they were written. These accounts of the resurrection were written much later and we don't have reliable information as to who the authors were. In addition, they include fanciful details like Jesus being carried on the shoulders of angels. This is a detail that tries to make Christ's resurrection a story worth of legendary status. A story that would be so "out of this world" that no one would doubt it. These stories added details to the resurrection account in order to make the resurrection more appealing to 2nd century ears. This brings us to our next point, the obvious ridiculousness of the resurrection account given to us in The Bible.
Additionally, the current culture where we find Jesus rising from the dead included the civil law that women were not considered reliable witnesses in the courts. The testimony of a woman was considered not as valid as a man's. Anyone who was inventing a story so important would be sure to have the men not only as witnesses, but the men would actually see Jesus coming out of the tomb. In addition to the role of the women consider how many of the women are named Mary. This causes even Christians a headache. A good fiction author is always sure to use differing names in order to make his story more believable. The fact that in the accounts of Jesus' resurrection there are multiple women named Mary shows us that the authors were more interested in the truth than convincing. God has always given all his people the joy and privilege of proclaiming the mighty works of God. Men, women and even children are given the joy of speaking of Christ's deeds to all those around them.
Next we have the post-resurrection appearances of Christ. We have firsthand accounts of people who saw the resurrected Jesus. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians notes that Christ appeared to these people and an additional 500 people. Not that the two cases are identical, but at President John F. Kennedy's assassination there were approximately 600 people present that day. Of the 600 only 200 were interviewed and from those numbers we have the "official" findings. Granted there were also television cameras but video is not as reliable as eyewitnesses. So even by modern standards the attestation to the resurrection of Christ should be given respect.
Finally, we must ask, is it reasonable to think someone would die for a lie they themselves knew to be a lie? Would someone die for a sin? In effect that is what the disciples were doing, they themselves were dying in sin if they were lying. The disciples were martyred for the faith with the exception of John. We have the disciples willing to place their eternal welfare in a lie and we all know that lying is a sin. Would a reasonable person do this? Would almost all of the disciples do such a thing?
By all accounts it is reasonable, in fact it is the best explanation considering the facts, that Jesus Christ truly rose from the grave. These historical and verifiable facts are great tools for us when defending Christ's resurrection. Jesus appeared to them and said,“Peace be with you.”
There are some sources that indicate that the soldiers would have been a mix between Roman guards and the temple guards since that was the group that came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane. Bible dictionaries indicate the word translated as “guards” refers to Roman guards: Thayer's Greek Lexicon states, “(a Latin word), guard: used of the Roman soldiers guarding the sepulchre of Christ.” (NT:2892s Thayer's Greek Lexicon)
·Barnes’ Commentary states, “The Jews had a guard of Roman soldiers, who kept watch in the tower of Antonia, on the northwest of the temple. Pilate either referred to these, or to the ‘watch’ that attended the crucifixion-the whole ‘band’ that had been appointed for that.” (Matthew 27:65 Barnes' Notes)