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The Reality of the Resurrection

April 2015

Dear Friends,

It’s Easter and we celebrate the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The news of that first Good Friday and Easter Sunday are at the very heart of the Christian faith. In writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul says, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Paul states that he did not make this up. It was news he had received and passed on. This is the news that we pass on too. It is not merely information but news of historical events that impact all people in all places at all times.

In our own day, churches may be in decline and seem irrelevant to most in our society, yet every Easter there seems to be a renewed interest in Jesus by the media. It is interesting because our secular culture generally has little time for anything Christian but interest in the historical person of Jesus Christ never seems to wane. In the popular culture Jesus still ‘features’ in a number of ways at Easter. Easter is obviously a good time to promote the latest book on Jesus which claims to offer a ‘new’ or even the ‘real’ Jesus, the Jesus that is nothing like the Jesus we read about in the Bible. There are also many newspaper and magazine articles, films and television programmes which all seek to give a different perspective on Jesus. Whether good or bad, all this brings Jesus back into the public consciousness. Of course, much of this disappears as quickly as it comes because pure speculation about Jesus, written around two thousand years later by those with a clear bias against Christianity can’t ever replace the historically reliable accounts of the original eyewitnesses found in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark Luke and John. So, while many would love Jesus to go away for good, he won’t.

Jesus is far too significant to be ignored and the fact is, love him or hate him, nobody can deny the impact of Jesus on human history. History, in fact, literally hinges upon his life. Our calendar is divided into the years before and after his birth, noted as B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, ‘in the year of the Lord’). More songs have been sung to Jesus, more books written about Jesus, more artwork commissioned of Jesus than anyone else who has ever lived. Some two thousand years after he walked on this earth, Jesus continues to changes lives and his words still captivate the minds of millions. All this is down to his death and resurrection. The fact that Jesus' death was not the end of the story means that Jesus is impossible to ignore. Jesus rose from the dead, just like he said he would.

The resurrection is one of the barriers people have when it comes to believing in Jesus. Even when some don’t doubt the resurrection they still fail to grasp its implications for our lives, yet it is fundamental to the Christian faith. Jesus did come back to life. Against the resurrection, it has been argued that Jesus did not die but that he fell unconscious. It has also been suggested that his followers went to the wrong tomb, or that his disciples stole the body, or that they were gullible enough to believe it or that they and others were hallucinating. But if the resurrection of Jesus did not take place then we have no hope and Christians are seriously deluded people. The Apostle Paul says as much, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith… If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:14,19). If the resurrection didn’t happen, then you can write Jesus and Christianity off as nonsense because Christianity stands or falls on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.

We believe that Jesus did not stay in the tomb where he was buried because God raised him from the dead and he appeared to many witnesses. That’s why Jesus‘ death and subsequent resurrection have influenced our world and the people in it more than anyone else or anything else. Many, though, still choose to dismiss the resurrection as myth or legend rather than take it as historical fact. However, in addition to all the clear teaching of the Bible that Jesus did rise from death as promised, there is also so much circumstantial evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. That is, so many changes occurred after Jesus' resurrection that could not have taken place unless he had not truly risen. So if someone refuses to believe the resurrection and claim it couldn’t have happened, then they must come up with a far better alternative explanation that makes sense of all the evidence. They must answer questions like these: Why did Christianity emerge so rapidly and with such power? What so transformed all these scared followers who didn’t expect Jesus to come back to life? How do you account for the hundreds of eyewitnesses, who maintained their testimony and ended up dying for their belief? It’s actually amazing how much you have to believe in to stop yourself believing that Jesus rose from the dead! All the evidence, biblical, historical and circumstantial points towards the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

So, as believers in Jesus Christ, we have no need to be embarrassed or ashamed of our faith. We should not shy away from conversations about Jesus because our faith is based on the actual historical events of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No other explanation can be given to the explosion of Christianity after the death of Jesus than the resurrection without committing serious intellectual suicide. Unlike all others religions Christianity is not based on a human who taught some things and lies dead and buried in a grave somewhere. It is based on the risen Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why the message of his death and resurrection is good news for our world. It impacts us all and is our only hope, so let’s make sure we tell it with confidence this Easter.

Your minister and friend

Jonathan de Groot

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