The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the crux of the Christian faith. “If Christ is not risen,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “your faith is futile” (1 Cor. 15:17 NKJV). The centrality of the Resurrection is matched by the difficulty of believing in it as a historical event—because it is, literally, unbelievable. But the Resurrection only means something if it really happened.
Even for Christians living two thousand years after the end of Jesus’s earthly life, there are ways to know the reality of the Resurrection and embrace its transformative truth.
1) The lives of the first Christians. Skepticism wasn’t invented during the Enlightenment. The Gospels tell us that when a group of women reported the Resurrection to the apostles, their accounts were seen as “idle tales” (Luke 24:11). Matthew records that some of Jesus’s followers did not believe he had risen even when they saw him themselves (Matthew 28:17). The early Christians’ initial doubts are important because of the ways their eventual belief in the Resurrection led them to suffer defending its truth. The disciples were killed (Acts 12:5) and jailed (v. 2) for their ministry, and gave up relationships with their families and friends (Luke 18:29) in the unconverted Jewish community. No greater example arises in the New Testament than Paul, who disavowed his reputation as a persecutor of Christians and accepted the status of hypocrite to establish the church throughout the Roman Empire. Our inheritance of faith from the apostles should move us intensely to recognize the truth that changed these doubters into zealots for the Gospel.
2) The influence of God seen in those around us. The Resurrection demonstrates itself presently through the people we know who have chosen life because of their faith. I remember a young father in Sunday school who admitted that his early twenties had been mired in addiction; he credited his belief in the Resurrection’s defeat of darkness with rescuing him from his impulses. The last book in the Bible may have been written centuries ago, but Jesus dwells with us in the present, always the same (Hebrews 13:8) and making the power of his Resurrection present in us. “[J]ust as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
3) Our experience of God’s creation. Life contains instances of beauty that can scarcely be believed. How much paint has been devoted to sunsets on canvases, and yet none of them can compare to the ones that end each day? Beauty is more than a sensation, it is a tug in our spirits telling us that impossible things happen, that life outlasts death; the normal order of nature can yield to a deeper truth about the universe. God reveals himself to us through his creation (Romans 1:20), and the Resurrection is sewn into that created reality. Just as day follows night, and spring follows winter, the rising of Jesus from the tomb follows his death on the cross, when “the light of the world” (John 8:12) was dimmed in anticipation of his victorious return.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus rebukes those who disbelieved in his return because of “hardness of heart” (16:14). His chastisement of his skeptical followers uncovers a truth about our own doubts—that they often arise less from scientific considerations and more from fear of the changes and sacrifices demanded of us if the Resurrection is true. But if it’s true, and we’re not admitting it because it’s inconvenient, we’re only denying ourselves the way to life (John 14:6). And if fear is the real obstacle to our faith, why let it stop us anymore?
Anthony Otten has published stories in The Jabberwock Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Wind. He has been a finalist for the Hargrove Editors' Prize in Fiction. Still: The Journal has published an excerpt from his novel. He lives in Kentucky.
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