This Easter comes when many families are in a state of serious grief. There have been many deaths of precious people in the last several weeks and months. From murder of innocent young men and women, to loss of precious lives in the Ethiopian Airways crash. From road accidents to terrorist attacks, there have been mourning all around us. As a remembrance of Jesus death and resurrection, Easter is a great season to reflect on the place of God in all these. At the core of the Christian faith is the belief that Jesus was not only crucified but that He rose from the dead on the third day. Unfortunately, nothing is more disputed and debated than the veracity of Jesus’ resurrection.
Whereas great scholars, philosophers and leaders have over the centuries accepted that Jesus was a great man, His resurrection has proved to be a great challenge. Mahatma Gandhi, a great admirer of Jesus, is reported to have declared, “I could accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect person ever born. His death on the cross was a great example to the world, but that there is anything mysterious or miraculous in it, my heart could not accept.” Like Gandhi, there are many serious critics and ardent cynics who find the belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus a cockamamie and a fraud.
Early this year, there was more than a furore over the appointment of Dr John Shepherd by the Archbishop of Canterbury as the Anglican Church ambassador to the Vatican. A video footage emerged of Shepherd expressing sentiments very similar to those of Gandhi. In a sermon delivered in Easter 2008 – when Dr Shepherd served as dean of St George’s Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia – he is seen saying: “The resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality.” Shepherd disputes the idea that the resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body. But is the resurrection veritable?
Appeared to them
Within the Holy Bible, there are various accounts of eye witnesses of the resurrection event. The women who went to the tomb early Sunday morning were the first to learn of Jesus resurrection. Later He appeared to His disciples several times. Apart from His disciples, it is recorded that Jesus appeared to many other people, several of whom were still alive as at the writing of the Gospels. Considering how important it was to the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government to conceal the fact of the resurrection, it is instructive that these claims were not refuted by the authorities. In fact, it is informative that the authoritative Jewish historian Flavian Josephus captured the fact of Jesus resurrection in his Jewish Antiquities.
Josephus, who was not a Christian himself, records in Jewish Antiquities (18.63-64) that Jesus was a wise and virtuous man with a significant following of Jewish and non-Jewish disciples. According to Josephus, Jesus was crucified under Pilate but later there were reports that he appeared to witnesses following his resurrection. Likewise, a 10th Century Arabic Text, cited by historian Schlomo Pines of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1972, reports that after Pilate had condemned Jesus to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. “They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive.” Thus, extra biblical records report the claims of Jesus’ resurrection. But, why all this fuss about the resurrection of Christ?
Whether we can prove it or not, upon the resurrection is hinged the whole of Christian faith and practice. In fact, the Apostle Paul was so categorical about the centrality of the resurrection that he declared in his letter to the Corinthians, “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 of all people most to be pitied.”
Stands as a testimony
According to Paul without the resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith is as dead as a dodo. Thankfully, the resurrection of Jesus is a fact. It stands as a testimony that death is not the end of life. Easter, therefore, comes as a reminder that no matter what pain death may bring, the grave does not have the final say. Jesus arose and so shall we. This should be our anchor and source of inspiration for all of life and work. Happy Easter!
- The writer is the Presiding Bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]
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