Oh, what a difference a few days make. When the sun went down on Friday, in the shadow of an empty cross and a tomb where the lifeless body of Jesus lay, all hope seemed lost. But, today is Sunday and the body of Jesus is gone. He arose victorious!
This is the foundation for the Christian faith and the reason so many will be in church this morning. Yet, many modern scholars have erroneously concluded that whether or not Jesus actually rose physically from the dead is not essential to Christianity. They would say the empty tomb is irrelevant and that it would have be difficult to prove it without video evidence. Even with a video of the event, they would likely find something wrong with it. Even so, historically speaking, there are reasons to believe this actually happened and that it is the basis for Christianity, and not later addition to it.
It needs to be understood that from the early church on there was significant interest in historical accuracy. The testimony of eyewitnesses was held with high regard making the life, death and resurrection of Jesus historically verifiable. The resurrection itself became the central message preached by early missionaries, Paul and Peter. The authors of the Gospels intended to be historically accurate and the eyewitness label given to them early on has remained, never having been disputed. Even the Christian movement itself was spoken about in other historical sources. Josephus, a Jewish historian, spoke about the movement as being alive and well even toward the end of the first century. Therefore, history clearly speaks to Jesus as one who was alive, who died and was resurrected.
Modern scholars have written off much of the Gospel account of Jesus as a metaphor. This same logic then gets applied to the resurrection as a metaphor for some internal process and not Jesus literally rising in a physical body. This is a big flawed again, as some have used 1 Corinthians 15 as their reason for it not being true, when it can be concluded from the text that there was a resurrection, even if Paul doesn’t specifically mention an empty tomb. The scripture says that he “appeared to Peter and then to the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:5). This is a rather clear portrayal of what happened and yet so many people see things that just aren’t there. Here again, if the historical account was accurately handled, there is nothing that would suggest this is all metaphor. This was evidenced in the message of Paul and Peter who both affirmed the death and resurrection of Jesus and the need for a response. Clearly the significance of the resurrection held far more power in the way lives were lived than a metaphor would have.
Even if these things are true, this still doesn’t answer the question as to their significance. Some scholars won’t even go as far as to say with certainty that Jesus literally resurrected or that he didn’t. They just say that the answer to that question is irrelevant. The claim is that if people were to come across the corpse of Jesus it would not change anything. This is absolutely incorrect. If Jesus did not literally rise from the dead, the whole foundation for the Christian faith crumbles. The fact that the Bible has historical accuracy, has stood the test of time and has seen many people willingly die for its message, gives credence to the message.
The resurrection matters as a literal event, not as just a metaphorical event. It matters because in that act of sacrifice Jesus Christ covered the sin of mankind. This is the “new covenant” that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 11. The Old Testament system for covering sin was no longer needed because there was now a perfect sacrifice.
The physical resurrection shows that there was nothing that could conquer the Lord. As a literal Lord, a choice is made to follow Him, much like when Jesus called the disciples to follow Him. If Jesus didn’t physically rise, then why follow Him over any other dead guy?
The physical resurrection gives veracity to the ministry of Jesus Christ. The ministry Jesus had with healing the sick and casting out demons was vastly different than anything the world had seen up to that point in history. There would be no reason why anyone in the early church would have invented that as a method, when it was far different than what they were used to. The same could be said about the resurrection because so much was at stake for following a resurrected Jesus. It would have been foolishness to have the king die on a cross for his people and then to have the people who supposedly invented it die for the lie.
The physical resurrection shows the power of God to forgive sins and raise people up to be with Him forever. If the resurrection was just a metaphor for some inner renewal, it would not indicate anything for the future.
The literal resurrection of Jesus Christ does matter today. There was no ability to record it, but eyewitnesses have all said the same thing about the events. The fact that Jesus appeared to His disciples only proved to increase their faith and resolve to pass the message on, even in the face of certain death.
Without the cross and subsequent resurrection, there is no Easter and there is no eternal life.