Yesterday, churches all over the world assembled to observe one of the most holiest of holidays known to Christendom – Easter Sunday. This Sunday commemorates the morning the tomb was discovered as empty – the morning of the Resurrection.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 15), he lays out the implications to the Christian faith if the resurrection were to be a fabricated hoax. In short, we would still be in our sins, guilty of preaching a deceptive doctrine, and of all people – we’d be the most miserable.
The good news is that the Resurrection is not a hoax! Alternate explanations for the empty tomb have been offered by skeptics, but none of these are convincing. Some theories include: 1) Jesus didn’t actually die; 2) the crowds experienced a mass hallucination; 3) First Century Identify Theft! That is, it wasn’t really Jesus on the cross; 4) The witnesses went to the wrong tomb, and 5) Someone stole His body. Granted, if someone chooses to not believe in the resurrection, it’s difficult to explain an empty tomb.
As believers, we rest upon solid evidence concerning the resurrection. Our hope is grounded in the reliability of the New Testament as well as buttressed by countless testimonies of changed lives. Secular historians also write about the early Christian belief that Jesus left the tomb.
Gary Habermas reduces the empty tomb narrative to six minimal facts:
- An historical Jesus died by Roman crucifixion
- The disciples had experiences they thought were appearances of the risen Jesus
- The disciples were totally transformed, even willing to die for this belief
- The apostolic proclamation of the resurrection began in the church’s infancy
- James, brother to Jesus and former skeptic, becomes a believer based on an encounter he believed was with the risen Jesus
- Saul (Paul), the persecutor, became a believer because of an experience he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus
What is the best way to account for these minimal facts concerning the empty tomb? The best interpretation of this data is that Jesus actually rose from the tomb in Jerusalem. This makes our hope unique and powerful. While the world tries to commercialize Easter, I challenge you to consider what we actually celebrated yesterday – and give thanks for an empty tomb!