Keepin’ the Faith: The good news of Easter

Dave Bootsma takes a look at the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and argues that the resurrection gives hope.

  • Apr. 8, 2012 5:00 a.m.

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, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living” – The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 15

Where would Christianity be if there was no resurrection of Jesus? It would not exist.

In the Gospels, Jesus himself declared that his claims about himself being the Son of God would be proven by him rising from the dead after three days being dead. Thus, if he did not rise then we can confidently conclude that he was a fraud or delusional. But all the evidence points to him rising from the dead.

I am constantly amazed at how easily people shrug off the Christian belief that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In turn, they are amazed at how Christians can believe such “nonsense.”

“People were superstitious and ignorant back then. Everyone believed in resurrection,” argue some. They explain that people so desperately wanted to believe in Jesus as Messiah and the resurrection, that they convinced themselves that they saw him. The four Gospels, they say, were written later to support and solidify these beliefs.

However, the passage quoted above from 1 Corinthians 15 is generally held to be written between 50-60AD, and that Paul himself is quoting a creed that had been circulating for perhaps decades, or shortly after the events themselves took place.  This would make it far too early for it to be a legend. Moreover, most of the eye witnesses were still around to be questioned to verify the facts surrounding Jesus’ resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus was the central theme of the early apostles’ preaching, and they did this from the very outset. It was the core of the “good news” they urged their listeners to believe and respond to.

As biblical scholar N.T. Wright points out, a bodily resurrection was almost inconceivable to the dominant worldviews of the time. Back then, just like today, the universal view was that a bodily resurrection was impossible. In Greco-Roman thinking, the soul or spirit was good and the physical and material world was corrupt and broken. Therefore, salvation was understood to mean being set free from the body. In this worldview, resurrection was undesirable.  A soul being freed from its body would never want it back.

The resurrection of Jesus would also have been unthinkable to the Jews, according to Wright. For many Jews in Jesus’ day hope lay in a future where all of the righteous would together be raised, when God renewed the entire world and removed all suffering and death.

In other words, there had to have been a very compelling reason why Jews, Romans and Greeks of the first century abandoned their former religious beliefs and deities (which they had held for many generations), and became worshipers and followers of Jesus.  That he was a good teacher and moral man would not have been enough. Nothing less than a verifiable resurrection would have convinced them.

So what if Jesus did rise from the dead? It gives a real and stable basis for hope — hope that things will get better; hope that there is a good purpose to life; hope that there will be an end to pain, suffering and sorrow; hope of an afterlife. It really is good news, and it really does change the lives of those who believe it.

Dave Bootsma is a pastor, life coach and counsellor in Vernon and writes about faith for The Morning Star several times a year.