Easter – not just about dyed eggs and bunnies

Today is Good Friday. Hence in contemplation of its significance, I thought it’d be appropriate for me to post the following (which was an article I wrote for Campus Crusade Singapore recently). Have a meaningful weekend of remembrance everyone!Just like how Santa had managed to somehow usurp Jesus’ role in Christmas, Easter is quickly becoming an affair to merely celebrate painted eggs and bunnies. As we make our way to church on Easter Sunday to celebrate the occasion of the risen Christ, it would be prudent for us to appreciate the significance of this historical event.

Yes – historical. We can sometimes fail to remember that many of the religious festivals we celebrate are really a commemoration of true historical events that actually occurred. Similarly Easter is the observance of a spectacular and unparallel incident that took place approximately 2000 years ago. And this is not merely because the bible informs us so. Rather, there are many evidences that point to the certainty that the resurrection did in fact take place – though we would not have the time or space to explore them all here. (By the way, this is really what is unique about the Christian faith – that our beliefs are not baseless but that there are good reasons for us to believe in what we do.)

Almost all serious scholars, whether conservative or liberal, agree on the three things that were recorded in the Gospel accounts:

(i) the claims about Jesus’ resurrection were immediate and not a legend that developed over time;

(ii) Jesus’ tomb was indeed found empty by the women who first arrived, and

(iii) significant number of witnesses claimed to have seen him risen from the dead.

Obviously something miraculous had taken place and the Christian explanation for them is that Jesus had risen from the dead as he had predicted and appeared to his followers.

Nonetheless, many skeptics throughout history have attempted to come up with naturalistic theories to explain away the resurrection. Though many of these theories have been discounted to be implausible, some of them are still hanging around in the viral cyberspace.

For example, some have suggested that Jesus did not really die on the cross but was instead “swooned” i.e. he merely fainted and appeared dead. However a check with medical studies would show that it is quite impossible to fake death by crucifixion. The way crucifixion kills a person by asphyxiation and the common additional blow by Roman officials to ensure the criminal is really dead would deem any pretense improbable. Besides even if we grant that Jesus was able to pull off such a hoax, he must have been in a terribly bad shape when his followers saw him – bloody, pale and weak; let alone try to convince them that he is the risen Lord! As such, the belief that Jesus was swooned and did not die and, hence did not rise from the dead is not tenable.

Some also allege that the accounts of the resurrection were stories that were made up by the disciples to “help fulfill” Jesus’ prediction. Just like other world religions, the resurrection was just a religious legend that developed over time. Again, any literary and historical scholars will tell you that three generations will have to pass before a myth like that could develop as there would be eye witnesses that would discount any embellishment or hoax. And the consensus of all scholars today with regards to the dating of the Gospels is that they were all written within the first centuries and their style is not mythological.

Besides, why would the disciples start this myth – what would they get out of such a lie? It would be good to recall that most of them were persecuted and executed for believing in Jesus! None of them benefitted from making up such a story. Additionally, if the followers wanted to make up a story to cover up a non-risen Lord, it would be poor sense to claim that women were the first witnesses to the empty tomb. As women in 1B.C. were not considered credible witness in the court of law, it would defeat the purpose and even embarrassing to announce that the first ones to have witnessed the risen Christ were Mary Magdalene and the party of women who went to the tomb to embalm the body of Jesus.

For reasons such as these and many others, we have good grounds to believe the historicity of Jesus’ death and resurrection. In days leading to his crucifixion, Jesus revealed to his disciples his identity as the Son of God and his purpose on earth – to serve and to offer his life as a ransom for many.

C.S. Lewis in his book, Mere Christianity writes:

Jesus…told people that their sins were forgiven. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin…I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” 

That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said that sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

What about you? Who do you say he is?

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~ by iccthomas on April 22, 2011.

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