Resurrection Hope for a Different Kind of Easter

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In a world marked by fear and concern over COVID-19, this Easter is going to look very different for us and for our students. The gathering of family at grandma’s house for Easter dinner is cancelled due to social distancing. The church building will sit empty on what is typically one of its busiest days. Although the church pews may be vacant and our Easter traditions are put on hold, the hope of the empty tomb remains. Without the Resurrection of Jesus, our Christian faith falls apart. And now during a global health crisis, we need the hope of the Resurrection more than ever.

Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus consistently communicated that He was going to die on the cross and that He would rise again. Jesus said “And the Son of man will be delivered over to the Chief Priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matt. 20:18-19, ESV). This is a clear prophetic statement that the Easter story helps to either prove or disprove.

In his reflections on the life of Jesus, C. S. Lewis claimed that there were three possible categories for Jesus: liar, lunatic, or Lord. If what Jesus claimed about Himself and taught ended up not being true, there are two possible options: liar or lunatic. If Jesus was a liar, He intentionally deceived people by teaching them something that He knew wasn’t true. If Jesus were a lunatic, He was crazy and tricked Himself into believing His crazy claims. If Jesus is Lord, He is who He says He was and has done what He says He was going to do.

In Mere Christianity, Lewis reflects on it in this way:

“You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. 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.”

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and the tomb is not empty, we must claim that Jesus was either a lunatic or a liar, yet if the tomb is empty, Jesus is the Lord. If Jesus is Lord, all people should respond to Him as God by surrendering their lives to Him and following after Him.

And in these days when the terms Coronavirus, COVID-19, and social distancing fill our thoughts, the truth of a Jesus who defeated death matters all the more. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul shared the Corinthians the importance of the Resurrection and the proof that it actually happened. We can help our students trust in the truth and power of the Resurrection by walking them through the truths from this passage.

The Gospel Hangs on the Resurrection—1 Corinthians 15:3-4

A dead Jesus means that we have no hope. Paul calls it of “first importance” (v. 3, ESV) that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead. The gospel that brought us salvation from our sin, restoration of a relationship with God, and hope for an eternity with Jesus all hinges on the fact that Jesus died and rose again. Without the Resurrection, we are left in our sin, under the wrath of God, and lost without hope.

Without the Resurrection, Jesus becomes like any good leader or teacher throughout history. We can learn good things from his life, but the impact ends at his death. And as Lewis reminds us, a dead Jesus means that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic.

The Resurrection Was Confirmed by Many Witnesses—1 Corinthians 15:5-8

The Resurrection was seen by many people. They had seen Jesus die on the cross, had witnessed his burial in a tomb, and then encountered him alive again. Paul writes of more than 500 people to whom Jesus had appeared after His Resurrection. Paul encouraged the church at Corinth that if they had any doubts about the Resurrection, they could speak with one of these witnesses. The Resurrection was not just promised in the text, but it was confirmed by Peter, Mary, and 500 others.

People often try to discredit these witnesses and their testimony, since this number of eye witnesses creates a strong validation that the Resurrection actually happened. Some theories to attempt to discredit the witnesses are:

  • Swoon Theory- Jesus wasn’t really dead but faked His death. He played dead for three days and decided to come out of the tomb.
  • Wrong Jesus Theory- The Koran and Islam teaches that Jesus was swapped with Judas at the last minute before the cross. Judas died, and Jesus lived.
  • Hallucination Theory- Proponents of this theory say that the 500 witnesses simply saw a vision of Jesus in a mass hallucination. Jesus didn’t really rise. He was a hologram seen by masses of people.
  • Conspiracy Theory- Many have argued that the disciples stole Jesus’ body and claimed He had risen when He had not.

The faith it takes to believe these alternate theories of the Resurrection is much greater than the faith that it takes to believe that Jesus was who He said He was and that the witnesses saw Jesus come back to life. Jesus is alive. Paul encouraged the church to ask others what they had seen and heard for themselves.

Without the Resurrection, Our Faith Is Worthless—1 Corinthians 15:12-18

If the Resurrection is not true, our faith is dead. We have chosen to believe in a lie. We are still lost in our sins, separated from God, and without hope in the world. Without the Resurrection, death is the end of the story, and we should live in fear of the future. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul paints a dire picture of life for followers of Jesus if the resurrection isn’t true:

  • There is no life after death.- v. 12-13
  • Preaching is pointless. – v. 14
  • Your faith is pointless. – v. 14
  • We have lied to others about the gospel message because it is false. – v. 15
  • Your faith is worthless. – v. 17
  • You are still stuck in your sins under the judgment of God. – v. 17
  • Those who are dead have no hope for a future and eternity. – v. 18
  • We have no hope. – v. 19
  • People should feel sorry for us. – v. 19

We have hope because the Resurrection is true. Even as we and our students live in the unknown of a virus moving silently throughout our cities, we know that Jesus is still in control. Even in the face of deaths related to COVID-19, we have hope because Jesus turned death from a blind walk into the darkness into a doorway into paradise for those who believe in Him. One day, Jesus will return to take away the sting of death; He will take us to a place where there is no more crying or pain, and no more viruses. Although this is a different kind of Easter, we can invite our students to celebrate the truth that Jesus is Lord and the tomb is empty.

In the words of Matt Maher from his song “Christ is Risen”:

Christ is risen from the dead

Trampling over death by death

Come awake, come awake

Come and rise up from the grave

 

Christ is risen from the dead

We are one with Him again

Come awake, come awake

Come and rise up from the grave

 

O death, where is your sting?

O hell, where is your victory?

O church, come stand in the light

The glory of God has defeated the night

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