This year Easter Sunday falls on April Fool’s Day, and it’s more than an amusing coincidence for some people as it brings together the scepticism and cynicism they have towards the Christian faith and the delusional ‘foolish’ belief that Jesus rose from the dead on that first Easter Sunday morning.
Jesus said some amazing things during his lifetime, not least that he was the Son of God who came into the world to save us from ourselves and our wrongdoings and to enable us to make our peace with God. For a mere human being to make such claims was nothing short of outrageous. Of course, there are people who make all sorts of claims, such as being incarnations of Napoleon, Elvis or John Lennon. The fact that someone makes such a claim does not mean that they are right. So what makes Jesus different?
Jesus backed up his amazing claims through his character, personality and lifestyle. He is widely acknowledged to be the greatest teacher the world has ever heard. His teaching was simple, authoritative and of universal significance. As someone once said: “He spoke the kind of words you’d expect God himself to speak.” Jesus’ rising from the dead was entirely consistent with his teaching about the kingdom of God.
I, like some of you, was a sceptic at one time. History, however, is littered with politicians, religious leaders, academics, researchers, lawyers and detectives, who have all attempted to prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, yet their conclusions, however disagreeable to them, state that only a resurrection from the dead can adequately account for the phenomenon they were investigating.
The writer and atheist, Richard Dawkins, said:
If the resurrection is not true Christianity becomes null and void.
And, for once, I wholeheartedly agree with him! Those first disciples, who deserted Jesus at the cross to save their own skins, had their lives transformed by their experiences of meeting a risen Jesus. So much so, they were willing to suffer death rather than deny that fact. They were flogged, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured, crucified – all to stop them from talking. It seems inconceivable they would be prepared to endure all of this, and more, for a lie. I wouldn’t be willing to die for a lie – would you?
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the cornerstone of Christianity. It explains the existence of the Christian church; it establishes why we are here and explains why, on Easter Sunday, 2.2 billion people will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. So many people can’t all be delusional and foolish, can they?
Some people, however, don’t want to believe in Jesus’ resurrection because His rising from the dead confirms that Jesus is who He says He is – and that’s a frightening thought. I say that, because it puts us in an awkward position about how we should respond to His claims to be the Son of God. The writer Philip Yancey echoed this sentiment when he wrote:
In many respects I find an un-resurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes him dangerous. Because of Easter, I have to listen to his extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from his sayings. Moreover, Easter means he must be loose out there somewhere.
And if Jesus is ‘loose out there somewhere’ then we have a responsibility to look for him, don’t we?
May I encourage each of you to ‘look for Jesus’ this Easter at Emmanuel as we journey through Holy Week, from the: Praise of Palm Sunday; Poignancy of Maundy Thursday; Sorrow of Good Friday; the Fun of Messy Church on Holy Saturday; and the Joy of Celebration on Easter Sunday.
May God’s richest blessing be upon you as you look forward to celebrate this Easter season.
You can download details of the Easter services at Emmanuel hereEaster Poster – 2018
This is a copy of my article for the March 2018 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’