If you do not celebrate Easter in any way, shape, or form, please keep reading. I am going to, as simply as I know how, break down why you should investigate what happened at Easter. Please. Look into it. Here is my attempt to help.
You and I are people of faith. We live each day with a set of fundamental beliefs about life’s biggest questions.
Ideas from philosophy, religion, culture, family, and media are competing each day to provide us answers to the biggest questions. These include:
- How did everything come to be?
- What is the purpose of life?
- Is there such thing as right and wrong?
- What happens at death?
No ideas are neutral. Any answers we have to the above questions are either true or false. They either reflect reality or distort it. We choose to, either consciously or unconsciously, accept or reject competing ideas. We cannot prove that the ideas we accept as answers are right, but we act on them anyway. This is called faith. Sure, our answers to these questions may change over time, but we are still people of faith. We are just shifting the object of our faith.
When I lived in New York, I had a buddy who refused to think about these questions and finally told me why. He said, “Because it always leaves me feeling hopeless. So, I just live my life trying not to think about the bigger picture.” I pressed him a bit and soon learned this was due to his fundamental belief that this world was all there is. So, yeah, that makes sense. If this world is all there is, then life is ultimately meaningless and purpose is found in whatever you or your culture deems as purposeful. My friend felt hopeless whenever he thought rationally about the implications of his fundamental belief.
Your concept of ultimate reality or “the bigger picture” is the best indicator of your faith.
Ultimate reality is a lofty concept, but in simplest terms it is what transcends everything else. What is the ultimate thing out there? Whatever you believe it to be will inform if not dictate all of your answers to life’s biggest questions. It provides the foundation upon which you live your life. And, what’s great about ultimate reality is that there are not too many options. Here are the primary ones:
- the material cosmos (i.e., the universe itself or matter)
- a personal God or gods
- an impersonal God or gods
- my soul (i.e., self is the prime reality)
- we can never know
Again, each one serves as a foundation for all of life’s biggest questions. For example, your view on ultimate reality will greatly inform whether morality and values are fixed or ever-changing. Whether life’s purpose is given or created. Whether death is the end or the beginning of something else.
Which one do you believe? And, more importantly, how do you know it to be true? Do not settle for cultural relevance. Each of these concepts of ultimate reality has been the most culturally relevant at some point or place in human history. Be honest with yourself. Upon what does your fundamental belief system rest?
Some of you may be wondering what this has to do with Easter…keep reading.
Jesus made ridiculously bold claims about his role in the world.
It may be true that Jesus of Nazareth impacted the world more than anyone else over the last 2,000 years. If he’s not the top guy, he is in the mix. Can you think of five more people who have influenced the world more than Jesus? I can’t. Yet, he is the only seriously influential person in all of human history who also claimed to be God. And he did it many times.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“I and the Father are one.” John 10:30
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Think about it. Claiming divinity is flat out crazy (unless it’s true)! But, if you were to write a list of people who claimed to be God on one hand and a list of the most impactful people ever on the other, there is only one person on both lists. Jesus.
Because of the magnitude of both his claim AND his impact, Jesus merits investigation. If he’s not who he says he is, then Jesus is the greatest deceiver who ever walked the earth and you should ignore him completely. But, if Jesus is who he says he is, then he is the foundation upon which all the answers to life’s biggest questions rest. He is ultimate reality. He is the bigger picture. And, thankfully, he can be investigated.
Central to Christianity is an event in human history.
Unlike most philosophies or religions, at the heart of Christianity is a historical event. So, it can be investigated. That event is the resurrection of Jesus. If true, it validates his teachings, his claim to be God, and his authority to call us to believe in him and receive eternal life. If false, it is the most impactful hoax, whether intended or not, in all of human history. Like any investigation, we have to look at the facts of the Easter event. Despite different beliefs and opinions concerning the gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, the following events are considered knowable history by virtually all scholars:
- Jesus was a man who lived in the 1st century and claimed to be God, the promised Messiah.
- People who heard him speak saw him do things that appeared to be miracles.
- He convinced many of his disciples that he was God.
- He died due to the rigors of Roman crucifixion.
- He was buried.
- His death caused his disciples to despair and lose hope.
- He was buried in a tomb that was discovered to be empty just a few days later.
- The disciples and others had overwhelmingly real experiences that they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus.
- Because of these experiences, the disciples were transformed from doubters afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection.
- Many of these disciples were killed proclaiming their belief in the message of Jesus’ divinity, death, and resurrection.
Ok, it’s your turn. Put the resurrection on trial. Prove it wrong. How do you account for the empty tomb and the changed lives of the disciples? Let the investigation begin. What is your verdict? Here are a couple of insights that I found interesting during my investigation:
If Jesus remained dead, how can you explain the reality of the Christian church and its phenomenal growth…All the power in Rome and of the religious establishment in Jerusalem was geared to stop the Christian faith. All they had to do was to dig up the grave and to present the corpse. They didn’t.
~Henry Schaefer III, Professor of Chemistry and Director at the University of Georgia
Why would the apostles lie? Liars always lie for selfish reasons. If they lied, what was their motive, what did they get out of it? What they got out of it was misunderstanding, rejection, persecution, torture, and martyrdom. Hardly a list of perks!
~Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College
The resurrection is a game changer.
If the resurrection happened, then it validates Jesus’ ridiculously bold claims. If the resurrection happened, then he is ultimate reality providing answers to all of life’s biggest questions. If the resurrection happened, then believing in him is actually quite rational. And thinking through the implications of this faith leads not to hopelessness but rather just the opposite. In the midst of the world’s brokenness and our own frailty, there is hope for tomorrow and purpose for today…for you, for me, and for the world around us. That is the power of the resurrection. It is a game changer worth investigating.
Oh, I almost forgot, happy Easter!