Monday, April 6, 2009

The Resurrection: Illusion or Reality?

A while back my wife and I rented the move The Prestige. I have always loved watching magicians and I was especially intrigued by this movie. I guess you could say the movie has a special “magic” to it. But we all know that the acts of magicians are really only illusions, they’re not real. The fun is trying to figure out how they do it. But, I never can.

As we approach Easter, I can’t help but think about how for some the resurrection of Jesus is like a magician’s trick. After all, can people really come back to life? Besides, what’s so important about the resurrection anyway that we should even care one way or the other? Here's the thing: What makes the resurrection so important is that it represents what’s really significant about Easter. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:17 that if the resurrection did not happen, then belief in Christ is in vain. In other words, without the resurrection nothing else about the Christian faith is valid. It was the resurrection of Christ that made everything He said the truth. If Jesus really did come back to life, then He must be exactly who He claimed to be – the eternal God in human flesh.

So how do we know that Jesus’ resurrection really happened? How can we be certain that this is not just some illusion? First, we know it happened because His tomb was empty. This was never denied by anyone at that time. If the tomb was occupied, the authorities would have produced a body to disprove the Apostle’s claims.

There is also a preponderance of other evidence that point to the validity of the resurrection. Here is just a sampling of that evidence:

* The guards would have been killed if the body had been stolen.
* The disciples would not have allowed themselves to be beaten, imprisoned, and killed for something they knew was a lie.
* Over 500 people claimed to have seen Jesus after the resurrection.
* There are several accounts of the claims for the resurrection from non-biblical sources.
* The first witnesses were women, who in the first century weren’t considered credible witnesses; therefore, the writers of the Bible would not have used them to perpetuate a lie.

The most important proof of the resurrection, however, was the radically changed lives of the disciples and others after their encounter with the risen Jesus. One of these people was James the half-brother of Jesus. He considered Jesus to be delusionary during His earthy ministry but after encountering the risen Jesus, James became a radical Christ-follower even to the point of death.

Another and for me the most important example of a life changing encounter with the risen Jesus was that experienced by a man named Saul who later became the Apostle Paul. You see, he had not been a disciple of Jesus. He had been a disciple of the respected Rabbi Gamaliel who was part of the group of Jewish leaders who orchestrated the death of Jesus. Yet, after his encounter with the risen Jesus, Paul, like James, became a radical Christ-follower even to the point of death. This is why Paul could make such a profound and definitive statement about the importance of the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15:17.

Here’s the truth: There is no magic or illusion involved with the resurrection of Jesus. It happened just as Jesus, Himself, said it would. He, therefore, is exactly who He claimed Himself to be – the eternal God in human flesh. This Easter set aside some time away from the bunnies, eggs, and baskets to reflect on this truth.

The risen Jesus still provides life changing encounters with people and He wants to do that with you. If you would like to know more about how you can have a life changing encounter with Jesus, drop me a note at Have a blessed Resurrection Day!

Dr. Richard Tompkins

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