Easter separates fact from fiction

Published 11:27 am Friday, April 19, 2019

By Roger Campbell

Christian Columnist

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This is the time of year when tale spinners come out of the woodwork with conspiracy theories about the authenticity of the resurrection of Christ.  As always, when the dust clears, the fictions fall and the resurrection stands.

Why is this repeatedly true?  What makes the resurrection so hard to bring down?  Why are these fictitious arguments against new life so hard to sell?

There are three accepted answers to these questions:  the empty tomb, the testimonies of the eyewitnesses and the existence of the church today.

The inscription on Shakespeare’s tomb says, “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake, forbear to dig the dust enclosed here.  Blest be the man that spares these stones, and curst be he that moves my bones.”  In contrast, the One whose name is invoked in Shakespeare’s epitaph said His tomb would ultimately be empty because He would rise in three days.”

Shakespeare’s undisturbed tomb issues a warning.

Our Lord’s empty tomb declares a promise kept.

The eyewitnesses of the resurrection were at first reluctant to believe.  Strangely, the enemies of Jesus remembered His promise to rise from the grave while His friends seem to have forgotten it.  Even the women who made their way to the tomb that first Easter morning had somehow missed the message.

They were carrying spices to anoint and preserve the body of the one who had declared death couldn’t hold Him in its icy grip. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” He had said.  But there they were preparing to do the work of undertakers.

What changed the minds and mission of these sincere but doubting women?

An early morning earthquake and an empty tomb.

Moments after the earth began to move beneath their feet they discovered the stone that had been placed at the mouth of the tomb had been rolled away, ending their doubts and sending them on their way to tell the good news. The reality of the resurrection transformed them from morticians to missionaries. Later the disciples would meet the resurrected One and join in getting the infant church on its way to fulfilling their Lord’s commission to let the whole world know.

The existence of the church today, made up of millions of believers, may be the greatest proof of all.  One hundred twenty witnesses of the resurrection met in an upper room facing the responsibility of sharing their faith with all people.  Doing so would cost many of them their lives.

In his book, “First Easter,” Paul Maier says, “The psychological change of the disciples is certainly striking.  What transformed Peter, the man who could be unhinged by questions from a servant girl, into so bold a spokesman for the faith that even the Sanhedrin could not silence him?  Had the disciples tried to spawn a new faith on the world, would they have gone on to give their lives for it?  Clearly, they were convinced that Jesus rose, for myths do not make martyrs.”

Those one hundred twenty weak eyewitnesses were unstoppable and by the end of the first century their number had multiplied to millions.  Their success was rooted in truth and all fictitious arguments faded before their firsthand knowledge of the resurrection.   

Roger Campbell was an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years.