How do you make sense of the Resurrection? Dead men don’t rise, so why believe that this particular dead man did rise?
At the end of St Luke’s Gospel we read that: “they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement” (Luke 24.4). This is highly significant. The Gospels do not show us a group of disciples who were in a receptive frame of mind. After the crucifixion, they were in hiding, frightened and scattered. Then suddenly, they came out of hiding and were totally different; excited, joyful. By Pentecost they were confident, with one firm message: “You crucified Jesus, but God raised him up!”
How did they know this? Because of experience. Some of them had visited the tomb of Jesus: it was empty. Others claimed to have seen and touched the risen Lord. Were they hallucinating? People can hallucinate in groups – when taking drugs, for example. But of course each one will see a different hallucination. But the disciples all saw the same thing. Or rather, the same person. Jesus.
Were they lying? Jesus had died a humiliating death as a criminal. Perhaps they wanted to rescue His good name. So did they pretend they had seen Him?
This theory has a big problem. Their preaching led them into trouble with the authorities. They were beaten and imprisoned and some of them killed. People will die for ideas and causes which they believe in passionately. But not for things they have made up. We might suffer for our convictions, we will not suffer for our inventions.
Another reason for believing in the Resurrection is this: Jesus’ continuing impact. Thousands and soon millions of people in every generation since have shared an inescapable sense of being ‘accompanied’ through life. Though unseen, they identify this presence as the Risen Lord.
Sometimes this experience of meeting Jesus is gentle and fitful. Sometimes it is dramatic and life-changing. This reminds us that the resurrection of Jesus is not just an interesting historical puzzle. It is a vital present day reality. It brings wonderful comfort, assuring us of the central Christian truths: death is dead; Jesus is alive; God is love. Have a joyful – and a challenging – Easter.
Alpha is a great way to explore Christianity. Check alpha.org for local courses.