He wasn’t the first to be crucified. Nor the last. He’s not the only one who could justifiably complain about a sham trial, a dodgy verdict and an unjust punishment during the Roman Empire, or since. Yet he stands alone as a crucified person whose impact still changes lives today.
Why do almost one-third of the world’s population claim to be impacted by this man who died on a cross? It seems incredulous. Yet there are more Christians today than at any point in the history of the world. How do we get from someone dying in agony on a cross to lives across the world: rural & urban, low tech & high tech people, rich & poor, illiterate & doctorate, from every ethnic background, being transformed from the inside out?
The resurrection is the answer.
Oh come on! The resurrection?! Yes. This is what gives hope where there was none, brings light into the darkness of life’s despair. The resurrection changed lives back in the day and it changes lives today. How else do you explain the transformation in the followers of Jesus? Think how the Bible describes them: locked away in a room in Jerusalem, scared (John Chapter 20 verse 19). It’s hardly the writing of propaganda, is it? With fear and dread, they are alert to every sound. Not simply did they leave Jesus for dead in Gethsemane, running for their lives, now they’re terrified to be found in case they are next. Yet later in the Bible they stand boldly, fearlessly communicating the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to the very people they feared (Acts Chapter 4 verses 19,20).
What transformed them into people who would willingly die for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus? No-one willingly dies for a lie. Instinct kicks in. The guys involved in the Watergate scandal couldn’t keep a secret for three weeks before the truth came out. These disciples and many others died for their insistence that Jesus rose from the dead.
The resurrection leaves some questions unanswered, questions for those who deny it.
Where was / is the body of Jesus? Are we really suggesting that Jerusalem was so populous that a Roman search couldn’t locate his body? A dead body halts all rumours in their tracks. There’s never been a body to present. What explains the change in the disciples? We know they were as indisposed to believing in a resurrection as any 21st-century social media addict. Maybe they just wished it to be true? There would be no shame in that. But wishing for something is a lot different to dying for something. As for the old chestnut ‘they had a hallucination’ argument, well that’s an individual experience, not a group one. And hallucinations don’t last. It’s the same dead end (pardon the pun) for the theory that maybe he hadn’t died, he’d just fainted or slipped into a coma? The Roman soldiers were specialists in death. After all, if a prisoner escaped it would be their life in exchange for the convict. That’s decent incentive to do your job.
Jesus was dead. No body, no hallucinations, no coma, no explanation of the change in the disciples – the evidence points in one direction. Jesus died and rose again on the third day just as he promised (Mark Chapter 10 verse 34), just as the Bible prophesied hundreds of years beforehand (Psalm 16 v 10).
What does it mean for us? It means death is not the end. That gives new meaning to life – a life lived to the full – the life Jesus promised all who come to him (John Chapter 10 verse 10).