Easter represents the 3 day period in which the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ took place. In his article Easter: A True Story, Professor James Pounder says he refers to it as ‘a time in history’ because the events are a historical reality. Here he shares of why he can say that with such confidence.
When my wife, and I settle down to watch a movie together, we love to watch true stories, something based in reality. However, as interesting as this makes them to us, movies based on true stories are nothing in comparison with the Easter story, which is not just based in reality but is the ultimate reality because it was not only a real event, but it is one that represents a gift that provides an ongoing, life-changing opportunity for all mankind.
There is so much evidence for the crucifixion and resurrection that I could write page after page just presenting the overwhelming evidence, but I really would like to focus more on the implications of these events for the human race. However, I’m aware that what I say about the gifts will only only take on significance for many if the events of Easter are first shown to be true.
So, let me reveal that we can be sure that the crucifixion of Jesus is an actual historical event, first and foremost because it is recorded to be so in Roman history. The Roman historian Tacitus, regarded by scholars as a historian who wrote with the utmost accuracy, care, and critical capability recorded that: “Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius.”
When it comes to the Resurrection of Christ, though recorded in historical texts, I am going to feature respected men who have investigated the evidence and have ended up becoming followers of Christ, because of their findings.
The first person I want to feature is Simon Greenleaf, the 19th Century Harvard Law Professor who wrote what has been called a legal masterpiece, namely: A Treatise on the Law of Evidence. Challenged by his students to apply his own principles of evidence to the resurrection of Christ, his investigations led him to the view that the resurrection of Christ is a fact rooted in evidence, which in turn led him to faith in Jesus Christ.
Likewise, modern day Christian apologist and author, Dr. Ralph Muncaster, a former hard core atheist, who was challenged to investigate the truthfulness and accuracy of the Bible became convinced by the evidence that the resurrection of Christ was an irrefutable fact, so much so that it too led to him accepting Jesus for himself and gave rise to one of his books called ‘Did The Resurrection Really Happen?’
We should also note that eminent astro-physicist Hugh Ross accepts the resurrection of Christ as fact, as do such famous scientists as, Professor William Phillips (Physics Nobel Prizewinner of 1998), Professor Sir John Polkinghorne Fellow of the Royal Society and Professor of Quantum Physics at Cambridge University, eminent mathematician, Professor John Lennox of Oxford University and the current Director of the National Institute of Health in the US Administration and the former Director of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins. There are many more that I could name, but of course, I have to stop at some point.
All these eminent scholars are fully aware that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is overwhelming, and if you have any doubts, I recommend you check out the evidence for yourself, for there is so much more for you to discover than I’m featuring here, and I know that if you do so with diligence, it will not fail to lead you to Christ, too.
It is also important to understand that the truth of the death, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very centre of the Bible, the content of which has been consistently confirmed by both history and archaeology. For example, respected archaeologist Nelson Glueck, wrote, “…that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”
Unless we close our minds to all the evidence, we have no option but to accept that, incredible as it may seem, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, creator of the Universe, lived on this planet for 33 years, was crucified, died and was buried and was raised to life again after three days by the power of God and now resides with His Father in Heaven. So what is the significance of all this for we human beings living out our relatively short lives on earth which, I think many would agree is not the easiest of places to live in this modern day and age?
The Easter Story of Love, Peace and Hope
Thankfully, the Easter story is one of love, peace and hope. First, it is a love story, a true love story. The act of Christ’s crucifixion, first and foremost reveals the extent of God’s love for mankind. When Adam and Eve chose to believe the lies of the serpent, rather than remain faithful to God, they took the whole human race into a state of rejection and rebellion against our Lord and Creator.
We have only to listen to the news today to hear about school shootings, human trafficking and horrendous acts of violence by various extremist groups to see that man’s actions often fall far short of honouring or pleasing anyone, let alone God. However, such actions are nothing new, for the bible records God’s great sadness throughout the history of His relationship with mankind. For example, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah about the disobedience of the Israelites, His chosen people, He said: “They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal – something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.” (Jeremiah 19:5 NIV) Similarly, in Psalm 53:3 (NIV) God makes this statement about the human race: “Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
The creator God is also the God of ultimate justice, but while fair justice demands that we suffer the consequences of our disobedience, God’s love for us reaches far beyond all human understanding. This is evidenced by the fact that His solution was to send His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, a man without sin, to pay the ultimate price for our disobedience by dying on the Cross, so that everyone wanting to be forgiven and reconciled to God had a way to do so.
Since that time, accepting Christ has meant having one’s sins forgiven and forgotten. As scripture records in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (NLT) And in John 3:16 (NIV): “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.” And finally, in Romans 5:8 (NIV): “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
For all who accept God’s gift of reconciliation through the sacrifice of Christ, there is the opportunity to enjoy peace despite living in a troubled world. Christ Himself said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) The Apostle Paul described this peace as one: “…which surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)
There are two sources of this peace, the first being the experience of total forgiveness for past sins. The sacrifice of Jesus served to wipe everyone’s slate totally clean. In Psalm 103:12 (NIV), it is said that: “…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he [God] removed our transgressions from us.” This gift lifts the burden of any guilt being carried from the lives of all who accept Christ. Paul describes what happens when we give our lives over to Christ in these words: “…if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)
There is no doubt that as human beings, we will not immediately become perfect new creations and will sometimes, maybe often, fall short of God’s standards as we walk our lives with Christ. However, the added peace we can enjoy comes from knowing that, upon our genuine repentance of sins which we go on to commit, God who sacrificed his Son for us, will be just as eager to wipe our slates clean again. In fact, He will step in to do so again and again as He helps us on our way to becoming more Christ-like in our character.
The second source of peace comes from the fact that Jesus is our personal Lord and Saviour and when we give our lives to Him, He sends the very essence of his nature in the person of the Holy Spirit to reside within us. We therefore walk this life with a personal comforter and friend who is the model of peace. The character of this peace and why Paul says it surpasses all understanding is because it does not depend on external circumstances. The Christ follower, if he or she chooses to take hold of it, can therefore enjoy an inner peace in the midst of turmoil because as Jesus says: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
The gift of hope is also a gift we all need. Let’s recall John 3:16 (NIV) which states: “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.” All who choose to follow Christ, have the promise of their eternal life being spent in the glorious presence of God the Father, Christ the Son, the angels, the heroes of the Bible and loved ones who have passed away as believers. How do we know we go to heaven? Quite simply because Jesus Christ told his disciples, and all Christ followers qualify to be called His disciples, that: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2 KJV) The resurrection of Christ was the ultimate victory over death, fear of death being one of Satan’s greatest weapons of warfare against the human race. Just think about how many unsavoury activities human beings engage in due to the mistaken belief that we only have a relatively short time to live.
Paul fully understood this mentality when he said in 1 Corinthians 15:32 (NIV): “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'” However, as I stated earlier, the evidence is clear and Christ has been raised and is preparing a place in heaven for all who choose to receive his gift. As believers, we can say along with the Apostle Paul: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV) Christ followers actually enjoy the ultimate in hope. Their walk with Christ is a journey with no fear of death in this world and the promise of eternal life in heaven after this earthly existence. There is no waiting for death to find out if we’ve been good enough to get into heaven – every Christian has a place in heaven secured by Christ. This knowledge, alone can fill Christ followers with optimism and hope in their daily lives.
Christians, know that your faith is grounded in reality and evidence. Some of the greatest minds, both past and present have attempted to disprove the reality of Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection, but in doing so, have become convinced of their reality to such an extent that they have become followers of Christ themselves.
If you have not yet accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, now is a great time to do so. Know that when you do, you too will then come under the coverage of God’s love and receive the gifts of peace and hope, too. If you wish to make a genuine commitment and receive Christ here and now, you can do so by saying the following words:
Jesus I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and realise that I am a sinner. I thank you for dying on the cross to save me and reconcile me to God. I want the gift you came to bring and to turn my life around. I repent of my sins and ask for your help to stop doing what displeases you. I ask for your forgiveness as I accept You as my Lord and Saviour. Please help me to overcome the broken areas of my life as I move forward into the life you have planned for me. Amen.
If you have said that prayer, congratulations and welcome to the family! This is the best decision you will ever make in your life. You will also come to understand, through personal experience during your walk with Christ, Paul’s statement in Romans 8:38-39 (NIV): “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You are embarking on an amazing journey at the end of which, you will not be disappointed, for glory lies ahead.
I now invite you, along with those who already follow Christ, to explore this topic further and provide some questions to help stimulate discussion in small group gatherings.
James Pounder is currently serving in Hong Kong as a University Professor of Business. He is the holder of two PhDs, one in Management and one in Education. He is also an ordained Christian minister and the Founding Pastor of The Little Church World (TLC World). If you wish to contact him in reference to this article, please email firstname.lastname@example.org