It really happened.
The Gospel is a resurrection story. In fact, it’s a resurrection history. It’s not a myth. It’s not one man’s claim to revelation. It’s not just a code of ethics. It’s grounded in history. The center of the Jesus-faith is not a compilation of positive moral exhortations; it flows out of a real human that lived a real life and then died a real death. But he isn’t just a human. And he didn’t stay dead.
It’s stunning to realize how often people dismiss the Jesus-history without a second thought.
I remember sitting across from a stranger in the Cuban international airport on the 40th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs. The man seated next to me got excited when he recognized the stranger as an esteemed reporter and historian that worked with CNN, NPR, and various news outlets. Although I didn’t know him from Adam, I felt like I had to seize my opportunity with the famous man, so I struck up a conversation. I learned that he was the lone American journalist permitted to enter the country to cover the activities surrounding various meetings with Fidel Castro and his leaders. As soon as the subject of history came up my curiosity was piqued. I had to know his take on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Don’t know,” was his response. I was dumbfounded, and my face apparently reacted in kind. “Why so surprised?” he asked. I couldn’t help but respond.
The very fact that the resurrection is so improbable makes it all the more vital to consider. How in the world do you explain the last two thousand years without a resurrection?
The original leader (Peter) was a Jesus-denier. The first witnesses were women (in a first-century culture that rejected their testimony). The movement started in Jerusalem (the epicenter of the Jewish religion) where they began to worship a man that said you had to eat his flesh and drink his blood. To top it all off, these earliest believers were being tortured and killed for their claims of having seen the resurrected real-life body of Jesus. Their persecution was not the result of telling people to be nice to each other; they were being ripped apart because they claimed to have had real experiences with a risen Jesus of Nazareth. None of this “proves” the resurrection, but it is very certainly evidence. And it is history. How do you explain the birth and explosion of this faith if He didn’t get up from the dead? What do you do with the testimony of hundreds of people who had nothing to gain – and everything to lose – by claiming to have encountered the resurrected Messiah Jesus?
I’ll never forget his response. “Hmm. I’ve never given it a second thought. And I couldn’t tell you why.”
There are certain questions that understandably put believers on the defensive. The problem of pain, Christianity’s claims of exclusivity, the church’s many examples of hypocrisy to name a few. But when it comes to the question of the resurrection, there is a serious intellectual problem for the unbeliever. What’s the explanation? I’m not saying arguments do not exist; I’m saying that I’m consistently stunned to meet very intelligent people with very low curiosity when it comes to the resurrection. “Oh I don’t dabble in religion,” they tell me. But leave all the Christian positions aside for a moment. Forget the ethics. Don’t be sidetracked by the gay marriage debate. Why such little curiosity toward the historical event witnessed by hundreds of people that went on to turn the world upside down?
What surprises me is not merely that people ignore the resurrection history; it’s that so many have never even given it a full hearing.
Curiosity deficit disorder.
It brings up one of the truly surprising demands of Christianity. You have to think. Meditate. Consider. Reckon. Behold. Think.
As I looked back into this man’s eyes I couldn’t help but express my surprise. It’s incredible that a man of such fair judgment and curiosity toward so many other lesser subjects had never even bothered to consider the event that launched a movement and split human history in two.
“What if it’s true?” were my parting words.
If it is, it’s the ultimate game changer. If it happened, it changes everything. In fact, historically, let’s be honest, it did change everything.
It’s worth your second thought.
And this Man is worth your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. -Romans 10:9