In “The Jesus I Never Knew,” award-winning author Philip Yancey examines the story of Jesus’ resurrection. He says those who reject the resurrection usually see Jesus’ disciples, “either as gullible rubes with a weakness for ghost stories, or as shrewd conspirators who conceived a resurrection plot as a way to jump start a new religion.”
The Bible, however, describes Jesus’ followers as being far from eager to believe. In fact, not a single one of the disciples initially believed the women who were the first ones to report Jesus’ resurrection. One of the original disciples became known as “Doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe unless he could place his hand in the nail holes in Jesus’ hands and put his hand into the hole in Jesus’ side.
Yancey continues, “The alternative theory, falls apart on close examination for, if the disciples had set out to concoct a seamless cover-up story, they failed miserably. Chuck Colson, who participated in a feckless conspiracy after the Watergate break-in, says that cover-ups only work if all the participants maintain a unified front of assurance and competence. That the disciples surely did not do.”
How did Jesus’ followers react to news of his resurrection? Very much like most of us would if a loved one who had just died showed up at our door. They responded with a mixture of both fear and joy. They wanted to believe their loved one, Jesus, was alive, but it was difficult to believe something which seemed too good to be true.
Some may ask if Jesus’ resurrection is that important. Consider the Apostle Paul’s statement, “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins… And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19, NLT)
Scripture is clear; if Jesus was not resurrected, we have no basis for believing there is life after death. Paul’s statement is radical; it goes for broke, saying if Jesus did not come back to life the Christian faith is bogus.
Most people are eager to believe death is not the end. The Pew Research Center surveyed 6,485 American adults in September 2021 and discovered while increasing numbers of Americans claim no religious affiliation, 61% of us believe in both heaven and hell; and even more believe in heaven.
Because of Jesus’ resurrection I am convinced the 70 or 80 years most of us live is the beginning not the end. That conviction offers much more promise than the idea of us ceasing to exist at death. Jesus’ resurrection offers us the hope that what appears to be the end is not actually the end at all.