THE gospel readings during the Easter season focus on the most important event in Christianity – the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is so because our faith rests on this fulfillment of God’s promise and our future is patterned after the model of Christ. St. Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith... and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all” (1 Corinthians 15:14-17-19). In Romans 6:5, he also writes, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
There is therefore no doubt that the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our Christian faith, but a skeptical mind would ask, “Did it really happen?” “Why must the resurrection of Jesus be true?”
Theologians have piled up heaps of evidence to prove the authenticity of this event, and so did historians, anthropologists, scientists, and other scholars. I will not delve deep into what each of these groups claims; rather, I would like to offer my simple thoughts on the matter as a layperson.
First, the resurrection of Jesus must be true because all four gospel writers wrote about it. The resurrection story can be found in the 28th chapter of Matthew, 16th chapter of Mark, 24th chapter of Luke, and 20th chapter of John. The evangelists wrote in different times over a course of about one century after Jesus’ death and resurrection, yet each of them wrote his own version of the resurrection story. If the story was not true, then one or some of the authors may have refuted the claim on the resurrection. They could have ended their gospel with the burial of Jesus or punctuated it with a different story of what happened next.
Second, we read in the Bible, especially in the Acts of the Apostles, that the apostles were persecuted for their faith in the Resurrected Christ, but they persevered. They were arrested, questioned by the Sanhedrin, imprisoned, driven out of towns and chased, flogged, stoned, and many of them were actually killed. Yet no amount of torture or punishment was enough to make them deny the resurrection; thanks to the Holy Spirit who has given them courage and boldness.
Third, God worked miracles through the apostles. We read, “Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles. Thus, they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured” (Acts 5:12, 15-16). Likewise, “So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).
If God did not approve of what these apostles had been preaching about Jesus’ resurrection, then he should not have validated their teachings with miracles. But he did, continuing the fulfillment of what Jesus told us, “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).
Fourth, despite all the persecutions the Church has suffered from the first century after Jesus’ death and resurrection until now, she has survived and grown. In its earliest years, the Book of Acts tells us that every day, the Lord has added to the number of believers (Chapter 2, verse 47b, Chapter 5, verse 14). This growth did not stop then. Today, about 2,000 years later, 2.4 billion of the world’s 7.9 billion population believe in Christ, and this number will still grow. This must be a fulfillment of what Jesus said in the Great Commission, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Fifth, and most important proof of all, is the positive change in the lives of people who have put their faith and trust in the Risen Lord. “So, whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
New things have come because a Christian believer is led by the Holy Spirit, and no longer by the flesh. “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5).
In the words of St. Paul, “So, I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever [you want. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:16-17, 19-21a, 22-23).
Our lives bear witness to the resurrection, Alleluia.