Soon after Jesus was crucified, His followers joyously proclaimed that He had risen from the dead. The story of His resurrection raged like a fire through the streets of Jerusalem and won thousands of converts. To deflate the new religious enthusiasm, the authorities used every expedient in their power. They arrested, threatened, and flogged the apostles. They unleashed a persecution that made Stephen the first martyr of the church. And to explain the events on Easter morning, they put out the story that Jesus' disciples came to the tomb at night and stole away His body while the guard slept.
A slight examination is enough to show that this story is absurd, for at least six reasons.
- The guard consisted of well-trained soldiers.
- These soldiers would have followed customary procedures assuring maximum security.
- Dereliction of duty would have been punishable by death.
- The guards could not have slept while a band of intruders slipped past them, rolled away the huge stone at the tomb's mouth, and returned through their ranks carrying a corpse highly perfumed with spices.
- If the body had disappeared while the guards slept, they could not have known what happened to it.
- If the disciples had stolen the body, the guards would have been punished and the disciples would have been prosecuted.
For all these reasons we see that the official story invites scorn. But the authorities had nothing better to offer. They could not deny known facts, and it was common knowledge in Jerusalem that a guard had been posted at Jesus' tomb to prevent the theft of His body, and that His body had disappeared anyway.
Just as we may dismiss the official story, so may we dismiss the various theories that modern skeptics have invented to explain away the Resurrection. All these theories founder on the same foolish error. They all deny one or more facts that the authorities on the scene could not deny. The reason the Resurrection has withstood every attack on its credibility is quite simple. It really happened.
And because it really happened, we have no reason to doubt God's power over death. The Resurrection assures all of us who believe in Christ that God can give us eternal life as He has promised. Some have imagined that in our future state we will be fettered to a drab, unchanging existence as airy spirits floating in the spaces of heaven. But the truth is, that just as the risen Christ had a body, so we in eternity will have bodies—wonderful bodies endowed with superhuman abilities, invested with glory, and immune to death. Eternal life will not be dreary in its sameness but forever busy, stimulating, and fulfilling. It will be life worth having. Before every believer lies a future of inexhaustible happiness.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved. If you would like to use this reading in a program, see terms and conditions of use.