Life and death, and life

We had a death in the family last week. A very untimely, unexpected, nightmarish death that sent those closest to the young man on a trajectory into a new reality they never saw coming. Like stepping through a looking glass into a bizarre unreality from which there is no return to a life that makes sense.

At the funeral service my son spoke of the impact his cousin had on his life and concluded with Jesus’s words shortly before his death as recorded in John 14:19.

Before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”

The message my son gave was the message Jesus gave…that life extends beyond the four score or so years, and sometimes considerably fewer, that we spend on this earth. And that because Jesus lived, died, and then was alive again, we who believe in him though we die will also live again…with him. But is this event, the resurrection, on which Christianity stands or falls, a reality or an unreality? Is what Christians will celebrate this coming Sunday a hopeless myth or a myth-busting, reasonably verifiable, true event in history?

It seems to me impossible to overstate the importance of how you answer this question. As C.S. Lewis argued, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” And within the very pages of Scripture that proclaim the resurrection we read these no-nonsense, unambiguous, deal-breaking appeals to reason:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.      (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19)

Pitiful, hopeless sinners are we if Christ has not been raised. Former Chicago Tribune legal affairs editor and atheist Lee Strobel set out to prove that this was indeed the reality for millions, including his recently converted wife, but ended up concluding, from the evidence, that Jesus had in fact been raised from the dead. His conversion story is on the big screen this week as The Case for Christ. Saw it. Loved it. Recommend it.

The evidence is available to examine, but as another atheist and cold-case homicide detective turned Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace aptly explains, it’s mostly circumstantial and cumulative…exactly the kind of evidence that contributes to the rightful conviction of bad guys who thought they had gotten away with murder. Like any historical, unobservable, unrepeatable event, there are markers left that can be observed and scrutinized…written testimony, bloodied clothing, shell casings. And realities that cry out for an explanation…a missing body, an empty tomb.

Some believe that the best explanation for all the evidence related to the resurrection of Jesus cannot be what constitutes a miracle. Anything is better than that. But that’s only true if you presumptuously remove it from the pool of live options because you don’t believe in miracles. Those who are willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads will likely be convinced that an actual, miraculous, epoch-changing resurrection did in fact occur.

Reality or unreality? How do you answer it? If you are unsure and would like to weigh the evidence yourself, these links can get you started. With just a little investigation you may find yourself celebrating this Easter in a brand new light.