John Stott wrote these words in Christ the Controversialist: “Authentic Christianity – the Christianity of Christ and the apostles – is supernatural Christianity. It is not a tame and harmless ethic, consisting of a few moral platitudes, spiced with a dash of religion. It is a resurrection religion, a life lived by the power of God.”
It sounds arrogant to say, but the one major difference between Christianity and other religions is that it is based upon truth. Sure there are some positive moral teachings in other religions; however, none are able to lead a person to saving faith leading to eternal life in heaven. That is only possible through the Christian gospel – which is summed up in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 15:3-4, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”
As Christians, we believe that Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecy when he died on the cross for our sins and when he rose again from the dead. We don’t just believe this because it is a happy ending to an almost tragic story – We believe it because it is historical fact.
In our postmodern culture, people tend to doubt the authenticity and reliability of the facts that surround the resurrection. Scholars and skeptics have tried to explain away the historicity of the resurrection in all kinds of ways and for all kinds of reasons (they reject the miraculous; doubt the existence of God; question the gospel writer’s intent, etc…).
In many ways this is the experience many Christians have in American and Westernized society, when we share Christ with non-believers. At first, they are amazed that we actually believe in the Christian gospel. They think we are naïve, gullible, or at the very worst, senseless to reality. But we know the reality is exactly what we have found – we have found the truth in the resurrection of Christ.
Christianity is a religion based upon faith. But despite what some skeptics think, faith is based upon truth. When John saw that the tomb was empty, and that the burial cloths were all that remained, it says “he saw and believed.” In a court of law, there is not any more credible source for the truth than an eyewitness account – especially when there are multiple witnesses. And in fact there were more than just one, two, or even three witnesses to the resurrection.
Paul would go on to write in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, “And that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
When John wrote his gospel, and when Paul wrote his letter, there were still people living who saw the risen Jesus. All this eyewitness evidence is simply to show that this resurrection was not some power-plot by the disciples. It was not that someone had stolen the body under the Roman soldiers’ noses who stood guard. It was not the wrong tomb, either. This was in fact the risen Lord – once dead, but now, alive.
The Cross is the central event in the history of the church. But the Resurrection is what started the church. It wasn’t until after the resurrection that the disciples finally began to understand what Jesus had been telling them. The resurrection became the launching pad for global mission. During the infancy of the church, believers suffered greatly for the cause of the gospel. But they didn’t suffer through a vain and empty hope. Instead, they endured through a living hope and in the truth of a resurrected Lord.