If you were to receive a phone call this week with the news that a long lost relative of yours had passed away and you had just inherited millions of dollars, you might be skeptical, right? "There's no way that's real!?" you might say.
But if you were like most people, you would at least look into it. You would investigate. The chance of receiving such a large inheritance is just too motivating NOT to investigate it!
The resurrection of Jesus is similar. No matter how skeptical you might be about the New Testament's claim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, the gospel's offer of reconciliation with God and hope for a new and perfect Creation, void of pain, suffering, sadness and death is just too compelling to walk away from without considering.
In Christ's resurrection, we are confronted with a challenge that we can't escape if we've ever pondered the meaning of life and death in this world - either it's true and reasonable or it's a waste of time. And if it's true, what kind of hope and faith does it put into our lives?
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19...
14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
We can look at the evidence ourselves. One of the most unique pieces of evidence is found in Scripture, which tells us that women were the first witnesses to the empty tomb. Women at this time in history were considered marginalized, low status, and most people would be skeptical of a woman's story even in court. Kathy Keller comments, "How so like God to take an injustice and use it to lift up people to a high position!"
So if you were going to build a solid fanbase, wide acceptance and "buy-in" of a crazy resurrection story in the 1st Century, you wouldn't start with women. The only plausible reason to have them at the center of this story is.... THEY REALLY WERE THERE!
For Mary at the tomb on early Easter morning, the event even offers personal restoration. The Resurrected Jesus cares for Mary in John 20:11-16...
John 20:11 says, "Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in."
From Mary's point of view, Jesus is dead and his body has been stolen. She's crying in the garden. And through her tears and emotional pain and confusion, hands in her face, she most likely has not lifted up her head. She believes she's talking with the gardener. And yet Jesus is so gentle with her.
John 20:16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
Notice... She doesn't find him ... he finds her. Right where she is.
This is a pattern throughout the Bible. Faith isn't something we can manufacture on our own ability or our own efforts. Jesus breaks through the doubt and pain and grief to GIVE US faith. He gently reveals Himself to Mary and commissions her to be the first messenger of the resurrection to the world.
Jesus addresses Mary by her first name. It's how he addresses you and me. He doesn't say, "HEY! It's me!" No, he gently calls us by name and says, "It's you."
Do you want to see a logical explanation of the Gospel? Look to the resurrection. Do you want to see gentleness, love, power, hope? Look to the resurrection.
If it's NOT true, then we can carry on in despair, disillusionment, and do whatever we want, because this life is all there is. We don't have to align our lives to any value or truth.
...If it's true, it must mean Jesus is Lord and has full authority, over death, creation, and our life.