Something More Important Than A Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our way of life in unprecedented ways. Even during World War 2, people in our country went to church, school, and baseball games. We don’t know what the ultimate cost of this pandemic will be, either economically or in terms of lives lost. Nor do we know when life will return to normal, and we cannot even be sure what the new normal will be. The phrases “before the virus” and “after the virus” may be used to describe occurrences in our lives for a long time. The COVID-19 pandemic is a big event in human history. However, it is quite insignificant compared to the event Christians will commemorate on Easter Sunday, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am convinced this is the event that truly changed the world.
Friends, if the resurrection of Jesus really occurred, it provides solid evidence that the incredible claims Jesus makes about His divine identity and authority are indeed true. This puts Jesus in an entirely different category than all other religious leaders and philosophers. Jesus’ resurrection also points to the great benefits believers in Jesus find through the gospel, especially to the hope it provides in the face of death. Because Jesus conquered death, Christian believers can be confident they will as well.
But...what if the the resurrection of Jesus never really happened? I believe the argument in favor of Jesus rising from the dead is very strong. One interesting piece of evidence is what the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6: "For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep." 
A common criticism of the traditional story of Jesus’ resurrection is that it is based on legend, not history. The claim is that the New Testament Gospels were written over sixty years later by men trying to create a “Jesus cult.” This provided enough time for a legend to develop and also meant that eyewitnesses who could refute this incredible story were dead. However, this theory is contradicted by the actual timeline. We know Jesus was killed between 30-35 A.D. (the traditional date is 33). We also know that Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians in 54-55 A.D. Though liberal theologians argue that the Apostle did not write some of the New Testament letters attributed to him, even most of them agree Paul composed this particular letter at that time. So, just over twenty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, Paul was writing about Jesus' resurrection. He also says there were over five hundred eyewitnesses to this fact, most of whom were still alive in 55 A.D. Twenty years is simply not enough time for a legend to develop.
Paul also insists that he did not invent the story of Jesus resurrection, but heard it from the other Apostles. When did that happen? Probably when he was with them in Jerusalem in 37-38 A.D. The bottom line is that 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 clearly indicates that within four or five years of Jesus’ crucifixion, the Apostles were proclaiming He had risen from the dead. That is a historical fact. And it seems clear they were convinced that what they were preaching was true, since they were willing to die for that message. This was not a “scam” they came up with. They were confident Jesus had conquered death. And this same confidence is why Christians will be celebrating Jesus’ resurrection this Sunday, even if they are not able to gather at church.
Rev. Dan Erickson, Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church
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Dan Erickson