By Collin Duling Pastor, Immanuel and St. Johns Lutheran Churches
Spring has sprung! And the new life of Eastertime is all around us! If you are a Christian, your church recently proclaimed the joy of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. But why does it matter to you? And if you're not a Christian, why does it matter for everyone? I'll tell you! Everyone knows Jesus of Nazareth died by crucifixion under the authority of Pontius Pilate, governor of the Palestinian region of Judea, around the year 30 C.E. Historical evidence indicates that the trial for sentencing was controversial. For one thing, Jesus' arraignment was lightning fast - he was executed within 24 hours of his arrest. The governor was pressured to assign the penalty of death, though he complained that no true charges were being presented against Jesus. That era, however, was like ours. Fake news influenced popular opinion. People could be organized into protests, or provoked into riots. So, instead of comprehensive evidence against Jesus, there was force of mass anger. And the possibility of uncontrolled violence eventually convinced the governor to give into the demands of the crowds. Jesus was crucified. The history of Jesus' death is available to everyone. As is the history of Jesus' resurrection. The tomb of Jesus was empty on the following Sunday morning (the third day after his execution). Early reports conflicted as to what happened. Some said the followers of Jesus succeeded in obtaining the body (grave robbery), in order to carry out a cultic conspiracy, claiming Jesus rose from the dead. This possibility is unlikely for several reasons. The followers of Jesus did not include anyone with enough leadership charisma to carry out such a heist (even his closest friends fled the scene at the time of his arrest). Plus, the opponents of Jesus took precautions for such a crime, by stationing soldiers to guard the gravesite. Thus, if Jesus' body was "stolen" from the tomb, it would require an altercation with the guards. But the guards claimed to have been "sleeping" at their post when Jesus' followers stole the body. Sleeping testimony is obviously no testimony at all, and, if true, indicated negligence that would have resulted in the soldiers' own execution. In fact, the guards willingly testified to this negligence, precisely because they had been paid to, by the opponents of Jesus. What is left then, is the possibility that Jesus' body actually left the tomb, by itself. Though it is not a rational conclusion, according to observable science, it is a reasonable conclusion, according to the historical accounts. Many things occurring in history have been irrational, and even once thought impossible. Yet those are the things that so often change history forever. And the followers of Jesus explain his crucifixion and resurrection thus: Jesus died a guilty man's death, as an innocent man. He suffered a penalty appropriate to sinners, while himself not being one. This satisfies and exhausts the "penalty" against sin. So, rising from the dead is the inevitable result. Death is no longer is the summary of penalties, the end of your life, but only a holding pattern until your inevitable restoration. Escape your sins today. Be saved from hell by believing on the Lord Jesus. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!